Last Saturday a body was found floating in Bedok Reservoir. This was the sixth body since June. Not all who commit suicide suffer from depression. Among the suicidal cases are alcoholism, substance abuse, anger, revenge, illness, physical infirmity, loss of a loved one, loss of a close friends, loss of a job or other financial setback, public humiliation or loss of social status, and schizophrenia or personality disorders.
Many elderly committed suicide despite being well looked after by their children. Many have problems of loneliness, and have lost their husband and siblings many years ago. Although they live with their children and grandchildren, there is hardly any communication between the elderly and the younger generation. They have no friends, as these have also passed away, and no longer see themselves as contributing to society. Many are also labouring under the weight of multiple chronic, medical problems, taking numerous medications, having to attend appointments in clinics and generally feeling useless and hopeless.
How do you then define depression?
Depression is sometimes hard to define because it is a term that is used loosely in today’s society. Someone said he was feeling depressed because he had to cancel a family holiday. There is no question that he felt a sense of disappointment. He was looking forward to going on vacation with his family, and he was truly discouraged when he learned that it was not going to work out. This experience, however, is not the same as depression.
What is spiritual depression? It is a lowering of the spirit. Spiritually you feel dry and low. There is no more joy in worshipping God, in reading His Word and in prayer. You will find no purpose in serving the Lord. Most of us have experienced this state of spiritual dryness at one time or another, but how we react to this state is very important. To some the natural tendency is to give up reading the Bible and be less regular at worship services. Feelings instead of faith will gradually have the upper hand. The Psalmist in Psalm 77 is in the state of depression. His “spirit was overwhelmed”. He was very much cast down when he wrote Psalm 77.
How Does Depression Affect Us?
It affects us emotionally. In verse 2, the Psalmist “refused to be comforted”. When a person seems frequently or chronically worried, and sad, this can be a sign of depression. This mood is often accompanied by evidence that the person thinks of himself as worthless or extremely sinful, or that he believes the past is unforgivable or the future hopeless. Frequently the person seems to have lost interest in his work and the things that formerly held his attention. These are signs that help is needed. As Christians we should deliberately refuse to dwell upon the dark side of things. When distress or bitter disappointment comes, the joyous believer can weather the storm much better than one who is pessimistic. The writer of Proverbs noted that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Prov. 17:22). A right attitude towards the Lord and life will sustain a depressed person.
It affects us spiritually. In verse 3, the Psalmist says “I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed”. The person who is depressed always dwell upon his past failures. Although he may be greatly blessed by God, he tends to focus on the negatives rather than the positives of life. He is so distracted by a few disappointments in life that he murmurs against the Lord when he should be praising Him for his countless blessings.
It affects us physically. Depression affects the body. Sleep disturbances was experienced by the Psalmist. He said in v.4 “Thou holdest mine eyes waking”. Some may sleep too much, others too little. The body and the mind or soul or spirit are intertwined and interwoven and connected that nothing can happen to the one without affecting the other. If the mind can affect the body, it is equally true that the body can affect the mind and spirit. A person may feel a sense of emptiness. This is clearly seen in the classic example of the prophet Elijah. He was physically exhausted and he became depressed and even asked God to take away his life. Please don’t forget that, if you are God’s child, that body of yours is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is through us that God’s purposes on earth are realized. It is our duty to keep ourselves fit to be the instrument of God.
How to Overcome Depression?
Turn your eyes upon the Lord (verses 7-11): The ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief. When you are depressed, you have forgotten the presence and power of God. You must “remember” who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. And having done that, trust in God to help you. The depressed person needs to know that our God is bigger than any life problem. God is great, holy, and mighty. Nothing is impossible with Him.
Testify for the Lord (verses 12-18): God has done great things for His people. His great deeds are not just a fireworks display, but an expression of His love. Tell others what God has done for you will soon banish depression. Get involved in the Lord’s work. Many a times we do not find purpose in our Christian life because we are not doing anything for the Lord. There are many areas that we can serve the Lord and minister to others. Ask the Lord to direct you. It is through serving, through getting involved that we learn and grow in our spiritual lives. It is through serving that we have the joy as we see the Lord blessing the work.
Trust in the Lord. (verses 19-20) Just as God had opened a path through the Red Sea for the Israelites, He can lead us safely through our problems. Whatever problems depress you, however hopeless, the future seems, keep on trusting the Lord. He brings you pathway we don’t even know it is there. When our life is broken into pieces, God is able to rebuild your life. When a man hurts, God hurts with Him. I firmly believe God is ready and eager to heal all brokenness and make any brokenhearted person whole again.