“Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don’t turn away from me, or I will die. Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.” –– Psalm 143:6-8 (NLT)
This coming Sunday, we are continuing our sermon series entitled, “You Can’t Handle This.” Ironically, we planned this series at the end of 2019 when we were planning our sermon calendar for 2020. We didn’t know how timely it would be. But God surely did.
The truth is that many of us are feeling that life has become nearly impossible to handle these days. We often feel that we can’t handle one more thing. But perhaps this feeling has brought us to the realization that we were never really in control anyway. We were actually under the illusion of being in control. We just thought we were handling life, when in fact, it was handling us. With our illusion of control stripped away, many of us are feeling completely overwhelmed. We are crying out just as the psalmist did in Psalm 55:2, “Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.”
Last Sunday, we talked about how many of us are overwhelmed by fear and how the Lord can help us overcome our fear. This week, we want to talk about what psychiatrist and author, Dr. Frank Minirth, calls America’s number one health problem. Is it COVID 19? No. Dr. Minirth says that America’s number one health problem, affecting 15% of Americans every year, is depression.
In his book, Happiness Is a Choice: New Ways to Enhance Joy and Meaning in Your Life, Dr. Minirth writes, “As psychiatrists we see more people suffering from depression than from all other emotional problems put together. A majority of Americans suffer from a serious, clinical depression at some time during their lives. At the present time, one American in twenty is medically diagnosed as suffering from severe clinical depression. Of course, many, many more are depressed but never receive help.”
Of course, I think most of us would say that COVID 19 is America’s number one health problem right now. Yet the anxiety and fear caused by this pandemic is increasing the symptoms of depression today.
Depression is a vague term. Laymen use it to describe a wide spectrum of behavior—anything from a mild swing of sadness to a deep and disabling psychosis. Some use colors to describe it and its degree, like gray, blue or black. Some use directions, like up or down. Some compare it to drowning or even dying.
Circumstances are often the cause. What I like to call “D-Day events” often lead to “D-Day emotions.” Events like death, divorce, delivery, displacement, and disease often lead to emotions like: despair, disillusionment, discouragement, disappointment, and ultimately any one of these events or emotions can lead to depression.
Some have called depression the common cold of emotions. And it may be like that for some of us. It starts with a few sniffles, but eventually goes away after 3-4 days. But for others, depression is more like arthritis, it hurts to move, meds may help a little, but the dull pain never really goes away.
Depression causes symptoms that affect how we feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, and working. Signs and symptoms of depression include persistent sadness and anxiety; feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, and guilt. Those who are depressed may lose interest in everyday activities due to a decrease in energy or an increase in fatigue. Thoughts of death or suicide are often signs of depression.
The Bible is filled with those who struggled at times with the symptoms of depression. Job, Moses, Naomi, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, Mary, Peter, Paul and many more showed signs of depression as they faced various trials. Even Jesus was often afflicted with sadness and grief. As the prophet Isaiah described Him, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).
And may I confess, I have often struggled with depression. I was born with a happy, optimistic, cup is half full, kind of personality. And at heart, that is still my general state. But when I was eight years old, a change in my family’s circumstances, changed me. My father died of cancer. He was only thirty-nine years old. All of a sudden, I became the oldest of four children with a widowed mother. From that day forward, my mother and siblings struggled off and on with various degrees of depression.
Yet difficult circumstances aren’t depression’s only cause. Research suggests it’s caused by a “combination of genetic, biological, environmental, psychological, and spiritual factors” (Minirth, Happiness Is A Choice).
Yet, no matter its cause or its degree, those who suffer from depression, need mercy not judgment. And perhaps more than anything, they need hope!
How many of you are struggling with depression today? How many of you have had more trouble with depression because of the pandemic? Tell someone else about it. Even better, tell Jesus about it, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
You don’t have to try and handle depression alone. Admit that you can’t handle this and give it to the Lord Jesus.
If you’re not sure where you stand on this issue of depression, please join our worship service this coming Sunday, April 26th, when we will offer a link to a self-rating depression scale and when we will offer real hope to those who often struggle with depression.