Have you ever wondered why you were doing pretty good emotionally, and then another bout of depression hit you like a tidal wave? I want to share a troubleshooting tip that I learned during the years that I spent recovering from depression:
Identify any areas where you may have felt or had the perception that God betrayed your trust. When troubleshooting reasons for a bout of depression, this is a very common reason.
If we have the PERCEPTION that God hasn’t come through for us, it can create deep pain or anger in us. This often is not on a conscious level. As “good Christians,” we don’t like to entertain such thoughts, so we tend to suppress them, hoping they’ll dissipate on their own if we just pretend they aren’t there. But they don’t. The pain and anger needs to be processed before it will heal.
The first time we find depression talked about in the Bible, we have to go all the way back to Adam and Eve’s son, Cain. Cain planted crops for a living. His brother Abel kept flocks. Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the harvest of his land. Abel brought an offering as well. His was from the first born of his flock and of their fat portions. When the LORD accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s offering, Cain became very ANGRY. Genesis 4:5b-8 tells us,
“So Cain became very angry, and his countenance fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it. And Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.”
Cain’s anger toward God helps us to understand the reason his countenance fell. It appears that Cain believed the lie that God had wronged him in some way. The Bible doesn’t expound on just what that lie was. Possibly Cain believed that God was a respecter of persons, or that He was unjust in His dealings with Cain. We don’t know for sure. But any lies we believe about God that lead us to become embittered against Him often lead to trust issues, and distrust towards God is one of the most common roots of depression. God is perfect, and incapable of wronging anyone. God offered him an opportunity to make things right with him, but instead Cain turned to his brother Abel. When Abel didn’t respond the way Cain wanted him to, his anger turned deadly.
Often when we struggle with depression, we tend to attach that depression to life’s circumstances to explain it….a troubled relationship, job difficulties, financial shortages, rebellious children…the list is endless. But when we peel back the layers, the REAL root of the depression is often disappointment or anger with God. Human beings can recover from almost unimaginable hardships, but disappointment in God can leave us stuck in a place of anguish.
In the book of Psalms, King David role modeled how to express emotions in a way that is God-honoring. He recognized that the solution to feeling downcast was to restore his trust in God. In Psalm 42 he expressed that he felt he had been forgotten by God. Hmm…sounds familiar. I guess we’ve all felt that way at times. But instead of stuffing those emotions down deep inside and pretending they weren’t there, King David pours out his heart to God. In Psalm 42:9-11 we find him being brutally honest with God:
“I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me?…Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
The event that triggered the beginning of a twenty-five year battle with depression in my life is permanently etched in my mind. My husband and I had been thrilled with the news that we were expecting our first child. It’s remarkable to me how parents can bond so deeply with a child that they have never yet seen or held in their arms. Dreams for this child’s future began immediately after we learned that I was pregnant. When it became apparent that we were losing our child, the pleading with God began. In the end, we were left with empty arms. I longed for comfort from God, but it felt like when I needed Him the most he was silent, and distant. I felt abandoned. Then came the second miscarriage. This only intensified what I’d already been feeling. In my heart, I came into agreement with some lies… lies that said that God had abandoned me, that I need never expect to get comfort from God when I was really hurting. So why try.
If someone had asked me what I believed about God during this time, I would have told them that God never forsakes His people; that He comforts and loves us. But my PERCEPTION was something different altogether. I had become double-minded. I was trying to hold on to two opposing beliefs about God at the same time. The book of James tells us that the double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. The instability caused by believing God is who He says He is in our theology, but not in our hearts is one of THE main causes of depression. Another name for this distrust of God is called unbelief.
One of Satan’s top agendas is to tempt believers to distrust God, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we’re tempted to believe lies about Him. Unbelief can be found at times in the lives of some of the most faithful men and women in the Bible. In Luke chapter 1, we’re told that Zechariah was “upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations BLAMELESSLY,” yet he struggled to believe God when an angel told him that he and his wife would bear a son. The important thing is what we do with the temptation to entertain harsh thoughts about God.
So how do we trust that God is who He says He is when tragedy hits? When we look at our life circumstances and ask, “How can any good come out of this? When the way our life is turning out isn’t what we’d hoped for, planned for, worked so hard for? Sometimes the hand we’re dealt in life makes it hard to trust that God is all those wonderful things He says He is…loving, compassionate, our rescuer, our comforter, our protector.
So, where does that leave us? What should we do once we’ve identified an area where we’re dealing with distrust (unbelief) toward God? If you’ve been struggling with depression, I want to invite you to take the following self-assessment. The goal is to identify feelings or perceptions about God that cause pain or anger. If you feel a little angst rise up at some of the questions, you may have hit on something. Make note of any areas where you may find it difficult to trust God:
- God is BOTH loving and strong (Psalm 62:11-12)
- God will never abandon me (Joshua 1:9, Hebrews 13:5-6)
- God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4)
- God will help me when I need it (Psalm 46:1, Isaiah 41:10)
- God cares about my pain (Psalm 145:8, Psalm 103:13)
- God is willing and able to restore me mentally and emotionally (Gal. 5:22, Ps. 23:3)
- God loves me (John 15:9, 1 John 4:9-10)
- God doesn’t play favorites. The rules are the same for everyone (Deuteronomy 10:17)
- God has good intentions toward me (Jeremiah 29:11)
- God will meet my financial needs (Philippians 4:19)
- God will rescue me when I need it (Psalm 91:15, Daniel 6:27)
- God is my peace (Isaiah 9:6; 26:3, Philippians 4:6-7)
- God keeps His promises. He does not lie (Numbers 23:19, 2 Corinthians 1:20)
- God is my loving Father (1 John 3:1, John 1:12)
- God is my protector (Psalm 91:13-15 NIV, Psalm 121:7, Psalm 32:7)
- God is my guide (Psalm 32:8, Psalm 48:14)
- God is good (Psalm 145:8)
- God will act on my behalf (Psalm 57:2)
- God comforts the depressed (2 Corinthians 7:6)
- God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6)
- God answers prayer (Psalm 91:14-15, James 5:16)
- God is my healer (Exodus 15:26, Psalm 103:2-3)
- God is my comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
- God is kind (Jeremiah 31:3)
- God wants a close relationship with me (James 4:8)
Ok, so here’s the deal: God’s word tells us that He is ALL of these things. When our feelings or perceptions tell us that He isn’t, we have a choice to make. Will we choose to agree with God’s word? Or our feelings and perceptions? This is the reality of walking by faith and not by sight. Faith means choosing to believe God even when it looks and feels like God has betrayed our trust. If you have identified areas where you are finding it difficult to trust God, are you willing to reaffirm your faith in this area? If so, let’s do this!
“Dear Lord, I have identified an area where I have been having a hard time trusting you. I now recognize that this is the sin of unbelief. I have believed the lie that says that you have not been_____________(my protector, faithful, my rescuer, etc.). Please forgive me. I no longer want to believe lies about you. Right now I am making a decision to CHOOSE to believe that you are everything that you say you are. I renounce the lie that tells me that you have been untrue to your nature in any way. I CHOOSE to believe your word instead of my feelings or perceptions. (Repeat for each area you have struggled to trust God)
Thank you for revealing your character through your word. I believe your word is true when it says, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) Thank you for your grace, and thank you that I can trust you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Strategy for overcoming depression:
“Choose to believe that God is who the Bible says He is, even if your feelings or perceptions disagree.”