The third Monday each January has been called “Blue Monday.” According to marketing research, this particular Monday of January each year is the most depressing day of the year for a majority of people. We aren’t sure if this is true or not (you can read about it here) but we do know that discouragement and depression are real problems not only after holidays or during winter, but all year long.
Here are 9 Biblical ways to help defeat it. We hope you’ll read them all, but at least scroll through the list below and allow God to use some of them to help you. You are not alone in your struggle. We realize this article is a bit longer than most that we post, but this is a difficult problem and we want to try to give you some good helpful information and not take it lightly.
“The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
You are not alone in the struggle of life as it relates to discouragement and/or depression. You might be interested to know that numerous heroes of our faith struggled with these difficult types of situations.
Discouragement, where does it come from? Sometimes it feels like a dry, barren wind off a lonely desert. Something inside us begins to wilt. At other times, it feels like a chilling mist seeping through our powers, it numbs the spirit and fogs the path before us…it strips our lives of joy and leaves us feeling vulnerable and exposed.
In the Bible, we see David struggled with these feelings. In Psalm 61:1–2 He writes, “Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to thee, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” We find it alluded to often in other Psalms as well:
Psalm 42:5-7, 9,11 – Listen to the Psalmist in these verses. Have you ever felt like this? Most of us have at one time or another.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted (Disquieted=groan loudly; moan) within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance. 6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me; Therefore I will remember thee from the land of the Jordan, And from the heights of Hermon, From the Hill Mizar. 7 Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterspouts; All thy waves and thy billows have gone over me.9 I will say to God my Rock, “Why have thou forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance and my God.
Another great Bible character, Paul, wrote of his struggle with difficult emotional, physical and spiritual anguish. 2 Corinthians 7:5–6 — 5
For when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;Throughout history, we find Christian saints who struggle with discouragement and depression. We could list the godliest people we know and if the truth were known, we would discover that to a large degree, most if not all have had a struggle in this area.
Abraham Lincoln thought the pain would lead to death; the body couldn’t tolerate it. He said, “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell; I awfully forbode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be better, it appears to me.”
Here are others who wrote about the pain we all feel at times:
· You seem to imagine I have no ups and downs but just a level and lofty stretch of spiritual attainment with unbroken joy.… By no means! By no means! I am often perfectly wretched and everything appears most murky–John Henry Jowett, pastor of New York’s Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church and later Westminster Chapel in London to a friend in 1920
• Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and put an end to this miserable life.--John Knox
• There are dungeons beneath the castles of despair.--Charles Spurgeon, who suffered debilitating bouts of depression all his life
• I had my temptations attending me.… Sometimes I should be assaulted with great discouragement therein, fearing that I should not be able to speak the Word at all …at which times I should have such a strange faintness and strengthlessness seize upon my body that my legs have scarce been able to carry me–John Bunyan
Perhaps today you are a “weary pilgrim.” You have known the dark nights and the days that seem like nights as you struggle through discouragement. You can take heart – as you can see, you are in good company.
We will only begin to scratch the surface of the topic of discouragement/depression/and burnout. Though they are not equal, they usually go hand in hand, so I have lumped them together.
Before we begin, here are a few myths about the causes of discouragement and/or depression:
1. Depression is always the result of lack of faith in God.
2. Depression is always caused by self-pity.
3. Depression can always be removed by spiritual exercises such as prayer and fasting.
4. Depression can be removed by making a choice to be happy.
5. The term “Depressed Christian” is a contradiction.
6. All depression comes from Satan.
7. Depression is God’s punishment.
8. Depression is never the will of God.
To overcome depression, there are some necessary and needed adjustments we must make.
Here are 9 places to look to help you overcome discouragement and depression.
Looking to these places of help will aid in the correction our distorted vision and help bring us out of the swamp or “slough of despond” as John Bunyan described it.
1. Look to others who have suffered and succeeded. (Heb. 11)
Depression makes us feel alone. Even in a crowd of people, we can feel as if we are somehow separate from everyone else. This makes the misery only deeper.
We need to remember that there have been others who have been through deep waters in life yet they succeeded. I have mentioned several in Scripture and in church history. One of the greatest lists of those who struggle and faced incredible odds is found in Hebrews 11. We read of the real men and women of the Bible who learned through hardship, pain and suffering to live by faith.
v.13 – they never saw the complete fulfillment of God’s promises – a land, a race, a city, but they had faith. Our faith too must extend beyond this life to heaven. That gives true meaning to what we experience in this life.
v. 36 – so we realize that everyone faces different and difficult circumstances, these had faith in God when life was at its worse. When the greatest potential for discouragement and depression came their way, they had faith in God!
When you get depressed, it is good to remember that others have been through every imaginable pain and hardship (physically, mentally, and emotionally) and they testify that by faith, we can make it as well. Their lives remind me that everything in this life is not “pie in the sky”, ease and luxury. Read their stories and you will not only discover their pain and suffering, you will see that they had the same questions you ask,
“Does God hear me?”
“Does God love me?”
“Has God forsaken me?”
They made it and so can we.
2. Look to God.
Revelation 19:6 And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
You might think that “the beloved disciple” of Jesus, the one who wrote five books of the NT would have a life of ease and luxury for his service to Christ. John was the last apostle to die. He suffered in exile on the Isle of Patmos – a Roman Penal Colony – because he would not say that the emperor was “Lord and God.”
At potentially the most discouraging moments of his life, John saw God. This is our greatest need when we are depressed. God seems to be off the radar, so distanced form us that we have no connection with Him.
Remember the following realities about God:
God is good
God is all-powerful
God loves me
God is God
Write these statements in bold print in your Bible. When we are depressed, we need a proper look at god. Satan brings distortions and lies about God. John saw God for who He is – “The Lord God omnipotent reigns.”
3. Look to Jesus.
Hebrews 12:2–3 — Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
When we go through pain and suffering we are also looking for meaning. Many people comment that if they could understand the purpose of their pain, then they could more easily handle the pain.
But that revelation of purpose rarely comes when we think we need it. Job had no idea of the Heavenly aspect to his earthly dilemma. Joseph went through decades without answers. Jesus cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
When we experience depression we must look to Jesus! V. 3 tells us why “lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” It literally means “to give out.” During times of discouragement, we want to give up.
4. Look to the truth.
John 17:17–18 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. It has been said that if you tell a lie long enough, it will be believed as the truth. I think we can argue from history that this happens regularly. We are very susceptible to lies. Sometimes because we can’t verify them one way or another. Sometimes because we are gullible and sometimes because we want to believe them.
We need to be careful about what we listen to especially when we are discouraged. It is easy to listen to lies:
“God doesn’t care”
“God is not with me”
“No one has ever faced this before”
“God is gone”
These lies and hundreds of others feed discouragement and depression. It is easier to believe lies because we have to take no steps of action. All we have to do is live by our feelings. Feelings change constantly. Truth never changes.
When you go through the valley of depression you must “remember in the dark the truth you learned in the light.” Depression often happens as a result of replacing the Word of God as the driving force for our actions. Even the physical causes of depression require a Biblical response.
If we don’t replace the lies with truth we will have a “…faulty interpretation of the available information.”
I want you to mark several key references that are the truths you need to remember to combat the lies when you are discouraged.
1. God never fails – Heb. 13:5b
2. Pain has a purpose (it purifies) – I Peter 4:1
3. God answers prayer – John 14:13-14
4. God is with me in my struggles – Ps. 46:1
5. Good will be the result – Rom 8:28
6. This will make me like Jesus – Rom. 8:29
7. This is temporary – II Cor. 4:17
8. God is in control – Deut. 33:26-27
9. God gives me strength – Is. 40:31
There are times when we can only cling to God and His promises. That is a choice to live by faith and not to give in to our feelings. Remember, “People who give up are people who have first given in (to their feelings).”
Mark, memorize and study these truths from Scripture. They are the truths that will set you free.
5. Look at the past.
Many people are depressed because of their past. As they think back, there may be many, if not hundreds, of failures. Failed projects, rejection, abuse, misrepresentations, sin, failure as a parent, spouse or friend, school failures, failures in relationships. The list could be endless. Why would anyone want to think about the past to overcome discouragement and depression?
Though this is not my main point, I should point out to you that caution should always be exercised when we think about the past. Our mind may distort the facts. Since we can rarely remember events exactly as they were, we may exaggerate the severity of an incident or we may minimize the good that has happened. It’s easy to be the victim when we are discouraged. Be careful how you remember the past! The apostle Paul taught us that he forgot the things that were behind because his remembrance of those things would be a hindrance.
That does not mean that we never remember the past. We don’t live in the past. And we don’t have to allow the past to control us.
What should we remember about the past?
Lamentations 3:1-9, 15-20, 21-25
We need to remember that the God of the past is with us today. There may be necessary, even unexplained, pain and difficulty. But, as Jeremiah remembered, so must we. In order to “crowd out the hopelessness” that can evade our lives we must have three memories from the past:
o God’s inexhaustible supply of loyal love (“mercies”)
o God’s warm compassion (Hebrew word that basically means “the womb”)
o God’s forever faithfulness (His dependable support that will not let me down)
When we are discouraged, “It is though what we know by faith is struggling with what we are experiencing.” One of the ways that the Israelites learned to not forget God was to build/have memorials. The rainbow, is a great example of God giving a reminder. Gen. 9:13-16
We too need memorials of God’s faithfulness.
o Keep a journal – answers to prayer, favorite verses, times of God’s special favor
o Write in your Bible
o Sing hymns
o Review with a friend
o Specific provision by God
We need to be careful that we don’t forget God’s faithfulness and promises!
6. Look to the future.
The grim shadow of depression creates false images and impressions. Like a restless night, we think it will never end. We admit that there are many difficulties, heartaches, pain and struggles in our lifetime. Psalm 34:19 “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” For some it seems worse than for others. It is easy to lose perspective when we are the ones facing difficulty. When discouraged we should look at the future:
Job did – Job 19:25-27 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.
Jesus did – Heb. 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Paul did – II Tim. 4:7-8 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.As a Christian, we can honestly say that the future is brighter than today. We have to be careful that we don’t look only at our present distress.
“When will it ever end?” may be the cry from our hearts. I certainly cannot answer that question. We may go through depressing times that last days, months, or years. You might have chronic pain or an extended illness. But “if in this life only we have hope, we are of all men most miserable” (I Cor. 15:19)
To overcome discouragement, we must realize that there is an eternity with God. There will be no more pain, suffering, disappointment, heartache, injustice, or tears. We will worship and enjoy God forever . . . that is our future.
7. Look at the benefits.
At first glance, it would seem that there are no benefits from struggling through the realities of life that cause us discouragement and depression. Yet we find benefits listed in Scripture. Here are a few to consider:
a. Job 23:10 – you will have greater value
b. Psalm 119:67,71 – keeps you from going deeper into sin
c. Romans 5:3-5 – you develop patience, experience, and hope
d. II Corinthians 1:4 – you will have a ministry to others
e. II Corinthians 12:9 – you will experience God’s strength
f. Hebrews 5:8 – you will learn obedience
Our difficulties in life can either bind us to the point of discouragement, depression and despair or we can see how everything that touches our lives has a divine purpose. It is literally true, “No pain: no gain.”
I am not suggesting that you go out and look for circumstances so that you can experience difficulty and discouragement. They will automatically come to you! However, since we know they will come, we should look at what God can and will do in our lives when we face the inevitable hard times.
8. Look at praise.
Psalm 69:29–31 But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high. I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs.
The Bible is full of praise to God . . . in all circumstances and situations. When we are discouraged, it is difficult to praise God. That is probably what we most need to do. Praise gets our focus off of our surroundings and on to God. When we truly praise God, we are not thinking of ourselves. A lot of what is termed praise today is not really praise of God. Too often, there is still a focus on what I might get out of it: a feeling, relief, or some emotional high. The Scripture calls it a “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15). The time of sacrifice is when it cost me something. The greatest cost is o truly praise God when there is nothing, humanly speaking, that would hint of praising God. But the remarkable truth is that praise of God needs to be a priority when we are discouraged. Praise precedes deliverance. Go back to “Look to God” as the beginning of a long list of what to praise God for. Praise means we truly rejoice in God. We bless God; we take pleasure in God.
9. Look to a friend.
1 Thessalonians 3:2 And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
1 Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
When we are discouraged we need a friend, a true friend. A true friend will listen to you. They will help adjust your perspective:
· They will listen to you, help discern truth from error and reinforce the truth of God’s Word to you.
· They will pray with and for you.
· They will help redirect your thoughts to the big picture and the joys of life.
· They will “lend you their faith”.
When we face discouragement and depression, we should find a friend and pour out our heart to them. Our friends become our supporting allies and will be there even though we feel as if we cannot make it. And in a worst-case scenario, where we are friendless, as believers we have a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
Final Necessary Reminders:
• Proper rest is essential
• Watch your diet
• Have a regular exercise program
• You need a diversion (hobby)
• Take time off
• Learn to say “No”
• DO NOT QUIT!!
These are the encouragements we need when we are discouraged and/or depressed. If you choose to live by these principles, you will be able to get out of depression. But you must remember that to win over depression, it is a fight and will take effort and spiritual cooperation with the Lord if we are to overcome. We are VICTORS IN CHRIST!
If you do not have a church home which preaches and teaches the Truth of the Bible, offers godly fellowship and reminds you that you have a relationship with God by grace through faith alone apart from works, we’d love to have you join us for a service soon. Here is more about our church.
In the meantime, here are some other articles and resources you may find helpful on this subject and others.
A good book is: “Depression: Looking Up From The Stubborn Darkness” by Ed Welch
A classic book on this topic is: “Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure” by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Here are some other articles from Eagle Heights you may find helpful.
5 Phrases You can Give Someone to Change Their World.
Setting Goals and Moving Ahead for God's Glory
Are You Biblically Wise? Take this Assessment (Also good for assessing a teen son or daughter)
Learn more about our Church staff
Read about what we believe and teach
Learn how you can have a relationship with God and eternal salvation
7 Ways God Would Tell You to Start the New Year. Hint: They are from the Bible and You'll be Encouraged.
It is here. 2019 is a fresh start. It provides a clean slate to write your story. Here are some biblical ways of doing so to consider as you begin. Of highest importance is knowing for sure you have a vital real relationship with Jesus Christ through the simple plan of the Gospel. If you are unsure of your relationship with God, we would invite you to contact us to talk in person. In the meantime, click here to help understand more about your relationship with God.
Here are 7 practical ways to begin 2019 in a biblical way.
1. Begin With an Over-all Renewed Commitment to the Priority of God in Your Life
Some things to think about as you consider the place of priority God has held in your life and how you might improve.
· What do I spend my time doing each week? Remember, time is life and life is time. How you spend your time is how you are spending your life. Sure there is time to relax, watch the game
· What do I look forward to doing most in a week? Does your answer have much to do with God or your service to him?
o Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…(Matthew 6:33)
o If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col 3:1-2)
o Create and pray for the opportunities to serve in ways you enjoy. The way you serve him will be according to the spiritual gifts and opportunities he has given you.
2. Begin with a Renewed Commitment to the Priority of Prayer
It is interesting how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;" and just as we are about to close the volume, the "Amen" of an earnest supplication meets our ear. Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob-there a Daniel who prayed three times a day-and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elias; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? – Charles Spurgeon
“God’s acquaintance is not made hurriedly. He does not bestow his gifts on the casual or hasty comer and goer. To be MUCH alone with God is the secret of knowing Him and of having influence with Him.” E.M. Bounds
“We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results. The power of God is lacking in our lives and in our work. We have not because we ask not. It was a master stroke of the Devil when he got the church and the ministry so generally to lay aside the mighty weapon of prayer/ The Devil is not afraid of machinery, he is only afraid of God, and machinery without prayer is machinery without God. When due to lack of teaching or spiritual insight, we trust in our own diligence and effort to influence the world and the flesh, and work more than pray, the presence and power of God are not seen in our work as we wish.” R. A. Torrey
3. Begin with A Renewed Commitment to the Word of God, The Bible.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Col 3:16)
“Sanctify them through Thy Word, Thy Word is Truth.” (John 17:17)
Whatsoever things be TRUE….THINK on these things… (Phil. 4:8)
We ARE what we THINK on a regular basis. Meditate on the Bible every day.
· Read the Word – Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day or a week or a month….
· Listen to the Word preached – take notes, MP3, online sermons…. www.oneplace.com
· Memorize the Word
· Consider it in daily actions – remember that as a Christian it is “written on your heart.” What does that mean to you?
4. Begin Without the Nagging Paralyzing Effect of Fear, Dread and Worry
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isa 41:10)
Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ… Peter 1:13
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; (2Co 10:5)
Great Faith is not an irrational leap. It is a reasonable trust in the revealed truth about God. It is a process of thinking. John MacArthur
Faith is primarily thinking. The trouble with a man of “little faith” is that he doesn’t think. He allows circumstances to beat him up. Faith is not purely mystical. Christian faith is essentially thinking (by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit) on the truths of God’s Word. “Look at the bird, the grass, the lilies, --consider them…think about it and draw your deductions based on logic. Faith is a man determined to think on truth when circumstances tell him not to. Lloyd-Jones
The essence of “little faith” is that a man’s thoughts are controlled by circumstance and not by the man girding up the loins of his mind and bringing them captive to the truth. The man of “little faith” is the man who is not allowing the Spirit to fill him with the truth of the Word of God, but is being filled with his own thoughts of fear, worry and suspicion based on circumstances. He then does not think, but goes round and round in circles. Worry is not “thinking too much” it is not thinking enough about the Biblical truth that you know. It is not letting the Word of Christ “dwell in you richly” and being “filled with the Word of God by the Holy Spirit” Faith is not optimism, wishful thinking, or dreaming. It is a reasoned response to the revealed truth of the Bible with or without emotion. Lloyd-Jones
5. Begin Without Conviction from Sins of the Past Which You Have Confessed and Forsaken.
He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. (Pro 28:13) If you haven’t confessed and forsaken your sin. Do so today. Would you rather have a year of failure or a year of mercy?
6. Begin with A Renewed Commitment to Spiritual Disciplines in the Pursuit of Godliness.
God makes us Godly!!! We “put ourselves in the way.” Remember:
· Discipline brings Freedom to reach your goals
· Discipline is based on principle and commitment -not feeling
· Discipline without direction is drudgery. - Donald Whitney
Examples of areas to develop disciplined routines for godliness.
A great resource for ideas in the book, Spiritual Discipline by Donald Whitney.
· Bible intake
· Confession to God
7. Begin with The End in Mind.
What do you want the end of 2019 to be like? What do you want to have accomplished, how to you want to be better? Different? This means you’ll need to set and accomplish goals. Here are some ideas on how to do so.
Quick steps to getting where you want to go…
· Review your roles (What roles do you play? Mom, Dad, Employee, Christian, Husband, Wife…?
· Realistic reflection in each area of how you can and should improve.
· Righteous reach forward (God ordained Goals). Set goals for each role.
· Reinvented routine. Determine to change your life’s routines in order to reach your goals.
· Revitalized rigor. Get excited and motivated by envisioning how your life and the lives of those around you will improve as you reach your goals.
If you do not have a church you feel at home in or that teaches the Bible in a truthful practical way, we invite you to visit us some Sunday.
Check out Bible Promise Ebook below for some great encouragement in starting a new year.
Pastor Bob Franseen, Pastor of Eagle Heights Baptist Church & Others