Depression and the Christian (2)
Depression is a problem from which Christians are not immune. However the response to and 'treatment' of the malady should be markedly different from those of the secular world.
Amongst the factors which 'can bring on the blues' the 'emotional streams' and hormones running through our bodies and minds can create internal pressures and stresses within us which - if they are prolonged and elevated - can lead to depression.
It is well-accepted and commonly taught that the following a prime culprits -
GRIEF: perhaps through bereavement and/or loss. The term bereavement can be used to describe the 'death of dreams': hopes, plans, ambitions and expectations relating to employment, career, health, relationships can be dashed – and sometimes very suddenly and unexpectedly.
PRESSURE: A degree of stress is both healthy and normal, but if the stress level is high and sustained, then problems will inevitably arise. The pressure will often produce either an anger 'explosion' (in some) or, in other personality types, be 'stuffed down' in the form of denial or suppressed anger. Whichever way depression may well be the outcome (see following).
ANGER: Aside from the anger deriving from stress, anger can also be created in us if, for instance, we do not get our own way ( yet Jesus taught us to 'die' to self) or by someone or something that has hurt us (1 Cor 13 and similar passages give an antidote). Often anger can be totally disproportionate to the circumstances that caused it. 'Road rage' is but one example.
GUILT: Continual and unconfessed sin creates hugh stresses in the Christian. Unfortunately, the Reformers (in their efforts to rid the church of false practises) threw out the biblical practise of 'confessing our sins to one another' (James 5:14). The Bible teaches us that we need to seek to live holy lives in open communion with God and keep 'short accounts' with one another.
We are all 'damaged goods'
However every Christian, to one degree or another, comes to Christ as 'damaged goods'. Problems can come into our lives even before we are born; and we continue to be vulnerable – in a fallen world and in our fallen human nature – throughout the whole of our lives.
Ideally every Christian will have ready access to help from those around them. But sadly this is not always the case. Christian organisations like Ellel Ministries, Freedom in Christ and Derek Prince Ministries offer a wide range of facilities, resources, course and publications ranging from residential retreats, teaching and discipling schools and multi-media materials. These are variously geared towards individuals and groups in a variety of appropriate settings.
See side bar for 'Websites' links to these ministries, resources and facilities
In his book entitled 'They shall expel demons' the late Derek Prince has an autobiographical chapter entitled 'My Struggle With Depression'. In the chapter he wrote:
'I had always regarded my depression and negative attitude as an expression of my own character – something I had been born with. I had felt guilty that I was not a 'better' Christian. Now it became clear to me that my struggle was not against part of my own personality at all. Immediately the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the promise of Joel 2:32: "And it shall come to pass, that whoseever shall call on the name of hte Lord shall be delivered." I determined to apply this promise and to act on it. I said a simple prayer that went soething like this: "Lord, You've shown me that I have been oppressed by a spirit of heaviness, but You have promised in Your Word that if I call on Your name, I shall be delivered."'
While he experienced an immediate response and 'release' he continued:
"My old enemy did not give up on me; I still had to struggle against depression. But the great difference now was that its attacks came from without, not from within. I gradually learned how to withstand it."'
What follows is an extract from a teaching letter by Derek Prince on the 'Armour of God'.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Eph 6:16 - 18)
The Weapons of our Warfare
by Derek Prince
The shield of faith (Eph 6:18)
The word here translated shield is connected with the word for a door. Its length was greater than its width. A trained soldier could so crouch down and draw his body in that he was completely protected. But he had to be fit and athletic. An overweight man would not be fully protected. Our shield of faith must likewise be complete in all its dimensions. It must cover our total personality — spirit, soul and body.
We must also be so spiritually trained and exercised that we can draw ourselves together within an area that is completely covered by the promises of Scripture. Anything in our lives that is superfluous or self-indulgent will be outside the protection of our shield.
At times the arrows Satan uses against us are "fiery." They have been set on fire. They are designed not merely to wound but also to set on fire whatever they are aimed at. They can start fires of gossip or slander or division in families or even in whole congregations. But the shield of faith — vigilantly and effectively used — will not merely stop the arrows, it will quench them. It will extinguish the flames.
Just as the breastplate of righteousness protects our heart, so the helmet protects our mind – our thought life. The mind is the area in which Christians are most regularly attacked. Inside our minds there is often a continuing war. Satan seeks to insinuate thoughts that will disturb us or distract us or in some other way make us ineffective in our war against him.
God has taught me personally many lessons in this area. When I was first born again, I was continually assailed in my mind by depression or discouragement. I saw that I needed some effective protection in that area.
When I read Paul's list of armour in Ephesians 6:13-18, I realised that it was the helmet of salvation that I needed. But then I said to myself: "I know that I am saved. Does that mean that I already have the helmet of salvation or is it something that I need to get after salvation?"
As I pondered on this, I saw that the Christians in Ephesus to whom Paul was writing were already saved. Yet Paul still instructed them to take the helmet of salvation. Clearly, therefore, I needed to do the same. But what was this helmet of salvation that should be the protection for my mind?
Fortunately, I was using a Bible with cross references in the margin. The cross reference to Ephesians 6:17 was 1 Thessalonians 5:8: ". . . and as a helmet the hope of salvation." That Scripture revolutionised my thought life. If pessimism was my problem, then optimism was the logical solution.
I set myself to seek out – and in many cases to memorise – passages of Scripture that provided me with a basis for strong, continuing optimism. Today my mind is effectively protected!
Up to this point all the items of equipment in the armour of God have been solely – or primarily – for purposes of protection or defence. Only at this point does Paul turn to weapons of attack. For this there is a logical and practical reason: if we attempt to attack before we have secured our defence, we are unprepared for the enemy's counterattack and we are likely to become casualties. This is one main reason why some Christians are wounded and become casualties. We will turn now to the two remaining weapons.
The sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17), which is the Word of God
This sword can be used for both attack and defence, but it is primarily a weapon of attack. Someone has said, "The best defence is attack" – and this is often true in the spiritual realm.
The word here translated word is rhema, which usually denotes a word that is spoken. It is not the Bible in our bookshelf or even on our nightstand that is effective. But when we take Scripture in our mouth and proclaim it boldly through our lips, then it becomes a sharp, two-edged sword.
Note, too, that it is "the sword of the [Holy] Spirit." We can take God's Word in our mouth, but it only achieves its full effect when it is the Holy Spirit within us who actually wields it.
The perfect pattern of how to use the sword of the Spirit is provided by the encounter of Jesus with Satan at the time of His temptation in the wilderness. Three times Satan approached Jesus with a temptation and each time Jesus drove him back with the same phrase: "It is written" (Matt 4:4; 4:7; 4:10). Jesus used no other weapon but the rhema – the spoken word of the Lord. God has made the same weapon available to each Christian. It is important, however, to bear two things in mind.
First, Jesus had already been "filled with the Holy Spirit." (Luke 4:1). It was the Holy Spirit in Jesus that directed Him in the use of the sword.
Second, Jesus – like every Jewish boy of His day – had memorised long passages of Scripture. When Satan confronted Him, He did not need to consult a concordance or go to a library. He had already stored up the Scriptures in His memory. Surely we today need to do that just as much as Jesus did!
All prayer (Eph 6:18)
This seventh weapon is not listed in exactly the same way as the previous six, but it is definitely needed to make the equipment of the Christian soldier complete. Of the previous six items, only the last one – the sword of the Spirit – is a weapon of attack, and even the sword is effective only as far as a soldier's arm can reach.
But this seventh weapon of all prayer is subject to no such limitations. We may fairly call it our ICBM – our intercontinental ballistic missile. Focused prayer, directed by the Holy Spirit, can reach across continents and oceans and strike with unerring accuracy at any target assigned to it. Undoubtedly it is the most powerful and the most effective of all the weapons in the Christian arsenal.
Like the sword previously mentioned, this weapon of all prayer depends on the Holy Spirit for its effectiveness. It must be prayed "in the Spirit." (Eph 6:18) God does not commit such a weapon to Christians who are guided only by their carnal desires and emotions.
All prayer includes many different kinds of prayer – such as those listed in 1 Timothy 2:1: supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks. It is not a solo instrument to be played by one Christian on his own. Rather it is produced by an orchestra of many instruments blended together in harmony by the Holy Spirit.
This is the second article on the subject of Christians and Depression. See also related article:
'Depression and the Christian (1)'
Copies of the full teaching letter 'Because of Angels: the weapons of our warfare' along with many other teaching resources may be obtained from Derek Prince Ministries:
DPM—UK, Kingsfield, Hadrian Way, Baldock SG7 6AN, UK
Sales: + 44 (0) 1462 492101 Email: email@example.com