“Remember that overwhelmingly sad feeling when you learned that someone you loved died? Remember the guilt and embarrassment you felt after your biggest failure was exposed? Remember facing the biggest problem in your life and thinking that it was impossible to fix? Remember that time, as a little kid, when someone held you under the swimming pool too long, and you thought you were going to drown? Roll all of those emotions into one, carry them around with you every day from the time you wake up until the time you fall asleep, and you will begin to understand the dragon of depression.”
Even though this is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year,” I have had conversations with more people who are struggling with despair and depression these last few weeks than any other time during my post in the church office. The relentless thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness are driving many Christians to places of isolation and shame. I felt like it was time to shine a light on what is a secret struggle for many of us.
I read an article by Jim Burgen called “Jesus is Bigger, Stronger, and Most High Over Everything” that addressed the struggles of a life plagued with despair. Jim shared, “When you experience the dragon of depression, your entire world is seen only through the lens of sadness, hopelessness, mourning, loss, emptiness, grief, pain, anger, frustration, guilt, and death. Death is always there, looming and lurking: ’I can’t live another minute like this. Death has to be better than this. The people around me would be better off if I wasn’t here to hurt them. I can’t do this anymore. This is never going to get any better.’”
I am no stranger to oppressive thoughts, and I have battled for freedom for many years. I have learned that these horrible thoughts are really horrible lies we are fed by the enemy. I eventually began to search out and then rehearse God’s truth about His heart for me. I carried around index cards filled with scriptures or phrases that I knew were true in my head, but my heart needed to grasp. I would read aloud the truths when I went for walks, while I ate, dressed, and at bedtime, and any other time I could meditate on them. I even sang them at stoplights so the car next to me would think I was singing with the radio. It was a slow process, but I did not quit and over time I began to experience more power to choose what I accepted as truth. It wasn’t a fast magic bullet, but it has been powerful and liberating and I can say that I know God and his heart for me at a different level than if I had never been plagued by those ugly lies. If you would like to attack the horrible lies with truth, we have put together a chart that you can print and rehearse too.
*Clinical depression is a medical condition that needs the care of medical professionals. This will be addressed in The Dragon of Despair, Part 2.
“We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son.”
–Pope John Paul II