The black dog of Depression - Hope 103.2

The black dog of Depression

Morning Devotions is for those curious about the Christian faith and who want to explore Christian issues that relate to their daily life.

By Chris WittsSaturday 6 Jul 2013Morning Devotions with Chris WittsUncategorizedReading Time: 0 minutes


I’m grateful to the Uniting Church magazine “Insights” for the story title of their article “Teaching the black dog of depression to heel”,written by Marjorie Lewis-Jones. It’s an amazing look at what Matthew Johnstone did in writing a book about his depression. The book’s called “I Had a black dog” published by Pan Macmillan. Matthew was in New York the day the World Trade Centres collapsed in September 2001,and while he wasn’t injured he saw others die in that terrible morning. He was a creative director for a multi-million dollar advertising agency. But he suffered from depression,and realised his life had to change. This is what he said. “I was living the life of someone I thought I was- but it wasn’t actually who I was. I knew I had to find a more authentic way to be true to who I am”. So he started to write a book which describes what it’s like to suffer from depression,to try and help others like himself. Matthew says the greatest need for people with depression is to be understood. I like what he says: “We may all have our own way and our own faiths,but all of us desire the same thing,and that’s to be loved and understood”. He quotes Winston Churchill who talked about depression as a “black dog”,thus the title of his book. Matthew says “depression is not a life sentence – you’ve got to deal with it and face it”.

In other articles I’ve read this comment is typical of Shawn,aged 31. He said “The best way to describe depression is like going down a long,slow hill. You’re aware of the slide,but you can’t do anything about it”. Depression costs the community something like $3 billion a year,and is a major problem. Maybe you know what it’s like,or you may know someone who suffers dark days of depression. It’s a big topic,when people feel a sense of hopelessness,even despair when the dark clouds come into their lives and they feel like giving up. But if that’s you,you’re in good company. The Bible characters were not exempt from these feelings as well. The Psalmist cried out to God “Why am I so sad? Why am I so troubled?” (Ps 42:5). When God called Moses to the enormous challenge of leading His people out of slavery in Egypt,Moses reacted ” I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me,put me to death right now” (Numbers 11:14-15). He suffered emotional pain and anxiety and felt overwhelmed at his responsibilities. All very human isn’t it – and yet Moses was one of the greatest men of the Bible. After a spiritual campaign in Ninevah,Jonah prayed “Now O Lord,take away my life; for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:3). And probably one of the best known people who suffered from depression was Elijah,the great prophet,who after his battle against the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel,said to God “I have had enough,Lord. Take my life” (1 Kings 19:4). So depression is no respecter of persons – it can strike anyone. It’s not a sin,but a symptom. Depression is like a warning light on the dashboard of a car.. it’s a message that something needs attention.

In Elijah’s case,one of his troubles was he needed a meal – he was hungry. An angel told him to get up and eat. We must never forget the role of our bodies in the emotions. Some people consistently neglect to look after themselves physically,and wonder why they feel down.

Elijah knew he could talk to his God – and he did. He really blew off steam and poured out his rage and anger to God “The Israelites have rejected your covenant and broken down your altars,and I’m the only one left”. But God did not condemn or criticise him – He just let him vent his frustrations. And so it is with us. If you feel upset,talk to your Heavenly Father because He understands how you feel. Share your heart with Him,and be aware of His presence,just as Elijah did. There’s nothing better than coming into the presence of God and realising He loves and cares for you. If you feel depressed,read His Word,the Bible,and let Him speak to you.