KEEPIN’ THE FAITH: Hope for the depressed

  • Mar. 6, 2011 10:00 a.m.

Depression. Winston Churchill called it the  “black dog.” “Hell” is a common description for those who experience it.  “If there is a hell upon earth, it is to be found in a melancholy heart,” observed Robert Burton in the 1600s. The poet Robert Lowell wrote, “I myself am hell.” John of the Cross called it “the dark night of the soul.”

Counselor and author Edward Welch writes, “The images are dark and evocative. Desperately alone, doom, black holes, emptiness.”  Those in deep depression believe that no one has experienced what they have or are as miserable as they are. They feel alone and isolated.

Some come to the point where they don’t want to live anymore. Not only can they no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel, they don’t believe the tunnel ever ends.

Depression may be brought on by experiencing a significant loss, stress, frustration or an outlook on life that sees things as meaningless, dull or futile. Or it may be biologically or medically related.

Ultimately depression has to do with a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, sadness. Depression, to some degree, is inevitable in a fallen world. It is about the world and life being not all that it should be and what you long for it to be.

What can be done about it? If it is strictly physiologically caused, it may be simply a matter of getting some medication, or changing your diet or getting rest or exercise. For many, however, it is not that simple. The fact is, depression is complex.

When depressed, ask yourself the question, “Why am I depressed?” and you will invariably find that you have made far too big of a deal of something or someone. Depression speaks. It says things like: “no one cares;” “all is lost;” “it is hopeless;” “there is nothing worth living for;” “I am worthless;” “They would be better off without me.”  You need to ask yourself, is this really the case, or is this simply how my feelings are interpreting reality? Yes, depression does speak, but it tells lies!  It distorts reality.

You also need to be careful not to allow depression to dictate how you live.  At the present you may not be able to change how you feel, but you can take charge of your feelings. This means that you do things that you may not feel like doing simply because they are the right and good things to do (go to work, play with your kids, be kind to your spouse and co-workers).  “Love your neighbour as yourself” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” are not the right things to do when you feel like it, but always.

Depression feels like hopelessness. The question is, what are you placing your hope in? What is so valuable that you have no joy now that it is lost (or won’t be attained)?  What have you been looking at to determine your worth and purpose in life? For some it is their marriage, for others it is their career or approval or success. The fact is, if you have placed your hope in any of these then indeed, you have good cause for depression. They will all disappoint. As counselor Paul Tripp writes, “If your hope disappoints, it is the wrong kind of hope.” What this means then, is that in order to overcome depression you have to have an unshakeable basis to anchor your hope in.  For the Christian it is Easter: Jesus Christ living the live we couldn’t live, dying the death we should have died, and rising from the dead in order to give life to those who believe. This is a hope that swallows up all disappointment and cannot be lost.

Dave Bootsma is a professional counselor. He can be reached at 558-5730 or newbeginnings@telus.net.