Got the Blues? Turn to Jesus. He’s the Alpha and Omega of the Cure!

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

NOTE: The following content was written for use at a Stephen Ministry Continuous Education meeting that I helped organize. The content is super-valuable and, indeed, a feast of the heart!

When Life Goes Dark: Finding Hope in the Midst of Depression, by Dr. Richard Winter

 Richard Winter, MD, Past Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK), Psychotherapist and Professor of Practical Theology and Counseling, Covenant Theological Seminary, St Louis, MO, USA.

Depression:  Is it Sickness or Sin? Yes… It’s complicated.

We live on a spectrum of mood

• Blues…mild depression… discouragement, despair… “major” or “clinical” depression.
• Some people have up-swings too – through enthusiasm, exuberance… hypomania, mania

Signs of “Clinical” Depression

• Depressed mood and/or Loss of Pleasure for at least 2 weeks and almost every day + 4 of the following:
–   Appetite disturbance
–   Sleep disturbance
–   Fatigue/loss of energy/lethargy/slow movements
–   Agitation/restlessness/anxiety/irritability
–   Worthlessness/inappropriate guilt
–   Slow thinking/loss of concentration/indecisiveness
–   Suicidal ideas

Sometimes delusions, paranoia and hallucinations
+ Prayer useless, Bible meaningless
+ God far away

We are all vulnerable to depression. Some people, due to genetics, early childhood, family and social circumstances, or particular traumatic events, are more vulnerable than others.

How can we reduce vulnerability? A few pointers…

• When you feel you are going “down” talk to self, God, friends, pastor, counselor…
• Learn to identify and live with the normal full range of human emotion
• Accept feelings of appropriate grief and sorrow after loss
• Understand what it means to live in the shadow of the fall, how we have been sinned against, and how we sin in response to the things and people that hurt us
• Examine your expectations, longings, hopes and dreams… and shattered dreams
• Face and deal with anger, guilt, shame, envy, bitterness, perfectionism, control, relationship problems, perfectionism, lies we believe, ways we try to dull the pain, disappointment with God… all things that can lead to depression
• Learn to resist the devil
–   Don’t give him a foothold (Eph 4:27)
–   Put on the full armor of God (Eph 6:11)
–   Counter the liar and accuser with truth (Rev 12:10)

• Make sure you get exercise and eat a healthy diet
• When depression is severe have a medical exam and take medication if necessary

–   Finding right antidepressant and dose may be difficult
–   Realism about time on medication

• Develop patience, hope and a perspective on suffering (Rom 8:18-30)
• Learn to groan (Rom 8:23) and lament (Ps 13) well
• Have confidence that God is for us and not against us (Ruth 1:21, 2:20…)
• You can be “sorrowful yet always rejoicing”  (2 Cor 6:10)

Taking Care of the Care Giver: The Best Defense is a Great Offense!

Christianity is a Proactive—Not Reactive—Faith

As a Stephen Ministry Care Giver, or the Saint saved to serve in any way, the very best way to deal with any form of depression—or symptom of sin, infirmity, or brokenness of any sort—is to steward our faith carefully, thoroughly, urgently, and in community. In the final part of Dr. Winter’s book When Life Goes Dark he writes,

“We are all caught up in spiritual warfare every day, and the biblical weapons are prayer, discerning good from evil and truth from lies, immersion in biblical reality, putting on the whole armor of God, and living in constant obedience. As we do this, the forces of evil retreat and are restrained, and we can be confident that the spirit of God is stronger than any spirit of the evil one.” (p252)

Please consider how each of these biblical weapons, discipleship practices, and means to help conform you to the image of Christ might be “ramped-up” and retained in your life:

Prayer—“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7); “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Matthew 11:24); “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Resources: Praying Backwards, Bryan Chappell; Improve Your Prayer Life, Dr. Archie Parrish; Redeemer Presbyterian Church—On Prayer

Discerning good from evil and truth from lies—“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1); “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…” (Philippians 1:9-10); “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Resources: The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, Tim Challis; John Piper on DiscernmentSpiritual Discernment, Watchman Nee; Decision Making and the Will of God, Garry Friesen

Immersion in biblical reality—“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12); “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17); “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11). Resources: How to Study the Bible, John MacArthur; Understanding the Bible, John Stott; Knowing Scripture RC Sproul; Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, John Piper.

Putting on the whole armor of God—“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore…” (Ephesians 6:10-20). Resources: Putting on the Armor of God, Stephen A. Cramer; Spiritual Warfare, LifeGuide Bible Studies, InterVarsity Press; The Armor of God: a Children’s Bible Study, Walters, Odell.

Living in constant obedience—“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15); “But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29); “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance…” (1 Peter 1:14); “Jesus said, ‘But I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here’” (John 14:31). Resources: Pathway to Freedom: How God’s Laws Guide Our Lives, Dr. Alistair Begg; Putting Amazing Back into Grace, Michael Horton; Sermons on Obedience

Feast, Feast, Feast On This Heart-Filling, Blessing Fare!!

Pass it along to others. The advent of The Fall (Genesis 3) made the entire universe dark and dire. But God has not left us alone and desperate by any stretch! Come to Jesus. He, the Father, and the Spirit all have a role and have a plan for your pain.

And run the good race… Reformed, Revived, and like a Constructive Revolutionary,

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