Light a Candle; Don’t Curse the Darkness: Battling Depression, Desperate Book Club Chapter 5!

Jules_Breton_-WomanWithATaper

Jules Breton, Woman With A Taper

(I am doing this Desperate discussion today, so I can have a Valentine’s post for tomorrow. Somehow, “depression” did not seem the right topic for Valentine’s Day!)

“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

This quote is the way Joy began her history report about Eleanor Roosevelt. Seems Mrs. Roosevelt had much in life to get down about. Her parents expected a boy when she was born,  making her feel like a disappointment from the very beginning. Her mother told her she was homely, and she died when Eleanor was just eight. Her father was an alcoholic and died just a year later. She married FDR and he was disloyal to her and had an affair off and on throughout her marriage. There were other issues, too, but this amazing women decided that it was up to her to take hold of life and conquer all of her sadness. She left a legacy as one of the most hard-working presidential wives, and began and developed many wonderful community services and organizations that helped many unfortunate people. She was beloved by thousands and of course is still remembered today. Her life has been captivating to Joy. She has talked and talked about her over the past several years. “I really want to be like her, Mom. She could have been a victim, but she chose to rise above her circumstances and do great things.” I have to agree with Joy.

Depression and discouragement are rampant in our culture today. Many people are sad and overwhelmed about finances, divorce, immorality, broken relationships, loneliness, illness, contention, and so many other things. We have had quite a bit of disappointment in our lives, but some of it I may never be able to write about out of loyalty and keeping integrity with those close to me. In the midst of a mission trip a few years ago, after having been in four different countries working with so many wonderful leaders and missionaries, I was struck by how many were depressed and disappointed with life. I realized that it would be very easy for most of us to be disillusioned in a fallen world. The issues each person was struggling with in those countries were similar to the ones I so often heard about at home: difficulty in marriage; less-than-perfect children, prodigals, compromised marriages and great disappointment, and the baggage that goes with rebellious teenagers; meager finances, loneliness and all the things I mentioned above. As I sat pondering this on a park bench, I realized that my own life was filled similarly with disappointments, but that I did not want to be sad all my life and I knew God did not want me to be a victim.

I will be writing about this whole issue of depression in a three- part series about Depression and Darkness, so stay tuned for the following articles!

 As I have studied scripture, it is very clear that there is a way to find joy in life and move from the darkness of depression to the light of Christ. He Himself said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” He is the way–not just to God and to redemption, but also the way to live on this path of life. He is with me on the way. Studying His life showed me secrets to follow to maintain my own joy and move toward contentment, and I want to share some of them over the next few days.

Disappointed expectations are at the root of depression. Sometimes we think that something will be one way, then find that thing disappointingly inadequate. We feel hopeless to change it, or to believe that something different or better can ever come. In order to work with our depression, we must put our finger on the sources that have caused the heart anger and frustration and hopelessness in order to be able to mount up over it. There are several specific things that have helped me in this area over the years, and these are what I’d like to share with you.

1. Don’t let the nay-sayers get you down. Disappointment in relationships is one of the biggest reasons for depression. Feeling hurt, unloved, unappreciated, or scared by others who should love us but have shown us anger instead–these are major sources of disappointment. There are plenty of people around who are immature and are readily available to criticize, say hurtful things, reject us and argue with us, or let us down. I call these people nay-sayers, or Job’s friends, or thorns! The nay-sayers want to disagree with you: your ideals, your spirituality, your personality and so on. Job’s friends are those who smugly sit by, feeling free to say hurtful things or offer critical opinions in their Pharisee robes. And many in our lives have emotional scars, are selfish and immature or damaged themselves. Though it is certainly okay to be saddened by people who hurt us, we don’t have to take their criticism or hurt to heart and we do not have to let these define us. I have some irrational people in my life who will be, and have been there forever! But even if they become angry or hurtful, again, I don’t have to let their words or behavior enter into my soul or allow them to determine how I feel about myself. Sometimes it takes years to heal and to begin learning how to mount up over these relationships. But, slowly, I have learned not to take in someone else’s anger, insecurity or immaturity. Jesus told Peter to forgive ‘seventy times seven”. Bitterness in our hearts only injures us further and steals our time and our joy. I can, instead, trust in the one who will always love me to build me up, to affirm me and to comfort me. Jesus did this: ” … and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” 1 Peter 2:23.

And so, each time I am hurt or discouraged by one of my “thorns”, I have practiced giving it to God and asking Him to hold to hold it for me. I then seek to find my center and live in God’s love and affirmation and freedom. I talk to my brain and fill it with God’s truth, rejecting those destructive thoughts and hurtful words, and replace them with God’s word and His peace. Redeeming the situation by refusing to take the hurt into my heart–or body!–has given me the ability to be healthy in spite of my circumstances.

2. Don’t live by guilt. So you blow it once in a while (or perhaps often!) accept God’s forgiveness and move on–wallowing in self-condemnation only leads to more depression. You are forgiven–live in His forgiveness and don’t rehearse your problems over and over again in your mind. Take your thoughts captive and put them in jail, never to bother you again. Jesus did this, too–He just trusted God. He put the situation in God’s hands (I picture it as God’s filing cabinet) and then closed the drawer for God to deal with in His time. I have a choice about whether I will be bitter and mean-spirited back to those who hurt me, or to be a peacemaker and just to practice 1 Corinthians 13– “Love is patient, love is kind,” and so on. If it is true that what we sow we will reap, then if we practice love and peace-making and sow seeds of kindness and grace, we will certainly become more kind and gracious and our souls will be filled with satisfaction.

Does this mean that the mean people will go away, or that you’ll never again feel guilty? No, there will be sad times ahead, but I don’t have to be a victim–or take it in.

FOR DISCUSSION:

1. What are the sources of greatest discouragement and depression in your life?

2. What about motherhood makes you feel stressed and depressed?

3. How can you take responsibility for your own happiness and make plans that will help you find encouragement, pleasure, friendship and fulfill your need to be understood?

4. Is there anything you need to get rid of in your emotional life–bitterness, a broken relationship, pride or anger at God– in order to move on in life and to become free? What will you do to deal with this issue so you can have a clean slate?

Did you know that God cares so deeply for you? He sees you, and even collects your tears …

“You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?” Psalm 56:8

Remember, nothing and no one can separate you from His love. (Romans 8:38-39) I am praying for those who read here today. May you truly know you are not alone or invisible to God. He hears, He loves you and He will lift you up. May you be blessed.

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Today at MomHeart Online: Don’t miss Deb Weakly’s post on Intimacy in Marriage! 

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Comments

  1. says

    I loved reading about the life of Eleanor Roosevelt in her book “You Learn By Living.” And yes, sometimes our expectations in relationships tend to disappoint when they don’t pan out. When we realize that we are all miserable failures, and that God is the only good One, we can hold loosely our expectations of others, and love them even when they disappoint us.

    • wayne says

      hi. churches are mixed up for they are the way of the world..you have to find a church that stands strong for gods word.

  2. says

    Great points on an important topic. Depression is not often talked about, especially in churches, because it can be misunderstood. While life circumstances certainly lead to depression, it can also be a very real physical issue caused by hormone imbalances.

    I look forward to the next two parts. Thank you for your amazing ministry of encouragement!

  3. Kay says

    Maybe depression needs to be defined. There are differences between a circumstantial depression and mental illness and/or clinical depression. A lot of Christian circles do misunderstand mental illness and it can lead to a lot more bondage for those struggling.

    • Kristi says

      Yes. Like Post partum depression. And there are some people who are chemically imbalanced for a long season of time, or indefinitely. It’s important to sift out the cause

  4. Karyn says

    Thank you for sharing this. I personally have found the number one cause of depression in my own life was not telling people when I felt hurt or upset by something they did. Internalizing it and not valuing myself enough to give myself a voice would ruin my week and make it very difficult to forgive. I hate confrontation so this was a challenging revelation for me. I’m still learning how to get better at it. Telling the truth doesn’t mean trying to hurt someone back.

    • says

      As someone who has been hurt repeatedly to the point of being bullied (by the same thorny friend) for the past five years, I thank you for knowing that “telling the truth doesn’t mean trying to hurt someone back.” My incredibly patient, seldom-angered husband reminded me this morning to not allow my disappointment with this relationship to stifle the Holy Spirit inside me. Although the pain is still there, today has been a day full of God sending me precious reminders of His love. So stand strong and tall in who you are as Abba’s child, and be gentle with those who hurt you.

  5. Herbwifemama says

    I am looking forward to your future articles about depression! As someone I consider a spiritual mentor (from afar, albeit), I know you will have something helpful to say. As someone who has struggled with depression off and on since adolescence, I feel that while mine has a genetic (mental illness runs in the family) and a physical (it’s triggered by stress, and I think a root physical cause is adrenal fatigue) cause, that it wasn’t until I recognized the spiritual battle being waged in my mind that things really started getting better. I recognize certain negative thoughts as coming from the Enemy, and I’m reminded to put on my spiritual armor to do battle daily. My depression has done SO much for my spiritual life. I recommend the book Battlefield of the Mind for anyone suffering from depression or negative thinking. The other thing that has helped me a lot has been to play praise and worship music. The Enemy can’t occupy space taken up by God, and when my thoughts need an uplift, I sing hymns and praise music, and it keeps the negative out.

  6. Racheal says

    Thank you for this post…..you have helped me and encouraged me today.what you mention here has helped me identify somethings in my own life and dealing with depression. Thank you.

  7. Michelle Clinton says

    “If it is true that what we sow we will reap, then if we practice love and peace-making and sow seeds of kindness and grace, we will certainly become more kind and gracious and our souls will be filled with satisfaction.” I have never thought of that verse in this light. I’ve considered that I would receive the love, kindness, and grace back from others if I just kept sowing….not realizing that it’s for me. God wants to grow the peace in me!

  8. anuradha says

    God is answering my prayers. I’ve prayed since I was a small for answers, especially about “feeling scared by others who should love us but have shown anger instead”. I’m understanding and freeing myself, Mrs. Clarkson. I wish to express my gratitude for your healing words and your wisdom. And in the end, isn’t it so simple, as you said in the example of Jesus: “He just trusted God!” Blessed by your words. The next days I will take time to seek answers to the four questions. This type of self-enquiry is the most practical help for me.

  9. Jessica says

    Thank you for giving women a place to be real about their depression. I have tried to open up to Christian women about my depression and have only come away feeling inferior, weak, silly, etc. One woman even said that I just need some one to tickle me every day. Not sure about that one? At any rate, it is hard for Christian women to find help and healing in this very real place of darkness. For me, I think that I have locked myself up and made myself a slave to my own unrealistic expectations. I expect myself to look a certain way, weigh a certain weight, fit into certain pants size, only eat at certain times and certain foods………it goes on and on. Then when I feel hungry or the scale fluctuates as it does each month, I feel like a bad person and don’t allow myself to feel loveable. I know that Christ has set me free, but I keep myself enslaved. I need to find a way to break the chains.

  10. says

    I read this and soaked it all in to be buried away in my heart. I have experienced depression twice in my life and reading writings like this help me to be on guard.

    I do have a nay-sayer in my life right now and your valuable insights have girded me up. Thank you, Sally!

  11. says

    I’m curious how you think Social Media is affecting the increase of depression. The last 5-10 yrs have opened us up to access to so much information…and comparison inevitably follows. Looking forward to your thoughts on the topic in the series.

  12. says

    There are huge, important, glaring differences between situational (i.e. – your entire post on JOY) and chemical depression.

    For people who tend to suffer (lifelong, sometimes) from chemical depression, it is no different than having diabetes, heart disease, or any other MEDICAL issue. I don’t see people looking at cancer patients and telling them they must choose to be more joyful like we tell depression patients.

    I get the gist of your article but this is a soapbox of mine. I have dealt with both types of depression for most of my adult life and I tell you the church and Christian circles fail people with chemical depression by heaping a good amount of guilt on their shoulders to “just be more joyful & you’ll be better in no time!”

    • Pam says

      I can really relate to what you are saying, Lindsey. There is a big difference in sadness, disappointment, discouragement, etc. & clinical depression. I don’t see a lot of support for people suffering from this real sickness.

    • Robyn says

      I agree. There’s a huge difference! Media, modern societal problems, etc have precious little to do with true depression – which is so different than “make a choice to be happy”. I’ve seen and experienced the difference between the two in my life and family. One very Godly, wonderful lady in my family suffered horribly from depression- and the trite answers from pastors and leaders in the church to do more for others (she already gave more than anyone I’ve ever met), or pray more or read the Bible more, or choose to just be happy (she tried and suffered for years – refusing medication), only made it worse.
      While I have been affected myself by very little true depression, what of it I have experienced, is not something I have been able to pray, work, think, beg God, or talk myself out of. There is no logical reason for it- when it is true depression.
      Three family members- on opposite sides of the family- had horrible experiences with it- many many years ago… Prior to media discontent being rampant or even available, back when nearly all food choices were healthier, and everyone went to church and fulfilled “traditional” roles.
      It is so true that we can and should choose joy in our day to day lives- and surround ourselves with good choices… But there is a distinct difference between downhearted and true depression!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] After each conference, I have had an ear-full and a heart full of stories fresh from the hearts of sweet mamas. Many marriages mended since last year. Mamas feeling inspired and whole after healing their relationships with difficult children. A sweet homeless mama who was treated to a conference last year and given a roll away bed–back again this year with 15 other women, having a new life, a new home and stability since a year ago. Dallas  also reminded me of the difficulties of living in a world that is fallen, one groaning to be restored to the original design of Jesus–I learned of a sweet baby who died several days ago, not being able to live any longer on life support; a young woman ending her life as a teen; a miscarriage; a husband who left his family behind for an affair. Yes, there are many stories of broken lives and pain.  (If you missed it last week, you can find part one of this series here: Light a Candle, Don’t Curse the Darkness.) [...]

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