14. FEELING DEPRESSED? REALIGN YOUR FOCUS!
(The Single Woman Series)
A few weeks ago, I found myself feeling depressed. I’ve experienced down moments before but this one was different. This one was trying to stifle my praise, to suck the joy out of my life and to make me give up. This one had me exhausted, tired, fed up of certain things I was going through and had been going through for quite some time.
I was longing for sunshine yet continued to be handed torrents of rain and I felt that I had had enough. God needed to DO something, I felt and he needed to do it quick because life was beginning to feel like a never ending burden. Why couldn’t things ever look up for me? Why was it one form of suffering after another? Was there even such a thing as happiness and if so, why did it always seem to evade me?
Thankfully, God never allows his children to wallow in depression for too long, provided they submit to him. By his grace, I found the strength to abandon my faulty thinking, pulled myself up out of that nonsense and fixed my gaze on high.
I examined my depression for what it really was and I realized this: Whenever we begin to wallow in feelings of weariness, sadness and dejection, it is usually because of selfishness. We may not have realized it, nor may we even have considered ourselves to be selfish but depression is the proof. At some point, we allowed selfishness to creep up on us and now it was manifesting itself in our being fed up with what life had apportioned us.
I realized that, most of the time, when people wallow in depression, it is their way of saying, “I don’t like what life has allotted to me thus far. I want better. I deserve better. I expect better. I should not have to go through this. I cannot take this anymore. I refuse to deal with this. I cannot take one more day of this. I am not being treated fairly. I, I, I….”
You get the picture.
Most times, depression comes and tries to take a seat in our lives, when our focus has become blurred. That is, we have taken our eyes off of Jesus Christ and placed it on ourselves.
I’ve got a news flash for all Christians going through some form of depression: I understand. This life is not an easy life and it is certainly not fair but guess what? GOD TOLD YOU A LONG TOME AGO IN HIS WORD, THAT YOU ARE CALLED TO SUFFER. You can’t get away from it and you can’t do anything to avoid it. The mere fact that you are breathing is enough to warrant the devil’s attacks. Persecution will come your way because although the devil hates all mankind, he has a special hatred reserved for all those who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. He is therefore going to come after you through other people or whatever he can find and aggressively because he wants to stop you from living a joyful life, from giving God praise and witnessing to others who need salvation.
I’ve got another news flash for you: THE CHRISTIAN’S LIFE IS NOT ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN. You were not placed on this earth and kept on this earth for yourself or to serve yourself but for God’s pleasure. At times, we can go through so much in life that we forget that.
God says in his Word that he created us, not for our selves and our gratification but for himself. We are left on this earth to bring glory to his name, to serve him and to serve others, not to see how quickly we can amass the so-called ‘good’ things in life, how happy we can make ourselves and how much power and influence we can attain.
Believe it or not, your life is not about getting a loving spouse, having babies, obtaining a promotion, piling your bank account high, buying a nice house, going on lovely vacations or having a posh car.
Yes God gives good things to his children but we are not here to get good things. That is not our purpose.
So I was there, feeling down because I was tired at the ugly things that life had seemingly been throwing my way for years and I wanted better. I dared to think how dare life do this to me? Why wasn’t God intervening the way I wanted him to and knew he could and like he had done in times gone past?
I was in a low place but then, God reminded me that I was not here to fulfill my purpose but HIS. I may not like where I am at a point in my life or the circumstances I am going through but God’s hand was upon my life and I was called to serve HIM.
When one is called to serve the Lord, all selfishness has to be extinguished. We are not called to serve ourselves or to focus on attaining the so-called ‘good’ life but to serve God and at all costs. That means that he may have us in places we do not want to be or have us doing things we do not want to do. He may close doors we would rather have remained open and take things from us that we had hoped to keep.
Simply put, he is God and therefore, we MUST submit to him and to HIS plans, not our own. We were created for him, not the other way around.
The cure for the Christian’s depression therefore is to take our eyes off of ourselves and what we want and to remember the high calling to which we have been called. We must of necessity, realign our focus.
Yes we had hoped to have had this and to have had that by now and it has not yet materialized. Yes we see what we want for our selfish selves happening for others, while we seemingly remain stuck but we live this life according to God’s agenda, not our own.
We are to be happy for others when God blesses them, even if we don’t have what they have or can’t understand how they acquired it or why God gave it to them.
(And yes, there are some Christians who have difficulty being happy for others, which is a sad state of affairs. Nonetheless, it leads me to my next point).
My third newsflash is this: WHAT GOD DECIDES TO DO IN SOMEBODY ELSE’S LIFE IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. So what if he blesses them? What is that to you? Remember what Jesus told Peter when he inquisitively enquired of the Lord about what John would do in life when Jesus was gone? Jesus told him, “…what is that to thee? follow thou me.”
In other words, Jesus was telling Peter: Mind your own business and keep your focus on me.
Jesus had just finished telling Peter after He (Jesus) had been raised from the dead and had appeared to the disciples, what would take place in his (Peter’s) life when he was an old man and how he would die in a way that would bring glory to God. Peter, not content in knowing about his own future story, could not help but ask about John, the disciple that the Bible describes as one that Jesus loved. John was therefore a dearly loved disciple who Jesus was fond of and Peter was curious as to what his story would entail.
John 21:20 states:
- “Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper…Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, “Lord, and what shall this man do?” Jesus saith unto him, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow me.”
This leads me to my other point. The devil uses jealousy and envy to make some Christians even more depressed. That is, you are dealing with your own dissatisfaction with life and as if that is not bad enough, you begin to compare your life and circumstances with that of others. Mistake.
That will only make you bitter, in addition to your sadness. I for one have never understood why it is so difficult for someone to be happy for another person. You may feel sad about your situation but that ought not to make you upset when God brings someone out of their own. It is only a matter of timing. With the right attitude, God will bring you out in HIS time as well, if he so pleases.
I’ve got one fourth and last news flash: LIFE IS NOT A COMPETITION. As Christians, God has done so much for us that we ought never to wallow in a place of dissatisfaction or feel like we need to compete with others. Focus on your own story and fulfilling your own mandate and do not become preoccupied with the activities of others.
We are not here on earth with the same script. We are born at different times, will die at different ages, have different gifts and different assignments. Comparison is therefore evil and comes straight from the devil himself.
We are to be content with where we are at, until and if God decides (and it is HIS decision to make), to change our circumstances.
My question to you therefore at this point is: Are you feeling depressed? Then realign your focus. Remember that you are here for God’s pleasure, His plans and His purposes, not your own. Take your eyes off from yourself and from other people.
If you are a Christian, remember that you have not yet resisted unto blood, even as the word of God states in Hebrews 12:1-15. In fact, that scripture pretty much sums up everything I have been saying so far. Take a read of it, please!
That scripture is stating that whatever it is that you are facing, you have not yet been placed in a situation where God desires that you give your life for your faith in Jesus. Other Christians in the past and even today, have been asked to make that ultimate sacrifice and they have died as martyrs, refusing to renounce their faith in Jesus.
On the issue of suffering and sacrifice, there are examples in the Bible of people who were called by God to pay the ultimate price with their very lives.
John the baptist was one such example. His imprisonment was not pleasant to him but having done the will of God for his life, he was called to spend time in prison. Having done so with God’s grace, I am sure that he did not expect it to end with him being beheaded but that was within the perfect will of God.
Whatever you are facing therefore, as bad as you may think it is, it cannot compare with those facing death for the sake of Christ, yet people have done it in the past, some are doing it courageously all around the world today and others risking their lives to spread the gospel, while you are here sulking over something that fades in comparison, like the fact that you want a higher salary or more money or a better job or a husband or children or some other selfish thing. You need to focus more on God’s agenda and Kingdom business than on your own selfish agenda and your wants.
In the Bible days, Samson died and so did Stephen, a martyr’s death and these were all men called to God’s purpose. Samson learned the hard way though, that his life was not about himself and his pleasure but belonged to almighty God. Had he remained focused, who knew how things might have turned out?
IS DEPRESSION A MENTAL DISEASE?
People try to put all sorts of labels on depression. The medical world and science, which the Bible refers to as “…science falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20), has even categorized it now as a mental disease.
First of all, there are different categories of depression. There are some who, due to what they are going through at the moment, feel depressed. This is absolutely normal and everybody has those moments. That cannot be classified as a mental disease or condition.
If for example, you suddenly get some bad news, like a death or that you failed your exams or that you have to pay some major unplanned debt or that the person you loved and thought you would marry suddenly leaves you, this is bound to make you feel sad and down in the dumps for a while. If you stay there though, so that months and even years pass and you are still down in the dumps and you haven’t gotten over that ordeal, then this is not normal, as you are living in a state of depression.
This takes me to the next category.
There are those who live in a state of depression, day in and day out, no matter what happens in their lives. Even when good things are happening to them and around them, they still walk around depressed all of the time or almost all of the time. These are people that experience chronic or persistent depression.
All and in all though, whether a person is experiencing chronic depression (always depressed no matter what) or occasional bouts of depression (as every human being experiences now and then based on what is happening in his or her life), the fact of the matter is that this is not a mental condition but a spiritual one.
That is, spiritual problems are often manifested in us physically and this is also the case with depression. It is the physical or mental manifestation of man’s spiritually fallen sin condition. We are a fallen people with sin in our DNA and sin manifests itself in a variety of ways, depression being just one of them.
Saying that chronic depression or all depression is a mental disease therefore is not accurate. What is being exhibited mentally is merely a manifestation or symptom of the core issue, a far deeper problem, which is that that person is suffering from a spiritual disease. That spiritual disease is sin. He or she needs the antidote, which is Jesus Christ. Only he can wash away sin in his blood and heal mankind of its spiritually fallen condition.
Even where a Christian, who has been washed of his or her sins by Jesus Christ and brought into God’s royal family, experiences frequent depression or stubbornly wallows in it, it is usually because of the sin nature that remains within, which, through some wrong decision or a series of wrong decisions that that person has made, has been allowed to gain traction and be strengthened.
You see, when Jesus washes those who believe on him of their sins, makes them clean and gives them his divine nature, their sins are forgiven and removed but the flesh or sin nature within them is not removed. It is therefore there and it wars daily against the divine nature which now resides in them.
In Romans 7:18-25, Paul, in explaining the battle within him which existed between the will of his sin nature (the flesh) and the will of the divine nature (from God), stated:
- “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
When Christians, through neglect of Jesus, neglect of the Word, neglect of prayer and disobedience, allow the sin nature to be strengthened within and the divine nature weakened, depression, which is of the flesh or sin nature is one possible outcome. For, the sin nature has no regard for the things of the Lord and what pleases him. God is not at all on its radar. The sin nature focuses only on self and what self can get and what self is being deprived of, without any regard for the things of the Lord, which should be the Christian’s main focus.
The Christian is supposed to be dead to self and living for the Lord Jesus as a humble servant, knowing that this is his or her reasonable service, given that God has gifted him or her with eternal life which is precious and invaluable.
In Galatians 2:20, Paul stated, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Yet, when the sin nature is allowed to rise up and be strengthened, it seeks after those things that can benefit itself.
For the Christian therefore, any kind of depression wallowed in for an ongoing period of time is not as a result of a mental disease in which he or she is the unwilling victim (as the world and science falsely so called try to convince us) but it is the product of sin and a self-centred mentality.
The Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord is the Christian’s strength. If a person claims to be a Christian and is not experiencing joy therefore but is walking around always depressed or is stubbornly embracing depression, it is because of some kind of sin or sins being harboured in his or her life, which he or she is not repentant of and therefore has rebelliously not confessed to the Lord. This goes hand in hand with other sins, like neglecting to read and study and meditate on the Word of God, which is life, neglecting to pray, neglecting to obey God, neglecting to go out and tell others about the gospel of salvation.
What am I saying?
I am saying that when a Christian wallows in depression, this is often bred and cultivated in an atmosphere of rebellion, gossip, bad-mindedness, jealously, envy, pride, a sense of self-entitlement, self-importance, a desire for attention, self-glorification, self-exaltation, malice, unforgiveness, a desire to hurt others, an earthly, inward and not heavenly focus, a competitive spirit and ultimately, selfishness.
That Christian has lost focus. Instead of looking up to Jesus, he or she is preoccupied with self and is therefore looking within and around at others.
We may not consider ourselves to be selfish but it is so easy to lose our focus, to stop staring at Jesus Christ and to look to what we want to acquire in this life for ourselves and how we want to rise above others or how we want to shine.
God says in his Word, that we should seek first the Kingdom of God and that all other things would be added unto us (Matthew 6:33). He therefore requires our focus to be, not inward where we sit around feeling sorry for ourselves or outward where we regard others as competition and desire to outshine them or to get back at them but upward.
Don’t be surprised therefore, if you have been seeking first your own things and the harder you try, all good things seem to be taken away from you. Your priorities are wrong! You have lost your focus!
When we take our eyes from off ourselves and what we lack and what we want, then God gives us the grace for all that he has called us to be and to go through. He also fills our lives with joy, even when the circumstances are a mess and in his own time, HE adds whatever and whoever he wants to add to our lives.
We are here on HIS schedule and on HIS agenda. It is not our will but may HIS be done.
Jesus demonstrated this before he was crucified. He did not want to go through the crucifixion but he surrendered his will for that of God the Father because he understood that that was the reason, the purpose for which he came to earth. Although his soul was exceeding sorrowful unto death therefore (Matthew 26:38), he said, not my will but yours be done, submitted his very life into the hands of God the Father and went willingly to the cross.
Luke 22:41-44 states:
- “And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast and kneeled down and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as if were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Notice that Jesus used prayer in response to the heaviness he felt in his soul. The more he felt sorrowful, the more he prayed. Prayer is therefore a spiritual weapon that the Christian can use to ward off depression.
Notice as well, that despite how he felt, he was resolved to do the will of God the Father. Obedience is the key to overcoming depression.
Notice as well, that when Jesus had completely submitted to the plan of God the Father for his life, he received strength from on high to go through what God had willed for him to go through. He understood fully that his life on earth (although he was God the Son come down) was not about himself but about bringing glory to God the Father and redeeming wayward mankind to the God that created them.
That is why he said earlier to his disciples and the same holds true for all who wish to serve Jesus Christ as Lord today, that “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” He was the perfect example. He did it and through his strength, we can too.
Jesus was saying to lose sight of yourself and go through whatever God calls you to go through. That means forgive those who have hurt you in terrible ways, even if they are not sorry. It means be kind to those who hate you, even if they still want to see you suffer. It means bless those who curse you, even if they have no intention of stopping their evil pursuit of you. It means get with God’s agenda and his programme and his plan and his purpose and stop holding on so dearly to yours.
Get up from that low place. Let go of sin and selfishness which is sin. Confess where you have gone wrong to God and repent of it. If you are a Christian, remember who you are in Jesus Christ and fulfill your divine assignment, whatever it is. Ask God for the grace to bear it if it is unpleasant and be determined as a humble, sacrificial servant, to bring HIM (not self) glory, no matter what.
(Written on 23rd July, 2016, adjusted thereafter)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be informative, interesting, edifying or beneficial, you may also be interested in reading the following:
- Note 5 – ‘Scriptures To Help Single Women’
- Note 57 – ‘Comparison And Competition’
- Note 101 – ‘Attitude Is Everything – I’ll Bless Him Anyway’
- Note 120 – ‘Tired of the Storm, Sterility, Stagnancy and Silence? Create a Spiritual Safe House’
- Note 135 – ‘Are You At A Low Point In Life And Feeling Depressed Or Distressed?’
- Note 142 – ‘Single Woes – The Battles We Singles Fight Every Day’
- Note 146 – ‘Three Idols In the Church: Getting Married, Having Children & Working A Secular Job‘
- Note 150 – ‘What the Bible Has To Say About Singleness, Marriage and Widowhood‘
- Note 160 – ‘When Serving God Doesn’t Seem To Make Sense’
- Note 164 – ‘Seven (7) Mindsets That Will Keep You Stuck In The Land Of Sterility’
- Note 298 – ‘Arm Yourself: Suffering Is Part of The Christian’s Story’
- Note 222 – ‘Suffering? Bad Attitudes That Will Only Make It Worse‘
- Note 224 – ‘Symptoms Of A Person Outside The Favour Of God’
Under the ‘Bible-Believing Daughters of God’ Page:
- Note 169 – ‘The Christian’s Mandate: Go’