Running the Race: Dealing with Depression - Hope 103.2

Running the Race: Dealing with Depression

We've hit the midpoint of the year, and often I find at this point in the year, it's harder to get out of bed and often the winter blues can set in and I thought it'd be good taking a few minutes today now to talk about depression, mental health and how to navigate that as a Christian.

By Sam RobinsonTuesday 9 Aug 2016FRESHChristian LivingReading Time: 5 minutes

We’ve hit the midpoint of the year, and often I find at this point in the year, it’s harder to get out of bed and often the winter blues can set in and I thought it’d be good taking a few minutes today now to talk about depression, mental health and how to navigate that as a Christian. What are your thoughts, Mal?

The first thing I want to say, Sam, is that our world is not all as it should be. When I talk about the world, I’m part of that, and I know that myself. I’m part of a system that is broken, and one of the ways that brokenness turns up is in all sorts of areas of life, but one of the struggles that many of us have is this area of mental health, be it anxiety, depression, schizophrenia. And this is not an individual problem. This is a collective problem that our world is broken.

So first of all, I want to affirm that we live in a world where we do struggle. When somebody’s struggling, you’re not alone in your struggle. I think that’s critical to say that right from the outset.

I’m a bit of a history buff, and I don’t mind a little bit of church history, and one of my favourite people in all of church history was a fantastic preacher named Charles Spurgeon. One of the things people who study a bit of church history will know Spurgeon is a terrific preacher and a very well-known pastor and very popular in his day. But one of the things that they don’t often realise is that he wrestled with mental health. Particularly towards the back end of his life, he suffered from deep depression and would go away for several months a year down the Mediterranean to get a bit of vitamin D and a bit of sunshine.

But not just Spurgeon. If you were to go right back to the Bible, you’d discover there are all sorts of people throughout history who have struggled, even the people that we look up to, people like King David or Solomon. Some of the disciples went through some low periods.

That brings me a lot of strength to know that I’m not isolated and when we have mental health issues, that we’re not alone. I identify, for example, with the psalmist in Psalms 13. Now you’ve got somebody, David, but he’s struggling. We’re not sure why he’s struggling. It could be just because of depression. It could be because of anxiety related to some of his relationships. But he asks this question. He says, “How long, Lord, will You forget me? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?”

I just thought as I read that in my reading of the Bible, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts,” that’s one of the things about our mental health issue, we just wrestle. That’s often because we’re looking inwardly and we’re going through a struggle. And the Bible doesn’t minimise that and in fact, that’s why I encourage people who are struggling to look to the Psalms. Look at how the godly people deal with these troubles. The Bible doesn’t only present our troubles, though. It also gives us hints of good news. So we read in Romans 8, for example, that the Holy Spirit helps in our weakness.

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First of all, you’re not alone. And the second thing is, God cares, and He wants you to be open with Him

For example, we don’t know what to pray for. But the Holy Spirit helps us with groanings of words that can’t be uttered. By that, the Bible is saying there are sometimes when we don’t even know how to pray. You can’t get out of bed, whether it’s chronic fatigue or whether you’re just down in the dumps. The good news is the Holy Spirit lives within us, and He even takes our brokenness and offers prayers on our behalf. So that’s what I would say to somebody going through a mental health challenge. First of all, you’re not alone. And the second thing is, God cares, and He wants you to be open with Him, but He also cares and that’s why He sent Jesus to be familiar with our sufferings and our brokenness.

That’s right. I think the knowledge that God is always there to turn to is a comfort, no matter what we’re going through. But also that He gives us other people to talk to in the church and so many good doctors here in Australia who will help.

And I should remind as well that, you know, Lifeline is always there to call, 13 11 14. So many excellent services that will help us beyond just our understanding of God, right?

Yeah, there are. And Sam, that’s what I just want to encourage. Don’t do this alone. God has created us to live with other people and often when we’re carrying heavy burdens, we don’t need to do that alone. There are practical ways, such as Lifeline and others, that can help. If I could just add two more things.

Struggle, it is part of our broken world, but the Bible does speak of a coming day that we are to yearn for. So there’s something beautiful and appropriate if you are yearning for that day when you won’t be struck down just with the black dog or whether anxiety or whatever. The good news is there’s a coming day when God will make all things right.

Another thing that’s helpful is the Bible does exhort us when we get down and when we’re consumed, let’s say with anxiety or concern or self-focus, the Bible says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, honourable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” So one of the things when I’m down, I love to come back and just remind myself, “What has God said about Him? What has God said about me?” And I remind myself of God’s promises, and I find great comfort there as well.

Mal, such a great encouragement. And as we said, if you need to see someone or get some help, have a chat to a friend, call someone today, and you can also call Lifeline, 13 11 14.