I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted out – and I wanted out NOW.
I felt certain my problems came from the culture, the weather, the pollution, the bad traffic, the “stupid” people I ran into every day. So, I wanted off the field, and I wanted to leave yesterday.
It wasn’t true, though. The problem wasn’t around me, in the culture. The problem was me. I was depressed.
Sadly, it lingered for a couple years. Over the past few months, the Lord has begun to pull me out of depression’s grip as I fight in the power of the Holy Spirit with these five tactics:
1.) Exercise. If you talk to any doctor, he or she will tell you exercise is critically important to mental health. I’m not a doctor, but I can say that when I sweat, I feel like the bad stuff is just getting out. I love that feeling, and it’s biologically true.
2.) People. This is for everyone (yeah – I’m talking to you Mr./Ms. Introvert). Sometimes you need to get a little perspective on what you’re experiencing. Sometimes you need someone to listen and say, “Whoa dude. That’s hard.” or “What? You’re just wrong.” Or even just pray with you.
As Christians, our lives are designed to be lived in community. When you go overseas, the community shrinks. A lot. So what do you do? Since coming to East Asia, I’ve met weekly with a group of 3-4 guys to pray. That’s been critical for me. Skyping old friends has helped too.
Whatever it is, you need people.
3.) Serving. A long-time missionary once told me the best remedy for his depression and melancholy is always “getting outside himself.” He would force himself up and out the door to serve others.
When I’m down, I’ve never felt like doing that. But once I stepped out and started thinking about someone other than myself, I began to pull out of the self-pity-pit I’d dug myself. Jesus told us that the ones who give are the blessed ones. (Acts 20:35)
4.) Time-management. You might not think this is all that important, but it was critical for me. (In fact, I think it’s one big reason I headed downhill in the first place.)
Driven by what I call “the missionary complex”, I wanted to prove my worth to God and man by what I did. Late nights, early mornings and full schedules fueled by self-reliance and insecurity drove me down.
One huge help has been getting a grip on my schedule. What’s most important? What do I value most? What needs to be in my schedule to be the “best me”?
For me that’s meant scheduling exercise, family worship, time to pray, extended quality time with the Lord, among other things. But I had to commit to overhauling my schedule, saying “no” to more and intentionally arranging the critical pieces in my schedule.
5.) Prayer. For me, nothing contributes more to depression than self-reliance and self-focus. And the easiest route to self-focus is not praying.
If I pray – and I mean pray like the Puritans reportedly said “pray until you pray” – I am at my best. I am hopeful. I am trusting the Lord. I feel and know His love for me.
It’s so. stinking. simple.
Yet, for some reason, it so easily gets thrown off the busy boat of my life. Prayer, informed by God’s Word, is actually the foundational piece to defense against depression.
What about you? How do you fight depression? Leave a comment below. I’ll be sure to respond to every comment.
(For more information, I hope you’ll check out Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd Jones, a classic in thinking Biblically about depression.)