Study 6 THE CAUSES AND CURE FOR DEPRESSION
(Scripture Portion: Psalm 77)
Most of us know what depression is, and few can claim that they have never experienced depression of any kind. Certainly the psalmist was depressed when he wrote Psalm 77; and since he knew what depression was, and we know it also, we shall base this study upon two books – the Book of God and the Book of Human Experience. What gloomy and depressing reading this psalm makes! Have you ever felt like verses 2, 3 and 4? And have you ever said verses 7, 8 and 9?
1. NOTICE THAT DEPRESSION AFFECTS US IN AT LEAST FOUR WAYS
- 1. It overwhelms our spirit. The psalmist tells us this in verse 3. One dictionary definition of depression is “a lowering of the spirit”. How often some of us have experienced this! For some unaccountable reason we have found ourselves down in the depths – our spirit has been defeated, dejected and overwhelmed.
- 2. It awakens our memory. In verse 6 the psalmist tells us that in his time of depression he remembered the times when he had been able to sing, even in the night – but not now! When he compared that time with this time he longed that this time could be like that time – and the very memory of it made him more miserable!
- 3. It robs us of sleep. In verse 4, he tells us that when he went to bed his eyelids refused to close. Depression does that, and so do its relatives – worry and anxiety. Depression is usually worse at night than in the day.
- 4. It seals our lips. In verse 4, the psalmist says, “I was too troubled to speak!” Have you ever been in that condition? There are two causes of dumbness: preoccupation and depression. We can easily rouse ourselves out of our preoccupation, but not out of our depression.
2. WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON CAUSES OF DEPRESSION?
- 1. A morbid, pessimistic outlook on life. In verse 2, the psalmist “refused to be comforted”. Some people are full of pessimism, always thinking and speaking in a “minor key” – “enjoying bad health”! As Christians, we should cultivate a holy optimism and deliberately refuse to dwell upon the dark side of things. What right have we to be pessimists?
- 2. An offending conscience. In verse 3, he tells us that in his depression he suddenly remembered God “and was troubled”. Evidently he did not have a conscience “clear before God” (Acts 24:16). There was something between himself and God. Is there anything between us and the Lord? Are we disobeying Him in any way (Ephesians 4:30)?
- 3. A complaining spirit. In verse 3, the psalmist says, “I remembered you, O God, and I groaned”. The person who is always complaining is especially prone to depression. Avoid being one of those people!
- 4. Too much unhealthy introspection. In verse 6, the psalmist says, “my spirit enquired.” We have already said that we must make sure our depression has not been caused by sin; we do, however, need to examine our ways (Lamentations 3:40), and to pray the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24, but we must at all costs avoid plunging into an unhealthy, unspiritual, morbid introspection that keeps looking inside and can see nothing but bad. The look we must cultivate is indicated in Hebrews 12:2 and Colossians 3:1-2. Many of God’s people are spiritually, mentally and physically ill because they will keep looking at themselves!
- 5. Leaving God out of our reckoning. Look at verses 7-9. This is the all-inclusive reason we stay depressed; we fail to reckon on the presence, power and provision of our wonderful Lord.
However, before we leave the causes of depression and think of the cure, we must remember that there are many practical reasons why people (including Christians) may get depressed. The cause may be physical – e.g. a chemical imbalance in the body. Good health is a great enemy of depression, and bad health is a good friend of depression. Again, adverse circumstances and bad news can bring depression; the job we are engaged in may make us specially prone to depression; temperament has something to do with it…and even the weather can cause depression of the body and then of the mind! Also – a lack of necessary vitamins and proper nourishment can cause depression. Notice at the end of verse 9 – “Selah” – which means, “Pause and think about it!” Well, please do so before you go any further.
3. WHAT IS THE CURE FOR DEPRESSION?
Try to lead a regular, healthy life, to get the right amount of sleep, relaxation, exercise, fresh air, food and fun – and plenty of work too! Seek to live an all-round balanced life to the glory of God. However, should depression descend upon you:
- 1. Admit and confess it at once. Look at verse 10 (KJV)- “this is my infirmity…” Depression is not a sin, (though staying under it may be); it is a weakness, and we must not pretend it does not exist. If it comes, admit that it is there – as Paul did with his infirmity – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
- 2. Seek God “in the sanctuary” (verse 13, KJV) in the place of prayer, privately (Matthew 6:6) and corporately (Acts 4:23). Have you a friend or loved one who can stand with you in prayer? (Matthew 18:19-20). And remember, His way is not only in the sanctuary (verse 13); it is also in the midst of your difficult circumstances (verse 19). He is with you there!
- 3. Encourage yourself in the Lord. Read verses 10, 11, 12 and 14, and do what David did – 1 Samuel 30:6. (Also look up Psalm 34:1-6).
- 4. Testify to others of the Lord’s doings. See verse 12 – this will soon banish depression!