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Depression and Anxiety Part 3: Dealing with Depression and Anxiety as Teens

In our previous article, we talked about stress. Although one’s genetic makeup may make one vulnerable to depression and anxiety, mental and emotional stress are almost always contributing factors. Stress will sooner or later bring on either depression and/or anxiety. And stress is often self-induced. It is true that situations arise in our lives in which we become very stressed. But the stress is not so much generated by the situations that arise as it is by the way we view ourselves and handle these situations. An important key to avoiding depression then is to learn how to keep stress in our lives to a minimum with biblical thinking and behavior.
We need to address three unbiblical viewpoints that most depressed people have; that make life very stressful, and that contribute significantly to their depression.
The first of these is low self-esteem.
Low self-esteem is an extremely low opinion of one’s self. It is a feeling of inferiority and worthlessness. One who has low self-esteem sees many good qualities in others but can find very little that is worthwhile in himself. He concentrates on all the inadequacies and failures of his own life (real or imagined) and convinces himself that he is a failure. He compares himself to others whom he esteems highly and imagines that he must be like them to have worth and value. But he is not like them, and so he is unhappy with himself and perhaps even hates who he is.
This is very stressful and puts one on the pathway to depression and anxiety.
To avoid this we must see ourselves biblically. The Bible teaches that the born-again Christian, who is living his faith in Jesus Christ, is not worthless. Nor is he inferior to others. Rather he is very important and valuable to God and to his kingdom. This is not the case of the unbeliever. Even the most gifted and successful unbeliever does not please God and contributes nothing to the kingdom. He has every reason to feel inferior, to esteem himself as nothing and hate himself. This is true even of those whom the world praises for their great achievements. But with the believing child of God it is different. He is eternally loved of God. He has been chosen to eternal life with God. He has been redeemed in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ he is a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). He is the workmanship of God (re)created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that he should walk in them (Eph. 2:10). God has a good work for each of his redeemed people to do. This is an important work in God’s kingdom that no one else can do. And to accomplish that work God has wonderfully gifted each one of his people. Each one is the marvelous workmanship of God, wonderfully crafted for good work in God’s kingdom.
These spiritual realities must guide us as we seek to come to a proper estimation of ourselves.
For the Christian to have feelings of inferiority and worthlessness overlooks and even denies the work of Christ in his life and the wonderful place that God has for him in his kingdom. Quite often a person comes to this improper and low estimation of himself because others have a low opinion of him. This can be a parent that is overly critical. It can be a teacher that constantly puts down his students. It can be a bully at school or a group of students that sinfully excludes someone and are even verbally abusive.
As we stated earlier when a person has low self-esteem, he tends to compare himself unfavorably to others. He sees qualities that others have and that makes them acceptable and even bring them praise. Some of these qualities have very little if any value for the work God has for us in the kingdom, such as athletic skills and physical beauty. Other of these qualities may be very valuable and necessary to do the important work of the kingdom of God. The work that God has for some in the kingdom requires academic abilities, an outgoing personality, or great mechanical skills. But this is not true for all. Many good gifts of God that equip us to do the important work of the kingdom are unnoticed and unrecognized by others. But one that is plagued with low self-esteem concludes he has no gifts at all because he is not gifted by God in things that bring recognition and praise to others. He fails to see that he also has an important place in the kingdom of God for which he is wonderfully gifted.
With a proper view of one’s worth the Christian can accept himself, even with his weaknesses. This is true because God accepts him. According to Romans 14:17–18, “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” And “he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God.” To be acceptable to God is to be well pleasing to him. And God is well pleased with those who use their gifts to serve Jesus Christ in righteousness, peace, and joy of the Holy Spirit. We are acceptable to God even though we do not have the gifts that are recognized by others. We are acceptable to God even though the work we do in the service of Jesus Christ goes unnoticed and unappreciated by others. And when we sinfully fail to serve God, as we do every day, we are still acceptable to him when we confess our sins to him and seek forgiveness in the cross of Jesus Christ. If God accepts us, then we can accept ourselves.
For this we must strive! Our calling is to live lives that are pleasing to God. We must seek to be acceptable to him. And we must be content with the good work that God has given to us and for which he has equipped us. We must be content even when our God-given work and gifts are not recognized by others as important.
This is extremely important to avoid the scourge of depression and anxiety. How stressful and troubling to see yourself as having little worth and value. That is a sure recipe for depression. How liberating to see that you have tremendous worth in the kingdom of God and that you are acceptable to God as you serve Christ in your God-given place. This brings joy and peace. It also enables us to ourselves love ourselves, as required by the second great commandment of the law (Matt. 22:37–40).
It is in this light that we must also see and treat others in the church. Just as we are to see ourselves in Jesus Christ as having great value and worth, so also must we see our fellow Christians. We are to do all in our power to build each other up and to edify one another (Rom. 14:19). This begins by seeing the true worth and value of each other in Jesus Christ.
There are two more matters that deserve our attention. We must seek God’s approval in life rather than man’s approval. And we must avoid the trap of perfectionism. These we will treat in a future article.