Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the western world affecting 40 million adults in the United States alone or 18% of the population.
According to Beyondblue on average, one in four people will experience anxiety at some stage in their life. Over two million Australians experience anxiety.
Recently a good pastor friend of ours, Ian Parker, preached a sermon on this subject which we thought was a succinct prescription of how to deal with this malady.
Here are some of his notes on how to deal with this often private and painful subject:
Depression is the most common form of emotional pain. There are levels of depression. Normal – Clinical – Manic. While some depression is caused by a chemical imbalance, most is caused by unfulfilled expectations.
Sir Winston Churchill, one of the world’s great leaders, suffered from large bouts of depression and referred to it as ‘The Black Dog.’ There were times he would spend months in bed – no energy – totally depressed.
The black dog is vicious and it attacks Christians along with everyone else. For example, here are a few biblical characters who similarly suffered…
Even this great king confessed, ‘My heart is overwhelmed. Why are you cast down my soul, why are you disturbed within me?’ (Psa. 42:5).
This Old Testament prophet cried, ‘I have had enough, Lord… Take my life’ (1 Kings 19:4).
Job also suffered depression. He lost everything, then cursed the day he was born: ‘Why did I not perish at birth … I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil’ (Job 3:11; 26). When it didn’t happen, depression hit and his thinking was: ‘Now Lord take away my life for it is better for me to die than to live’ (Jonah 4:3).
He was depressed because God didn’t do what he expected. Nineveh was as brutal and cruel as Isis is today. He wanted it destroyed so he preached for 40 days that ‘God is going to get you!’
Even our Saviour commented at one point in his ministry: ‘My soul is very sad and deeply grieved so that I am almost dying of sorrow’ (Matthew 26:38).
These are not some helpless sinners without God. These are God’s men of faith and power. Depression is a downward spiral that takes you into a black hole.
How do you handle the ‘Black Dog’?
1. You have to confront the dog
You can’t change what you don’t confront.
2. Don’t feed the black dog – ignore it
Starve it. You do that by giving your attention to something else. God turned Elijah’s attention away from Jezebel and false prophets and gave him four things to do (1 Kings 19: 8, 11, 15). To go and…
(i) Have a good feed
(ii) Take a journey
(iii) Stand in the presence of God, and
(iv) Anoint Jehu to be king of Israel.
Don’t allow yourself the luxury of brooding. Starve it. Stay busy, mow the lawn, wash the car, visit a friend, paint the house – but do something.
3. Talk about the dog
God had Elijah tell him what the problem was: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ (I Kings 19:13). He asked him that same question two separate times, ‘What are you doing here?’
Of course God already knew – but Elijah needed to vocalise what was wrong in his life. He needed to get a few things off his chest.
God gave us two release valves. One is crying, the other is talking. Psychiatrists have made millions because they understand this principle. Personally we feel sorry for our returned soldiers who were told ‘Men don’t cry,’ and ‘Keep a stiff upper lip.’ Everyone needs to release the pressure.
You say, ‘Well I don’t have anyone to unload on.’ You may feel you are travelling alone on this journey of darkness, but take heart – you are not alone! Remember the old hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus?
Take a listen to this song as we sing the lyrics of this much loved hymn that has blessed thousands throughout the last century: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYWpiVcmTmk
Jesus is waiting for you to talk to him.
4. Focus on the positive
God indicated, ‘You’re not a failure Elijah. You think you are the only one left and no one repented … incidentally, there are 7000 men in Israel who have never bowed to Baal nor kissed him!’ (ref: 1 Kings 19 :18).
The good news for Christians troubled by depression
We have some good news for you regarding this black dog of depression…
- There is a land when there is no depression – no disappointment.
- ‘In his presence is fulness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures forever more’ (Psalm 16:11).
- It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!
Take hope in Jesus and keep moving on – with his understanding, comfort and strength!
Excerpted from Fred and Betty Evans’ encouraging website link: http://www.fredandbettyevans.com