Tag Archives: depression

Should This Cloud of Hopelessness Concern Me?

Hopelessness is a dreadful feeling. The Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). Many people go through times when they know something is terribly wrong, but they often can’t put their finger on it. All they can explain is a strong sense that nothing is going to work out.

It’s unwise to ignore chronic feelings of hopelessness. Our souls cannot live for long in a state of perceived hopelessness. Hope is the oxygen of the soul. Without a hopeful outlook, our souls will eventually suffocate.

Our dilemma is that a hopeful perspective is as fragile as it is indispensable. Situations beyond our control can delay the fulfillment of hope and leave us in a fog of uncertainty and despair. As hope seems to be collapsing all around us, the potential exists to lose heart and slip into a state of depression.

Depression is a troubled mood or state of the soul that has a dramatic effect on our bodies. We lose energy. Sleeping and eating patterns become abnormal. And we have difficulty concentrating.

Depression can be mild or major. The more depression interferes with a person’s ability to sleep, to eat, to work, to focus, and to enjoy life, the greater the severity of depression, and the greater need there is to be concerned.

Sometimes a depressive mood lifts for no apparent reason. Usually,however, depression doesn’t work itself out over time. Left to itself, it can linger on like an old injury that slowly wears a person down.Over time, it can grow into a severe debilitating problem. That’s why it’s important for those who are depressed to seek help.

An honest reflection of the following statements can alert a person to a potential problem with depression:

  • I feel sad or shut down nearly every day.
  • I have little or no interest in doing things I used to enjoy.
  • I’m sleeping too little or too much.
  • I’m eating too little or too much.
  • I feel tired most of the time.
  • I find it difficult to stay focused.
  • I’ve lost interest in physical intimacy with my spouse.
  • I feel overwhelmed by the burdens of life.
  • I don’t hold out much hope that my life will improve in the future.
  • I shift between feeling helpless and unworthy to feeling angry and cheated.
  • I think about death or killing myself.

Those who identify with two to four of the above statements should,at the very least, consider seeing a physician for a complete medical checkup. Sometimes these are symptoms of a pure medical condition. Those who identify with five or more of the above statements should consider seeking immediate professional help.

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What Can I Do to Stop Cutting Myself?

I’m sad about your struggle with cutting. This is a painful topic and one that you may have avoided up to this point. It takes a lot of courage to talk about it and you’ve taken an important step in getting help.

Any form of self-injury is dangerous and should be taken seriously. The reasons that motivate cutting are complicated, so it’s important to seek the kind of help that will invite you to take an honest look at yourself and ask the question “What is going on in your heart?” An experienced counselor can help teach you better ways of coping, which is important, but he or she will also help expand your insight into the reasons behind the cutting and give you a safe place to process your deep feelings of shame and self-loathing.

There also can be great comfort in reading the expressions of emotion in the Bible. It’s soothing to know that we’re not alone in our pain; others before us have felt the terror of despair. As one example, Psalm 31:9-13 reads:

“Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends—those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life.”

It’s impossible to overlook the unbelievable anguish in this passage. As someone who cuts, you may have cried out with similar expressions. Memories of past abuse, unwanted thoughts, or feeling out of control with your life may cause you to consider cutting as a release of the pain, misery, and anger you feel inside.

As we continue reading (vs. 1-4), however, the psalmist declares that it’s his trust in God that helps him through this time of horrific misery and he rejects any other way to ultimately save him.

“In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.”

It’s hard to trust God whom we can not see. But in addition to counseling and learning how to express your feelings in a healthy way, I hope you can see that we are better off trusting God than in trusting in anything else. We’ve come up with different ways to deal with our anger and ease the pain of life, but apart from God, our methods are only temporary and don’t give us what our hearts truly need. And what we truly need is to invite God into our pain; we need Him to comfort us and give us strength.

God, in His love for you, sent His son Jesus to set you free. He knows your pain and He wants to heal and strengthen you. As a matter of fact, He came specifically for this purpose; not only to offer you life after death, but life now! He came to help you live through pain instead of trying to escape by self-injury (Isaiah 61:1-3).

I know you’re hurting deeply inside. Pain and disappointment have taken root in your soul. Cutting may seem like the only answer to your overwhelming pain, but the dark side of it is that it keeps you from what your heart longs for. So when you’re compelled to cut yourself, please don’t try and face it alone. The Bible offers you an answer. The battle is hard, and most likely won’t be won over night. But getting wise counsel from a competent therapist, and believing that there is Someone who cares for you who is fully capable of comforting you and setting you free from this prison, can give you the confidence to fight the urge to harm yourself.

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Is It Possible for a Believer To Be Overwhelmed with Fear and Despair? 

In spite of his triumph over the prophets of Baal, Elijah fell into deep despair (1 Kings 19:4).

After confidently proclaiming his faithfulness to Jesus (Matthew 26:33-35), Peter denied Him with curses and wept bitterly (Mark 14:66-72)

Paul “despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8), and agonized over his helplessness when struggling against the “flesh” (Romans 7:18-24).

Though God accomplished great things through each of these people, as persons of faith they experienced their worlds spinning out of control.

These examples from the Bible make it clear that believers often face trials that are unexpected and have no discernable purpose. Trials like these overwhelm our efforts to understand and rationalize them. But these biblical examples of great people of faith illustrate that experiences of stress and despair can be times of greatest spiritual growth.

A story about the Victorian poet/hymn writer William Cowper illustrates how dramatically God’s grace can interact with our despair. Anyone knowing his history would understand why Cowper was given to long periods of depression. On one occasion, convinced he had committed the unpardonable sin, he left his home on a foggy London night and walked toward the Thames River, determined to commit suicide by drowning. As he walked, the fog grew thicker and he lost his way. After several hours of blind wandering, he found himself back at his doorstep. Astonished at God’s intervention, he wrote a poem that later became a beloved hymn:

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace;

behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His work in vain;

God is His own Interpreter, and He will make it plain.

Job’s story provides a framework for understanding the common elements of experiences that make believers feel they are abandoned in a hostile and meaningless world. God allowed Satan to test Job (Job 1), just as our accuser tests the faith of everyone driven to despair. Every believer has a personal enemy, Satan, who consciously seeks to make him or her feel their faith is empty (1 Peter 5:8-9; Ephesians 6:10-12). But just as God set limits to what Satan could do to Job (Job 1:12), He sets limits to what Satan can do to us (1 Corinthians 10:13; Luke 22:31-32). Even more importantly, if we are faithful the Creator is able to change our despairing experiences into good. God uses satanically induced despair to strengthen and refine us in our love for Him and each other.

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV).

 

 

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How Can I Overcome the Feeling That I’m Damned?

To a person passing through the spiritual changes that the Bible describes as moving from death to life (John 5:24; Romans 6:13; Ephesians 5:14 ), awareness of the ugliness of one’s sin can be overwhelming. One of the reasons repentance is so difficult is the pain that comes from acknowledging sin.

Repentance involves spiritual battle. The names “Devil” and “Satan” mean accuser and adversary. When we move towards repentance and salvation, the enemy of our soul strives to transform our Holy Spirit-given consciousness of sin into despair. If he can make us so obsessed with our sin that we doubt the efficacy of Christ’s atonement and think that we must somehow atone for our sin ourselves, he will succeed.

People who are genuinely bound for hell either deny sin, explain it away, or rationalize it by comparing themselves to other people they consider worse. The first step in assuring one’s salvation from sin’s curse is acknowledging its power and influence. This step requires the humility to repent and see one’s helplessness. The next step also requires humility—a willingness to acknowledge that our sinful state is not unique. The Bible tells us that the whole human race is under the curse of sin. Everyone is too corrupt to earn salvation by his or her own efforts. We are no more or less lost than anyone else. As well as being a spiritual attack, obsessive focus on personal sin can also be an expression of a diabolically twisted pride that says, “I’m worse than other people. I’m too evil for God to redeem.” Of all sin, this pride is perhaps the most tragic.

Morbid, despairing thoughts come unbidden. If you choose to resist them in obedience to God’s Word, they will fade. But if you entertain them, their power will grow (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9).

Faith is trust in God’s love. If your parents were distant, arbitrary, or abusive, it may be difficult to view God as a loving Father. If you have been under the enemy’s power for many years, it may be difficult to believe God loves you. Spiritual and emotional growth is slow, and uphill. Trust involves carrying on without absolute emotional assurance or intellectual proof. YOU have to do it. No one else can do it for you (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Trust is willingness to live with unresolved issues, doubts, and frustrations and willingness to forego the demand that God eradicate all your problems and dispel all your fears.

Trust accepts the world as it is and moves forward. It sees the clouds as they shift and darken but is willing to wager1—on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—that behind them is glorious hope of freedom and restored life.

  1. Pascal’s “wager” was the challenge issued by the brilliant 17th-century French mathematician/inventor/religious philosopher Blaise Pascal. A translation of the main part of his “wager” is below.

    “God is, or He is not.” But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up . . . Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose . . . But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is . . . If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.

    The basic meaning of his “wager” still applies today: If we live a life of faith as though the Christian God exists, we will have a better life in this world and hope for redemption and eternal life following death. On the other hand, if we live as though the Christian God doesn’t exist, we will experience increasing torment and alienation in this life, and the possibility of retribution in the life to come. Back To Article

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I’m a Christian, So Why Am I Unhappy?

Why am I having such a hard time being happy when, as a follower of Christ, I’ve got so much to be thankful for?

Yes, it’s true that we have so much to be thankful for. After all, God has given us salvation, forgiveness, love, and the promise of future paradise. Still, somewhere deep inside, is a nagging gloom and we wonder if our faith is weak because we aren’t happier with our lives.

But the sorrow is there, not because we’re doing something wrong, but because we live in a broken world; a place where we can’t experience all God has to offer us. It’s a sign to us that we were made for heaven, for eternity with God.

The apostle Paul tells us that we were created for far better things than this world has to offer. He writes:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23).

And then again, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:2-6:

“Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.”

Sometimes the yearning for God is too deep for words. We struggle to be happy, but we know that this place is contaminated with a sense of brokenness and futility. Working harder, doing better, serving longer, won’t take the edge off our sorrow. It lingers. And it won’t go away until the day our redemption is complete. Even our highest accomplishments feel pointless after awhile. (Ecclesiastes 1:1-9). Nothing lasts here and nothing fully satisfies us.

The result of being claimed by God, but not yet living with Him, is sorrow. But not sorrow alone. It’s also mixed with anticipation. We eagerly anticipate being with our heavenly Father. We are cut off from our heavenly Father; not in a spiritual sense, but in the sense that, now, we can’t experience the total joy of living in His presence today. We’re adopted, but not yet living with our Abba Father. It’s like an abandoned child who’s been adopted but is still living in an orphanage, eagerly waiting for her new parents to embrace her and take her home. She lives with a yearning, a longing to be with her family. And so do we. We may not always be fully aware of how deeply we long for this, but we too anticipate being with our Father. The Holy Spirit comforts us, but until we’re fully redeemed, we live with an inner hunger that’s not completely satisfied.

For now, because of the discrepancy between God’s claim on us and living in a broken world, we’re frustrated, feeling out of sorts. This frustration, though, shouldn’t alarm us. It’s a sign of good things to come. When we realize that it’s natural to feel sad and dissatisfied and that we won’t be happy all the time, we can allow our groaning to be a sign of hope for great things to come, and we can allow it to draw us closer to our Lord. When we feel the groan of our soul, we can find comfort knowing that we will someday see our Lord and Savior face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).

It’s the person who is oblivious to this alienation in nature and within us, this endless cycle of decay, who is in greater danger than the one who’s painfully aware of this separation from God. The unaware person sees this frustration as grounds for despair and he may live his life trying to quiet his groaning through sex, relationships, money, work, or any kind of pleasure. But he finds that there is nothing here on this earth that can reach down far enough into his soul and fulfill him. At that point he has a choice—to recognize his longing as a sign of better things to come, or deny the groaning in his heart and continue his futile effort to have paradise now.

It’s natural to feel unhappy from time to time. But this is good news, because this burden or groaning fuels our hope and lets us know that God intends to make everything right. It reminds us that nothing material in this world can satisfy us. God Himself satisfies us (Psalm 90:14; 103:2-5; 107:9). Given that fact, Christians can use their longings to draw them closer to God and further away from the flesh. God will free us from the slavery of corruption and completely restore us.

Let’s not stress over the pangs of loneliness and sadness when they invade our hearts, but let us have joy because we know that far better things are in store for us. Through the sufferings of this world, we become more like God’s son, Jesus (James 1:1-4).

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