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Depression and Anxiety Part 4

We have emphasized that too much stress is most often a contributing factor to depression and anxiety. To combat this two-headed monster of depression and anxiety, we must learn how to minimize stress. And to do that we must be guided by the Bible as we view ourselves and as we live our lives in a world filled with many pressures. In that connection we have in these articles touched on proper sleep and eating habits, on the proper way to deal with adversity and crisis in our lives, on the need to avoid sinful behavior which always brings with it trouble and sorrow, and finally on proper self-esteem.
Now we turn our attention to seeking God’s approval on our lives rather than live for the approval of others.
Most depressed people are overly concerned with the approval and acceptance of others. One of their biggest fears is to do something that will bring the disapproval of their peers. Often the driving principle that determines what they do or don’t do is to be accepted, approved and even praised by others. The drive to be accepted by their peers will even lead teens to join in activities that they know are wrong and that have the potential to get them into trouble with their parents and even the law. This is peer pressure at its worst.
This often arises out of low self-esteem. Those who see themselves as inferior and having little worth crave acceptance and the approval of others. They seek the approval of others that they may approve of and accept themselves.
But what stress this causes!
First of all, it is impossible to please everyone. There are always those that expect things of you that you cannot attain. Parents may have expectations of you that are unrealistic. Friends and family may expect you to fill a role for them that is impossible. An employer may simply be trying to use you for his own gain. It is very stressful to try to live up to everyone else’s expectations for you.
And as we have just noted, to please others often complicates your life with sinful behavior. There are always those who do not accept you unless you run with them in their sins. And that soon brings trouble and sorrow. Sin always complicates life with horrible stress.
Finally, there is the fact that the drive to please others will leave you wondering whether you made a good impression. You will find yourself rehearsing in your own mind how others reacted to you. Were they pleased? Did you fail in their eyes? This is stressful! And the stress of these things is almost always an essential ingredient of depression.
To avoid this, we must seek God’s approval, rather than men’s approval.
This is what we are told to do in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.”
The meaning of this passage is very clear. God has given us work to do. As we have seen in the previous article, each of us in Christ has an important place of work in God’s kingdom for which he has uniquely fitted us. That work will change during the various phases of life. As teenagers, your work is to prepare yourselves for future work in God’s kingdom by receiving and embracing the training you receive in your home, church and Christian school. For most of you, your work will soon include that of a husband or wife and then a parent. The future work for you young men will be to enter the workplace to earn a living for your family. The future work for you young women who become mothers will be primarily to be keepers at home (Titus 2:5). For some there will be the work of serving in the offices of the church; for others the work of teaching in the Christian schools. God has called each one of us to be a “workman” in his kingdom and fitted us for that work. We have God’s approval when we in Jesus Christ take up this work to the best of our abilities. And when we fall short due to our sinful nature, as we do every day, we are approved of God when we seek forgiveness in the blood of Jesus Christ. Those who study, i.e., exert themselves, to be approved of God as workmen in his kingdom need not be ashamed. Though everyone else would disapprove and shame us, we need not be ashamed when we have God’s approval.
And how wise it is to seek God’s approval. Who is it that cares for our needs, controls the events in our lives, and determines where we spend eternity? It is not the parent who is always critical and can never be pleased. It is not the friend that expects us to fill a need that we cannot fill. It is not the group that will accept us only if we join them in sinful activities. It is God, who has saved us and given us the privilege of being “workmen” in his kingdom!
And do not overlook the fact that it is much easier to find God’s approval than others around us. What others require to give their approval is often difficult to impossible. What God requires for us as his “workmen” is attainable in Jesus Christ. Not only does God fit us wonderfully for the work he has for us, but he also gives us the grace to do it. In keeping with this Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you…for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:29,30).
What a weight is lifted from the Christian’s shoulders when he lives for God’s approval as God’s workman that needs not be ashamed, rather than for the approval of mere men.
One more thing we need to reflect on and that is the tendency of being a perfectionist. Most depressed people are perfectionists. That will be another article.