Here is the first article for a monthly Spiritual Dimensions of Wellness column I’ve been asked to start writing for a Natural Health monthly magazine called “Home Cures That Work.”
I’m very excited about this as the audience is not church folk. Pray for this opportunity. I’ve been given full liberty to talk about Jesus, quote the Bible, give people true hope and a link will be included back to the prayer request area of our church website.
This month the focus is discouragement and depression. Next month the focus is stress and anxiety.
Beyond just having a bad day, many of us experience seasons of discouragement and depression. There are known forms and causes recognized when depression reaches a clinical intensity. However, whatever the degree of melancholy, there are spiritual factors to consider. We are not just physical beings, we are spiritual beings. This article touches on known spiritual factors contributing to mental health and wellness.
Discouragement and depression are directly related to hope, or the lack thereof. Hope is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life. Those who hope in nothing outside themselves have little to grab onto to pull them out of discouragement. Even putting our hope in other people is an inconsistent source of strength because people are just people. Those who put their faith in God find they aren’t tossed about when life turns sour. Jesus spoke of trusting in him to be like building a house on a rock and those who do, find themselves standing after the storm passes.
Isolation is an enemy. People are all the time wondering what their purpose in life is or what the will of God is for their life. One thing is for certain, God made us social beings and therefore it is not God’s will that we wander through life alone. Even introverts are wired for meaningful human interaction. Studies show that babies who are touched and loved have fewer health problems than babies who lie alone in orphanage cradles. The need for others is not something we out grow. It may seem like this point fits better in an article on the social dimensions of wellness, but this is ultimately a spiritual dimension because we are created to relate to God and others.
The solutions are to find a community (a small group at a church for example) of people who share your values and beliefs and be open with them. Find a place where you don’t have to fake it. It is important to surround yourself with positive people and seek out those who emit joy. But, transparency is more important than a superficial happy-clappy environment. The Bible says “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” In other words, whatever you are feeling at the moment is valid and we need others to be with us in those moments.
A frequent phrase in the Bible to the discouraged is “take heart.” There are encouraging things to embrace even when the chips are down. First, it is encouraging to know that even those we celebrate today as spiritual giants knew well “the dark night of the soul.” Though never fun, these are refining times intended by God to make us stronger and take us into deeper places of usefulness to him. Not one ounce of pain is wasted in God’s economy. We can take heart that what we can only see as bad, God will use for good. It’s when we reach the point of weakness that his strength is able to manifest in our lives. Really, we have to get out of the way and hitting these low points are indications we are in good position for his help.
The Book of Psalms contains the whole gamut of human emotion and many who find themselves in the up and down swings connect with psalm writers like David. In Psalm 42:5 he laments “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?” He speaks of being in mourning and how “deep calls to deep at the sound of thy waterfalls; all thy breakers and thy waves have rolled over me.” But each of these honest moments lead to a reality beyond what we are feeling – that God is there and God is inclined to those who are discouraged. One man in our church regularly struggles with depression and he’s tried everything and his testimony is nothing worked until he started reading and praying the Psalms each day, out loud. One a day and this thing started to lift off of him.
In the fall of 2002, my father was tragically killed in an accident on a road near my home. This sent me into a season where I couldn’t even drive at night because I’d keep imagining people in the road. I didn’t feel like smiling for the better part of a year. Every email my father sent me the last few years of his life was signed off which these two words: “Chin Up!” One day I wrote those two words on a note card with this verse written underneath: “[God is] the lifter of my head” (Psalm 3:3). Everyday it was like the voice of two fathers encouraging me. The world started to take on color again for me. For sure we all have different views of God, but this is who I have discovered him to be – the lifter of my head. A good place to start is to pray – God, reveal yourself to me as the Lifter of my Head.