Afflictions and Trials: A Christian Look at Life’s Adversities
If I asked you which of the following three items—carrot, egg, or coffee bean—which one best describes you, how would you respond? You would probably wonder what I was talking about, right? Fair enough. But what if I added a second question: how you would handle the boiling waters of life? Read the following parable and ask yourself which one you are. Are you the carrot, egg, or coffee bean?
A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as if when one problem was solved a new one arose. Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?” “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied. She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did, and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, the daughter discovered a hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?” Her mother explained that all of these objects faced the same adversity, boiling water, but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But after sitting in through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water. “Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?” So, I ask each of you reading this, which one are you? If it’s not the one you desire, by God’s good grace he will help you change.
What is an affliction?
So, how are you doing today? How are you feeling? Do you have an illness or sickness that you just can’t seem to get over? Maybe you recently lost a loved one and can’t seem to understand why that person was taken from you. Maybe you have a loved one lying in the hospital and you feel so helpless because all you can do is sit there and watch him sleep, and you hope and pray to God that he will recover. Maybe you go to school every day knowing that you’re going to get picked on or made fun of again. The loss of a job, home or loved one. Financial hardships. Marital troubles. Constant stress at work and/or at home. These are all examples of afflictions people may go through at some point in their lives. Does your life seem to be a constant set of unpleasant and disappointing and even painful circumstances and outcomes? Are you beginning to wonder, “If God really does love me, then why does all this keep happening to me?” Maybe you’re even starting to doubt whether you really are a child of God. After all, God is a God of love, isn’t he? And the God of love wouldn’t let this kind of stuff happen to his beloved children, right?
Let me first say that the very fact that you are wondering or worried about truly being a child of God is likely evidence that you are one of his children. The non-believer does not even worry about whether or not he is a child of God. I will get into this more a little bit later on. Next, let me say that you are certainly not alone. Many others have felt or are feeling the way you do right now. There were a number of people from the Bible who went through and suffered trials and afflictions, some like yours and some a bit more severe. For example, Paul went through numerous adversities and trials in his life. While leaving Damascus (just after his conversion), the Jews were waiting for him and watching the city gates, intending to kill him. He was stoned and left for dead in Lystra. He was imprisoned with Silas in Philippi (Acts 16). In Jerusalem, Paul was seized by the mob near the temple, but was rescued by Roman soldiers and then kept in prison for two years in Caesarea. He was also shipwrecked near the island of Melita (Acts 27, 28), and also spent two years in Rome under house arrest. David was hunted by and forced to flee from King Saul numerous times. David lived with the sin of adultery with Bathsheba and also the sin of the murder of her husband Uriah. We read how Jeremiah was cast into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, and had no water, but just sank in the filthy mire (Jer. 38). We also read of Job and the many trials he faced. In Job 1:13–19 we read how his servants were slain by the Sabeans, his sheep and servants were burned, his camels were stolen, and his servants slain by the Chaldeans, and also how a great wind brought down the house which all his children were in, and not one of them survived. According to chapter 2 Job was smitten with sore boils from the soles of his feet to his head. After all that and throughout much of the rest of the book of Job he was not even understood or supported by his wife and friends. Rather, they actually tried to get Job to curse God for all that had happened to him. In Genesis 37 we read what Joseph’s brethren did to him. They conspired against him to slay him (v. 18), but instead stripped off his coat and cast him into a pit (vv. 23–24). They then took him out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver (v. 28). Later Joseph was brought down to Egypt and bought from the Ishmaelites by Potiphar (39:1). While living in his master’s house, Joseph was tempted by his master’s wife to lie with her (vv. 7, 12), and then accused by her of being sent to mock her (vv. 14–18). Joseph was then cast into prison by his master (v. 20). Or consider Stephen, “a man full of faith and the Holy Ghost” (Acts 6:5), and how he was accused of blasphemy and then stoned to death (Acts 6, 7). These are but a few of the accounts we read of in Scripture of the afflictions that God’s people endured.
All of the above mentioned events were afflictions and trials that God’s people went through. I believe that it’s safe to say that most of God’s people whom we know have not experienced such afflictions, but it certainly cannot be said that there are not believers today who do not still experience such traumatizing afflictions. We just may not happen to run into those people every day. It is also certainly not accurate to say that our afflictions are not bad or even a “big deal”. I can personally tell you that some of the trials and difficulties in life can seem a bit overwhelming and almost as though you are drowning and it’s utterly hopeless. It can be extremely frustrating when you get laid off from a job that you’ve been at for many years and then find only a few jobs here and there that just don’t pan out, Then you find one that does look quite promising, but you are forced to quit because you just can’t do it for health reasons, because it is taking such a toll on you physically, along with your being sick. All the while you can’t seem to find out what’s exactly wrong with your health, even after you’ve been to doctor after doctor. Meanwhile, you have bills to pay and are unsure where the money will come from to pay for those bills, and you are really too proud and stubborn to ask for assistance.
It helps us to hear of other Christians going through difficulties and “rough patches” and various afflictions in life, because we then see that we truly are not alone, and there are others who have suffered and are suffering like us. They are the “cloud of witnesses” whom God places in our life’s pathway and who can and do help encourage us, whether through their present actions or words or their past personal experiences.
An affliction can be defined a number of ways. It can be physical or emotional or spiritual pain or discomfort that we constantly find ourselves struggling to get over. It can be any one of the previously mentioned trials that God’s people went through. It can be a sudden shock that a loved one has been badly injured and will be hospitalized for a while, so that we are not sure if he or she will ever be the same. It can be daily living with the fear that someone is after you, whether it is real, as it was for David, or mentally, as part of an illness. Affliction can be having too little and not knowing how you are going to continue to get by, and where the money will come from for the bills that need to be paid, or it can be having too much, so that people look at you as though all you care about is money, or all they want you for is your money, and they are constantly borrowing money from you. An affliction can also be having too many demands, whether at work or at home, or even the feeling of not being needed. It can also be the daily thought of knowing that other people just don’t understand what you are going through (whether it be health issues or something else), and they even tell you that they don’t believe you, and it is likely all in your head and so forth. These people can even be your own family and friends, which tends to make it that much more difficult to live with. Some afflictions can be and feel rather large and can almost turn your life upside down, or they may seem much less significant, so that we feel others would say it’s nothing to make such a big deal about. Either way it is very unpleasant.
Who sends afflictions?
It is important to see that even though it is God who sends afflictions, he is not the one who tempts us with them. God sends afflictions in our life but it is Satan who uses them to try and tempt us and cause us to fall into sin. We read in the James 1:13, “Let no man say that when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” God does allow Satan to tempt us through those afflictions, but he will, as 1 Cor. 10:13 states, “not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” We all know that Satan hates the church, so it should be no surprise to us that Satan uses afflictions to try and destroy the Church and “get at” God. When we go through afflictions of various natures, how often do we not (as mentioned earlier) question why God would allow this, how long it will last, why it is not someone else, and so on? When we do question the way we do, we are sinning against God; Satan knows that and he loves it when we do. Satan will then try to get us to use other means to get through our trial, whether it be drugs, alcohol, busyness, gambling, or any other god or person or activity that will help us to alleviate the affliction soon or immediately. It is not to say that we should not go to a psychiatrist or psychologist for help, but we should first see whether it is the right thing to do or not (and we can do that by going to God in prayer). Satan may even tell us—and may even use another person to do so—that if we truly are a good Christian, then we should not be suffering at all. He may even say, “Maybe God doesn’t love you as much as he say he does.” We may likely be at a very low and weak point in life when Satan comes to us like that, but we should be like the school crossing guard and throw up the STOP sign and dive into God’s Word and come to him in fervent prayer.
Why are we afflicted?
Why are we afflicted? Why does God send those afflictions? A simple answer may be that we just don’t know why God sends afflictions. However, I will try to elaborate on a few reasons why God does send them. One reason is that God uses trials and afflictions in our life to chasten us, as is mentioned in Deuteronomy. 8, where we read: “…that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live” (v. 3). Then in verse 5 we read, “Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his own son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.” The chapter goes on to say how the people should keep God’s commandments, walk in his ways, and not forget all that he had done to deliver them out of the wilderness.
God also uses trials and adversities to refine and purify us. We know that from reading these words: “…and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them” (Zech. 13:9). We also read of purifying in Malachi 3:2–3 which speaks of the purifying of the sons of Levi. God also uses afflictions and trials to try our faith, as is mentioned in James 1:3, 12: “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.” In 1 Peter 1:7 we read, “That the trial of your faith…might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
We should take notice of how God uses trials and afflictions to draw us closer to him. A great example of that is Job. As totally depraved sinners, we are inclined to act against God and turn our backs on him because we do not think we deserve such an affliction (or someone deserves it more). Remember all that Job went through? It is key for us to be reminded of how through all his suffering Job remained faithful, even through the criticism and harshness of those who seemed to care about him so much. “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:22). In Job 13:15–16 he mentions, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him…He also shall be my salvation.”
Like us, Job never knew exactly why God was allowing all this to happen to him, but, as unsure as he was, Job never cursed God out of anger or frustration. In Chapters 38 and 39, God answered Job and told him that since he didn’t understand why all of this was happening to him, it just meant that he did not have the correct knowledge to understand. God emphasized how he is and always was in control of all things and that job should find comfort in that. That is evident from what we read in Job 42:10, where God “turned the captivity of Job…also God gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Just as God was in complete control in creation and all other events in history, so also is he in complete control through our afflictions and sufferings. Just as God is completely sovereign, so is he good and merciful. Afflictions can be good, for they can help teach us God’s statutes (Psalm 119:71), and that God is faithful even through afflictions (Psalm 119:75).
We may even be inclined to ask if afflictions are because of a specific sin. Remember the account of Jesus’ passing by the man who was blind from birth, and the people asked Jesus who sinned to make the man to be that way? Did Jesus say that the man sinned? No. His parents sinned? No. Rather, Jesus said, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:1–3). So just because you go through a difficult trial in life does not mean that it is a result of a specific sin. We likely won’t ever know why, but that is okay. We just need to put our trust in God and have faith in him that he will help us through it and use it for our good and for the good of others who love him (Romans 8:28).
The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:10 says that he is what he is by the grace of God, and that “his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain.” What do you think the Psalms would be like David had not suffered the afflictions he did? A few of the Psalms that David wrote were likely written while he was fleeing from King Saul. I don’t know if we can know for sure if that’s when he wrote some of them (some believe it was the 6th, 7th, and 11th Psalms), but it certainly makes sense. David is fleeing for his life, and while he is hiding he sits down and fervently asks God to help and save him from his enemies. Then you have the multiple Psalms David wrote while pouring out his heart to God for help and guidance and comfort through all he was experiencing in his life. Did David come to God as he did, “hoping” that God would help him? Did he come to God even though he thought he could get through things on his own? No and No! David knew that he could not do it on his own; he also knew that God could, and that he would if it was his will. Listen to these words David wrote in Psalm 34:4: “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Or the well-known 23rd Psalm; “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want…thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (vv. 1, 4). David knew where to find comfort and where to place his trust, and so should we.
Is there really comfort?
David found comfort and knew where to put his trust, as we read in the Psalms (11:1; 16:1; 17:6; 18:2–3; 25:1–2; 40:1; 62:1–2, and many more). Paul found comfort and understood that it was for much better reasons that he suffered (Phil. 1:12; 3:7–14; Acts 16:25–34. Job also found comfort and confidence in God (Job 1:20–22; 42:1-6). The Bible is full of passages that help us find the comfort we need in difficult times. “In all their afflictions he was afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9), and “…he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities…with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
God will give us strength and renew it (Isaiah 40:29–31; 41:10), shall wipe away all our tears (Isaiah 25:8; Rev. 21:4), has mercy upon his afflicted (Isaiah 49:13), and saves his own out of their distresses (Psalm 9:9–10; 46:1-3). As Jesus said to Martha in John 11:25, he is the resurrection and the life. He is the rock of our salvation and nothing can separate us from God’s love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:28–39). Also, there is nothing that is impossible with God (Matt. 19:26); we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, and “God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:13, 19). We can also find comfort in knowing that affliction is not really as bad as we think (2 Cor. 4:7–10), and that it works for us something far better than what we can possibly imagine (2 Cor. 4:17).
It is also important to point out here that all who live a “godly life” will suffer persecution (whether it be a spiritual or emotional affliction and/or physical torture). Peter makes crystal clear that growing Christians are going to experience a number of trials, tribulations, afflictions, and difficulties (1 Peter 4:12). We sing in Psalter 91 (Psalm 34), “Afflictions on the good must fall, But God will bring them safe thro’ all; From harmful stroke he will defend, And sure and full deliv’rance send” (stanza 3). Also, afflictions are for our good, as we sing: “Affliction has been for my profit, That I to thy statutes might hold” (Psalter 329:4, Psalm119).
There is much comfort and beauty in the Psalms and we have the great blessing to sing them each Lord’s Day. In the Psalter we sing of how our gracious and sovereign heavenly Father knows our afflictions and woes (#80:6). He hears, delivers and saves us (# 88:2; 175:1; 248:4; 293:2-3; 300:13). He is our rock, refuge and source of strength (# 16:4; 34:1,9; 71:1; 161:1,5,8; 191:1; 203:1,4). He is faithful to His own (#312:6; 400:2-5). He guides our way with his word (#334:1). He is in control and will not let us fall (#345). We are called to rest in and have patience in him (#96:1), to call upon him, and cast our burdens upon him (#149:5). We sing of his love and care for us in Psalter #202, his goodness in #201, his enduring mercy in Psalters 376–378 (taken from Psalm 136). His protective power is sung of in #127, and in #126 we sing of “God a Very Present Help” (both numbers taken from Psalm 46). “Thro’ pain and trouble Thou hast led, And humbled all our pride…O let the Lord, our gracious God, Forever blessed be, Who has not turned my prayer from him, Nor yet his grace from me…Who safely holds our soul in life, And steadfast makes our ways” (Psalter 174:2, 4).
God knows all we go through, hears all our cries, and never turns his back on us. He will always be there for us, even if it may not seem like it at the moment. He will deliver us from our affliction when he sees fit, for he knows best. It may not just be for our own good, but also for the good of someone else that he allows us to go through an affliction or hardship, even though we fervently ask him to take it away. Take the apostle Paul as an example of that. Paul suffered through many trials and hardships in his life and even asked God many times that they be removed from him, but the Lord answered Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). God was telling Paul that he needed a certain thorn in his flesh, and God was also saying that he shows his power through our weakness, as was pointed out to us in a sermon we had a short while ago. Rev. Eriks also pointed out in that sermon that God prunes us through the thorns in our flesh; whether that be sickness, loss of a loved one, a wayward child, financial hardships, marital troubles, or whatever else it may be. Whether we want to admit it or not, thorns are a blessing because through them God’s grace comes to us. That was exactly what the Lord told Paul and what he tells us also today. God may also use thorns to cause us to “bleed for Christ” to turn from our non-God-centered ways, and to focus on him, who is the supplier of all our grace and needs. How did Paul respond to the Lord? “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:9–10). We ourselves are weak in our sins, but we are made strong in Christ through his glory, for through afflictions and troubles we see how much we need him and how good he truly is. Just as the hart thirsts for water, so may we thirst and hunger for God and his word (Psalm 42).
Help and hindrance
Even if we personally are not going through an affliction or trial in life, I’m sure that we all know someone who is. So is there something we can do to help those who are going through an affliction or hardship in life? Yes, there certainly is, but before we get into that, let us first see what we should not do.
There definitely are things that we should not say to someone who is going through a great trial in life. Even mentioning such things as that one must have a problem with their prayer life, that one should search his heart because God is likely pointing to a great sin in his life, that he just needs to let Jesus lead him and then he won’t have troubles anymore, or if he only had enough faith then all would change—all these are more hindering than comforting. Statements like these that seem to be full of comfort can actually do more harm than good, for they can come out as more of a comparison or criticism, as Edith Schaeffer points out in her book, Affliction: A Compassionate Look at the Reality of Pain and Suffering. I do not agree with everything she says in the book, but she does make some very good points. She mentions that “Why don’t you pray?” is a question that can be an insult to someone who is already spending sleepless hours in prayer. She also says that “If only you had enough faith, everything would change!” is a judgment that only God can make. Another judgmental statement she warns against is, “There must be something wrong with your life.” She adds, “This is another cruel sentence on the part of a human being who is no position to make such bold statements.” Saying, “If you only had the Holy Spirit…” is also a judgmental statement that is like saying that someone has not been born again.
We must be ever so careful when it comes to judging another person, and that is especially true regarding the trials and afflictions of life; for we are quick to judge someone when he is going through a trial in life, also regarding the reason for the affliction. Some people even say that we are not to judge at all. After all, Matt. 7:1 says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”. However, when these people use this passage, as well as John 8:11, John 13:34, and similar passages, they fail to interpret these passages correctly. As Rev. Doug Kuiper points out in his pamphlet, “Judging: The Christian’s Duty”, God does in fact command us to judge. We must, however, not judge hypocritically. That is to say, we must first look at ourselves and must first consider the beam that is in our own eye before we worry about the sliver that is in our brother’s eye, as we read in Matt. 7:1–5. This is the context we must use (and many fail to use), and not forget when it tells us not to judge. We must use Scripture to base our judgment of others’ teachings and practices, as well as their lives and actions. “Because we do not know the hearts of others,” Rev. Kuiper adds, “we must not judge secret motives (1 Cor. 4:5). God will judge these.” As we read in Prov. 17:3, “…but the LORD trieth the hearts.” Because with regards to afflictions it can almost become a habit for us to judge someone as to why they are going through such a trial in life, we must stop ourselves and see first if we are doing so in righteousness, as is mentioned in Lev. 19:15. It is not easy to judge righteously, but we must continue to strive to judge that way, as it is the way God calls us to judge. For a better and more thorough understanding of proper judging, I strongly encourage you to read Rev. Kuiper’s pamphlet on this subject.
In addition to our judging righteously of others, we are to esteem one another, as we read in Philippians 2:3: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory (pride); but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” And we are to do it with a positive attitude, as we see in verse 14: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” We are also called in 1 Peter 4:9 to “use hospitality one to another without grudging.”
We are called to help and care for each other as the Lord cares for us. We are called to comfort one another, for we read in God’s word; “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God” (Is. 40:1). True, it is not easy to comfort someone. However, this does not mean that we should think we just should not do it because it’s not easy to do. It is difficult for us to experience comfort if we have not gone through an affliction or sorrow or trial in which comfort was needed. Second, “we have to recognize our need for comfort before we will let ourselves be comforted”, says Schaeffer. Also, we are not sure how to comfort someone else if we have never experienced comfort ourselves. You could use the example of driving a car: if you have never driven one or learned how to drive a car yourself, how are you to teach someone else (aside from guessing or asking someone else)? If you feel that you might be a bit inadequate in the whole area of comforting, then you should seek the dear heavenly Father to help you and to provide you with the courage and knowledge you need to comfort that wounded soul. If it is his will, he will supply your tongue with the words needed to speak to someone in need.
People who have suffered or are suffering with a specific pain, can better comfort someone else who is suffering with that same pain ( i.e. cancer, loss of a loved one, loved one lying in the hospital, personal health problems, marital issues, etc.). Even then we will not necessarily have the same understanding as the person we are trying to comfort, simply because we are not identical. So we can only do our best to comfort, and by God’s grace we will be able to.
As mentioned earlier, we are to use hospitality to each other willingly. What is hospitality? It is picking up the phone and talking to someone for a few minutes to see how he is doing, even if we don’t have a lot of time to talk (a quick chat can mean a world of comfort). It is helping out the person next to you, whether it is the one in next hospital bed who needs some assistance because the nurse doesn’t seem to hear their bell, or your next door neighbor who needs help with something and you are the only one nearby. There are numerous other examples of how hospitality can be shown. In other ways of showing hospitality we are called to “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law” (Gal. 6:2); also, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves…For even Christ pleased not himself” (Rom. 15:1–3); and “lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Heb. 12:12). In Hebrews 13:3 we are called to “remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”
So it can be a phone call, card, letter, poem, visit, meal, or another kind personal act. These are all things we can do for someone who needs to be comforted. The best kind of comfort is found in God and in his word, for we are to seek him and his strength (Psalm 105:4) and to “seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Even just being there for someone can be a great way to comfort them. I can recall when I was a hospice volunteer I would go and visit with those who were alone and had no one else around. Even with the training that we had for being a hospice volunteer, I was never certain of what I would do when I was with my patient. I just needed to ask them what they wanted to do, and all I ever did was just sit there and listen to them tell me all about their beloved spouse who passed away and their children (if they had any). Basically, just being there and listening to them and showing them that I cared was quite sufficient for them, and they were always very appreciative of the visits. This is not to “toot my own horn,” but rather to show that small things do matter. I admit that it wasn’t always easy for me to do, but it did help make me a bit stronger and helped me see how little effort there actually can be in comforting someone, and the ways that God can use to comfort those in need. When I think of how much comfort they got from my visits, how much more comfort don’t we get when we come to God, the great comforter, in prayer! “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), and as the LORD told Jeremiah, we are to call upon his name and pray unto him, and he will hearken unto us (Jer. 29:12).
There are also many great books and pamphlets and other fine literature that can help during times of difficulty. Many of the books that I have read and would recommend are ones that I have already mentioned in previous articles, so I will not mention them again here. We all have different things that help us get through difficult trials in life, and for many it’s a good quality book in which God will use a specific sentence or phrase to make us stop and reflect during that troubling time.
Things to remember
We have seen that affliction can come in various shapes and sizes and that not everyone’s affliction is the same. It can last a short amount of time or a long period of time. It can be brought upon us because God is chastening us, he is trying our faith, or he has another useful purpose in mind. The fact is that we never know— nor need to know—why we are going through such an affliction, but that it is for our good (Rom. 8:28). We do know that not everyone will understand what we are going through with our affliction, but God does, and he will deliver us in His time.
We are to come to him with all our needs and pour out our hearts to him in prayer. We are to “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” Also, “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:4, 6). We are to have patience and wait on his will, and as we see in Romans 15, other people’s trials should increase our patience with them, rather than make us have hard hearts toward them.
We have seen that Satan will try to deceive us and tell us that we do not need God because we can do it on our own by other means, but God tells us to rely on him and come to him in time of need. We can come to God, for “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver is tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm. 12:6). If God says that he will be there for us, then he will be there for us. It is also important that we not get angry at God for our afflictions, for then we are sinning against God; this greatly displeases him, and it also greatly pleases Satan.
God also calls us to be there for each other and help each other in times of need. We are not to judge others (wrongly) or compare ourselves or our afflictions with someone else. We need to ask God for open eyes to see our own hearts and sins before we start to look at someone else’s. Whatever we do or do not do to someone else, we do or do not do it to God (Matt. 25:40, 45).
It is also important to remember that you are not alone in your trial or affliction. Christ Jesus knows all we go through, and there is nothing that is impossible for him; he will see you through it. Also, it is important not to give up, for it takes time to get through such a difficult hardship. May we be as Abraham (Gen. 17:4 regarding the promise of being the father of many nations), as we read what Paul mentions of him in Romans 4:20–21: “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was also able to perform.” This reminds me of the beautiful words of a poem by Helen Steiner Rice, based on Matt. 11:28.
Whatever your problems, whatever your cross,
Whatever your burden, whatever your loss,
You’ve got to believe me, you are not alone,
For all of the troubles and trials you have known
Are faced at this minute by others like you.
Who also cry out, “Oh God, What Shall I do?”
Just find comfort in knowing, this is God’s way of saying,
“Come to Me” and never cease praying,
For whatever your problem or whatever you sorrow
God holds the key to a brighter tomorrow!
We should also know that it is okay to weep, and that as Christians we should not think for a minute that it is not okay to weep. We read of countless instances in the Bible of God’s people weeping and crying out to God to help and save them. In today’s thinking crying is considered a form of weakness, for someone may cry when he gets hurt or when he does not get what he wants. But the crying or pouring out of the soul of which the Bible speaks are other words for praying. We read how Jesus “cried out with a loud voice…My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). The psalmist used such wording multiple times throughout the Psalms. “LORD, I cry unto thee” (141:1); “I cried unto the LORD with my voice…I poured out my complaint before him” (142:1-2); “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD” (130:1). When we cry and pour out our hearts to God as the psalmist did, we are praying to God a fervent prayer. Cry out to God, and he will hear you.
May you find the comfort and rest you need as you continue to go through whatever trial or affliction God has placed before you. May you come to him for all your needs and cast all your burdens upon him. He is our Good Shepherd who is everywhere present. Through him we are more than conquerers. “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:18).
“Be patient. God is using today’s difficulties to strengthen you for tomorrow. He is equipping you. The God who makes things grow will help you bear fruit” (Max Lucado).
How true that is! The very God who made all things is also the One who will help us through the difficult times in life. We all have difficult times, but the suffering from depression and/or anxiety can feel as though every day is difficult or certain days are the worst ever. That is why some even consider suicide as an alternative.
Most of us don’t have the professional credentials when it comes to counseling a depressed person, but that certainly doesn’t mean that there isn’t something we can do to help them. There are various things to do and certainly not to do when dealing with a depressed person. By the grace of God we can help the depressed loved one work through their depression.
In the first part of this article, what depression and anxiety are was laid out as well as their various symptoms. In part two we became aware of many treatment options for both illnesses. In this third and final part, we will look at what we can do to help the depressed loved one. “But Dan,” you may be saying, “I don’t even know what to say or do.” Or, “Can I really help even if I never experienced it myself before?” It’s okay, and, yes you can help. Lord willing, by reading this part of the article—as well as the previous two—you will be much better equipped to help your depressed loved one.
What Does “Melancholy” Mean?
Before we delve right into what you can do to help the depressed loved one, I feel it’s important we get a decent understanding of what type of person is likely to get depressed—maybe even a little quicker than other people. The better we understand the type of person, the better we can relate to them and help them. We’ll do that by looking at what it means to be “melancholy” or melancholy type personality, according to Florence Littauer; or “C” type, according to Robert A. Rohm, Ph. D.
This type of personality is (typically): deep, thoughtful, analytical, quiet, laid-back, task-oriented, cautious, careful, calculating, perfectionist. They are emotional, except their highs are higher, their lows are lower, and the whole pattern is prolonged. It can be hard to determine if they’re happy or sad, because they prefer not to get excited, and much of their life is rather serious—even just plain depressing. As mentioned by Ms. Littauer, they tend to take everything too personally. She also mentions how they can take a positive situation and turn it into a negative.
It’s really no wonder then that when a person uses significant mental energy focusing on negatives that such a mind falls easily into depression. Littauer says how the Melancholy should keep his thoughts on positives, and “the minute he finds himself focusing on the negative aspect of anything, he must refuse those thoughts an entrance.” They need to be and think more positive and work to find the best in situations and people, and we can help them do this. True, it’s not easy for any of us to do.
Littauer (who has battled with depression herself) says, “Look for the best in people, and when things go wrong, thank God for the experience and ask him what positive lesson you are to learn from this.” She mentions Proverbs 16:20b, “…and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.”
As Robert Rohm describes them as the “C” type personality, he mentions that their basic need is quality answers. They tend to be quite sensitive. “They react more to their environment, rather than responding to it,” Dr. Rohm adds. They’re known to see what’s wrong, rather than what’s right. He goes on to say, “Learn how they think and feel, and you will be able to work better with them.”
This is certainly not to say that this is the only personality type to fall into depression. All four types can fall into depression (for a better understanding of the four types, read both Littauer’s and Rohm’s books, which are listed at the end of this article).
How To Help That Depressed Loved One
As mentioned earlier, you can help that depressed loved one. You can do that by your support and encouragement—this can play a pivotal role in their recovery. However, it’s equally important to take proper care of yourself. Ever try to help someone with a project or try to explain something to someone when you don’t feel well at all yourself? Doesn’t work out so well, does it? It works kind of the same way with dealing with someone who’s depressed. It may be a weak example, but I trust you get the point. How can you help someone who’s depressed if you’re not well or even a little depressed yourself? You need to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself, so then you can better help that depressed loved one.
So, how can you help them? Well, it is difficult to deal with a loved one’s depression. It can even become overwhelming if you’re not careful.
You can help by learning about the problem (we don’t know what we don’t know), encourage them to seek treatment, and offer support. Also, as mentioned before, you need to look after your own emotional health.
Education Is Key
Have you ever gone over to your parents house and had them say to you, “Are you feeling ok? You look a little pale.” Or someone else you know well may say, “Have you lost weight or something? You look different than the last time I saw you.” It’s a little bit like that with depression. If you’re depressed, your family may (even without knowing about the symptoms) likely sense a problem even before you do, and you’re the one with the depression. The family member’s positive influence and concern can likely motivate the depressed person to seek help. But—according to helpguide.org—you need to understand what you’re dealing with before you can help someone who is depressed, so educate yourself about its symptoms, causes, and treatment (emphasis mine).
One example that comes to mind is of when I was working on the front brakes of my sister’s car. Aside from all the other challenges I faced while working on it, I just could not figure out what to do about a couple bolts—one was broken off and the other just wouldn’t come off. I talked to a local mechanic I know well, told him the problem and even showed him a picture of the problem. He still told me that he really needed to physically look at the car to fully grasp what he could do to fix it. We finally got the car over to him and he ended up taking care of it and now it’s all fixed.
The mechanic needed to educate himself by physically looking at the car. So also, we can educate ourselves about depression by reading about and researching it.
It’s Important To Understand the Loved One’s Depression
It’s not like being hypnotized and someone just snaps their fingers and you go from being asleep to awake, or being depressed to not being depressed. That is why your love and support is so important to that depressed person.
Connecting with someone on a deep emotional level can be very hard for a depressed person, and they can speak hurtful words and even lash out in anger. It’s important to remember that you not take this personally; for it’s the depression, not the loved one, that is talking.
If you get a big gash on your arm and then quickly wrap it and always hide it by wearing long-sleeved shirts, will the gash get better on its own? No, not too likely. The gash needs to be looked at and properly taken care of by a nurse or doctor. You can do what you wish to cover up that gash; but it’s still there, it still hurts, and it will certainly hurt if someone touches that arm and then they will wonder why that hurt so badly. What would you do then? Would you start with all the excuses and false reasons why it hurts? The same can be said if you have depression. You could try to hide it for as long as you could in hopes that no one will ever discover the depression and also that it will just go away on its own, but that likelihood is very slim to none.
That is why it’s imperative to seek medical help as soon as you can. Understand though, that with depression, it’s a much different ache and pain than a bruise or cut on your body. The wound of depression can and will likely take much longer to heal and require more treatment. So do not try to hide your depression and hope it will go away. If you do think about hiding your depression, think about the words in Psalm 9:9-10: “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” Did you catch that? The Lord will not forsake them that seek him. That is something you can find comfort in. Trust in him for he is always there.
For those who have a depressed loved one, remember not to be an enabler. Just like if your loved one had a large gash on their arm and you helped them hide it and made excuses for and lied about it with and for them, so you may be tempted to do with their depression. Well, don’t. Doing so might keep them from even seeking the treatment they need.
Also, you are not the “rescuer” or “fixer” of their depression. It’s just not up to you to fix, nor are you to blame. You are, however, there to care for and support your loved one as they work through their depression. You can do more than you realize by just being there for them. As Florence Littauer says: we can confess to a friend and they might sympathize, but only the Lord Jesus can take away the pain.
How To Encourage A Depressed Loved One To Seek Help
It’s not always so easy to get a depressed person to get treatment. The depressed person is likely empty of energy and motivation, so even the simple act of setting an appointment can seem rather daunting. With depression can also come the waves of negative thinking. Such thinking can include: “I’m not sure why the doctor would want to see me anyway.” “It’s not even worth getting any help.” or “I’ll probably not get better anyway, so it’ll just be a waste of everyone’s time.” Just as Jesus calmed the rough seas spoken of in Mark 4, so he can calm the rough waves of negative thoughts. You can change the negative into positive, but it will take work. But, oh the great benefits it will bring!
You can see how these obstacles can cause a depressed person to not even seek treatment. That is why your love and encouragement is so crucial. The depressed person needs to get help. “Only when we realistically face the truth can we begin to overcome the hurt and despair. The worst approach is to pretend that it never happened,” says Littauer.
So, what can you do if your loved one resists getting help for depression? There are a few things you can do. The first thing is to suggest a general check-up with a physician. Since family doctors are usually less intimidating than a mental health professional, your loved one may see the family doctor more willingly. Also, the doctor is able to rule out a medical cause of depression. You could also either offer to go with the person to the doctor or help them find a new doctor or a therapist. Because of how difficult it can be to find a good doctor or therapist, any help you can give can be greatly appreciated by the depressed loved one. A third thing you can do is to encourage your loved one to make a thorough list of symptoms to discuss with the doctor. There may even be things that you personally noticed that you can bring to the doctor’s attention.
Supporting Your Loved One
Give your unconditional love and support by being compassionate and patient. You won’t know how important this really is until you go through it.
Why do we like it when someone is supportive? Simply because it involves them offering encouragement and hope to us. It shows us that that person is there for us and cares about us, and that is exactly what a depressed person needs. The book of Psalms is full of encouragement and hope. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:1, 7). Psalm 147:3 reads: “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Notice that the word “wounds” can be translated as “griefs.” God will comfort us when depressed. He is the Comforter and the Rock we can go to when we feel lowly and in despair.
When talking to a depressed person, it’s important to know what to say and not to say. Let them know that they’re not alone in this and that you’re there for them. Tell them that their feeling will change. Let them know, even though you don’t understand how they feel, you do care about them and want them to get help. Ask what you can do to help them. Assure them that you are there for them and you’ll get through it together. Remember, if you say you’re going to be there for them, be sure that you are there for them!
Do not tell them that it’s just all in their head and to simply “snap out of it.” Do not say, “We all go through difficulties. You’ll be OK.” Don’t tell them to “look on the bright side,” or that you can’t do anything about their situation. Or, if they feel rather worthless (which is quite likely), don’t tell them all about your accomplishments you had when you were their age. Basically, think before you speak. Use an intelligent or “smart” tongue.
By being helpful and supportive, you can better tackle the depression monster as a team. For, together everyone achieves more. Remember, as you travel with them toward recovery, don’t try to be more than the passenger or supporter. You are there to help them, not to do it for them.
Does the thought of tackling your depression seem overwhelming? Well, don’t panic. The helpless and hopeless feeling is simply a symptom of your depression. It does not mean that you’re weak or can’t change! It’s important to start small and ask for help. Experts say that having a strong support system in place will expedite your recovery. Also, because isolation fuels depression, it’s important to reach out to others, even when you feel you want to be alone. It’s a good idea to inform your family and friends of what you’re going through and how they can help and support you.
Depression can stay with someone for a while. My sister can attest to that. She has suffered from it and is still fighting it. Her depression had gotten quite severe. I’ll let her say, in her own words, just how severe it got: “My depression was so severe that I was not only having suicidal thoughts, I was about to put them into action. I can tell you first hand that depression is not only very real but it can also be very debilitating. Unless you have experienced it, you will not be able to understand what someone suffers when they are going through depression; so the best thing you can do is just be there for them.”
Helping A Loved One With Anxiety Disorder
Again, it’s important to be there for the loved one and not to ridicule or humiliate them in any way. What they need is for you to listen actively while refraining from giving advice. Their complaints may be a bit exaggerated, but that is all part of their disorder and shows further how you need to help them find the help they need. You may ask the doctor how you can best cooperate with the treatment plan.
Anxiety disorders are an illness and they can be improved with treatment. That is why it’s important your loved one gets the help they need. Remember, however, not to push them into treatment; rather continue to encourage them to seek treatment. If you do seek some help, consult your family doctor or obtain referral to a psychiatrist.
According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA), people who experience anxiety disorders and their families may spend months—even years—not knowing what’s wrong. Family members should learn about the disorder to help them know what to expect from the illness as well as the recovery process. Learning when to exercise patience and when to exert a little pressure would also be very beneficial.
Even though family support is not the cure, it’s still of great importance to the recovery process.
Let’s take a look at a few things a family member can do to help a loved one with an anxiety disorder: Learn about the disorder. You should recognize and praise small accomplishments. You may need to modify expectation during stressful periods. Measure progress on the basis of individual improvement, not against some set standard. You should also be flexible and try to maintain a normal routine.
Don’t forget that, as a family member, the recovery process will be stressful for you as well. One thing that will help is building a support network of relatives and friends.
May you, as well as all of us, find comfort in these words! Also, may the following quotes be of help and comfort to you:
“Don’t worry about tomorrow…God is already there!”
“Feelings stay with us until we deal with them.”
“Nothing is stronger than habit.”—Ovid
“You cannot change the past. You can absolutely change the future.”
“Be not afraid of going slowly; be afraid only of standing still.”—Chinese proverb
“When we face tough problems, we stay mired in the mud until we take action.”—David J. Schwartz, Ph. D., author, The Magic of Thinking Big
As we have now seen, depression (as well as anxiety) is an illness that should not be taken lightly; but it can be made better with the proper help and treatment. So, if you have a loved one suffering from depression, remember to: encourage, love, and support them. Show them you care and want them to get better and will help them to a limited degree (without enabling them). Do not push, yell at, or berate them in any way. Also remember to educate yourself, for depression is certainly abstruse (difficult to comprehend; profound).
With God all things are possible, and if it is his will, that loved one’s depression will improve. The Lord knows how we feel and what we go through each and every day. We see that in the words that were in our church bulletin a while back which I feel ties in well with all this and I’d like to add it here now.
In all their affliction, he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9). How could the care of God for his children be expressed in a plainer or more positive way? In their afflictions—He was afflicted. When they suffered—He suffered. In their sorrow—He sorrowed!…In heaven he is touched with the feeling of his people’s infirmities! (Heb. 4:15). If you are weak—the burden of your weakness presses upon him. If you are hurt—the hurt is felt by him…There is no experience of your life—which he does not share. Whatever your need, your trial, your perplexity, your struggle may be—you may be sure that God knows and “careth for you” (I Peter 5:7).—J. Miller
As we read in Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”
The Lord is good and merciful, and we should always come to him when we are in need. He is our light that will lighten our darkness, as mentioned in II Samuel 22:29.
I pray that God may comfort your troubled heart and that you may begin to find relief from your depression and/or anxiety. Let us all better educate ourselves and one another so we may be better able to help those who need it. We all, whether as individuals or churches or other organizations, need to better educate ourselves on this topic as well as many others. Pray to God for the strength and knowledge as we move forward!
Here are some other helpful scripture texts that those I talked with have found helpful, as may you.
Psalm: 27, 31, 34, 42, 55:22, 61:1-4, 62, 71, 73, 77, 116, 139
Heb. 4:13-16, Lam. 3:21ff, Deut. 33:27, Phil. 4:4-8, II Cor. 4:8-9, Rom. 8:18 & 28
Other helpful scripture texts:
James 1:2-6, Isaiah 40:31, Rev. 21:4, John 14:1,18,27; II Cor. 4:17,
Psalm 18:1-3 & 30, Psalm 86:6-7, II Sam. 22:29, I Peter 1:7,
Isaiah 26: 3-4, Rom. 8: 28-39; Lord’s Day 9 & 10, Q & A 26-28
The following literature has been very helpful to those I talked with:
Happiness Is A Choice: The Symptoms, Causes, and Cures of Depression by Frank B. Minirth, M.D., Paul D. Meier, M.D.
Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne
Beside Still Waters/Words of Comfort For the Soul by Charles H. Spurgeon.
Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud, Dr. John Townsend
Depression for Dummies by Laura L. Smith, Ph.D., Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D.
Being the Person God Made You to Be. The Power of Determination by Joyce Meyer.
Dealing With Depression: A Christian Perspective by Faith PRC Evangelism Committee.
Quick Scripture References for Counseling by Rev. John Kruis.
Other books you may find helpful:
The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz, Ph. D. (We all tend to think small and this book helps with expanding and improving our thinking)
What To Say When You Talk To Your Self by Shad Helmstetter, Ph.D. (We all talk to ourselves, and this great book shows us how to in a more positive way.)
Positive Personality Profiles by Robert A. Rohm, Ph. D. (Helps us in a more modern way of understanding each personality and each other)
Personality Plus by Florence Littauer (Describes each personality type and how to deal with each other better)
Peaks and Valleys by Spencer Johnson, M.D. (Great short story of how to better look at each situation in life)
The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. (Fantastic book which shows how even the smallest thing can make a big difference.)
Blow Away the Black Clouds by Florence Littauer (Personal testimony of how Ms. Littauer went through depression and helps others through it)
The Bible (Greatest book to be used for any form of help, encouragement, and counseling)
In my last article on this topic I laid out what depression is and also what anxiety disorder is. Signs, symptoms, risk factors, as well as a bunch of other information was given to show what it’s all about and why it’s so important for us to be aware of it and talk about it. Now, in this part of the article, I’d like to show what can be done if someone does have depression or anxiety disorder. Remember, this is all taken from the professionals and experts.
There are various treatment options for depression and anxiety, and the road to recovery may not be easy. I’d like to illustrate that by giving you a brief example of a situation I encountered a few times. This was back when I, as well as a few others, visited my sister Julie when she was over at a rehabilitation center to help her get better. This place was off a couple dirt roads and tucked back in the woods—beautiful setup! I remember driving on those dirt roads and not driving very fast at all—if you did you’d be jarred teeth-less! The roads, at times, were extremely bumpy and even had big holes that sometimes were filled with water so that you didn’t know exactly how big they actually were. We did all we could to navigate through the holes and bumps and make it to our destination—to see Julie! The roads were not the exact same every day, but we always knew it would be at least a little rough.
You can expect the same type of travel down your road to depression or anxiety recovery. You may not know what lies ahead or how tough it may be, but you should still stick it out and keep going, because, by the grace of God, you will reach your destination. You can get better! You just need to know where to start and where to go next and how badly you want to get better. I hope this article may help pave the way to your recovery. Let’s get started!
When Do I Seek Medical Advice?
It is perfectly normal to occasionally feel sad or upset, or to be unhappy with situations in your life. However, with depression, those feelings linger for weeks, months or even years. Those feelings also are much more intense than “just feeling a bit down” and can interfere with relationships, work and daily activities, and even your ability to eat and bathe.
Depression is not like an upset stomach and will not likely get better on its own. In fact, it may even get worse if left untreated.
Talk to your primary care doctor about your depression symptoms. If you do not have one, then try to seek help from a mental health provider (do not feel threatened by the words “mental health,” after all, they do specialize in your area of suffering). If you, for whatever reason, are not willing to seek treatment, try to work up the courage to confide in someone about your feelings, whether that be a friend or loved one, a health care provider, a pastor or someone else you may trust. They are able and most likely willing to help you take the first step to successful treatment for depression.
As I mentioned in the previous part of this article, suicidal thoughts and behavior are common among people with depression. Are you considering suicide right now and have the means available? If so, it’s imperative to talk to someone now. The best choice is to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency services number. If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to do that, you do have other choices for reaching out to someone: contact a family member or friend; contact a doctor, mental health provider or other health care professional; contact a pastor or someone in your faith community; go to your local hospital room; call a crisis center or hot line.
Examining Your Depression Options
Many people suffer through depression and are not necessarily affected the same way. That is also true for the treatment of depression—there is no “one key for every lock” treatment that cures depression. What works for one person might not work for another. The best way to treat depression is to become as informed as possible about the treatment options, and then tailor them to meet your needs.
How About Some Depression Treatment Tips?
Here are some helpful tips when considering and dealing with depression treatment. (1) You should learn as much as you can about your depression. It’s important to determine whether your depression symptoms are due to an underlying medical condition. If so, that condition will need to be treated first. And remember, the more severe the depression, the more intense the treatment is likely to be. (2) It does and will take time to find the right treatment. It very well might take some trial and error to find the treatment and supports that works best for you. Just be sure to be open to change and a little experimentation. (3) Medications are not the only answer. Granted, it is hard to escape the ads about medication as a treatment for depression. Although medication can be quite effective for severe depression, studies have shown that therapy can be as effective or even a more effective treatment for many types of depression. Therapy and/or lifestyle changes may very well be all you need, and they come without the side effects of medication. If, however, you do decide to try medication, remember that medication works best when you pursue therapy as well. (4) You should get social support. The more you cultivate your social connections, the more protected you are from depression. Asking for help is not a weakness but a sign of strength. (5) Treatment does take time and commitment. All of those depression treatments do take time, and sometimes it might feel overwhelming or frustratingly slow. That is perfectly normal. After all, recovery does have its ups and downs. There is a peak to every valley.
Lifestyle changes are an essential part of depression treatment.
Lifestyle changes are simple but powerful tools in treating depression. Sometimes these changes may be all you need. You may need other treatment as well, yet lifestyle changes can go a long way towards helping lift depression. They can also help keep depression at bay once you are feeling better.
Lifestyle changes can treat depression.
There are some lifestyle changes which can help treat depression: regular exercise; nutrition—eating a regular, balanced diet is important for both your physical and mental health; sleep—poor sleep has a strong effect on mood; social support—strong social support networks reduce isolation, which is a key risk factor for depression; stress reduction—too much stress aggravates depression and puts you at risk for future depression.
Medical causes of depression can be ruled out.
If you suspect that you might be depressed, and lifestyle changes haven’t worked, you should make an appointment to see your primary care doctor for a thorough checkup. If your depression is the result of medical causes, therapy and antidepressants will do little to help, and the depression won’t lift until the underlying health problem is identified and treated.
What about finding a therapist to treat my depression?
If there is no underlying medical cause for your depression, the next step for treatment is finding a mental health specialist. One of the most important things to consider when choosing a therapist is your connection with this person. The right therapist will be a caring and supportive partner in your depression treatment and recovery. Do not worry if you do not find “the one” right away, for it may take a few tries to find the right one. Also, a good therapist will not pressure you into treatment, and encourages questions about his/her qualifications and patient-therapist compatibility. You should also make sure your therapist is licensed and has credentials.
There are many benefits of therapy to help treat depression.
Talk therapy is an extremely effective treatment for depression. Therapy gives you tools to treat depression from multiple angles. In addition to that, what you learn in therapy yields skills and insight to help prevent depression from coming back.
There are many types of therapy available. I will not be going into them all in detail, but will only mention them. Three of the more common methods used in depression include; cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. Often, more than one method is used.
One of the hallmarks of depression is feeling overwhelmed and having trouble focusing. With therapy, it allows you to take a step back and survey what might be contributing to your depression and how you can make appropriate changes. Some of the bigger topics that therapy can help with include: Relationships, Setting Healthy Boundaries, and Handling Life’s Problems.
Choosing between individual and group therapy.
When you hear the word “therapy,” do you automatically think of one-on-one sessions with a therapist? Well, as effective as individual therapy can be, group therapy can also be very useful in depression treatment. In individual therapy, you are building a strong relationship with one person, and may also feel a bit more comfortable sharing some sensitive information with one person than with a group. You will also get individual attention.
Do not rule out group therapy, however. Listening to peers going through the same struggles can be tremendously beneficial and help build self-esteem. Many times group members are at different points in their depression, so you might get tips from both someone in the dog-fight and someone who has worked through a difficult problem. You can also get inspiration and ideas from hearing from others, and are of course increasing your social activities and network.
Therapy—Not Always the Most Comfortable Way to Go
Therapy may and likely will seem difficult or painful, but do not let that give you reason to give up. After all, a lot of difficult and painful things that we go through in life just end up making us stronger than we were. This also may very well be one way God is reaching out his hand of help to you. Discussing your feelings and reactions in an honest way with your therapist will help in your moving forward rather than going in reverse to your old and not as effective ways. Remember one thing about therapy: the foundation of good therapy is a strong trusting relationship. You do not need to be worried about seeing a therapist, for they are placed on this earth by God to help those who need it. Pray to God that he will guide you in your search for the right therapist, and that when you find him or her, you will likely start to feel better. May God be with you on your journey.
Considering Medications for Depression Treatment
What about medications for depression? Should I take antidepressants? What medications should I take? These, and many more questions are often asked, and rightly so. You should know that, even though depression medication may be the most advertised treatment for depression, it does not mean that it’s the most effective. Yes, medication is a helper in the relieving of the symptoms of depression, but it does not cure the underlying problem, and it’s normally not a long-term solution. Side effects and safety concerns are also associated with antidepressant medications, and withdrawal can be quite difficult. It’s important to learn all the facts when considering whether antidepressant medication is right for you. It will only benefit you and help you in making an informed and personal decision about how best to treat your depression. However, it’s important not to ignore other treatments. Want to know of ways that can help speed recovery from depression, and can also provide skills to help prevent a recurrence? That can be done with lifestyle changes and therapy.
While family doctors can be the first professionals to recognize your depression, it would behoove you to explore your options with other mental health professionals who specialize in depression. It may be that you end up working with a therapist and not need medication at all.
Tests, Diagnosis and Diagnosis Criteria for Depression
When doctors suspect someone has depression, it’s typical that a set of medical and psychological tests and exams are run. These are done to help rule out other problems that could be causing your symptoms, pinpoint a diagnosis and also check for any related complications. A physical exam, lab tests, and a psychological evaluation are generally included.
There are several other conditions whose symptoms may include depression. In order to get the appropriate treatment, it’s essential to get an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor or mental health providers’ evaluation will help determine if you have major depression or one of the other conditions, but feel free to check into it in more detail on your own.
There is various diagnostic criteria for depression, therefore, make sure you understand what type of depression you have so that you can learn more about your specific situation and its treatment.
Available Treatment Options
There are many treatments for depression that are available. Standard depression treatment includes: medications, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Also, brain stimulation, complementary and alternative treatments are among the emerging and less-studied treatments for depression.
There may be some cases in which your primary care doctor can treat your depression. However, in other cases, treatment with a qualified mental health provider, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker may be of great benefit to you.
It would be good if you were an active participant in your depression treatment. Working with your doctor or therapist, you can decide which treatment options may be best suited for your situation, depending on your symptoms and their severity, your personal preferences, insurance coverage, affordability, treatment side effects and other factors. However, it may be that depression is so severe that someone, such as a doctor, loved one or guardian may need to guide your care until you’re well enough to participate in decision making.
What About Anxiety?
So, that is all regarded to depression, but what about the treatment with respect to anxiety? Well, it’s important to note first that we’ll be looking at both anxiety attacks and anxiety disorders.
There Is Treatment for Anxiety Attacks and Anxiety Disorders
Are you starting to avoid certain situations or places because you’re afraid of having a panic attack? If so, it’s important to seek help, and I will show you some ways you can do so. There is good news though. And that is that anxiety attacks are highly treatable. In fact, many people are panic free within just 5–8 treatment sessions.
I encourage you to look into more about anxiety disorders and the six major types, each with their own distinct symptom profile. Those six types are: generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
Because of the amount of information on the various types, I will not be going into them, but recommend that you do so in your spare time. It will help you become more informed and aware.
There Are Ways to Help Yourself with Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders
It’s important to know that not everyone who worries a lot has an anxiety disorder. It’s possible that you’re just anxious because of a very demanding schedule, lack of exercise or sleep, pressure at work or home, or even from too much coffee or one of those ever so popular yet extremely unhealthy energy drinks (stimulants) out there today (“heart attack in a can”).
The bottom line is that if your lifestyle is unhealthy and stressful, you’re likely to feel anxious—whether or not you have an anxiety disorder. So if you feel like you worry too much, be sure to take some time to evaluate how well you’re caring for yourself. Here are some questions to help in your evaluation: Do you make time each day for relaxation and fun? Are you getting the emotional support you need? Are you taking care of your body? Are you overloaded with responsibilities? Do you ask for help when you need it? It’s okay to ask for help; it’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign of growth. It is very important to take proper care of our bodies in all areas. For, we read in I Corinthians 6:19-20 “that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you…therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
Are your stress levels through the roof? Then think about how you can bring your life back into balance. If you’re feeling a bit isolated or unsupported, you should find someone you trust to confide in. Just talking about your worries can make them seem less frightening.
You can also reduce your anxiety levels by challenging the irrational beliefs, pessimistic attitudes, and rigid mental habits that trigger and sustain worry. One great book that can help with that is, What To Say When You Talk To Yourself, by Shad Helmstetter, Ph.D. We all talk to ourselves, but what do we really say when we do? The more positive thoughts we can fill our mind with the better off we will be. We will be that much more inclined and capable to weed out those bad thoughts—it all starts with proper thinking. Helmstetter says in his book, “Whatever ‘thoughts’ you have programmed into yourself, or have allowed others to program into you, are affecting, directing, or controlling everything about you.” With depression and anxiety, how many of those “thoughts” are overly positive? Most likely it’s more negative, so let’s start changing that by washing out those bad negative thoughts with some good positive thoughts. It won’t be easy, but just think how rewarding it will be!
Seeking Professional Help For Anxiety
If you’ve experienced any of the worries and fear mentioned above and they are beginning to disrupt your daily life, it’s quite necessary to seek professional help.
Are you experiencing a lot of physical anxiety symptoms? If so, you should start by getting a medical checkup. This way your doctor can make sure that your anxiety is not caused by a medical condition, such as thyroid problem, hypoglycemia, or asthma. Since it is the case that certain drugs and supplements can cause anxiety, you should also tell your doctor of any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and recreational drugs you’re taking.
Let’s say that your physician rules out a medical cause. So, the next step is to consult with a therapist who has experience treating anxiety disorders. Why? Because the therapist will work with you to determine the cause and type of your anxiety disorder and devise a course of treatment.
Various Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders
You may be comforted to know that anxiety disorders do respond well to treatment—and often in a relatively short amount of time. In general, most anxiety disorders are treated with behavioral therapy, medication, or some combination of the two. I encourage you to look into this in more detail some time on your own.
One thing to be aware of when it comes to medication is that, how often a medication is needed can depend on the type of anxiety disorder. Anxiety medications can be habit forming and cause unwanted side effects, so be sure to research your options. It’s very important to weigh the benefits and risks so you can make an informed decision about whether medication is the right treatment approach for you.
There are several new anxiety treatments which are showing promise as compliments to both therapy and medication. In mild anxiety disorder cases, these treatments may provide adequate relief on their own. Exercise—A natural stress buster and anxiety reliever. Research shows that as little as 30 minutes of exercise three to five times a week can provide significant anxiety relief. Relaxation techniques—When practiced regularly, these techniques can reduce anxiety and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional happiness. There is also biofeedback and hypnosis.
Remember, it will help to get the treatment by the doctor but the more motivated one is to help oneself, all the more successful one will be.
Exercise Can Ease Symptoms With Depression and Anxiety
As much as we all know how good exercise is for us, it is equal or better for someone suffering with depression and anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even a little exercise helps. Even just using the stairs a couple times a day can be beneficial.
“It’s not a magic bullet, but increasing physical activity is a positive and active strategy to help manage depression and anxiety,” says Kristen Vickers-Douglas, Ph.D., a psychologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.
How Does Exercise Help Depression and Anxiety?
A growing volume of research shows that exercise can also help improve symptoms of certain mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. It’s also said that exercise may also help prevent a relapse after treatment for depression or anxiety.
Although it’s suggested by research that it may take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least three to five days a week to greatly improve depression symptoms, it’s likely that smaller amounts of activity—as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time—can improve mood in the short term. “Small bouts of exercise may be a great way to get started if it’s initially too hard to do more,” Dr. Vickers-Douglas says.
It is not known just how exercise reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, some evidence suggests that exercise raises the level of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain. The boosting of feel-good endorphins, releasing of muscle tension can be an effect of exercise, as well as helping you sleep better, and reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also increases body temp which may have calming effects. All of these changes in your mind and body can improve such symptoms as sadness, anxiety, irritability, stress, fatigue, anger, self-doubt and hopelessness.
This is not to say that exercise is meant to replace medical treatment of depression or anxiety. So, if you do exercise regularly but depression or anxiety symptoms still interfere with how you live, you should seek professional help.
Benefits of Exercise for Depression and Anxiety
There are some great benefits of exercise for depression and anxiety. One benefit is confidence. Being physically active gives you a sense of accomplishment. Another benefit is distraction. When you have depression or anxiety, it’s quite easy to dwell on how badly you feel. Exercise can shift the focus away from unpleasant thoughts to something more pleasant, such as your surroundings or the music you enjoy listening to while you exercise. Interactions is also a benefit. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others, even if it’s just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood. After all, smiles can be very contagious. One other benefit is healthy coping—Doing something positive to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy coping strategy.
Of course, as we all know, knowing that something is good for you doesn’t make it easier to actually do it. Just as with many things in life, it may be easy to do but easier not to do. That’s why, if you can even get started, then you’re that much further ahead. Way to go!
So, How do I get started on this exercise? you may ask. Well, according to the staff at the Mayo Clinic, here are some steps that can help you exercise when you have depression or anxiety. Remember, as always, be sure to check with your health care provider before starting a new exercise program to make sure it’s safe for you.
1) Get your mental health providers’ support. 2) Identify what you enjoy doing. What are you most likely to do? When and how would you most likely do it? Do what you enjoy to help you stick with it. 3) Set reasonable goals. Think about what you may be able to do in reality. 20 minutes? 10 minutes? Start there and build up. 4) Don’t think exercise is a burden. If exercise is just another “should” in your life that you don’t think you’re living up to, you’ll associate with failure. 5) Address your barriers. What’s stopping you from exercising? If you think about what’s stopping you from exercising, you can probably find an alternative solution. 6) Prepare for setbacks and obstacles. Exercise isn’t always simple and joyful. It’s also tempting to blame yourself for that. People with depression are especially likely to feel shame over perceived failures. Don’t fall into that trap. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. If you skip exercise one day, that does not mean you’re a failure and may as well quit completely. Just try again the next day. It’s all part of success. And if you do stick with it, just think how much better you’ll feel, and how worth it it will have been.
Sticking with Exercise When You Have Depression or Anxiety
Anyone who has ever started an exercise program knows that it can be difficult. However, sticking with it can be even harder; partly because how much work it actually is. One key is problem solving your way through when it seems like you can’t or don’t want to exercise. It’s quite a refreshing feeling once you start seeing and feeling the results you were after. It’s certainly true for myself!
“What would happen if you went out to your car and it wouldn’t start?” Dr. Vickers-Douglas asks. She goes on to say how you’d likely start [quickly] listing ways how to handle it or work around it, such as calling a friend or a tow-truck or some other form of transportation. “You instantly start problem solving.”
However, most people don’t approach exercise that way. Dr. Vickers-Douglas says, “With exercise, we often hit a barrier and say, ‘That’s it. I can’t do it, forget it.” Too many people take that approach with exercise as well as many things in life. They fall victim to the Excusitis (ex-cus’-i-tis) disease (continually making excuses). Granted, it’s not an actual medical disease, but many fall victim to it. Good news is that there is a cure, and that cure is finding a way to work around it by finding a way to do that which you don’t want to do or “can’t” do. You need to problem solve your way through the exercise barrier, just as you would other obstacles in your life. By the grace of God you can. Working through one obstacle can in turn start a ripple effect to the breaking down of other obstacle walls. It all starts with one small step. Remember, little things do matter.
“Some people think they need to wait until they somehow generate enough will power to exercise,” Dr. Vickers-Douglas says. “But waiting for will power or motivation to exercise is a passive approach, and when someone has depression and is unmotivated, waiting passively for change is unlikely to help at all.” She goes on to add how the focusing on a lack of motivation and will power can make you feel like a failure. Instead, you should recognize your strengths and skills and use them to help you take your first steps toward exercise.
It is my prayer, now that you have a little better understanding of what you can do if you suffer with depression and/or anxiety, that you can take the appropriate steps and measures to getting better. Also, you may better be able to help those around you who may not even know where to start.
It won’t be easy but it will be greatly beneficial to you and all those that you care about and who care about you. By God’s wonderful grace, may you find the right medication or professional help or other source of help you need.
Not sure what to do or if you can even do it at all? First of all, do your research—be an honest skeptic. Secondly, for what it’s worth, I know you can do it. But don’t just take my word for it, take these words from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Or the words found in Psalm 37:5, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”
In the final part of this article series, I will get into what others can do for someone who has depression or anxiety. There are certain things which should be said and which should not be said. I will also point out other helpful information that I have found from my research as well as from those I talked to (whose names will be withheld for privacy matters, respectfully).
I’d like to leave you with a poem that is taken from I Corinthians 10:13 and is written by Helen Steiner Rice.
No problem is too intricate
And no sorrow that we face
Is too deep and devastating
To be softened by His grace,
No trials and tribulations
Are beyond what we can bear
If we share them with our Father
As we talk to Him in prayer.
“God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able” (I Cor. 10:13).
There are so many different topics that we read about in books and magazines and other fine literature. Some of what we read about can even give us a pretty clear picture and understanding of what is being written about. For example, fictional story books can give us a good picture of what is happening just by us using our imagination. We can also do that with many how-to books and magazines. We can read this various literature and feel that we are now “experts” or even pretty good at it and know a lot about it, and we can be quite right. However, one topic, I believe, that we can read a lot about and not fully understand is depression. You may have read numerous books and other literature about depression, but how much do you really understand and know about it? I have talked with a handful of people who have gone through depression (and are still going through it), and what they have all told me is, that, you can not fully understand depression until you have gone through it yourself. I am certainly not wishing that anyone have that kind of knowledge and experience with it, but I do want people to better understand it and know what they can do to help someone who is going through it—that is my whole purpose of this article. It is to inform and educate people who are not really aware of what depression is and how much it can affect a person and their family.
By God’s grace, I pray that this may open some eyes of the uninformed and those who think they know “all about it” because they have a cousin, nephew, etc. going through it, even though they do not see that person very often. Even though you may have a close relative that you live with that suffers with depression, you can still have much difficulty in grasping the whole idea of it. While reading this article, take into consideration that I wrote this with first-hand experience. Not to say that I personally have suffered from major depression—although I have gone through some depression in my lifetime—but I speak of my sister Julie, who I currently live with. She has suffered from major depression for much of her life, howbeit, she is (to my knowledge) better than she was. In a way, I thank God for the experience of witnessing a person close to me go through such a difficult illness. It has really opened my eyes, hence the writing of this article. It helped remind me of the words the Apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your cares upon him; for he careth for you” (I Peter 5:6, 7). I have certainly been humbled.
I will try and lay out what depression is, some signs and symptoms associated with depression, the many faces of depression and some of the risk factors. The next parts of the article will deal more with the help and recovery aspect of depression. Remember, this article is but a drop of the ocean of knowledge and information that is available on depression. It is more common than we might want to admit, so I pray that all who read this may be better aware of what to look for and have more empathy for the depressed individual. So, whether you are suffering from depression yourself or have a loved one who is suffering from it, I pray that these words may be of help and comfort to you and those around you.
Of all the health conditions in the world, one of the most common is depression. Estimates vary considerably, but today depression appears to occur in 15 to 20 percent of all people over the course of a lifetime. Furthermore, in any given 12-month period, somewhat under 10 percent of the population experiences an episode of significant depression. And at this very moment, an estimated 121 million people are suffering from depression throughout the world. (Estimates taken from Depression for Dummies, 2003)
Estimates on depression are only rough approximations. Because most people with depression fail to seek treatment and many people with depression don’t even realize they’re depressed, reliable statistics are few and far between. Whatever the real figures are, huge numbers of people suffer from depression at some point in their lives. And depression has all kinds of costs associated with it. Joshua Wolf Shenk, in his book Lincoln’s Melancholy wrote, “Affecting more than 100 million people a year, depression is the world’s leading cause of disability. In 2000, about a million people worldwide killed themselves—about equal to the number of deaths from war and homicide that year put together. Adjusting for population growth, unipolar depression (another name for major depressive disorder) is ten times more prevalent that it was fifty years ago.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, depression is not a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply “snap out of.” It’s a medical illness that involves the mind and body. It affects how you think and behave and can cause a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may not even be able to go about your usual daily activities, and depression may make you feel as if life just isn’t worth living anymore—that is where our family and friends and the rest of our support group comes in. But, more on that a bit later.
We all know that it is not possible to escape life’s ups and downs. It is normal to feel unhappy or sad in response to disappointment, loss, frustration or a medical condition. Many people use the word “depression” to explain those kinds of feelings, but that is really situational depression, which is a normal reaction to events around us. Clinical depression , though, overwhelms and engulfs your day to day life, interfering with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and have fun. It is unrelenting, with little if any relief.
There’s a vast difference between “feeling depressed” and suffering from clinical depression. Some people describe it as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom. They can’t escape their unhappiness and despair. However, some people with depression don’t feel sad at all. Instead, they feel lifeless and empty. In this apathetic state, they are unable to experience pleasure. Even when participating in activities they used to enjoy, they feel as if they’re just going through the motions. The signs and symptoms vary from person to person, and they may wax and wane in severity over time.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Depression symptoms can vary greatly because different people experience depression in different ways. For example, a 30-year-old man with depression may not have the same symptoms as a 75-year-old man. For some people, depression symptoms are so severe that it’s obvious something isn’t right. Others may feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing it.
Depression is a loaded word in our culture. Many associate it, however wrongly, with a sign of weakness and excessive emotion. This is especially true with men. Depressed men are less likely than women to acknowledge feelings of self-loathing and hopelessness. Depression is expressed in men, frequently, by it coming out in more “socially acceptable” forms. Anger, aggression, reckless behavior and violence, along with substance abuse, can be signs of an underlying depression. You might hear complaints about fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, and loss of interest or sudden excessive interest in work or hobbies. Even though depression rates for women are twice as high as those in men, men are higher suicide risk, especially older men.
Here are some signs and symptoms to look for in someone that you suspect might be suffering from depression: Loss of interest in normal activities; feeling sad or down; feeling hopeless; crying spells for no apparent reason; problems sleeping; trouble focusing or concentrating; difficulty making decisions; being easily annoyed; feeling fatigued or weak; unintentional weight gain or loss; irritability; restlessness; feeling worthless; thoughts of suicide or suicidal behavior; unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or head aches. If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, contact your family physician or someone you think would be able to help.
What Causes Depression?
It is not known specifically what causes depression. As with many mental illnesses, it’s thought that a variety of biochemical, genetic and environmental factors may cause depression. As Dr. Brian Decker wrote in “Dealing With Depression: A Christian Perspective,” a pamphlet published by the Faith Protestant Reformed Church Evangelism Committee, “It would be convenient if we could simply say that depression is a chemical imbalance, but it is not that easy.”
“In fact,” writes Joshua Wolf Shenk, “major depression, in people who are vulnerable to it, can be set off by all manner of circumstances. What would appear to a nondepressed person to be an ordinary or insignificant stimulus can through a depressive’s eyes look rather profound.”
He goes on to say that of those who’ve had a single episode of major depression, more than half will have a second. “Major depressive disorder, recurrent,” he adds, “is a illness that is characterized by two or more major depressive episodes, separated by at least a month. More broadly, it suggests an underlying problem that can be expected to surface in various ways throughout a person’s life.” He says to consider that someone with two episodes of major depression has a seventy percent chance of experiencing a third. And someone with three episodes has a ninety percent chance of having a fourth. (The phrase “clinical depression” can be applied to any incident of major depression or to people who experience major depressive disorder.)
Different Faces of Depression
In some people who suffer from depression, it can persist at a low level for months and even years. In others, the symptoms can be stronger and severe enough that it makes suicide a real concern. There are a number of faces of depression. Let’s take a moment and look at those different faces of depression.
Clinical (major) depression is characterized by the inability for life to be delectable. The associated feelings of this depression normally persist for at least two weeks in order to be considered a major depressive episode. In dysthymia (recurrent, mild depression) , the depressive symptoms are not as strong as in a major depressive episode, but are lengthy, lasting at least two years. With this face of depression, more times than not, you may feel mildly or moderately depressed, although you may have some temporary mood lifts. Then there is postpartum depression, which is experienced by new mothers just after they have given birth. What many call, “the baby blues,” are normal; postpartum depression, however, is longer lasting and more serious. One thing that can be especially dreadful to mothers suffering from postpartum depression are feelings of wanting to avoid the baby or even cause it harm. Postpartum depression does not always happen right after delivery. It can happen up to a year after childbirth. There is one type of depression that is more common in climates with more severe winter weather patterns and limited sunlight, like the northern climates (Michigan would certainly count). And that type is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). There is also manic depression, which is also known as bipolar disorder—of which I will not go into more because it is a whole other topic in and of itself. However, it is characterized by cycling mood extremes, and, when depressed, a person with bipolar disorder exhibits the usual symptoms of major depression. Howbeit, the treatment for bipolar disorder, especially using medications, is normally different.
Depression Is Complicated
Some medical illnesses have a specific biological or chemical cause, making treatment, like a medication or surgery, more straight forward. Unfortunately, depression is more complicated. It is not just a result of a chemical imbalance and is not simply cured with medications. That is not to say that medications don’t work or are not a good idea. What makes depression so difficult to treat is that what seems like depression may actually be something else. If you are stuck in a work position where you feel as if you’re not going anywhere and feel hopeless and helpless, for example, the best treatment might be to find another job which challenges you more. In a case like this, the depression is situational and is remedied by changing the situation.
Being aware of what depression is, knowing the warning signs, and learning how to handle it is so crucial because it will often lead to a solution and cure. Do not despair, for, let us remember the words of David that he wrote in Psalm 34:18-19 & 22. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. …The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.”
Although precise statistics are not known, depression is considered relatively common. In any given year, about 12 million adults in the United States have depression. Depression goes through all racial, ethnic and economic divides—no one is immune from the risk of getting depression. Depression typically begins in the late 20s, but it can surface at any age, affecting everyone from young children to older adults. Twice as many women are diagnosed with depression as men, but this may be due in part because women are more likely to seek treatment for depression.
Risk Factors of Depression
Although the precise cause of depression isn’t known, researchers have identified certain factors that seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering depression. Let us now take a moment to look at some of the risk factors associated with depression: having other biological relatives with depression; having family members who have taken their own life; stressful life events, such as death of a loved one; having a depressed mood as a youngster or early childhood trauma or abuse; illness, such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s or HIV/AIDS; alcohol, nicotine or drug abuse; having recently given birth; loneliness and lack of social support. A key risk factor for depression is isolation and loneliness.
Suicide is a Real Danger
Although, as Christians, we tend to view suicide as sin, it is important to note that depression is a major risk factor for suicide. The deep despair and hopelessness that goes along with depression can make suicide feel like the only way to make the pain go away. Suicidal individuals often give warning signs or signals of their intentions. Suicide is a very real danger in depression, so it’s important to know the warning signs: talking about suicide, dying, or harming oneself; preoccupation with death; expressing feelings of hopelessness or self-loathing; acting in dangerous or self-destructive ways; getting affairs in order and saying goodbye (giving away precious, sometimes valuable, items); seeking out pills, weapons, or other lethal objects; sudden sense of calm after a depression. If you think a friend or family member might be considering suicide, one of the best things you can do is to talk to him or her about your concerns—it could very well save their life!
We may not always be aware of the signs or signals related to suicide. That was evident with my sister Julie. She was suffering from major depression and had even considered suicide as an alternative. One reason was because of the voices she was hearing in her head. I was not even aware of it until after she informed me of it. Not to say that there were no warning signs or signals, but I was just not aware of them nor did I know what to look for. My point? EDUCATE YOURSELF! The best way to prevent suicide is to know and watch for those warning signs and get involved if you spot them. One thing that helped prevent Julie from going through with it was that she saw an image of her nephews. Alas, some people may not be so fortunate this way, so we need to do what we can to help prevent them from going through with it. If you are fighting depression and thought about suicide as an alternative, think about these words; “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).
Importance of Awareness
Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of severe depression and must be taken seriously. In the next parts of this article I will be getting into more about what is needed to be done if you or a loved one is suffering from depression and even considering suicide as an alternative. I will also be exploring the different treatment options and tips, various suggestions when dealing with someone who is going through depression, and also some information I received from various people I talked with who have either gone through depression or are medical professionals who directly help others get through it.
It is my prayer that this information has helped shed some light on the issue of depression and the vast need for it to be mentioned. It is also certainly not an issue that should be esoteric, but rather should be divulged to many (if not all); for there’s a large number who are not even aware of the severity or commonness of it.
Now that you are more aware of what depression is and how much of a toll it can take on a person’s life, are you not a bit more inclined to do something to try and help? Do you even feel a bit lugubrious yourself? Do not despair. Let us find comfort in these words we find in the book of Isaiah. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee” (Isaiah 41:10, 13).
Important Link Between Depression and Anxiety
Many people suffering from depression often experience anxiety as well. In fact, as many as 90 percent of people who’ve been diagnosed with depression also have symptoms of anxiety. Depression and anxiety disorders are not the same though, although at first glance they seem very similar. What’s the difference? Depression, as mentioned earlier, generates emotions such as hopelessness, despair and anger. Energy levels are usually very low, and depressed people often feel overwhelmed by the day-to-day tasks and personal relationships so essential to life. A person with anxiety disorder, however, experiences fear, panic or anxiety in situations where most people would not feel anxious or threatened. The sufferer may experience sudden panic or anxiety attacks without any recognized trigger, and often lives with a constant nagging worry or anxiousness. Without treatment, such disorders can restrict a person’s ability to work, maintain relationships, or even cause one to leave the house. Be sure to tell your doctor about all of your symptoms so you will get the right diagnosis.
Although no one knows exactly why, a great number of depressions are also accompanied by anxiety. In one study, 85 percent of those with major depression were also diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) while 35 percent had symptoms of a panic disorder. Because they so often go hand in hand, anxiety and depression are considered the fraternal twins of mood disorders.
Believed to be caused in part by a malfunction of brain chemistry, generalized anxiety is not the normal apprehension that one feels before taking a test or awaiting the outcome of a biopsy. A person with an anxiety disorder suffers from what President Franklin Roosevelt called “fear itself.” For a reason that is only partially known, the brain’s fight-or-flight mechanism becomes activated, even when no real threat exists. Being chronically anxious is like being stalked by an imaginary tiger. The feeling of danger never goes away.
Being both anxious and depressed is a tremendous challenge. Clinicians have observed that when anxiety occurs “comorbidly” with depression, the symptoms of both depression and anxiety are more severe compared to when those disorders occur independently. Moreover, the symptoms of the depression exacerbated by anxiety has a much higher suicide rate than depression alone. (In one study, 92 percent of depressed patients who had attempted suicide were also plagued by severe anxiety.) Like alcohol and barbiturates, depression and anxiety are a deadly combination when taken together. Unfortunately, over 60 percent of major depressions are accompanied by varying levels of anxious feelings and behavior. But, let us remember: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:1, 11).
What Are Anxiety Disorders?
So, I now have a better understanding of what depression is and that there is a distinct link between depression and anxiety, but what about how to better understand what anxiety disorders are? Well, we all surely know what anxiety feels like. Our heart pounds before a big presentation or a tough exam or even a job interview. We get butterflies in our stomach during a blind date—especially when we’re about to hold hands or even get that first kiss. Especially these days, we worry and fret about where the money will come from for the next bill(s), or, if we’re fortunate enough to even have a job in this rough economy, we feel jittery at the prospect of asking the boss for a raise. However, if worries and fears are preventing you from living your life the way you’d like to, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. The good news is, there are many anxiety treatments and self-help strategies that can help reduce your anxiety symptoms and take control of your life. I will be exploring those treatments in the next part of this article, along with the treatment options for depression.
It’s normal to worry and feel tense or scared when under pressure or facing a stressful situation. Anxiety is the body’s natural response to danger, an automatic alarm that goes off when we feel threatened.
Although it may be unpleasant, anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, anxiety can help us stay alert and focused, spur us into action, and motivate us to solve problems. But when anxiety is consistent or overwhelming, when it interferes with your relationships and activities (like not being able to be around people, such as going to church), that’s when you’ve crossed the line from normal anxiety (which is preached about in our churches) into the territory of anxiety disorders.
Identifying An Anxiety Disorder
So how do I know if I have an anxiety disorder? If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder: Are you constantly tense, worried, or on edge? Does your anxiety interfere with your work, school, or family responsibilities? Are you plagued by fears that you know are irrational, but can’t shake? Do you believe that something bad will happen if certain things aren’t done a certain way? Do you avoid everyday situations or activities because they make you anxious? Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic? Do you feel like danger and catastrophe are around every corner?
Because the anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions rather than a single disorder, they can, just like depression, look very different from person to person. One individual may suffer from intense anxiety attacks that strike without warning, while another gets panicky at the thought of mingling at a party. Someone else may struggle with a disabling fear of driving or uncontrollable, intrusive thought. Still, another may live in a constant state of tension, worrying about anything and everything.
But despite their different forms, all anxiety disorders share one major symptom: persistent or severe worry in situations where most people wouldn’t feel threatened.
In addition to the primary symptoms of irrational and excessive fear and worry, other common emotional symptoms of anxiety include: feelings of apprehension or dread; trouble concentrating; feeling tense and jumpy; anticipating the worst; irritability; restlessness; watching for signs of danger; feeling like your mind’s gone blank.
Anxiety is more than just a feeling. As a product of the body’s fight-or-flight response, anxiety involves a wide range of physical symptoms. Because of the numerous physical symptoms, anxiety sufferers often mistake their disorder for a medical illness. They may even visit many doctors and make countless trips to the hospital before their anxiety disorder is discovered.
Common physical symptoms of anxiety include: pounding heart; sweating; stomach upset or dizziness; frequent urination or diarrhea; shortness of breath; tremors and twitches; muscle tension; headaches; fatigue; insomnia.
Anxiety attacks, known as panic attacks in mental health circles, are episodes of intense panic or fear. They usually occur suddenly and without warning. Sometimes there’s an obvious trigger—getting stuck in the elevator, for example, or thinking about the big live performance you’re giving in a few hours—but in other cases, the attacks come out of the blue.
Anxiety attacks usually peak within ten minutes, and they rarely last more than a half hour. But, don’t get me wrong, during that short time, the terror can be so severe that you feel as if you’re about to die or totally lose control. My sister [Julie] certainly felt that way when she had her severe anxiety attacks. So frightening themselves are the physical symptoms that many people believe they’re having a heart attack. After the attack is over, you may be worried about having another one, particularly in a public place where help isn’t available or you can’t easily escape. These attacks even made it difficult for my sister to go to church. It’s certainly hard to watch someone go through it, just imagine how much more difficult it is to personally go through it!
Anxiety Attack Symptoms
You may be wondering what some of the symptoms of an anxiety attack include. They include: surge of overwhelming panic; feeling of losing control or going crazy; heart palpitations or chest pain; feeling like you’re going to pass out; trouble breathing or choking sensation; hyperventilation; hot flashes or chills; trembling or shaking; nausea or stomach cramps; feeling detached or unreal. I know that these symptoms are real because I saw my sister go through some of them. Thankfully she is much better today since she got the help she needed.
Take comfort in these words we find in Deuteronomy 31:8: “And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”
There is Hope
Whether you suffer from depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), or both, it is imperative to seek the care of a healthcare professional. Depression and GAD are serious illnesses that require medical intervention. If you suffer from either of these disorders, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, each year approximately 19 million Americans suffer from depression, and about 4 million suffer from GAD. Men and women of all ages are affected. The good news is that depression and GAD are both treatable. That treatment will be discussed in the next part of this article.
You have now seen some of the symptoms and statistics of depression and the linked anxiety. I now ask you to go and educate yourself some more on this whole matter that is so widespread. The more you know the better it will be for you and the one you are trying to help fight through it. Granted, no one will ever completely understand the vastness of depression and anxiety, but we are called to do what we can so that we can better help those who are suffering from it. Pray to God that he will give you the knowledge you need to better understand and help the sufferer, and that God will give you the strength you need to fight through it. Cast your cares upon him, for he careth for his own.
“Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” Exodus 15:1-2
These were the words of Moses which he spoke after the Lord delivered him and the children of Israel from Pharaoh and his chariots by drowning Pharaoh and the Egyptians in the Red Sea.
This is certainly a well known story about God delivering his people, and the way in which he did it is surely one of the most powerful messages in all of scripture. What is interesting to note about this is how Moses and the children of Israel responded—they sang unto the Lord! Is that how you and I would have responded?
Let us take a moment to look at that question and a few others that come to mind when we talk about singing. I am not sure how much it is really thought about when it comes to singing. We may, unfortunately, sing and talk about singing out of custom and tradition without actually putting much thought into it. There are many questions that may come to mind when we think about singing. Why do we sing? What do we sing about? Do we sing only in church? These are only a few questions that may come up. I will refer to and answer these questions and a few more throughout this article.
First, we will look at why we sing. We can start out by referring back to Moses and the people of Israel and why they sang. Did they sing just because it was something to do? Did they sing because they were “rubbing it in” the faces of the Egyptians? The answer to both these questions is an obvious, No. The reason is because they were praising God for delivering them out of the hand of Pharaoh and his men. The people were joyful to God for all that he had done and does do for his people as their shepherd. And we are reminded of that in Revelation 15:3; “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”
We today, as did Moses and the other saints of the Bible, have a plethora of reasons and examples to praise our great God. And one of the ways we praise him is by singing. One of those reasons is what we find already in Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism. We all know the well-known Q&A.
- What is my only comfort in life and death? A. That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
I initially had only part of the answer, but then thought against it since the reason we should rejoice is found in the entire answer. How beautiful that answer is that we, by God’s grace, can give from our heart and soul.
For, as we find in Psalm 139:14, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
The psalmist David spoke in the book of Psalms of why he glorifies God with singing. In Psalm 13:6 he mentions how he will sing unto the Lord “because he hath dealt bountifully with me.” He writes in Psalm 71:23 of how the Lord has redeemed his soul. Throughout scripture it speaks of the wondrous works of God. I Chronicles 16 is entitled a Psalm of Thanksgiving. In that chapter we find the words “wondrous works” and “marvellous works” mentioned at least in three different verses (9, 12, 24). The word “sing” is found approximately 70 times in the Psalms alone. A few of those passages, aside from the ones already mentioned, are: Psalm 30:4; 47:1-2, 6-7; 104:33; 149:1. In Psalm 89:1, the psalmist writes that he “will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.” Also, let us remember the words which we find in the first part of Psalm 92. There we read; “It is good to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praise unto thy name, O most High: To show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.”We even find the importance for singing here in the Beacon Lights under “Watching Daily At My Gates,” where at the end of each devotional it says to sing Psalter___.
Why do I mention all of this? Because, even after we think about all those things which God does and hath done and will do, we still—as a result of our sinful nature—have a tendency to not sing the way in which we aught. As I mentioned earlier, we may very likely do it merely out of habit. If you were to look up the definition for the word “sing” in the dictionary, Webster’s definition would read; “utter words or sounds musically.” In a [worldly] sense that is true. However, as believers we must sing from the heart, for we are singing to our God. I am not saying that you must have your mouth open wide enough that you can have three fingers horizontally stacked together and be able to put them between your teeth (as you were probably shown and taught in grade school or junior high). It does mean, however, that you should sing with joy in your heart where it can be seen on your face. Just remember the next time you do sing, that whether or not others see your heart expressed on your face, God can always see your heart. We should, as we find in Psalm 9 and Psalter #17, sing with these words in mind; “O Lord Most High, with all my heart Thy wondrous works I will proclaim; I will be glad and give Thee thanks And sing the praises of Thy Name” [emphasis mine].
As I mentioned in my previous article about how our church attire can reflect our inner attitude, so it is true with singing; the attire we wear on our heart can reflect through our singing. Remember, it doesn’t matter how good you sound or whether you can read music. What matters is whether or not you sing joyfully and thankfully to God.
When we are contemplating whether or not we feel like singing, we should think about these words; “Sing praises to the Lord Most High, To Him Who doth in Zion dwell” (Psalter #17, stanza 5).
Or these words we find in Psalter #50, which is based on Psalm 22: “Come, ye that fear Jehovah, Ye saints, your voices raise; Come, stand in awe before Him, and sing His glorious praise.” Let us not forget that we must “sing to the Lord with a cheerful voice” (Psalter#268, stanza 1). Why? “Because the Lord our God is good” (Psalter #268, stanza 4).
In Lord’s Day 2, Q & A 4 we read, “What doth the law of God require of us?” We hear that answer every Sabbath morning. We hear the pastor begin to sum up the law with these words; “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” So, “serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing” (Psalm 100). We also find it to be our Christian duty, as set forth in Ephesians 5, where it speaks of “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (verse 19).
Now that it has been laid out as to why it is so important that we must sing, we should now take a glimpse into how we are to go about doing this. One great way we do this is when we gather on the Lord’s Day—to sing with joy and gladness. Sing with a smile on your face so that all can see the joy and happiness you have in your heart as you express it outwardly and vocally. Another way is to get a small or larger group of people together and sing and fellowship with each other. This is a great way to meet other fellow believers of the same or even a different denomination. There are groups that do this very thing. Keep your eyes and ears open and ask around, for someone either knows of or is a part of one of these wonderful groups already.
Do you really enjoy singing? Have you ever considered joining your church choir or one that is near by? Many of our churches have a choir each year. I personally feel that the number of members of the choir–in at least a few of our churches–is considerably smaller than the number of overall members in the church. That is really too bad since there are many members of the church who do have a good singing voice, have been in choir before and are not any longer for some reason, or do not feel they would be comfortable being in choir, or have other “reasons” for not being a choir member. Are you hesitant to join because you feel that you do not have the voice it takes or are not a good reader of music? Let me just help you by saying what I said earlier that God does not care what you sound like. God cares if you sing from your heart. Never forget that! The decision whether or not to join choir is of course completely up to you. If you decide to join, you will be welcomed with open arms.
I feel that too may people don’t sing emphatically because they are afraid of what they sound like or even what others will think of them. You may think that it is “not cool” to sing, and act as if you do not care. Always remember that God is always watching and deserves our heart-felt praise to him. “And the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: And they sang praises with gladness, and bowed their heads and worshipped” (II Chro. 29:28a, 30b). The next time you do get together with the group to sing, consider these Psalter numbers: #70, taken from Psalm 30; #261 and #424, taken from Psalm 98.
Are you a child of God? Did God send his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross and shed his blood to wash away your sins? Sing ye, Hallelujah! Is the Lord preparing you a place in the clouds of glory where you will someday be with him, where there will be no more pain or sorrow? Sing ye, Hallelujah! God has created all things and is our sovereign ruler. He is in control of everything, for, not even a hair can fall from our head without the hand of God being in control. Do you have faith in and believe that? Sing ye, Hallelujah!
We have an awesome God who is the one true eternal God and King. There are definitely numerous reasons to praise and exalt our great creator. I pray that the next time you and I sing, we will do so from the depths of our souls. Sing ye, Hallelujah! I want to end with these words we find in Psalter #315, which is based on Psalm 177:
Praise Jehovah, all ye nations
All ye people, praise proclaim;
For His grace and loving-kindness
O sing praises to His Name.
For the greatness of His mercy
Constant praise to Him accord;
Evermore His truth endureth,
Hallelujah, praise the Lord.
Tyler was usually trying to imitate and even emulate his older brother James. It was not surprising that things were this way since they were only a couple years apart and did many things together.
One day, when he knew that they were both getting ready for church, Father went in to check on Tyler’s progress. As he walked in the room he looked at Tyler and asked, “What are you doing?”
“What, I’m getting ready for church like you said to,” Tyler replied in a puzzled yet explanatory tone. “
“Are you planning on wearing that?” his father asked.
“What’s wrong with it? It’s basically the same as James is wearing. Besides, what is wrong with Abercrombie and Fitch? Don’t I look nice?”
Sam’s father was a little taken back by his response. He called James into Tyler’s room so he could talk to them together. He started, “James, your brother here says that he is wearing this—and pointed to what Tyler was wearing—because of what you are wearing. Why are you wearing those clothes James?”
“What is wrong with what I am wearing?” James asked. James then added, “They’re brand new and it’s what all my friends are wearing to church. Don’t you like it?”
“Yes,” his father responded, “you do look nice, but do you feel it is proper attire to wear to church? I would like you both to change; you don’t have to wear a suit and tie like me, but I would suggest a nice dress shirt and dress pants, at least. Remember, we are going to church, not to school or some other casual place. We are going to God’s house to worship, so we should try to look our best.” He added much emphasis on the word “best.” “Just think about the words you find in Leviticus 19:30 and also in chapter 26:2, ‘Ye shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.’ Their father then added, “We can honor and show reverence to God by looking our best. What you wear on the outside can reflect what you wear on the inside. Now, get ready, we don’t want to be late for church.”
Are not the father’s words so true? How often do you and I really think about what we outwardly clothe ourselves with on Sunday morning? What is our actual mindset? Is it more that we want to look pleasant and attractive for other people, or that we want to look pleasant in the eyes of the Lord?
This is a more serious question than we care to realize. For example, do we not “dress up” differently or more than normal when we go to a wedding, a funeral or even the symphony? Ask yourself why that is. You will most likely come to the conclusion that it is because we most likely have respect for someone or even do it with honor. When we then put on our “church clothes” we should do so with not only respect and honor but also reverence. After all, we are going to the Lord’s house. Did you get that? The Lord’s house! We are reminded of that reverence in Psalm 89:7, where the psalmist writes, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.” Think about the words that we find in Proverbs 3:9, “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thy increase.”
I realize that we often do not think much about outward apparel on Sunday morning. We should, for, “Glory and honor are in his presence; strength and gladness are in his place.” (I Chron. 16:27) We should constantly remind ourselves of what James and Tyler’s father told them; “What we wear on the outside can reflect what we wear on the inside.” How true that is! Too often we forget or do not even know that our outward clothing can very well say a lot about how we are and act on the inside. When we put on a suit or just a tie—no matter the occasion—we automatically feel differently about the event we are dressing up for.
We must have the proper mindset when we go to God’s house on the Sabbath Day. We can do that by the clothes we wear. That will then most likely affect our attitude when we come into the house of the Lord. The more casual attire usually results in the more casual feelings and attitude: and that is not adequate for worship with God in his house of prayer. We should think about the words in Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the house of the Lord.” And also Psalm 5:7, “But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.” I truly feel and believe that we can better think this way by clothing ourselves with proper church attire on the Lord’s Day.
There are certainly things that can hinder our mindset with regard to proper church attire. There can be financial situations, the pressure to look like those in our group, or the thought of just wearing that which is most comfortable. These are but a few and general areas which can affect how we dress. I point this out to you because these areas can be some of the ways in which Satan can and is subtly trying to negatively influence the church. It is very easy to get caught up in the way the world dresses, which can then be brought into the church. Believe me, I was there and continue to struggle with it today. Think about Genesis 3:1, “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” Satan is constantly trying to tempt the church and cause her to go astray. Remember the words we find in James 1:14, 15a, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin:”
We must not think that we are not in the sight of Satan’s scope of temptation. For, we read of how the people of old were tempted by Satan. It started way back in the Garden with Adam and Eve. Here are a few texts that show of the tempting of the people: Job 1:6, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.” Job 2:1, “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.” And Zechariah 3:1, “And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.” We can clearly see that Satan is always lurking around. We also find instances where the devil tempted Christ in the wilderness. We read in Luke 4:2 and 3, “Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.” Of course we know as believers that Christ stood firm and did not do as he was tempted by the devil.
Perhaps the connection between temptation, the devil and church attire is not clear to you; but I assure you there is a connection. Just remember what was said earlier in the article about the outward appearance affecting the inner appearance. Once you see the connection, you will then be more inclined, by the grace of God, to help others. We can all help each other in this by being a positive influence and setting a good example for each other. Many of you have younger siblings that look up to you and act like you when they get older—if not already. I know I was that way with my older brother. And parents are called to be the example and rule in the home. As the older generation, we are called, as stated by the Apostle Peter in I Peter 5:3b, “…being ensamples to the flock.”
For, as the devil can tempt us even in the clothes we wear, we must be sure to keep that in mind and look our best come Sunday morning. We are reminded of our calling to be strong in Ephesians 4:27, “Neither give place to the devil.” And again in chapter 6:11, “Put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” We learn of resistance, when in James 4:7 we read, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
We as elect people are well aware of the devil and his many devious tactics to try and draw us away from God and destroy the church. We are reminded of that in II Corinthians 2:11, where the Apostle Paul writes, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, we must constantly try to be strong and help each other be strong and fight against those temptations that are all around us. What better way to do that than in prayer; like the one we find in Matthew 6:13, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” Let us also remember the words of Peter in I Peter 5:7-11, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
It is my heart-felt prayer that these words may have struck your heart and soul in that you will be ever so conscious of how important proper church attire really is, and the need for it to be mentioned.
So, what are you going to wear to church this coming Lord’s Day?
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