The Concise Oxford English dictionary defines depression, also sometimes called clinical depression, as a mental condition characterized by severe feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.
Causes of depression
- Nutrient deficiency or excess
- Drugs (prescription, illicit, caffeine)
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Hormonal imbalances
- Heavy metals such as lead, aluminum and mercury when accumulated in the body.
- Sexual abuse as a child
- Microbial overgrowths/toxins; having abnormal bacteria growing in the intestines.
- Medical conditions (stroke, heart disease, cancer, parkinson’s, diabetes, thyroid)
- Natural light deprivation
- Psychological factors (generally poor thought-processing)
- Spiritual factors such as sin, trials and suffering and physical tiredness
Symptoms of depression
- Deep sadness or emptiness,
- Apathy, loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities,
- Agitation or restlessness, physical hyperactivity or inactivity,
- Sleep disturbances,
- Weight/appetite disturbances,
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate,
- Feelings of excessive guilt, self-reproach or worthlessness,
- Feelings of fatigue or loss of energy, and
- Morbid thoughts of death or suicide.
Examples of people that suffered from depression in the Bible;
- Hannah, wife to Elkanah and co-wife to Peninnah (1Samuel 1). Hannah was so depressed by the fact that she had no child at all, to the extent that she refused to eat. She prayed till she was inaudible, with only her heart pouring out her grief to God and, Eli, not comprehending her plight, thought she was drunk. This points out the fact that sometimes even we Christians misjudge those in suffering and thus worsen their problems and perhaps delay their recovery or breakthrough.
- David, in Psalm 77:2-4 speaks of his soul being overwhelmed to a point that he cannot even speak because he is so troubled.
- Job is another example of characters that went through a period of depression, after losing almost everything, aggravated by his wife’s ill advice to curse God and die.
How does one break free from depression?
- We must fill our minds with truth.
Truth is found in the Word of God, and all other things must be measured by it. Proverbs 16:20 says, “Whoever gives thought to the Word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” When we inundate/flood our minds with scripture, we allow truth to reign in us, and we will be most assuredly be blessed.
- We must set our minds on the things of God, not the things of this earth.
Something incredible happens when we align our thoughts with God’s. Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” We are called to set our minds. To choose where we place our focus. That coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit allows us the ability to think the things God would have us think.
- We must understand that not all thoughts are true.
Yes, scripture tells us “out of the heart come evil thoughts,” but we have an enemy. One who seeks to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). It is our enemy’s primary goal to get us thinking wrong thoughts.
Our thoughts affect our emotions and our emotions affect our actions. Our enemy knows there’s a good chance that, if he can get inside our heads, we will fall to temptation. Just look at the tactics he used with Jesus while Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. Satan used truth, quoted scripture, to tempt Jesus to sway from the path the Father willed for Him. Satan twisted the truth, in an attempt to get Jesus to think wrong thoughts. Obviously, his tactics did not work on Jesus, but even now, he tries the same schemes with us, and so we must remember that not every thought we think is truth.
- We must consciously choose which thoughts to embrace and which to cast out.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Every thought. Using scripture as our guide, we must learn to examine our thoughts to determine whether or not they are true. Whether or not they are beneficial. Whether or not they build us, and others, up or tear us down. We must learn to embrace only thoughts that are true, good, and beneficial. All others must be cast out and replaced with the good.
But telling ourselves, “Don’t think that…don’t think that…don’t think that,” will only make us think that thought all the more. Trying to rid ourselves of a lie or a bad thought only focuses our attention on the very thing we’re trying to get rid of. And so instead, we must learn to reframe how we think about that thought. If you identify a lie, you replace it with the truth. You may still think the lie, but every time that lie crosses your mind, you choose to tell yourself the truth. When you think a thought that is true, but not beneficial, you’ll need to learn to reframe your thinking. You’ll need to choose to think about that thought in a more positive light. This, however, is not “the power of positive thinking.” This is aligning your thoughts with God’s.
All of this definitely takes practice. Training your mind, by the power of the Spirit, to be a more active participant in your thought life takes time, but it is incredibly rewarding.
- We must inundate or flood our minds with good.
Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Paul was onto something here. He had learned to train his mind to think of all things good, even when faced with trials. This scripture was penned while sitting in a jail cell, and yet Paul was able to experience joy. God gave him that joy, but his joy came through his commitment to the instructions in the verses above. And so, like Paul, we too must practice these things.
- We must fight fear with faith.
We all experience fear, at one time or another, and in these moments, our thoughts can most certainly get the best of us. We can learn a lot, however, about how to handle fear from an Old Testament story about King Jehoshaphat.
“Jehoshaphat was afraid,” 2 Chronicles 20:3 says, when told of an army coming against him. But the very first thing this man did was he “set his face to seek the Lord…” (20:3). Instead of getting all up in his own head when presented with fear, Jehoshaphat sought the Lord. Later on, we see Jehoshaphat pray, saying “For we are powerless… We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You” (20:12).
We must fight fear with faith, believing that God will work all things according to His good purposes. Following Jehoshaphat’s example, we set our eyes and our thoughts on God, not our circumstances as we seek the Lord, pray, and worship.
- We must fight depression with prayer, thanksgiving, and worship.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It’snext to impossible to be thankful and negative at the same time. All those negative, self-defeating thoughts will fall to the wayside the more we begin to realize just how blessed we really are.
- We must learn contentment.
During Paul’s imprisonment, he wrote, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13).
Contentment is an incredible thing. It’s ceasing to seek after more, knowing we have already been given all we need. It’s allowing our thoughts to be at peace, knowing we will be okay regardless of what life throws at us.
- We must think less of ourselves and more of others.
Philippians 2:3b-5a says, “In humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves…” Remember, we must set our minds. There is much joy to be had when we lay ourselves aside to love others.