In NSW politics, the name John Brogden is well-known. He was leader of the NSW Opposition, Liberal leader, in the hurly-burly of state politics. He had always wanted to be Premier. But one night in August 2005, he attempted suicide, by cutting his wrists.
He was taken from his office on a stretcher and ended up in a clinic. His world had fallen apart. He thought his life was over. He remembers talking to his doctor, saying, “My God, what do I do now? Everything I wanted is now gone.” “He said, ‘John—things will get better.'” “And I thought, ‘Why are you teasing me? Everything’s crushed!’” “But he was right. Things did get better.”
A Leading Cause of Death
John Brogden suffered severe depression and anxiety, something that is a serious issue. Did you know the leading cause of death in men—in Australia and across the western world—aged under 44 is suicide? Here in Australia, more people die of suicide than they do on the road. The World Health Organisation says in the year 2030, depression will be the second highest cause of disease, beaten only by HIV and AIDS.
Anxiety and depression are huge issues. We can become anxious because of the busy lifestyle or the breakdown of personal relationships, leaving many feeling despondent and anxious. This is not a new problem. We’ve been talking about it for years. And I guess you know someone who has suffered in this way. Christian leader and communicator Karl Faase says we need to do some self-assessment:
- Am I a little anxious or am I suffering from anxiety?
- Am I suffering enough to get help?
Don’t hide it from those who care about you—trust someone. Karl says, “You don’t need to be perfect”. He says it’s like being bitten by a snake—you don’t expect to get bitten, but when it happens, you end up with poison inside your body. When depressed, a hormone inside you turns itself into a kind of poison.
Normal Emotions Can Become a Problem
It may surprise you if I say that sadness, grief, and anxiety are normal emotions. God created us with the potential to experience these emotions because he experiences them. In Genesis 6:5-7, God experienced tremendous grief because of the sins of mankind as well as joy because of Noah’s obedience. Jesus wept at the death of a friend (John 11). Jesus was angry when he beheld the hardened, stubborn hearts of the religious leaders (Mark 3). In the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus’ death, Jesus said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.” However you feel, Jesus probably felt it!
These emotions are normal under these circumstances. We are designed to feel depressed when we focus upon depressing things, or when we go through a tragedy or loss. We are designed to be anxious when we are in stressful circumstances. What we focus our attention upon brings corresponding feelings. However, these normal emotions become a problem when they cripple our ability to meet life’s challenges.
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Christians can suffer from depression too
Just because you may be a committed Christian today doesn’t mean you will escape depression. As a matter of fact, John W. Stott, a great biblical expositor, said that a Christian’s two chief occupational hazards are depression and discouragement. So when I talk about depression, what do I mean? A psychologist has described depression as: a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that leads to sadness.
I think that’s a good definition. A person who is depressed has problems real or imagined and he doesn’t seem to be able to get a handle on them. There’s no help available and that’s compounded by the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any help on the horizon. It’s helplessness plus hopelessness that leads to this deep despondency, this sadness. I guess that’s what John Brogden and many others have felt.
I like what Psalm 94:19 says: “When I was burdened with worries, You comforted me and made me feel secure”.