Have you ever felt like you are in a pit, that it is dark, miserable and that you are stuck and you feel like there is no way out of your problem? As Christians today we have a belief system which says, that fundamentally, everything should go well for us as children of God with very few troubles along the way, and the Christian life is one of constant blessing. We mostly believe that one shouldn’t have any trouble, pain, tragedy, sorrow, divorce, brokenness, scars from child abuse, depression, anxiety, stress, loss or failure as all of these things don’t happen to ‘spiritual’ people. Isn’t that how you feel?
Understanding your depression and learning how to manage it
There will be times when you feel like giving up on life, maybe even give suicide a thought and sadly there will be times when for some, their chemistry is so out of balance, that suicide becomes a reality even though they sincerely love the Lord.
We live in a belief system which says “bad stuff shouldn’t happen to a Christian” and if it does there is something wrong with your faith in God. The Bible teaches us that some of the greatest Biblical characters had huge ‘pit’ experiences.
You’re not the only one
David, the Psalmist, spoke a lot about being in a pit. Psalm 69:13-17 says: “But I pray to You, O Lord, in the time of Your favour; in Your great love, O God, answer me with Your sure Salvation. Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters.”
“Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of Your love; in Your great mercy turn to me. Do not hide Your face from Your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.”
Be honest about your problem
I have been a pastor for 32 years and have walked many challenging roads in my life but have never faced, in any significant way, the on-going pain of a significant illness which brought with it depression, anxiety and even the occasional thought of suicide. I couldn’t believe that I was even facing these emotional experiences and so want to be transparent about them and seek to provide some answers as to how we integrate our spiritual and emotional lives, when troubles like this come.
A trigger for depression
Let me tell you some of my recent personal story. I have had three unsuccessful operations to my oesophagus and stomach. In May this year the doctors decided to do a fourth operation which would be major in itself and in recovery.
The surgeon certainly wasn’t lying when he said, “This op is one of the most complicated in terms of post-operative complications”. I have endured these complications for four months which produced enormous, continual pain, a swing of wild emotions, spiritual doubts and on-going physical consequences.
Counting my blessings
Some of my pain could be rated at 11/10 and I still live with constant post-surgical pain. This pain, together with a slow recovery left me, at times, feeling as though I was sinking into a deep pit from a physical, emotional and spiritual point of view.
Nothing seemed to be following the ‘constant blessing’ route or the ‘reward’ route for faithful service. I have many wonderful blessings, Avril is an amazing faithful, hardworking and loyal wife, I have four wonderful children and three fabulous grandchildren, and I serve in an amazing church. God, in His grace and mercy, has poured out on me times of incredible blessing and times of experiential powerful moments of His presence, but despite all of that, at times I felt so low and confused.
Drowning in despair
I was just making progress from the operation and getting back to preaching, but I knew that something was still wrong. I ended up back in hospital with terrible fevers. They tested me for all sorts of things and on the fifth day I returned to that dreaded pit of despair.
After a terrible night, the specialist walked in and said to me that apart from tick-bite fever results, there was possibly a diagnosis of a cancer in the blood and they were ordering Gallium (a radioactive substance) which would be injected into my blood and show them exactly where the cancer is. He walked out of the ward and I instantly felt like the floodwaters had engulfed me. I sunk down into a pit; I felt like I was drowning in despair.
Cling to Jesus
The next hour probably rates as an all-time low in my life when I was trying to process the after-effects of massive surgery and a slow recovery and then to apparently have a cancer in the blood. I felt like I had had enough. In that single hour I felt that God had left me, I was in trouble and God was in hiding. I felt confused, sad, despairing, hopeless, miserable, depressed and at the same time really sick.
At 4:30pm, the doctor walked in and said, “You have tick-bite fever”. In that moment I felt God lifted me from the pit of despair. It wasn’t cancer, but something easily treatable. Life is not without pit experiences. In fact Jesus said in John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.”
Don’t wear a mask
Broken people are everywhere in the Christ-ian community. Unfortunately Believers wear masks and pretend that they don’t have problems. Many Christians play the “I am happy” game really well.
Let me be transparent with you and not deceive you by saying that life has been okay while recovering from surgery. It has been jolly tough, filled with a bunch of thoughts that I didn’t think I would ever have. It has been physically, emotionally and spiritually challenging. Most of the time it has felt like God dumped me in a pit and went into hiding.
God is in control, find refuge in Him
If you find yourself in a situation where everything is going wrong and you are struggling physically, emotionally or spiritually, then maybe you are in, what I am calling, a ‘pit experience’. Let me share with you a rock solid truth: God is in absolute control at every single point of your life, whether you have deliberately taken yourself into a stupid situation, or whether you have had something happen that is totally and completely beyond your control. You have to get your picture of the Lord right. He knows the trouble you are facing. Our Father will lift you out of this pit experience in His time and place you on a firm rock. You will be able to look back on this time and say, “God has rescued and restored me”.
The road to depression recovery
1. Cultivate supportive relationships
Share what you’re going through with the people you love and trust. You may have retreated from your most
treasured relationships, but they can
get you through this tough time.
2. Challenge negative thinking
Take your thoughts captive (Phil 4:8).
3. Take care of yourself
Get regular exercise and sleep. Eating healthy food can boost your mood.
4. Know when to get additional help
If you find your depression getting worse and worse, seek professional help. Needing additional care doesn’t mean you’re weak. Don’t be resistant to
medication that can help you heal.
5. Pray and keep trusting in God!
Note from JOY! Magazine
If you are depressed and need someone to talk to, or some advice, please email email@example.com and we will send you a helpful booklet and contact numbers.