RSS

Author Archives: judithagraham

Discouraged or depressed? Been there!

Life looks bleak. There doesn’t seem to be much that makes you smile or laugh. Are you or someone you know battling difficult circumstances: the loss of a loved one, a scary diagnosis, job loss, sin struggles, or just stuck in a place you never thought you would be? What do you do when discouragement/depression comes? I was there personally for a decade, I have studied depression, and I have interviewed others about their experiences. This is what I know:

  1. Be encouraged. First and foremost, you are not alone! We all go through difficult times, and there are people out there who can help you through this. Also, know that Satan is thrilled that you are discouraged because he wants to tear down what God wants to do in your life: that means you are a threat to him. On the opposite side, this is the perfect opportunity for God to work, and He can do great and mighty things you can’t even begin to imagine. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
  2. Talk to a safe person. Hopefully, you already have someone like this in your life, but if you don’t, look among the people you already have some sort of relationships with: in Sunday School class, small group, committee, etc. (If you don’t have any smaller group interaction, now is the perfect time to get involved!). Look for someone who listens, cares, and tries to understand others (and who doesn’t tell other people’s stories!). It also helps if you are lucky enough to encounter someone who is willing to share their own weaknesses.  Know that even the most caring person may not completely understand depression, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t care for you.
  3. Do fun things that lift your spirits. Sometimes we need to shake ourselves out of a negative pattern by purposefully seeking fun and funny things to do. Watch a favorite comedian, view cute animal videos on YouTube, go for a walk, enjoy a hobby, and most importantly, do it with other people!!! Laughter can truly be great medicine.
  4. Meditate on encouraging Scripture. Pray, sing, do whatever you can to surround yourself with life-giving truth and hope
  5. Eliminate the negative. The previous two suggestions are meant to focus on the positive, but you also need to deny the negative, hopeless thoughts and feelings that come with depression. (Philippians 4:8-9) There will be better days, and we always have hope in Christ. Know that God will use this for your good: He artfully uses difficulties in our lives to develop a richer, deeper character that He can use in mighty and beautiful ways that also blesses us. (Romans 8:28)
  6. Where is the depression/discouragement coming from? If you have an obvious circumstance: a loss, a disappointment, or even getting stuck in a rut, then this may pass quickly by seeking God, good community, and time. However, if this discouragement has persisted for a couple of weeks, you need to be aware that the longer depression/discouragement sticks around, the harder it is to get rid of. Do not let that worry you, but do let it motivate you to get whatever help you need!
  7. Seek medical help. This is, by far, the most difficult for some people. However, our bodies were not the only things affected by sin and the fall in the Garden of Eden. Our emotions and minds were also fractured, so they can be hurt and diseased just like our bodies. At the very least, talk to your doctor about the depression, but truly the best thing you can do is go to a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist because they specialize in this area! I struggled hard but briefly when I first realized I needed more help. I went to a counselor with little discomfort, but when she suggested I see a psychiatrist for depression medication, that was tough! Without even realizing it, I had a stigma that I should be able to get through this without medication. However, I had seen other people try to do that, and I did not want the unnecessary pain it caused them and their families. The medication doesn’t take away the pain or numb you from life, or at least, it didn’t for me. I still went through plenty of pain in the ups and downs for almost a decade before I could truly say I no longer struggled with major depression, but going through it with God’s help, my family and friends and church community, and the counselor, psychiatrist, and medication all gave me strength, help and accountability to battle the best I could against depression and to not leave other casualties along the way.

I know that is a lot of quick information: I literally wrote a book on it and could write more. However, I wanted to hit the high points today, and in future posts, we will talk in more depth on each of these things. I greatly welcome your comments, questions, and discussion. I am praying for all of you who are struggling like I did! May you trust in the God of all peace to give you comfort and strength during your times of struggle.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

The Suicide of a Dear Believer

English: Mosaic of heart at wall of Parish of ...

English: Mosaic of heart at wall of Parish of the Sacred Heart of Lord of Jesus in Gdynia. Polski: Mozaika przedstawiająca serce na ścianie Parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa w Gdyni. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I found out my cousin’s husband had committed suicide last week, I was in utter shock and disbelief. We all were. Here was a man who was easy-going, always kind and encouraging, always helping others, and faithfully attending and serving in church. He has a beautiful wife, four wonderful kids, and a family and community that dearly loved him. There was standing room only at his funeral in a chapel that seats 300!!!

 

The question that kept screaming in my heart was, “How could someone with so many good things become so hopeless that he thought his family would be better off without him?” We certainly don’t have all the answers about his particular situation, and we may never. However, I am all too familiar with hopelessness through various trials the Lord has allowed me to go through, including a ten-year battle with depression.

 

The question I want to discuss, and I welcome your thoughts and questions, is “How do we get that hopeless?” If you have never been that discouraged or depressed, it is unthinkable. If you have, or currently are, my next post will discuss what we can do when we get there.

 

Here is our key problem: our eyes get focused on ourselves and/or our circumstances. Hebrews 12:1-3 talks about the key to discouragement: getting our eyes fixed on our Lord Jesus who endured the worst of pain and suffering because He loved and wanted to save the very people who were causing that pain and suffering (US!). When we fix our eyes on this world, it is truly depressing: a bad economy, people out of work, war, political views and leaders that go so far against what we believe, conflicts with friends and family, divorce, infidelity, people always letting us down even if they have good intentions, and even getting stuck in the mundane, boring repetition of doing the same seemingly insignificant tasks day in and out.

 

The answer seems so simple: people (like me) who are depressed and discouraged just need to stop wallowing and get their eyes fixed on Jesus and all the beautiful blessings He gives. But I will tell you as a faithful believer and lover of the Lord for 26 years, it is not that easy when your heart is completely broken, discouraged, or depressed. I always knew in my mind (logically) that I had every reason to hope in the Lord, and I would claim the promises of His Scripture (Isaiah 40:27-31; Romans 8:28, 38-39; etc). I clung to the Lord and those promises, but despite my faith and knowing & believing the truth, my heart still felt bleak, dark, and absolutely hopeless during depression.

 

Most Christians acknowledge that we can have deep faith in the Lord and still have struggles, trials, and pain, so why are emotional struggles (whether they result from an obvious physical pain like death or disease, or whether they seem to come from nowhere or a chemical imbalance or whatever) any different than a physical struggle? When sin entered the world, our entire body was affected. Therefore, our heart, mind, and body can all struggle.

So, when emotional pain or struggles come, it is not a result of a lack of faith, but it is a part of the pain of the brokenness of this world. How we deal with it speaks volumes about what we believe, but just because it is difficult does not indicate a lack of faith. Instead, the struggle merely reveals the battle against sin and our fallen state. We were beautifully made in the image of God, but our own sin and sin’s effect on the world mar that image in all of us, and it manifests differently because we are different.

I advocate that we all need grace and acceptance from each other whether our battle is finances, emotional pain, physical disease, or any difficult life circumstance. Because when we bond together as Christians to love and support each other through these times, we offer each other a healing balm of love and strength to persevere in the battle, and we display to the world the irresistible, unconditional love of Jesus and show them how He helps us through the struggles of life.

I have no doubt that my cousin’s husband needed to talk to other believers about whatever pain, difficulty, or sin or combination of the three that he was dealing with, but like too many of us, we are hesitant because we are embarrassed that we struggle, that we are weak, and we don’t know who we can trust with our weakness. This is what the body of Christ was meant to do: be a shining example of God’s love and acceptance and truth. If you have a difficult time understanding another person’s struggle, think of your own struggle that embarrasses you and how much you would want to be accepted and loved. If you are in a difficult struggle, pray and ask God for someone safe to talk about it – we need each other, and that is a beautiful part of God’s plan for His body! Let’s get through this painful life together, in unity, as God meant for it to be! Philippians 2:1-4

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
Quote

“Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

June 10, 2013

Of course I would have to start blogging the week of VBS! I am teaching the music and ‘moves’ for the first time. It’s fun, but exhausting! One of the things I love most is when God clearly teaches us through repetition: making it clear for those of us who are a little slow! Our VBS this week is Colossal Coaster World by LifeWay, and the theme is facing fear and trusting God. God has been teaching me this same lesson for the last month or so as I have studied Joshua. The Lord commanded him to be bold and courageous, but He also swore to be with Joshua everywhere he went and even to go before him. He also supported Joshua in the people’s eyes by allowing him to perform the miraculous parting of the Jordan River (Joshua 3:7). This solidified Joshua’s leadership and showed the Israelites that God was with Joshua. 

I love that! God doesn’t just tell us to do something and then send us out in the world on our own, but He prepares us, equips us, encourages us, goes before us to prepare the way, and stays with us to provide what we need. There are many times I have been afraid to step out. However, every time God has met me and provided the strength and courage I need, and the ministry was up to Him the whole time. He asks us to step out in faith with Him, but He really takes the pressure and focus off us. Praise the Lord!

“Haven’t I comm…

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 10, 2013 in Uncategorized