Tuesday, June 19, 2018

How Jesus Heals Depression

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Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexel
Depression sucks.  It really does.  I'm one of those people that believes the average never-been-depressed-person doesn't have a clue as to what true depression is actually like.  So I'm going to peel back some of the layers and let you have a peek.  If you want to understand, then turn on your empathizer, because otherwise, you'll have a difficult time getting close to understanding.

Please know that I'm not suggesting people don't care, or don't want to understand - but for the average non-depressed person, it's like asking men to empathize with childbirth.  As men, we can live through it with our wives, but we have no clue what-so-ever what it's actually like.

Outline

In this blog, I'm going to provide some definitions that help people understand what depression is, and what it is not.  I'm going to reveal the root causes of depression and touch on some practical steps you can take to eliminate those roots.

Finally, I will explain how to engage with Jesus to allow Him to heal your emotional wounds.  In a future blog, I'll discuss the authority, or perhaps the justification, for this healing. 

What Depression is Not

Depression is not a minor discouragement, nor is it a hardship to be endured. Depression is not caused by an obfuscation of Jesus, our hope. Depression does not arrive because you didn't get what you wanted, or because something unpleasant happened and you're now sad.

A depressed person may not readily show you their innermost condition.  They may interact seemingly well in your presence or appear well adjusted.  They can hold jobs, function well in society and participate in activities.  You'll never know that internally, they're on the brink of despondency.  You'll never know that their aversion to drugs and weaponry is just a cover to keeping themselves safe from self-harm.

A Proper Definition

Years ago, I went to a physician, our Family M.D.  I told him I was depressed.  He asked how I felt. I told him I was despondent. He replied, "well, that's a pretty strong word, don't you think?"  I'm not kidding. Apparently, I wasn't permitted to feel despondent in his worldview of depression.

Despondency

Despondency is defined as a state of feeling profound hopelessness, dejection, discouragement, and gloom. People who are very depressed are despondent: they are in such a condition that every fiber of their being hurts; they live with an aching headache every day; they generally find relief only when sleeping and they look forward to the morning when their head isn't aching, and their soul isn't breaking.

Some of these may have suicidal ideations.  The strong Ones never go down that path - they somehow learn to live with the pain or find a way out.  The less fortunate succumb to the battle, opting for the ultimate, permanent solution.

Hopelessness

Hopelessness is a big part of depression.  People with no hope are unable to see past their current state.  They cannot imagine a life any better than what they're currently experiencing - even when Jesus plays a major role in their life.  In their world, there is nothing that can pull them out of the pain, out of the pressure or away from their circumstances.  Their state of being is such that they cannot move towards a better state - they can't even grasp onto a rope of change dangled in their midst.

Discouragement

In order to understand discouragement, let's define encouragement and take the inverse.

Encouragement is a form of joy.  It is derived from the knowledge or expectation that something unappealing will be reversed, or turned to good in some way.  Encouragement enables determination and confidence which breeds hopefulness.  Encouragement helps lay a foundation in order to build a path to better outcomes.

Discouragement is the opposite of all of that.  The depressed person can see nothing that is appealing in their future, they believe no good is likely to happen.  They see nothing that can move them from their position of pain to a better place, they have no hope for their future.  The longer they stay depressed, the less likely they are to do something - anything - to help themselves out of the miry clay in which they're stuck.

Dejection

Dejection is that state of being in which we feel alienated from those around us as if we're somehow less than they are, less capable, less worthy, more broken.

Gloom

Gloom generally colors the world in which the depressed person lives.  Almost all things in the depressed persons' world are tainted with one or more of the qualities I've described.  If you were to assign a color to the world of a depressed person, it would be grey.  No shadows, no definition - just a muddled life without clarity or useful form.

The Root Cause

A person much more learned than myself, a therapist who held a Ph.D. in psychology, told me that the root causes of depression were unresolved fear, anger, and loss.  When she suggested that I was perhaps the angriest person she had ever met, I vehemently dismissed her assessment.  But it was something I couldn't let go of.  As I wrestled with her assessment, I discovered that she was right: I had a lot of unresolved pain that was surfacing as anger.  And, as most of us know, many times depression is simply anger turned inward.

Escaping Depression

I'm completely and utterly free of the bondage of depression, and I have been for many years. I believe that there are people whom Jesus has completely healed of depression in one fell swoop. And there are others like me who have traveled a road of discovery. Since I've learned how to address depression when it tries to creep up the walls my prosperity (3 John 1:2-3), I will enumerate for you the tools I've learned to use in to address the problem.

Knowing the Truth

The first thing provided to me by God was John 8:32: "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:32).  Recall that my Ph.D. therapist suggested that the root cause of depression is unresolved anger, loss, and fear.  Your first job is to acknowledge your held anger and fears.  You must admit your losses and face them.  The bottom line is that you must want to change.  Perhaps you're like the father who cried, "help my unbelief."  You may need to cry out, "help me to want to change..."

Trust in the Lord

I almost don't want to go here, only because there are those that believe just seeing the "preciousness of Jesus" will make the clouds of depression float away.  I don't have much respect for that philosophy, nor their pundits.  Depression is not about the absence of comprehension of how precious Jesus, God or Holy Spirit is to any given person.  It's far more complex.

The root cause of depression, aside from some physical ailment, is completely about your belief systems.

As someone who lived with depression from a very, very young age and then well into adulthood, I will assert you need to understand this: God has a mental health plan, and He has an account with your name on it.  He's ready for you to go to Dr. Jesus and receive some services.

And as I suggested in previous blogs, depression is all about what you're focused on, what you believe and what you give power to.

Resisting the Devil

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.  (2 Cor 10:3-6)
The battle for victory over depression is waged in our mind (through choice) and in our spirit, through the finished work of Jesus.  Through divinely powerful weapons enabled through Holy, creative imaginations, we destroy fortresses established in our thinking patterns: we destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God; we take all thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.

You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32), doesn't mean you acknowledge fears, loss, and anger as active entities that affect you, it means you understand where they come from, you acknowledge the lies of the devil that enable their fortresses to have power over you.

The Steadfast Mind

There is one verse in scripture that clearly lays down where our depression has its roots, and how to overcome its debilitating effects over us.  Some people will not like this scripture because it's too easy; perhaps it seems to make light of the issues at hand.  

For a truly despondent person, I completely understand.  Been there, done that.  

But if you will find and obliterate your fear through His strength, if you will use this scripture in conjunction with destroying strongholds, you will overcome depression:
The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.  (Isa 26:3)
This steadfast mind is focused on the provision God has already provided for you.  It activates faith in His goodness and provision for you.

Emotional Healing for Depression and Emotional Wounds

I learned some of this technique by myself years ago, and what I learned was later augmented by someone else who understands emotional healing, Praying Medic.  This process he learned, is outlined below.

Emotional healing is an extremely powerful and functional practice - not because the formula is powerful in itself, but because of who is doing the work: Jesus.  You will find that for some of the things you take to Jesus in the process, the wounds will be so completely healed, that you may forget what it was that Jesus healed - your sins removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12)

Trigger Alert

In this process, you will identify a situation - that when you recall it - will bring to the surface a negative emotion.  The point of this process is to trigger the negative emotion so that Jesus can heal it.  Therefore, I recommend you start with something manageable.

This is a Process

It is highly likely that you will find this to be a process that removes layers of protection you built up over the years - like an onion of despair.   Once you've progressed through one phase, pause and rest for a moment before you begin again.

The Emotional Healing Process

Speak these things aloud. Recall that whenever Jesus performed healing, He spoke aloud against the infirmity.
Have faith in God.  Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him (Mark 11:22-23)
  1. Identify a painful emotion associated with a particular event
    •  If the emotion is sinful, ask God to forgive you and receive his forgiveness.  It is good to remind yourself of forgiveness principles, such as 1 John 1:9
    • Say that you believe His blood has taken away the penalty and consequences of your sin.
    •  If it is not sinful, go to the next step
  2. Tell Jesus you want the emotion removed from your soul. 
  3. Ask Jesus to heal the wound in your soul caused by the emotion.  
  4. Tell Jesus you receive His healing. 
    • If the emotion is there because you believed a lie about that situation, ask Jesus to show you the truth about the situation.
  5. An optional step that is to ask Jesus to give you something positive to replace the negative emotion that He is removing. 
    • If you ask Him to take away sadness, you might ask Him to give you joy. 
    • If you ask Him to take away anger, you might ask Him to give you peace.
  6. Rest for a moment, ask for His presence to come and rest in Him.
  7. Recall the situation that caused the painful emotion.
    • If there is a new negative emotion, begin again at Step 1.

Example

When I was very young, I was molested/assaulted by an older man.  After my memory of the event resurfaced, my emotional healing process progressed something like this:
  • Jesus, I feel anger towards that person.  I don't want to feel this anger anymore.  Please take this anger from me, and heal the wound in my soul; I receive your healing.  Please give me peace in place of this anger.
Once I was done with this process, I paused for a moment and then recalled the event.  I observed that I then felt a different emotion and went through the process again.  After a number of iterations (I don't recall how many, or the emotions other than anger), I was completely healed of assault against me.  It's now like a distant memory to me, as if it were something written about me, not something that happened to me.

I should also mention that before I learned this emotional healing process, I had thoroughly used Neil Anderson's Victory Over Darkness and Bondage Breaker.  These are excellent books and thoroughly instruct and guide you on how to forgive and reconcile.  My opinion is that these books help you immensely, but they don't always result in helping you heal the resulting wounds.


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A Disclaimer

I would like for you to understand that I am in no way associated with the medical or physiological profession.

I do not claim to treat or diagnose any disease or illness, neither do I offer the information included in this blog as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. My ideas and expressions thereof are for personal consideration and evaluation only.

I also do not take responsibility for any individual’s disease or illness nor am I responsible for their healing. I offer no guarantee that anyone will be healed or that any disease or illness will be prevented.

I do, however, believe that we are spiritual beings who have a soul and live in a body according to 1 Thessalonians 5:23.  I also believe that most problems that manifest in the soul and body have a spiritual root. 

But most importantly, I believe that Jesus paid the price for our healing (Isaiah 53:4-5, 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Corinthians 1:18; Revelation 12:11) and it is by only the power of God, through the blood of Jesus's cross, that we have provision, prosperity, and victory over anything that opposes us or affects us.

I believe God heals today because He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Depression: What Not To Say

Over the years I've read a number of sermons and quotes of well-meaning people trying their best to explain away depression, or at least trying to provide some kind of a relief - if not more for themselves than for anyone else.
W.A. Criswell said

when we take our eyes off God we experience "the black gall, the black bile ... an affliction of all mankind, and all of us fall into it. It is a universal experience. We are blue sometimes, we are discouraged sometimes, we are down sometimes; we fall into hopelessness and helplessness.
John Piper said,

All discouragement and depression is related to the obscuring of our hope, and we need to get those clouds out of the way and fight like crazy to see clearly how precious Christ is.
Apparently, Piper is a Criswell fan.

John Stott said
a "Christian's freedom from anxiety is not due to some guaranteed freedom from trouble, but to the folly of worry and especially to the confidence that God is our Father, that even permitted suffering is within the orbit of His care."  
That's actually the more difficult of the three quotes to parse.  But he seems to be saying that if you're depressed, then suck it up buttercup: your suffering is within God's sovereign design for you.

I would dare say that none of these men have actually ever been under the oppression of depression.  Not once, not ever.

They've never lived with daily suicidal ideations.  They never looked out from the 10th floor, wishing the window wasn't permanently locked.  They've never fought against the frequent curiosity of what it would be like to slip into the oncoming traffic or pass through the guardrail down the mountain.  They've never walked across that bridge and actually tried to take their own life, nor have they even stepped on the first creaking board of that so ever friendly viaduct.

What Not To Say

First, don't say any of the things that Criswell, Piper or Stott said.  They don't have a clue, and your friend will more likely be offended, rather than encouraged.

Don't say, "I understand how you feel," if you've never actually been tormented with suicidal ideation; if you've never slept hours on end to make the pain go away; if you've never been able to keep up with your family at the park because you hurt so immensely throughout your head and body.  You don't know what it's like, so own it and don't try to pretend you do.

Don't say, "it's going to be okay, you'll see."  Truly depressed people are not just blue, down in the dumps or kinda sad.  They're despondent.  They're at the brink of collapse.  They're looking for something to distract them from the torment, something that can take the pain away for a few minutes and provide a brief respite.

Don't force them to do "fun things."  What's fun for you is probably not fun for them.  That's actually a clue: they don't want to participate in life with you or anyone else.

Don't give them your number and say, "call me if you want to talk."  First, they don't want to talk to you about their problems: that's just a forced re-hashing of the pain they're trying to escape.  Secondly, that's just a cop-out on your part.  You already know something is wrong, and you've just tipped your hand.  Which means your depressed friend knows you're just avoiding the situation, and in doing so, you've revalidated their despondency.

What To Do

Introduce them to professional help. Some Psychiatrists do have limited success in dealing with depression. None of my Psychiatrists ever did, but I've heard that it's happened.

Introduce them to Jesus. For the average Christian, this is actually the hardest thing for them to do (even if the depressed person is a Christian): most believers don't have a clue as to how to be the Body of Christ and administer the promises of Isaiah 53. Most Christians fall squarely within the declaration of verse 1: Who hath believed our report?  They read Isaiah 53 and chalk it off to fable or some fantasy that can never be achieved this side of the grave.

The Next Steps

I'm going to follow up within the next week or two and actually give you practical, Biblical guidance on how to help someone recover from emotional trauma - the kind of thing that leads to depression.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Understanding Your Actions

It's strange how that's all twisted around, no? As if our actions are not governed by our beliefs.  But why should we be surprised?  Have our churches not authoritatively taught us from the word of God that we're "just sinners saved by grace?"  

Have these same people never read
Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; for as he thinks within himself, so he is.  He says to you, “Eat and drink!”  But his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten, and waste your compliments. (Prov. 23:6-8)
Maybe that's just too deep for the average pastoral teacher; for perhaps when Jesus said,

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.  Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops (Luke 12:1-3) ...
such people didn't make the bread and leaven connection?  Do they not understand that it is not God waiting for the right opportunity to expose our sin, but it is our actions driven by our belief systems that will be heard in the light and proclaimed on the housetops?

A belief may indeed be reflective of a reasonably valid conviction and perhaps even truth, but a belief or conviction that does not govern your behavior is one of the purest examples of hypocrisy: it is a fantasy only to be trotted out when necessary to persuade others of a moral fortitude. 

If you want to understand your belief systems, if you want to know what is at the core of your being, then look at your behaviors, and look at your thought patterns, look at the private sins you confess that no one knows about, look at the disparaging remarks you make of others whom you disagree with - especially those done in jest.  Delve into those things and you will find the lies you confer as truth (John 8:34-38).

In other words, if your actions smell of evil, its because your belief systems do too.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Convincing Your Friends Otherwise

I've tried. I've talked. I've prayed. I've debated. I've used carefully constructed logical arguments, all based on scripture. But to no avail.

Some of my friends are still Cessationists, Dispensationalists, non-believers or what-evers. So what gives? How do you convince someone of an alternative understanding - one you've worked through and are certain is the truth?

You don't. And I would suggest that you take that to heart. If not for any other reason, because Paul didn't win souls or change hearts through a debate.  And if that's not enough, then you've got to accept the fact that God has got this one. He's a big boy and can handle the situation.
I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:3-5)
Remember that faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of God (Rom. 10:17).  And before you go down the wrong path, don't even begin to think that going to church and hearing a sermon, or even better - reading scripture - is hearing the word of God: because it's not.

Faith - Yielding and Experience

The next problem you have to tackle is that faith rests upon two things: yielding, and experience.  Ya, it does.  When it rests upon these things, it becomes the foundation of a testimony: faith is the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).  Evidence is derived from an experience, and only from an experience can a testimony be given.

Any serious scriptural study of faith will reveal that faith is founded upon the confluence of two things: belief and trust.  Belief is reasoned, and trust is gained through interaction or experience.  I may easily believe that you can mow my lawn because you have a lawnmower and you've said you'll do the job.  But I may not trust that you will mow my lawn because you never have done so when you've said you would in the past.

Contrarywise, I may trust your word about mowing my lawn because you have always been trustworthy in the past, but I will doubt your ability to do so because you do not own a lawnmower.  In both instances, I lack faith in your ability to follow through and actually mow my lawn.  This is an example of what I call "natural faith."

Hence, one has an experience with God, reasons through the word God has given, and because of those two things working together, one can yield to God in faith when the next mountain presents itself.  Catch that bit about yielding: faith is not conjured up, it is not an intellectual effort, it is a heart effort:
But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (2 Cor. 3:16)
 The word "turns" means to revert back, to return - to yield.

And the Point?

The point is this: we must learn to function in society as Jesus functioned in His society.  People need an experience with God, they need a spoken word (logos, an idea) that prunes their heart:
... every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.  You are already clean {pruned} because of the word which I have spoken to you ...  If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (John 15:2-8)
Just as Moses experienced the burning bush and turned (Exo. 3:3) and then God spoke, so people need an experience with God, a spoken word from Jesus that prunes them.  Paul described this same truth to the Corinthians in the idea around prophecy:
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you. (1 Cor. 14:24-25)
So then: when one has actually heard in their heart the spoken word of God (Rom. 10:17) one is pruned, or cleansed (John 15:2-8).  Thus prophecy (1 Cor. 14:24-25) is a medium that enables one to hear God's word in their heart resulting in cleansing (pruning).

Therefore, in the end, we need to learn how to walk in this truth:
These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:17-18)
The point is not to logically convince anyone of the truth - because none of us have the whole truth (amazingly, God is cool with that).  Your job is to bring people into relationship with God, with the Son Jesus.  And for those who already have a relationship, your job is to plant seed or to water the seed already there, because it is God who causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:7)  Who here knows that in order to make vines grow well and produce fruit, they must be pruned?

A Better Way

If Paul refused apologetics as a viable tool to win souls, then perhaps we should too.  Once a person has received a personal touch from God, they then must deal with that experience.  They either must reject the experience - and reject God too - or accept what has happened to them and yield to Jesus.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Do the Commandments

The typical mainstream denominational church doesn't have a clue how to make a disciple. Jesus never said, "teaching them to learn the doctrines I have taught you," - which is the best such a church has ever done.

The typical church first makes one into a non-empirical learner (lacking experience), then they teach them how to pass a written driving exam. 

As good a learner, you can eloquently pontificate about what you're supposed to do while driving a car, and even pretend you're doing it.

But what you're lacking is experience: you've never been taught how to obey or perform the commandments of driving a real car - you've never sat behind a wheel and turned it on, let alone driven it down a street. You can't accelerate, park, stop, change gears, or safely navigate through a dangerous intersection or situation.

"... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."

If you want to follow the great commission, if you want to be a disciple, go first to the commandments of things to do: Matt. 10, Mark 6, Luke 9 - and then keep them as they are, attending to and doing the commandments as the disciples of the Jesus would have understood within the context of their life experience with Jesus.

How Jesus Heals Depression

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexel Depression sucks.  It really does.  I'm one of those people that believes the average never-been-dep...