In my last post on dealing with depression I shared the importance of balancing our feelings with facts and faith. I’d like to delve a little deeper into that. As I shared, a depressed person’s feelings (negative emotions and emotionally-charged thoughts) cannot be trusted without some evaluation by the facts and the faith but there is another way of thinking about this issue. Depression is built on lies, deceitful thoughts and feelings, what I call counterfeit thoughts. So in order to defeat depression you must learn to expose those counterfeit thoughts and replace them with truth.
In 2 Corinthians Paul is discussing spiritual warfare. He says that “though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 10:3) He goes on to stress the importance of “taking every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
There are a couple of points that need to be made here:
1. Depression is not only a physical ailment. The truth is that depression is an all-encompassing disorder. It has physical, emotional, mental, and, yes, spiritual components. (This is sadly a difficult aspect of depression because many people do not recognize spiritual things at all. If that is where you are, I doubt my experiences and advice will help you much.)
2. Dealing with, and ultimately defeating, depression is a battle of the mind. Defeating those emotionally-charged thoughts that constantly barrage you requires taking your thoughts captive and replacing them with truth. Additionally, your mind influences your heart. Think of this way – Our physical hearts are involuntary organs. This means that we do not consciously control our heartbeats. Thankfully God made us to where our hearts do their job subconsciously. We may be tempted to think that our emotions, our spiritual hearts, are the same and that they are out of our control. However, we can influence our heart rates if we concentrate, if we breathe, if we calm ourselves. You see, though our hearts function subconsciously they are influenced by our conscious minds. Our emotions are the same. You may not be able to control them now but with time and work you will learn to influence them with your thoughts. So both emotions and emotionally-charged thoughts are battles in the mind.
People battling depression are filled with thoughts of their worthlessness, their failures, their loneliness, their emptiness, etc. It is hellish. The first step to fighting this fight of thoughts is to recognize that these thoughts are false. They are lies. They are counterfeit.
So how can you know when your thoughts are counterfeit? I once heard a man who worked in detecting counterfeit money speak. He shared with us how quickly and creatively counterfeiters create new false bills. He said it was virtually impossible to keep up with their ever-changing tactics and methods. One person in our group asked “How do you do it then?” His response was simple yet profound. He said, “We don’t worry about learning all of the new false bills. We simply memorize the real ones. Anything that doesn’t match the real money is counterfeit.”
The same is true of counterfeit thoughts. Anything that doesn’t match up with what those who love you say and, more importantly, what God says of you is counterfeit. In my dealing with depression I surrounded myself with people who loved me but, even more importantly, I dove into the Bible to see what God had to say about me. One of the most influential passages of Scripture that God used to help me with depression is found in the fourth chapter of Philippians. This passage is so important to me that I will write an entire post about it but for now I’d like to share one part of it with you.
Paul writes, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Now I may not know the exact thoughts that are running through your head (I probably have a good idea) but I guarantee you that if you are depressed your thoughts are not those things. They are not “true,” they are not “pure”, they are not “lovely,” and they are not “commendable.”
If you want to defeat depression you have to start fighting, you have to start taking your thoughts captive, you have to start recognizing counterfeit thoughts. Which means you must learn the truth of what God says of you in His Word.
If you dive into God’s Word you will see that He made you with purpose and design, He loves you despite your failures, He wants a relationship with you, He is there for you, and He will never leave you or forsake you. Replace your negative thoughts with godly ones and you will see depression loosen its grip on you. Teach yourself what God says of you and you will clearly see the lies you’ve believed. Preach the gospel to yourself and you will be on your journey towards freedom.