Dealing with Depression
Faith, Facts, and Feelings
What do you measure your life by? Everyone has a “speedometer” that they use to determine how their life is going. It could be money, relationships, intelligence, health, etc. For someone with depression, though, their feelings are their speedometer. Every experience, every relationship, and even their self-worth are filtered through their feelings. The problem, of course, is that their feelings are dangerously heightened and misleading.
We need to understand a couple of things regarding these feelings.
1. These feelings also include emotionally-charged thinking. For example, someone will feel extremely lonely but their minds will be filled with thoughts such as “no one loves you,” “you are meant to be alone,” and “if you died no one would miss you.” Thinking that depression is just moping or being sad is not the full story. Those negative feelings also manifest in emotionally-charged thoughts.
2. These thoughts and feelings are constantly working against the person dealing with depression. If you can imagine the saddest thoughts and feelings possible on constant replay in a person’s mind and heart that is what depression is like. It is a constant barrage of negative feelings and thoughts.
The first lesson I learned in dealing with my depression was that my feelings were a bad speedometer and I couldn’t trust them by themselves. I learned that I had to keep my feelings in check with my faith and the facts. The three F’s: Facts, Faith, Feelings.
Before we explore how to apply this, it’s important to mention that I’m not saying that we should fear our emotions or never yield to them. God gave us emotions and our life cannot be fully complete without them. However, for people dealing with depression, whose feelings are so negative, so distorted, and so harmful, they must learn to only follow their emotions when they do not contradict the facts and the faith.
Faith, Facts, and then Feelings!
So let’s look at how to apply the faith to our thoughts and feelings. The key question here is, “What does God say about me?” Back to our previous example: you may feel extremely lonely and be bombarded with thoughts of how no one loves you but what does God say? How can we know what God says about us? We study His Word, the Bible. The Bible teaches that God will “never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5), “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18), the Lord is with us even in the midst of the ‘valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4), and many more promises. In fact, you could argue that the entire Bible is the story of how God is seeking an intimate redemptive relationship with sinful men and women for His glory and our good.
So when someone battling depression is barraged by these consistent, distorted, painfully negative thoughts and feelings the first step is to take those thoughts and feelings captive to the Word of God! The person dealing with depression and his/her loved ones should read, study, and memorize encouraging promises from the Scriptures that combat their negative feelings.
When your depression says, “No one loves you” you can respond by saying “God so loved [me] that He gave His only begotten Son that I could be saved” (John 3:16).
When depression says, “If you died no one would care” you can say, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints (Psalm 116:15).
When depression says, “You are alone” you can respond, “If God is for [me] who can be against [me]?” (Romans 8:31).
Ultimately, who knows more, you (with a distorted view because of depression) or the God who formed you in your mother’s womb, knows the number of hairs on your head, sovereignly placed you in this time in history and in your geographic location, and knows the worst of you more than anyone else but loves you more than anyone else? The obvious answer is God knows more than you. So it only makes sense to listen intently to what He says of you and His tremendous love for you over your depressed feelings.
The next check to your feelings is facts. The question is “what is life really like?” Just for a moment consider that the constant barrage of thoughts and feelings are incorrect, misleading, and dangerous. What are the facts? Returning again to our earlier example: You feel lonely and are consumed with thoughts of why you are alone. The faith contradicts these thoughts and so do the facts. The fact is that no matter who you are, there are people that love you.
Now let’s be clear, I am not saying that there have not been difficult things in your life or that you have not been wounded by people that should have loved you. I’m not even saying that everyone who should love you does, or at least does so perfectly. Real life says that sometimes the people we need to protect us the most are hurtful and even abusive instead. However, the truth is that there are people who love you and care about your well-being. Most likely, if you began to see the truth you would realize that you are more loved than you ever could imagine.
Let me tell you how I know that you are loved. Even if there is no one in your life who loves you (I can’t imagine that is true but for argument’s sake), I love you. You say, “you don’t even know me” and that may be true but I love you anyway. You see, when God healed me of depression I made Him a promise that I would help others dealing with depression. I hate the demon of depression. I have compassion for anyone who is in that dark dungeon. So if you need a friend, a listening ear, a prayer partner, or someone to remind you of the facts and the faith, I am here for you. You are not a burden. I’m not just saying that. I love you because God loves you and I will help in any way I can.
Faith, Facts, then Feelings!