For many people, January can be a difficult month emotionally. In fact, the third Monday each January has been called “Blue Monday.” According to marketing research, this particular Monday of January each year is the most depressing day of the year for a majority of people. We aren’t sure if this is true or not (you can read about it here) but we do know that discouragement and depression are real problems not only after holidays or during winter, but all year long.
Here are 9 Biblical ways to help defeat it.
Allow us some preliminary helpful thoughts first.
We hope you’ll read the entirety of all nine, but at least scroll through the list below and allow God to use some of them to help you. You are not alone in your struggle. We realize this article is a bit longer than most that we post, but this is a difficult problem and we want to try to give you some good helpful information and not take it lightly. We also realize the sometimes overcoming depression may take the help of a good counselor. We can help point you to one if you let us know.
“The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
You are not alone in the struggle of life as it relates to discouragement and/or depression. You might be interested to know that numerous heroes of our faith struggled with these difficult types of situations.
Discouragement, where does it come from? Sometimes it feels like a dry, barren wind off a lonely desert. Something inside us begins to wilt. At other times, it feels like a chilling mist seeping through our powers, it numbs the spirit and fogs the path before us…it strips our lives of joy and leaves us feeling vulnerable and exposed.
In the Bible, we see David struggled with these feelings. In Psalm 61:1–2 He writes, “Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to thee, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” We find it alluded to often in other Psalms as well:
Psalm 42:5-7, 9,11 – Listen to the Psalmist in these verses. Have you ever felt like this? Most of us have at one time or another. Note: Hover your mouse pointer over the Scripture reference to read the passage.
Another great Bible character, Paul, wrote of his struggle with difficult emotional, physical and spiritual anguish. 2 Corinthians 7:5–6
For when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;Throughout history, we find Christian saints who struggle with discouragement and depression. We could list the godliest people we know and if the truth were known, we would discover that to a large degree, most if not all have had a struggle in this area.
Abraham Lincoln thought the pain would lead to death; the body couldn’t tolerate it. He said, “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell; I awfully forbode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be better, it appears to me.”
Here are others from history who wrote about the pain we all feel at times:
You seem to imagine I have no ups and downs but just a level and lofty stretch of spiritual attainment with unbroken joy.… By no means! By no means! I am often perfectly wretched and everything appears most murky–John Henry Jowett, pastor of New York’s Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church and later Westminster Chapel in London to a friend in 1920
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and put an end to this miserable life.--John Knox
There are dungeons beneath the castles of despair.--Charles Spurgeon, who suffered debilitating bouts of depression all his life
I had my temptations attending me.… Sometimes I should be assaulted with great discouragement therein, fearing that I should not be able to speak the Word at all …at which times I should have such a strange faintness and strengthlessness seize upon my body that my legs have scarce been able to carry me–John Bunyan
Perhaps today you are a “weary pilgrim.” You have known the dark nights and the days that seem like nights as you struggle through discouragement. You can take heart – as you can see, you are in good company.
We will only begin to scratch the surface of the topic of discouragement/depression/and burnout. Though they are not equal, they usually go hand in hand, so I have lumped them together.
Before we begin, here are a few myths about the causes of discouragement and/or depression:
1. Depression is always the result of lack of faith in God.
2. Depression is always caused by self-pity.
3. Depression can always be removed by spiritual exercises such as prayer and fasting.
4. Depression can be removed by making a choice to be happy.
5. The term “Depressed Christian” is a contradiction.
6. All depression comes from Satan.
7. Depression is God’s punishment.
8. Depression is never the will of God.
To overcome depression, there are some necessary and needed adjustments we must make.
1. Look to others who have suffered and succeeded. (Heb. 11)
Depression makes us feel alone. Even in a crowd of people, we can feel as if we are somehow separate from everyone else. This makes the misery only deeper.
We need to remember that there have been others who have been through deep waters in life yet they succeeded. I have mentioned several in Scripture and in church history. One of the greatest lists of those who struggle and faced incredible odds is found in Hebrews 11. We read of the real men and women of the Bible who learned through hardship, pain and suffering to live by faith.
v.13 – they never saw the complete fulfillment of God’s promises – a land, a race, a city, but they had faith. Our faith too must extend beyond this life to heaven. That gives true meaning to what we experience in this life.
v. 36 – so we realize that everyone faces different and difficult circumstances, these had faith in God when life was at its worse. When the greatest potential for discouragement and depression came their way, they had faith in God!
When you get depressed, it is good to remember that others have been through every imaginable pain and hardship (physically, mentally, and emotionally) and they testify that by faith, we can make it as well. Their lives remind me that everything in this life is not “pie in the sky”, ease and luxury. Read their stories and you will not only discover their pain and suffering, you will see that they had the same questions you ask:
“Does God hear me?”
“Does God love me?”
“Has God forsaken me?”
They made it and so can we.
2. Look to God.
Revelation 19:6 And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
You might think that “the beloved disciple” of Jesus, the one who wrote five books of the NT would have a life of ease and luxury for his service to Christ. John was the last apostle to die. He suffered in exile on the Isle of Patmos – a Roman Penal Colony – because he would not say that the emperor was “Lord and God.”
At potentially the most discouraging moments of his life, John saw God.
This is our greatest need when we are depressed. God seems to be off the radar, so distanced from us that we have no connection with Him.
Remember the following realities about God: