When it comes to fighting the blues, oftentimes I turn first to physical “fixes”: food, exercise, sleep, medicine. Now I don’t want to discount the physical aspect of depression. Unhealthy habits undoubtedly affect mood, and we cannot neglect caring for our physical bodies.
But when I feel down, the root emotion I am experiencing is hopelessness: a spiritual issue. Physical changes may temporarily relieve symptoms; but if I ignore the deeper matters of the heart, the infection of hopelessness will return no matter how bodily fit I am.
I have found the following helpful in fighting the blues:
Preach to Yourself
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”
-D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures
Strong emotions are persuasive. They convince us life is a certain way; and the more we listen, the more we grow in our confidence of that interpretation. Therefore, we must fight feelings with truth.
In addition to the Martyn Lloyd-Jones book listed above, I highly recommend Richard Baxter’s sermon The Cure of Melancholy and Overmuch Sorrow, by Faith. Yes, the English is old-with-an-e; but it is well worth the effort. Baxter offers a mine of practical wisdom to both those who battle melancholy and those close to the melancholy. Especially helpful is this list of truths to apply to the heart during times of hopelessness.
Hopelessness is isolating; we feel that no one understands what we are experiencing. Not true. I am often amazed at the number of famous Christians who suffered from seasons — sometimes extremely serious, almost paralyzing seasons — of hopelessness: King David, Charles Spurgeon, Isaac Newton, Jonathan Edwards. Reading about their struggles and triumphs reminds me of God’s faithfulness throughout history and provides comfort for the present.
Do your Duties
“Be sure that you live not idly, but in some constant business of a lawful calling, so far as you have bodily strength…If you will not be persuaded to business, your friends, if they can, should force you to it.”
-Richard Baxter, The Cure of Melancholy and Overmuch Sorrow, by Faith
Refuse the urge to mope and wallow in self-pity. If you’re acting useless, you’ll feel useless. Arm yourself with the truth, and then get moving. We all have things we are called to do; and fulfilling our purpose does wonders in uplifting the soul.
- Audio: David Powlison & Russell Moore: The Darkness of Depression — Great conversation on a biblical understanding of depression
- Book: John Piper: When the Darkness Will Not Lift — Free e-book
- Book: John Piper: The Hidden Smile of God — Biographies of suffering Christians
- Music: Come Weary Saints — Album of truth-filled songs for troubling times
- Website: Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation — Offers a number of resources (some free) on fighting hopelessness
August 23, 2010 No Comments
After spending 3/4 of my life in some type of classroom, I happily completed my formal education in June. While my siblings and friends are busy planning class schedules and housing arrangements for fall quarter, I’m…well, I’m not.
My mind is extremely pleased, because this means, at minimum, 1) not fighting Montlake traffic quite as often, 2) not seeing my bank account depleted by tuition, and 3) not slogging through abstract music theory unless I want to.
With these obvious perks — time, money, AND freedom — it defies all logic that I’d feel anything other than relieved and happy. But from time to time, the thought of no more school is actually mildly depressing.
Knowing myself, this isn’t a surprise. I’ve learned that the initial high of finishing something substantial — a recital, degree, etc. — is usually followed by a period of the blahs. Any big project requires significant physical, mental, and emotional commitment; and when that commitment is no longer needed, I’m left feeling disoriented and a bit melancholy.
In the past, I’ve attempted counteracting the blues by trying to figure out their exact cause. Is it simply lack of sleep? Hormone issues? Maybe a just part of the artistic process? The answer is ultimately a resounding…maybe.
Now introspection is helpful and even necessary to a certain degree. But when you’re feeling hopeless, dwelling on hopelessness can fuel rather than fight the emotion. Self-reflection quickly turns into myopic self-absorption.
During times of hopelessness, the question that helps most is not, “Why do I feel down?” or even “What should I do so I don’t feel so depressed?” Instead, asking “What are the reasons I have to be hopeful?” stops me from staring at myself and points me towards the only lasting Source of comfort and purpose.
Fighting the blues is rarely straightforward and never easy. But hope exists.
Next time: tools and tips for fighting the blues.
August 20, 2010 2 Comments