Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to stay Green though you're Blue...because of the Red

I just got done preaching last Sunday morning over at a friend's church, and I preached a message with the same title as this post. Though I had a pretty good idea what I was going to preach that morning, I didn't have a title until I was about halfway to the church that Sunday. I was thinking that (in winter especially) it's easy to get depressed or discouraged, or "blue." But we've got to stay productive and joyful, or "green." And we can do that because of the blood of Christ, that is, the "red." Amen!

Think about it -- it's plenty easy to become blue or discouraged when confronted with a number of things. Finances. Relationships. Death. Conflict. My soft spot? Sin and guilt. Sometimes, out of the blue, I think of things that I wish I had never done. Whether it be something small or something big, it's easy for me to feel very guilty and depressed (in the truest sense of the word) over the wrongs that I've committed. Now, I know that I am forgiven by God, but sometimes it's very hard to feel that way. So no matter what causes us to be "blue," this fact remains: It does happen, and it happens to everyone in some way.

Also, these next 3 paragraphs are for those of you who insist that depression does not exist as an actual medical disorder, and I pray in love for your heart to soften soon. Depression is real. Now, I'm not talking about being sad because someone died. That's normal grief. I'm not talking about feeling guilty because we did something wrong. That's normal, too, and it can be taken care of by simply going to the Lord and leaving it there. I'm talking about an actual physical, chemical, non-cicumstantial depression. Sometimes it can be brought on or worsened because of circumstances, but it usually just...comes. And I know of what I speak, unfortunately. For instance, last month, I put my head against the wall of my home and felt like sobbing for no apparent reason. Nothing bad had happened, and I have a wonderful life and count my blessings regularly. But that didn't stop the feelings of  hopelessness. Despair. Pessismism. Yuck. Like being trapped in a black hole. Nothing sounds good when you're in that kind of spot. Nothing. I'd truly, truly, truly rather have a broken back and a migraine than to suffer one day of my worst depression. And, no, I'm not crazy.

Don't believe me? Here's something that may help. No matter what you believe about depression, check out "major depressive disorder" on Wikipedia. Then look at the sub-type of depression called "melancholic depression." Now, I don't agree with everything the world has to say about depression and its treatments, but do you want to know how I feel when depressed, circumstances notwithstanding? Look at some of the symptoms: Loss of pleasure in most or all activities (food or any other pleasurable activities have absolutely no appeal),  failure of reactivity to pleasurable stimuli (again, nothing sounds good),  depressed mood worse than normally felt during grief or loss (there's a true feeling of hopelessness; no matter how much a person may KNOW that there is hope, that person doesn't FEEL that way), worsening of symptoms in the morning hours (it's weird, but true. Mornings are the worst), early morning waking (again, very weird, but it happens), psychomotor retardation (means you're sluggish), excessive weight loss (I recall having lost about 30 pounds in about 2 weeks because of a bout with depression back in 2007), or excessive guilt (this is by FAR the worst part of depression for me. I truly, earnestly feel like turning myself to the police for going 31mph in a 30mph zone or calling everyone I've ever lied to or sinned against and airing my dirty laundry to them instead of simply going to the Lord). Whew! During times of depression, I tend to fit this bill to a "T." And the worst part is, it just comes whenever it wants to, which for me tends to be once every couple of years. Sometimes it seems pretty manageable, sometimes not.

Now, I don't believe in throwing pills (MAOIs, SSRIs, etc.) at depression to make it go away. I used to, but it really, really doesn't seem to work for many (if not most) depressed folks, and it didn't work for me. In fact, do your research: There has been absolutely no evidence whatsoever that antidepressants work in mild or moderate cases -- they only seem to work in severe cases, many (if not most) of which require hospitalization of some sort. Also, several studies have evidenced that placebos (sugar pills) are just as effective in treating depression as many antidepressants! That being said, however, I do take vitamin D, and maybe some herbs (though I stay away from St. John's Wort and 5-HTP...they don't make anything better). But anyways. This post isn't about the reality of an actual chemical imbalance/disorder called depression, though it is real, and I have struggled with it a few times. This post is about being blue, and depression is just one of those ways, although probably the most severe form of "blue" there is.

So...are you blue? Are you grieving? Are you sad? Are you hurting? Are you depressed? Pills really aren't the answer for most people. God's Word is. So let's see what God has to say.

In Philippians chapter 4, we see a recipe for healing. Now, you're not going to read this and be healed chemically or physically or all that, but the Scriptures sure will fix the innermost part of a man or woman, which is the first step, methinks.

First, look at verse 4. We must REJOICE. There's always something to be thankful for. Are you saved? Are you blessed? Do you have a home in heaven? Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say...Rejoice!

Secondly, verse 5 says we must BE MODERATE. That means not rushing around and trying to fix everything ourselves. It means taking a reasonable, measured-out appreach to life. Are you feeling guilty, like I tend to do when struggling with depression? Moderation means not going by your feelings. If you have confessed your sins to God, He doesn't even remember them. Nor should you. Simple as that. No, you don't need to go making it right with everyone. Though that may make sense when one is depressed, it is actually foolish, destructive thinking that brings reproach to Christ's name. No matter the case, don't be rash. Be moderate.

Thirdly, verse 6 says DON'T WORRY. The Word says to be careful for nothing. "But I --" Nope. "But what about --" Nuh-uh. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Don't worry about stuff. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Leave it to Him.

Fourthly, we're taught in verse 6 to ASK. The word "pray" doesn't mean "talk to God" like the world and the devil want you to believe. Look it up! (I'm not a fan of Webster's 1828 because it defines "repentance" way wrong, but he gets this one right: "to ask with earnestness or zeal") Ever read Shakespeare? They say "I pray thee" to each other in his plays once in a while, right? Well, they're asking each other stuff! Not talking to God! Good grief, let's use our brains! "Pray" means "ask." So does that fancy word, "supplication." Listen, God wants to hear us ASK. Simple as that. Need relief? Don't wait for God to read your mind. Ask.

Fifthly, verse 6 lets us know to BE THANKFUL. I like to recommend what I call "T3" files. Make one today! Take a bunch of index cards, and each day write on one card three things you are thankful for. Once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening. Just be thankful! It can be anything from being thankful for "this piece of chewing gum in my mouth" to being thankful for "my eternal salvation." Keep them all together, and soon you'll have a LOT that you've been thankful to God for.

Sixthly, God assures us of His PEACE in our lives in verse 7. And it passes ALL UNDERSTANDING, so don't even try to figure it out. I'm usually all "obsessive-compulsive" and analytical about stuff. But not His peace. I don't even bother. But God's peace only comes and stays when we do the next two things:

Seventhly, look at verse 8. It exhorts us to THINK ON THESE THINGS. I like to call this verse the "Mind Filter." If it's not true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous or praiseworthy, then don't meditate on it. Throw it toward the cross and leave it there. Also, verse 9 says "those things [the Greek implies to me that the "things" in verse 9 refers to the "things" in verse 8]" Don't just think about good things. Do them!

Eighthly and lastly, BE CONFIDENT. Paul says in verses 11-13 that no matter what you throw at him, he can take it. Why? Because he's Paul? No way! The guy is a mass murderer, a serial killer by man's standard! But by Christ's strength, he's a warrior who can make it through anything, anytime, anywhere.

And so can you.

Because of Christ's blood, we can be productive and joyful even when we're experiencing grief, hurt, sadness, or even depression and despair. No matter what you've done. Listen, Michael Britt (that's me) is a thief, a liar, an adulterer, a criminal, and even worse by man's standard. But God doesn't look at me that way, and neither should I. I'm not trying to say to sweep sin under the rug. But what I am saying is that Christ can and will give full pardon to any and all people, no matter what you've done. Didn't He forgive Moses and Paul and David of their crime of cold-blooded, passionate murder? Didn't He spare the adulterous woman in John 8 from the death penalty (even though by the law and man's standard, she "deserved it")? Listen, we're all sinners, and we're all in the same boat. We all need His forgivness. And His forgiveness is big enough to cover all sins -- your sins against Him, against others, and against yourself.

And I'm so thankful for that, aren't you? AAAAMEN! That's enough to make a depressed, backslidden atheist shout for glory, amen? :)