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Family, Marriage, Counsel

Though April Showers May Come Your Way
by Ed Vasicek

Down through the ages, we descendants of Adam have struggled with depression.  Just think about the expressions we have accumulated: "feeling blue," "down in the mouth," "despondency," "gloom," "downheartedness," "melancholia," "malaise," "doldrums," "blahs," or the ever popular "down in the dumps."

As a fan of vintage music, I am amazed at the number of songs that addressed depression. Here's one most of us have heard: "Though April showers may come your way, they bring the flowers that bloom in May."  Or how about "Keep your sunny side up. Hide the side that gets blue." As a matter of fact, there is an entire genre of music designated "The Blues." We humans have always battled (and sometimes lost the battle) with depression.

Being depressed is part of life. Sometimes it is debilitating.  Most of the time, we get through our responsibilities, but our motivation is weak, our morale low. I have experienced repeated bouts with mild depression: this is quite typical. But some people dwell in a state of mild depression for their entire lives. Additionally, more intense levels of depression require medication or even hospitalization. Sometimes depression takes us by surprise. In the past, depression was thought to result from a personal defect. This sort of thinking has been replaced by more enlightened perspectives.

Sadly, many people think they know it all when it comes to depression; they are quick to condemn others who struggle. In the Christian world, this often means flinging Bible verses at the depressed person like "Rejoice in the Lord always!" Isn't there a proverb about singing happy songs to a troubled heart? The true student of Scripture can throw verses back, like the description of Jesus as "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Or they might point out that many of the Psalms were penned by a depressed King David.

If we are to understand depression, we need to understand that depression is a symptom with many possible causes and an infinite level of degrees. Here are just a few potential causes of depression.

  1. Anger turned in toward ourselves is perhaps the most common cause of depression. When we are angry at someone, we should follow the advice of Matthew 18 and address the person with whom we have conflict. If we fail to attempt this, we have sinned a sin of omission. If we cannot address the person or the problem, we tend to turn our anger inward, something not necessarily sinful. This melds into our second point:

  2. Situations beyond our control. If we have done what we can, we can take matters to God in prayer and seek counseling or listening ears. This can help in many situations, but often is not enough. So we get down.  We need to view the blues as a part of life. Positively, it is a time when we are more teachable, a time when we are humbled. It's okay to feel that way; it doesn't mean you are a spiritual failure. Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott tell us that one major sign of a marriage that is likely to succeed is the ability to adjust to circumstances beyond one's control. That does NOT mean, however, that depression is a failure to adjust. Depression is often part of the adjustment process.

    Depression is also part of grieving. For example, if you lose a loved one or are going through a divorce, you will be depressed. This is not sinful, and you should not condemn yourself for getting down. Just be sure to break up your depression with social interaction and activity.

  3. Body chemistry is another common source of depression. With all our technology, we still do not understand all the intricacies of the walking chemistry set called "you." Weather affects our chemistry, nutrition affects our chemistry, experiences affect our chemistry—even music affects our chemistry. Add to all this hormone changes and you can see how volatile our moods could potentially be.

  4. Genetics are often held in contempt by Christians because we (rightly) emphasize personal responsibility. Yet we must get rid of this contempt.  We read in Scriptures about the misery of "begetting a fool," and we know that Jacob and Esau manifested their personalities at birth. The Bible, without embarrassment, acknowledges the role of genetics regarding who we are and how we behave. Studies of identical twins (adopted by different families) have convincingly demonstrated that much of who we are is genetic.  We are born with differing predispositions. One such predisposition is the tendency to be depressed. For some people, living in a state of mild depression is where their emotional thermostat is set.

    Can these people, who are depressed by nature, change? To some degree, yes. But change is not natural for them, nor does it come easy. One important ingredient for a happy life is social involvement—enjoying friends and relating well to people. Since people are typically repelled from depressed persons, such a person finds himself trapped in a vicious circle.

  5. Nurturing discontent is a common—and very sinful—source of depression.  A demanding spirit is the heart of sin. This sort of discontent leads to sins like adultery, desertion, irresponsibility, or substance abuse. When people nurture discontent, they are determined to do something—anything—to alleviate their grief. If you have ever wondered why "You shall not covet" made it into the list of the Ten Commandments (while 603 other Old Testament laws did not), it is because coveting is, in affect, nurturing discontent.

  6. Changes in the brain can also create depression. Strokes, hardening of the arteries, damage done through accidents or drugs—who really understands the complex nature of the brain except the Creator?

When we label ALL forms of depression, "sin," we are not wise.  Being depressed is part of what it means to be human. I am convinced that Jesus was often depressed (but only in non-sinful ways). Although all of us would love to live life feeling high, the highs and lows of life should be accepted as par for the course. And if we find ourselves getting way too high or way too low, we should not be too proud to ask for help.

Pastor Ed

Reprinted from the May 2002 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.

Highland Park Church   516 W. Sycamore St. Kokomo, Indiana, 46901 USA   (765)452-1779    church@highlandpc.com    Main Service: Sun 10:30 a.m.