John 3:16 Arrow For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life ^DREAM interpretation ministry

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Overcoming Depression

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Welcome-to Overcoming Depression

This little booklet promises no quick-fix cures for depression
Depression is a single word which carries a multitude of meanings. Even experts disagree on what exactly constitutes ‘depression’ and there is no widely agreed common cause for it. People encounter depression in different ways – some in a relatively short burst which never recurs; others come to recognise it as a constant companion throughout life. But one thing is sure: depression is more than feeling sad or low, more than the emotion common to everyone when things get tough, life becomes dull or we lose someone we love. Depression is an undesired ‘brain state’ over which sufferers have little or no control; a place of helplessness, and often anxiety and fear. Depression affects men, women and children and does not discriminate by culture, ethnicity or background. While it may not have its origins in a chemical or physiological change, there is evidence to suggest that depression changes the brain’s natural healthy balance, with negative effects. Sufferers experience life-diminishing symptoms such as tiredness, insomnia, significant health issues, reduced motivation and even suicidal thoughts. This little booklet promises no simple cure for depression. If you are concerned about depression – in you, or someone you love – we encourage you to seek help from a medical professional or spiritual guidance. But we pray that in these pages you will find new hope and be encouraged to seek God for your healing and wholeness.

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Overcoming depression

Where do I start? ‘We can start making choices to “climb out of the dark pit of depression'

We begin each of our Overcoming booklets with this question: Where do I start? But when dealing with the issue of depression, perhaps a better question is: How did I get here? No matter how you are experiencing depression today, you will probably remember a time when you didn’t feel like this, and maybe you also remember the cause. Perhaps you are aware of a specific trigger which caused your depression: a bereavement or the loss of a friendship; redundancy or the breakdown of a marriage. Perhaps it was a more gradual descent as your patterns of thinking or self-esteem took a negative turn. It is also possible that your depression was triggered by a medical factor, such as an underactive thyroid. One thing is clear: depression was not a choice you made. In his book, Growing from Depression, Dr Neel Burton writes, ‘People do not “choose” to be depressed any more than people with a physical illness “choose” to be ill. They are not lazy or “moral failures”, and getting better is not simply a matter of them “pulling their socks up” or “getting their act together.”’ We can, however, start making choices to ‘climb out of the dark pit of depression,’ as authors Chris Ledger and Wendy Bray put it. As they write in their excellent Insight Into Depression, this will involve naming and letting go of unwanted baggage; examining and perhaps changing our physical and behavioural patterns; pursuing good accountable relationships with others; and managing our thinking carefully. This final point is the most important of all, as key to any lasting change in our lives is being ‘transformed by the renewing of [our] mind’ (Romans 12:2). As Dr Burton says, ‘The journey out of depression is one of learning: learning about oneself, of course, but also learning about … defeating thinking errors, managing stress and anxiety, developing confidence and self-esteem, building relationships, eating healthily, and getting a good night’s sleep.’ More than this, as those who know God, we trust that this journey is designed for learning more about Him and what He has for us in this season. We may not understand why He has brought us to this place; but we can be sure that He’s here with us, and is holding us close through it. ‘My hope comes from an understanding that life is not easy or straightforward. It is complex and frightening, but I have a God who will stand with me every step.’ Katharine Welby, depression sufferer ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ Psalm 23:4 (NIV)
Step by step

1. REALISE you can’t make yourself better

Start at the easiest place for those in darkness. Start with despair. Despair of finding any answer in yourself. I pray that you will cease from all efforts to look inside yourself for the rescue you need. I pray that you will do what only desperate people can do, namely, cast yourself on Christ.’ (John Piper) ‘Cheer up! Get over it! Pull your socks up!’ Most of us grew up being taught that most things in life can be overcome with a positive attitude and a bit of hard work. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with those things in and of themselves. But depression won’t be overcome by a smile and a straight back. We only load on more guilt and shame by beating ourselves up about how we should be feeling better. It’s time to drop unrealistic expectations of ourselves, and those of others.

CONSIDER…Think of all the ways you have been subtly condemning yourself through your depression. Let go of the responsibility to ‘make yourself better’, and instead ‘cast yourself on Christ.
2 REST And Eat Well

`The angel of the Lord came … and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. (1 Kings 19:7-8) You may have been taught or come to believe that your body and mind are unconnected – and that your state of mind has nothing to do with your state of health. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Small changes in our physical lifestyle can reap dividends for our outlook Read 1 Kings 19 to see how God dealt with Elijah when he was depressed. He was so down, he was asking God to take his life: ‘I have had enough, Lord.’ (1 Kings 19:4) First, God sent him to a place where he could sleep, then he ensured he was well fed and watered. We can’t overestimate the value of good sleep patterns and a healthy balanced diet, but it’s easy for us to let these things slip when depression hits. Any physical exercise – even gentle walking – will have positive benefits too.

EXAMINE.....Look at your daily routine and ensure that you are doing enough exercise, and eating a properly balanced diet to function through the day and sleep well at night. Seek help from a friend or medical professional if this is something you have found especially difficult

If we are to re-engage with “life on the surface”, we need to engage with people and with purpose… Activity gives us a useful purpose, a clear focus and a reason for “being” (Ledger and Bray) Chris Ledger and Wendy Bray describe the tendency of people suffering from depression to gradually cut themselves off from the world in order to avoid dealing with difficult situations. This leads to a build-up of negative thoughts and feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, which in turn leads to further withdrawal from the world. It’s a cliché that depressed people never leave the house, or spend all day in bed – but when a person gets locked into a ‘lethargy spiral’ it can begin to become reality. Sometimes, the activity doesn’t need to be all that remarkable – it’s more important that we make the effort to interact with others and purposefully re-engage with the world.


Ledger and Bray suggest making a list of all the activities you’ve stopped doing since becoming depressed, and setting small, achievable goals to recover them, according to your energy levels. For instance, making phone calls to keep in touch with a friend; doing one small housework chore each day; attending a small group once a week.
4. RECRUIT a climbing companion

wo people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. Ecclesiastes 4:8-10 (NLT)
Already you may be thinking: I can’t do all that on my own. And you’re right – you weren’t meant to! The journey out of depression must be one that is walked together – together with God and together with others. Who should this be? There’s no right or wrong person. The most important thing is that they care for you, and want God’s best for your life. Many churches have trained counsellors available to help people struggling with depression, but training is less important than compassion and time. However, it is important that we are aware not to make unrealistic demands of those who care for us in these times and not to rely exclusively on one person (see box)


If you have yet to ask someone to ‘climb with you’ seek God about who that person might be – then be brave and ask them. If you already have someone helping you, why not go through the points in this booklet with them?
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5 Give REGARD To Your Thoughts

e take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV) The battle to overcome depression takes place first in the mind: ‘Our thoughts shape our world, so depressive thoughts – arising from biased and negative interpretation – will shape our world negatively.’ (Ledger and Bray). A huge part of overcoming depression is learning to see situations, other people and especially ourselves in a fair light – not jumping to conclusions, not blowing things out of proportion, not seeing everything negatively. This has to do with managing our thoughts by taking care of what we allow into our minds, and then being vigilant about testing every thought in the light of what we know God has said about us.

Try keeping a ‘thought diary.’ Carry around a small notebook in your pocket and capture on paper any negative thoughts you f ind yourself thinking during the day. At the end of the day, read through the list asking, ‘Is this true? Is this what I hear God saying about me?’ Write, in a different colour pen, the truth. Seek help from your ‘climbing companion’ if you find this difficult at first.
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As if suffering with depression isn’t bad enough, many Christians also admit to feeling some degree of guilt that they are struggling in this way. One reason for this is a common assumption that depression is somehow connected to an absence of God; that deeper prayer, more church and more Bible reading should fill the void and chase away the darkness. Depression can be due to many things but it is definitely not about the absence of God. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to His disciples: ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death’ (Matthew 26:38). This wasn’t a simple case of Jesus feeling off-colour and a bit down; through these words He was seeking to communicate something of the profound despair and utter darkness that came upon Him. In suffering this anguish Himself, Jesus was acknowledging that depression is real and legitimate, something to be taken seriously, and certainly nothing to feel guilty about.

The good news is that there is always the hope of healing with Jesus. Throughout the pages of the gospels, it wasn’t extra time spent reading the Bible or praying that increased the chances of somebody being healed; what made the difference was when people came to Jesus with their needs and he touched them. At some point, they had to admit their weaknesses and recognise that they could not help themselves, and turn to Him. It was the touch of the Healer himself that was needed. In Matthew 4:23, we read that ‘Jesus went throughout Galilee … healing every disease and illness among the people.’ Presumably this included depression! For those who are suffering today, it is still the touch of Jesus the Healer that is desperately needed – and that means having the courage to approach Him for help.
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All prayer should be born out of relationship – and prayer for healing is no exception. However, all too often our prayers consist of bringing our needs to God without first taking time to build up our relationship with Him. When things seem particularly bleak, this becomes our focus and we pray about our concerns: ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:7).
However there may be a more encouraging way to pray.

At The Christian Healing Mission, we have discovered that as we seek healing for ourselves and for others, a relationship with God is so important. We have been learning to pause before we pray for anything at all and to do two things: to worship Father God for his love, and to find the presence of Jesus.
Depression can make it so hard to feel loved, but throughout the Bible we are assured that we are deeply loved by Father God. It is a matter of taking this the gift of medicine, a miraculous healing touch, the wisdom of a counsellor, the prayers of others and the patience of a loving friend. All of these are God’s loving provision for us. Yet there is even more: by choosing to spend time in truth seriously and choosing to worship and thank our heavenly Father for his love, whether or not we feel it.
Another truth is Jesus’ promise that He will always be with us (Matthew 28:20). We know this but it is possible to take this truth a step further and actually experience something of His presence. A question we often ask is this: ‘Where is Jesus for you right now?’ It is not about ‘feeling’ the presence of Jesus, but more about having an awareness of Him and as people engage with this, they often have a sense of Him with them in some way. Taking time to focus on His presence brings Jesus close; a glimmer of hope in the darkness.


HOW DOES HEALING COME? It is at this point that we begin to pray about our concerns and ask for healing, be it for depression or any other sickness. It is far more natural to speak to Jesus about the pain now that He is close and we are reminded of just how deeply we are loved. The whole shape of our prayers has changed, with the focus now firmly on the love and closeness of God, rather than the darkness and hurt.
Out of his love, God has given us various ways to bring us out the darkness of depression ; the gift of medicine, a miraculous healing touch, the wisdom of a counsellor, the prayers of others and the patience of a loving friend. All of these are God’s loving provision for us. Yet there is even more: by choosing to spend time in prayer, we are inviting Jesus Himself to walk by our side on this healing journey.
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