IDENTIFYING AND OVERCOMING THE LIES OF DEPRESSION
LIE #3: The Pain is too Great
I’ll warn you ahead of time: this will be a tough one. But stick with me until the end, and you just might find a nugget that will transform your whole attitude about depression. I know I did.
This lie (and remember that Satan is the author of ALL lies) can be expressed in a variety of ways.
“The pain of my depression is too great, so I’m going to give in to my emotions.”
“I can’t handle the pain anymore; it’s never going to get better.”
“This pain means that God is disappointed in me. I have nothing to live for.”
Please believe me. All these are LIES designed by Satan to destroy you. You MUST NOT give in to them. Yes, depression is crippling and sometimes unrelenting. It can affect every area of your mind and body. Your strength is sapped and your will to go on disappears.
But there is a way out. It is accomplished by a transformation that includes several steps. The first one is the big one: tell God you will obey His word, no matter what your emotions are doing to you. Decide that pain is NEVER an excuse for you to quit serving or being faithful to God.
I keep going back to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane just before He was to be arrested, tried, tortured, and crucified for the sins of the world. Our Savior was in agony! Sweat like great drops of blood broke out all over Him and fell to the ground. He pleaded with the Father to keep Him from the cross. But Jesus did not use the pain as an excuse to no longer do God’s will! Instead, He embraced the pain and used it to bring about the greatest victory in all of humankind’s history.
This brings us to the second step: you need to embrace the pain of depression and give it back to God as a gift. Before you dismiss me as off my rocker, let’s examine this. I am NOT saying you have to enjoy depression. I am NOT saying you shouldn’t do everything in your power to get rid of it. But what I AM saying is that while your depression is with you, don’t be afraid of it or of the pain. Every day, give your pain to God and pray something like this:
“Father, today I give you my depression and my pain. Please use it for Your glory. May I grow in faith because of it. May I touch some other person who is hurting and use my depression as a tool to help relieve them.”
The day I started looking at my depression in this way was the day I began to get better. In other words, depression no longer used me. I used it for God.
God has a plan for your life. He wants to use you to touch others. See your depression as a strength, not a weakness. Let God use your depression and pain to help and heal other broken, hurting people.
IDENTIFYING AND OVERCOMING THE LIES OF DEPRESSION
LIE #2: Emotions
In the last blog I discussed the first of depression’s lies Satan uses to trick you into believing wrong things. If you haven’t yet read Lie #1, I encourage you to do so, then come back to this one. And as I said in the last blog, because we cover these lies in our book: “Hope Again: A Lifetime Plan for Conquering Depression,” the blogs on this subject will be shorter than usual. I encourage you to get the book for a fuller discussion of what depression does to a person.
Let’s begin this by answering a question: Who or what is the ultimate authority in your life? Be careful! If you’re a believer, you might too quickly say, “God,” or “the Bible.” Those answers, while both good and correct, may not be entirely true in your life.
You see, if you are fighting depression, you know there are negative emotions bombarding you all the time. There’s no sin in being depressed or having negative emotions (again, see “Hope Again” for a fuller discussion). HOWEVER, how you respond to those emotions determines whether you will sin or whether you will use the depression to increase your faith.
Here’s an illustration. It’s Sunday; time to go to church. Your emotions tell you not to go. You’re not worthy to be with other believers as they praise God. You want to be alone, at home, in the dark. Will you give in to the emotions? Will THEY become your ultimate authority? You have a choice.
Jesus also had a choice. His emotions were telling Him not to go to the cross. As holy God, He hated sin. Jesus knew that on the cross He would carry the load and punishment of all the sins of all humanity. BUT JESUS WENT TO THE CROSS ANYWAY! What can we learn from this and our own emotions? The Bible says we are to use Jesus as an example:
“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, NKJV).
Jesus despised the shame of the cross, but He refused to let His emotions control Him. How did He do this? By keeping His eyes fixed, not on the pain, not on the present circumstances, not on His emotions, but on the joy and glory that awaited Him on the other side of the cross and the grave.
This is what you and I are to do. The Bible tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves (believers) together. So, say no to your negative emotions. Say yes to God’s Word. Get up, get out of the house, and go praise and worship God! In doing so, your faith will grow and the hold depression has on you will weaken.
IDENTIFYING AND OVERCOMING THE LIES OF DEPRESSION:
In one of my previous blogs I talked about “Wrong Beliefs and Depression: A Deadly Mix.” The insidious danger of depression is that it envelopes you in lie after lie, until you don’t know what’s the truth or what to do. I’m going to use the next several blogs to begin identifying these lies and show how you can overcome them.
Because we cover these lies in our book: Hope Again: A Lifetime Plan for Conquering Depression, the blogs on this subject will be shorter than usual. I encourage you to get the book for a fuller discussion of what depression does to a person.
Let’s begin this study with what I believe is the worst lie of all. So many depressed people have said this to me over the years, even Christians who are at church every week: “Mark, I just don’t believe God loves me.” There’s more to it than that, of course. Other phrases that go along with it are: “I’m not worthy of God’s love;” or, “I’m not doing anything for God and I feel like such a failure.” The list goes on and on, but you get the picture.
The interesting thing about these people is that they have no problem believing God loves everyone else! They are allowing their lack of self-esteem and the negative emotions swirling about them to define their relationship with God!
If you have read much of our writings, you know Bruce and I have placed the Word of God as our ultimate authority. Not culture, not the opinions of others, and CERTAINLY NOT our emotions! So, let’s see what the Bible has to say about you and God’s love:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV84)
Are you a part of the world? Of course you are! This verse makes you a promise, a fact you can stake your life on: God loves YOU and wants to have fellowship with you forever.
Take a moment to say no to the negative emotions and yes to the promise of God in this passage. Thank God for His love, and live in that love every day.
The young couple had traveled all the way from the United States to the country of Egypt. After much research, they had discovered what purported to be ancient texts going back thousands of years. Some said they contained dark ceremonies that involved Egyptian deities and wonderful powers, providing the right incantation was said in the right place at the right time of the year. Finally, in the deep of the night, the man and woman avoided government authorities as they secretly made their way into the desert, surrounded by the darkened pyramids, the Sphynx, and the constantly shifting sands. They climbed carefully to the top tower of a temple and then waited. The brightness of the full moon proclaimed, according to the ancient texts, they were right on time. The stars blazed with a clarity and brilliance they’d never seen before. The couple felt energized by their desert surroundings. Finally, the darkness began to fade, and the couple could see Ra, the Egyptian sun god, peeking over the top of the pyramids. It was time. Mouthing the appropriate incantation, they locked hands and leaped off the tower . . . .
“You’ve been late to your job the last nine days.” The sergeant glared at the young private.
She glared right back. “That’s not my fault,” she retorted. “I’m supposed to be at my post by 6:00 AM, and that’s just too early for me to get going and then be there on time. It’s not fair! Plus, the KP duty you’ve saddled me with as punishment makes for a very long day. Something has to change” . . . .
The 18-year-old knocked on his boss’ door. It was his first fulltime job.
“Sir,” he began, “I know you said that I had to work most weekends, but I’m finding I don’t have as much time with my friends as I used to. They’re going out partying, and I’m stuck here.”
The boss shook his head. “As I told you when you were hired, most of our business happens on the weekend. I’m sorry, but you can only have off one weekend in four, just like the rest of us.”
The young man’s voice hardened as he heard the boss turn him down. “Well, I’m not coming in this weekend. I don’t’ care what you say” . . . .
What do an 18-year-old in his first job, a private on KP duty, and a couple in Egypt all have in common? They learned the hard way this law: You are free to believe what you want to believe, but you are NOT free to escape the consequences.
As you’ve probably already figured out, the young couple fell to their death, despite their sincerity in what they believed. The private discovered she would continue to get KP duty every time she was late, no matter whose fault she thought it was. The 18-year-old immediately found himself without a job, despite believing he had the right to pick and choose when he wanted to obey the boss.
We hear it everywhere in today’s culture. “I want to be free to believe whatever I choose – and I don’t want to face any consequences.” I’m sorry to tell you this, but if this is a part of your belief system, you have fallen for a lie. Consequences are a part of life.
In Deuteronomy, Moses has brought the Israelites to the edge of the Jordan river. He is ready to die and let Joshua bring them into the Promised Land. After sharing with them a quick history of their being delivered from the hands of hostile, pagan nations who serve false gods, Moses says this:
“Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike.” (Deuteronomy 29:18–19, ESV)
God repeatedly warns people in the Bible what will happen if they commit sins. He is very clear concerning the consequences. Why is it then that so many of us continue to practice those sins in the face of what God has said? The phrase in the last part of the passage above says it all:
“I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.” In other words, I know it’s wrong, but I want what I want, and no one has the right to tell me otherwise.”
We need to learn that enthusiasm and sincerity are no substitutes for obeying God’s commands. Proverbs warns us:
“There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12, NET)
In other words, going to church on Sunday, then living as you wish the rest of the week is not acceptable to God, and it can ultimately destroy your life.
What you believe DOES matter! Not your emotions, not your culture, not the behavior of those around you – none of that can be the authority you use to determine what to think or what to do. You must tie yourself to the word of God, no matter what.
When you do this, you’ll discover that obeying God’s word and living life according to His will produce great satisfaction in your life. Obey God’s authority and respect the consequences of wrong actions and the rewards of right actions. It will turn your life and your attitude around.
Depression does weird things to the mind and to the body. For example, I’m the classic picture of a “Type A” personality. High energy, self-starter, workaholic (if I’m not careful). But I also fight depression. And when it starts its deadly, insidious invasion of my mind, suddenly everything changes. The energy goes away, replaced by lassitude. I can’t finish anything, because my ability to concentrate is gone. But worst of all, when I’m depressed I feel either guilty or worthless, or both.
In my years of counseling other depressed individuals, these men and women have displayed the same symptoms. In short, the average depressed person thinks, “I don’t feel like I’m worth much.” From that thought, it’s just a short hop to, “God couldn’t love someone as worthless as me.”
If you’ve read our book “Hope Again: A Lifetime Plan for Conquering Depression,” you know that I now have a plan that regularly defeats depression. Instead of letting it conquer me, I now conquer it! Instead of focusing on the negative emotions swirling about me, I choose to read, believe, and meditate on the promises in God’s word. Believe me, it works.
For example, if you don’t feel like you’re worth much, read this passage and think about what it means: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4–5, NIV84)
Two questions for you: First, when did God love you and make you alive with Christ? The answer is, when you were spiritually dead because of your “transgressions” – a fancy word meaning sins against God. In other words, at your worst, God loved you! That’s worth remembering when depression comes on.
Second, how have you been saved? By your righteous works? No! You have been saved by grace. That means you didn’t do ANYTHING to deserve salvation. God loves you and me because He decided to love us, not because of ANYTHING we had done to deserve it.
The bottom line is that no one on planet Earth is worthy of salvation. And yet, it is offered freely to each of us. Don’t listen to the lies of depression. Instead, focus on this passage, believe it, and thank God that in Christ, you are worth much because you are a child of God.
What do you do when you REALLY mess up life big time? If you’re like me, you’ve done it way more than one or two occasions. Sometimes, it happens in public and you feel as if a huge spotlight is focused on you, with everybody gaping. It’s one time you don’t want to be the center of attention!
I had just begun conducting Communion during a Sunday service and one of my deacons was helping me take off the sheet protecting the elements. Then it happened. In front of everyone, he grabbed the wrong sheet! Instead of the covering cloth, he got a firm grip on the sheet under the elements, and pulled it toward him. Cups, juice, plates and bread followed, spraying everywhere and dousing him thoroughly. Years later, we can now laugh about it, but it wasn’t a bit funny at the time.
If your life’s a big mess right now, you’re probably using one or more of these phrases. “I can’t believe I did this again!” “How am I going to face my family and friends?” “How will I ever straighten up this mess?” And worst of all: “I don’t see how God can love me.”
At your favorite grocery store, the announcement goes out over the loudspeaker: “Spill on Aisle 9!” Employees rush to aisle 9 with buckets and mops. Nearby onlookers peek around the corner of the aisle just to see how bad the spill is, and who did it.
But what if YOU are the spill? You need cleaning up and your life put back in order, and you know it’s beyond your power. That’s where God comes in. He sees every spill you have, major or minor, and He still loves you. His Spirit not only convicts you of your wrongdoing so you can make it right with God, He also guides you back into the correct path, where you can still live for Christ.
It’s okay to be embarrassed and feel guilty for what you’ve done. In fact you should feel both emotions. But you don’t need to stay stuck there. Confess your sin, turn away from it, and learn a lesson from the experience.
Spills happen, but God’s love is always there, ready to “clean up in aisle 9,” as well as every area of your life. Did you notice the word “always” in the last sentence? God promises that for you. Look at the verse below:
“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22–23, NIV84)
This passage says in essence, “God’s great love and compassion never fail.” Both mean God will forever be there for you, cleaning up the spills and setting you on your feet again.
Spring, 1927 in New York. For the past several months, passers-by on Fifth avenue gawked at the huge building being constructed. The Sherry-Netherland Apartment Hotel, when finished, would be the tallest residential building every erected. At thirty-eight stories, it towered over other nearby structures.
One fateful night not long before Easter, the wooden scaffolding surrounding the top fifteen stories – put there to help with construction – caught fire. The blaze quickly became such a large conflagration that it could be seen from twenty miles away. The flames hungrily consumed the wood, then spilled over onto several adjacent buildings.
Firemen took their lives in their hands as they tried to fight the fire while dodging huge pieces of burning wood that would come crashing onto the pavement from hundreds of feet above. In reality, there was little they could do to contain the blaze. Their hoses sprayed water onto the hotel, but they could only reach to about the fourth story! The firemen had the weapons to battle a fire, but only if it was close to the ground. When the big test finally arrived, their weapons proved useless.
What about you? What weapons are in your arsenal that will help you battle the problems of life. And, are you ready for the big, scary fires threatening to burn everything you hold dear? How can you be sure you will be able to handle anything Satan throws at you?
Let’s change from fire to water for a moment. In the 7th chapter of Matthew, Jesus tells the story of two men. Both built houses, but one built on a foundation of sand, while the other constructed his on solid rock. Jesus concludes this story by saying:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24–27, NIV84)
Jesus tells us that the best –in fact, the only – way to victoriously combat life’s problems is to read, meditate on, memorize and BELIEVE the Bible, God’s word. Contained within its pages one finds the revealed Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. We learn about God’s love and His promises for us every day. This is our rock.
And what about the sand? Our emotions, the culture surrounding us, other people’s opinions – all of these can prove to be false or ineffective in grappling with life.
So, I ask you the question: Is your life built on sand or on the Rock of Ages? I encourage you to begin reading God’s word and putting a portion in your heart each day to meditate on all day long.
What will happen if you do this? Here is God’s answer and His promise:
“When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.” (Proverbs 10:25, NIV84)
Whether floods or fires, your life can withstand any threat, as you keep your life and faith grounded in scripture, trusting in the promises of God.
Where have we been? If you’ve been following our blogs or other content on our website, you’ve probably noticed a sudden vacuum in content.
The main answer is: I’ve been fighting for my life! Since my last post, I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, had emergency quadruple heart bypass, nearly died with pulmonary embolisms, and had a lung transplant.
Now that I’m recuperating, Bruce and I are writing once again and hosting Conquering Depression seminars. We hope to intersect more with you here on our website, and we will continue to give you tools to help you overcome depression.