“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Proverbs 17:22 ESV
This is the last sermon preached in the series: “Mastering the Emotions.”
Disclaimer: I understand that in some cases, depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain or other medical/psychological reasons, such as bipolar disorder. If that is the case, by all means seek the appropriate professional help. The depression I am addressing is the normal depression that all of us encounter from time to time that occurs as a result of no medical reasons.
Just as it is the case with all emotions, depression is a natural part of the human make-up! No matter how optimistic one’s outlook on life might be, from time to time, one will experience depression! Even the fact that a person might know God does not exempt or preempt depression! In fact, the Bible is filled with numerous examples of godly people who experienced depression. When Job was going through his afflictions, he got so depressed he cursed the day of his birth! The great Prophet Elijah got so depressed, he asked the Lord to take his life! David relates his battles with depression in a number of the psalms, particularly Psalms 42 and 43. The Prophet Jeremiah cursed his birthday and was known as the “weeping prophet!” Even the Lord Jesus battled with depression in the Garden of Gathsemane! He said to his disciples: “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Yes! No matter who you are, the fact that you are human means you will experience depression!
But there needs to be a distinction made between experiencing feelings of depression and being in a state of depression. Experiencing feelings of depression is normal and natural, but being in a state of depression is not. One should not be overly concern or feel guilty about experiencing feelings of depression because we all get “down” from time to time. But when depression becomes a state of being, depression becomes a way of life and one should seek help! Yes! We all get depressed sometimes. But when the “Hee-Haw” song is adopted as a personal mantra, something is seriously wrong! You remember the Hee-Haw song don’t you? “Gloom, despair and agony on me! Deep down depression, successive misery! If it wasn’t for bad luck, I would have no luck at all! Gloom, despair and agony on me!” Yes! Something is wrong when you are singing the blues all of the time! David said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me!” It’s not a problem to walk through the valley, but it is a problem to camp-out in the valley! Yes, we all go through some challenges in life. But we must remember that whatever we’re going through, we’re just going through! Weeping may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning! Sometimes the night may be dark and long, but the morning will come! The storm will pass over! Troubles don’t last always! Whatever you’re going through, it will come to pass!
So the word today is not for those who have depression as an over-night guest. It is for those who have allowed depression to take up permanent residence in their lives! The message for you today is that you can and you must master depression because if you don’t, it will master and control you! Now, I hear you! You’re saying, “Well preacher, that’s easier said than done! You don’t know what I’ve gone through and you don’t know what I am going through right now!” No! I don’t know what you’re going through! I don’t know your story! But I do know that whatever you’re going through and whatever you’ve been through, it’s not something that nobody else has ever gone through and came out all right! You see, that is one of the reasons for and tricks of depression! Depression will often come because you think that nobody is and nobody ever has gone through what you’re going through! Depression will often occur because you think you are the only one! That is what was wrong with Elijah! After he had won the victory on Mt. Carmel, he found himself running from the threats of Jezebel! The Lord found him, exhausted and depressed. The Lord said: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” “And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” After the Lord had gave Elijah instructions on what he wanted him to do, he told him in a “by-the-way” manner: “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” Sometimes, if we’re not careful, we will think that we are the only ones trying to do right. And thinking like that will cause us to become depressed. Yes! Depression can be the cause and the results when we think we’re the only ones trying to serve the Lord! Although we may not be aware of it, the Lord always has somebody else! The Lord never leaves himself with just one witness! Yes! Depression often occurs when we become too preoccupied with what we are personally going through! Depression can occur when we are too focused on ourselves!
Depression can also occur because of an improper focus! After a loss, there is a tendency to focus on what was lost instead of looking at what is left! I don’t care how much may have been lost; there is always something left! We can master depression in the midst of loss by shifting our focus to what is left! Don’t curse life for what you have lost; thank God for what you have left! You may have lost your job, but you still have your health and strength! You may have lost your house or your apartment; but you still have relatives or friends who will provide you a place to stay until you can get back on your feet!
Sometimes depression occurs because we focus on the wrong time! We can become depressed when we refuse to let go of the past! Whether the past was good or bad, we must remember that the past is the past! You can’t get full off of yesterday’s lunch; you need food for today! Sure, we may have messed up yesterday, but the real power is in doing what we can do now to make the situation better today! Trying to change what happened yesterday is like trying to stop the rain from falling! There is no sense in getting down about it! You can’t change what happened yesterday and you can’t stop the rain from falling! However, you can make adjustments today and you can use an umbrella to stop the rain from falling on you! We can master depression by simply living in the present moment! Forget the regrets of the past and don’t be anxious about the uncertainties of the future: live fully in the now because now is really the only time we have!
And then we can master depression by looking with the eye of faith! Paul said, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Oftentimes we can get depressed when we look at what we see! We can get depressed when we look at what is, instead of looking at what could and what should be! We’ve got to learn to look with the eye of faith and call those things which be not as though they were! In other words, depression often occurs when we have no vision! Sure! It might look bleak right now, but the very fact that we can see it means it is in a state of flux! It’s changing, it’s only temporary! It won’t always be the way it appears! Don’t get depressed by what you see because whatever you can see will always change!
And then my brothers and sisters, we can master depression by looking in a different direction! One of the tell-tale signs of depression is when a person is always looking down! My brothers and sisters, if you keep looking down, you’ll start feeling down! It is a psychological and physical fact that we tend to go in the direction we look! But not only can you get depressed by looking down, you can also become depressed by looking around! Some people become depressed when they look around and see that people around them are faring no better than they are! They get depressed because they reason: “If I’m not making it and nobody else around me is making it, then the situation must be hopeless!” But you need to know today that there really are no hopeless situations! There are only situation in which there are people who have no hope!
But we can master depression when we stop looking down and around, and start looking up! David said: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills. From whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” Yes! My brothers and sisters, it is a psychological fact that by just changing the direction of your look, you can change your inner disposition! Look down and you will get depressed; look up and you will feel better! So look up and see the wonders of the heavens! Look up and see the wonders of a starry night! Just the act of looking up will uplift your down-cast spirit!
Yes! These are just some to the ways that we can master depression! And master it, we must, because if we don’t master depression it will stop us from being and doing all God created and called us to be and do! Just like fear, depression has a paralyzing effect! That’s why the Lord told Joshua to fear not, neither be thou dismayed or depressed. Depression will cause you to give up on a life that is worth living! Many people have committed suicide because of depression! And even though some people have not committed suicide, they have still stopped living because of depression! Oh! My brothers and sisters! Depression is a “show-stopper” and a “dream-buster!” But if we really want to master depression, we must have joy in our lives! The text says a merry heart, a joyful heart, a cheerful heart is like medicine; it’s like a cure! But a broken spirit, a crushed spirit, a depressed spirit, dries up the bones, saps your energy, and robs you of strength! It not only robs you of your spiritual and mental strength, it affects your physical strength as well! It’s a known medical fact that the condition of the mind has a direct bearing on the health of the body! When you’re depressed, you become more susceptible to sickness and disease!
Yes! It’s true what the Bible says: “The joy of the Lord is your strength!” That’s why we should take the advice of the Apostle Paul and rejoice at all times in all situations! We should be like the Prophet Habakkuk who said: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” We get depressed in response to what is happening around us, but joy comes from what has happened within us! I don’t know about you! I don’t know how you feel about it! But, I’m not going to let nothing steal my joy! This joy I have, the world didn’t give it to me! The world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away!