[Please] Don’t Stay Dim: Separate the Light from the Dark… and Shine On!
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
There’s No Doubt That Dark and Light Exists… Right? We just need to separate one from the other.
My story includes having been raised under the triple-threat-trifecta of shame, criticism, and anonymity. The two choices I had to survive was to either hide or harden my heart. And, since what is personal is most universal, it’s highly likely my own story is similar to many other’s story.
So what this has to do with our feast of the heart today is this: I’ve probably been 40% mildly, to 15% mediumly, to 5% deep-dark-chronically depressed for most of my life.
The only reason I haven’t done away with my life is that I’ve been blessed, guarded by God and certain people by ways to distract, numb, deny, and like myself and others just long enough that, in the midst of the darkness, a ray of light shown through… and I squeaked by and lived instead of died, for another day. There’s no question that in the earliest stages of my own life God kept me from dying so that, at just the right time, He could save me at age thirty-one and I could, for the first time, begin to live in the love and light of the Father, for the Son, and by means of the Spirit.
Because I had things I was supposed to do, people who would miss me when missing, various ways I could distract or entertain myself, I somehow got back to life with a modicum of light and focus, and a maximum of avoidance… amidst the dim-to-darkness of my life.
Sound desperate? Sure. But I think we’d all be shocked if we could see how common my story is in the people’s lives right under our noses. I can promise you that my story of darkness and depression is more like a paper-cut compared to the staggering numbers of despairing, depressed, and hopeless Image Bearers right in our midst.
The difference between my being blessed by NOT having ended my life is that I’ve had the luxury of distractions and many occasional ways to NOT live in the darkness of depression for a long period of time. Because people who do—those who have to simply stay and live in the dark with no means of being distracted, entertained, and getting back into the light—usually don’t make it. Dim turns into dark, dark into despair, despair into hopelessness, hopelessness into death is better than life.
Human beings were not created to live in darkness of any kind, but we tend to simply re-define what living life consists of. And I’m sorely afraid that the bar is now set quite low. Heartbreakingly low. But there’s hope IF we reach out for the right sort of wisdom and help.
My point? How many folks live in the damned darkness, depressed, but are saved only by means of avoiding staying there just long enough? How many folks are even on meds for depression and, as a result, will never get to the place of crying out to God because the pain is being blunted, suppressed… and, therefore, the perceived need for God’s help by mercy, rescue, and light is not perceived at all, or not at a desperate enough level to cry out to God? How many people do we know, or meet everyday, who are depressed and slowly dying just below the surface of what we can see… they can’t reach out… and then they’re gone… off to the next engagement?
How many of us are living at 50% of our potential, simply because we’re living the dimly-lit, distracted, mildly-to-mediumly depressed life? Is that just where the bar is set at “normal,” and we don’t know, or feel like we deserve, or expect, any more? When there’s SO much more to life.
I often wonder, so I just ask after the other person answers “Fine.” of “Really busy.” to my, “How ya doing today?” “How are you really doing? Busy doing what? Just fine?” Nearly 80% of the time the response is, “How am I really doing? You don’t really want to know.” And left unsaid, “Do you?” Do we?
Please enjoy and employ the content below that Dr. Richard Winter and I put together for a Greentree Community Church Stephen Ministry presentation on Depression—in order to help our Stephen Ministers best assist their [potentially] depressed Care Receivers.
Akin to knowing that 100% of the people we come into contact with, or minister to, are in some state or degree of suffering from living in a broken world, most everyone won’t speak up about their pain until it’s just too dark and too much to bear. And that’s a horrible shame.
When Life Goes Dark: Finding Hope in the Midst of Depression
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 moods
- 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
- Worthlessness/inappropriate guilt
- Slow thinking/loss of concentration/indecisiveness
- Suicidal ideas
Sometimes delusions, paranoia and hallucinations
+ Prayer feels useless, Bible feels meaningless
+ God feels far, 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… ASAP! Early, often.
- 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 (Gen 1:3; Rom 1:18-32), how we have been sinned against, and how we sin in response to the things and people that hurt us
- Learn about mourning—mourn little losses, and big losses will be better mourned
- Stay put and 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 Depressed Care Giver: The Best Defense is a Great Offense!
Christianity is a Proactive—Not a 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 own 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 enjoy and employ the “biblical weapons”, resources below. Gird yourself up! There is no darkness that can stand against God’s Light.
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; The Heart of Prayer, Jerram Barrs; A Simple Way to Pray, Martin Luther; A Praying Life, Paul Miller; Pray With Your Eyes Open, Richard Pratt; Lifting Up Our Hearts, John Calvin (a collection of 150 of Calvin’s prayers, paired with a Scripture passage); Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Tim Keller.
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; Spiritual Discernment, Watchman Nee; Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey; Above All Earthly Powers, David Wells; Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview, Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew; John Piper on Discernment, http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/by-this-time-you-ought-to-be-teachers
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: The Mission of God’s People, Christopher Wright; The Kingdom of God, W. Tullian Tchividjian (a booklet); Why God Gave Us a Book, Gene Edward Veith (a booklet); The Four: A Survey of the Gospels, Peter Leithart; 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; What Is Spiritual Warfare?, Stanley Gale (a booklet); Power Encounters, David Powlison; Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, Thomas Brooks
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; Holiness by Grace, Bryan Chapell; Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges; A Life of Principled Obedience, A.N. Martin (a booklet); Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, John Calvin; Sermons on Obedience: http://resources.thegospelcoalition.org/library?utf8=%E2%9C%93&query=obedience
I love this content, my fellow marathoners for Christ! I hope it blesses you and someone in your life as well. Please, oh please, don’t let any Christ-centered movement towards the light, improvement, and helping others pass you by.
It’s vitally… life-givingly… important. For a host of complicated reasons, DEPRESSION is no longer the malady of a few fish swimming in the fishbowl of life all around us: It IS the water that we ALL swim in. It’s as pervasive in the church as it is in the world. Like so many things aptly described by how frogs are unwittingly cooked in a slow-boiling pot, living under the pall of depression has slowly become more the norm than the exception… and the evil one is delighted in the dimly lit life so many of God’s Image Bearers live in, with, through, and by everyday.
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12; 1:5; 1 John 1:5-9; Psalm 119:105; 27:1; Luke 11:34-35… many more)