Is depression a choice? Absolutely not. But what you do with it (how you respond to it and what you believe about it) is.
The following is my response to a friend over text message when asked about depression and how I overcame. I excluded and paraphrased their portion of the conversation for anonymity:
Everyone is different and everyone fights differently. For me it came down to a choice. I had to choose to fight. I had to choose to rely on Jesus. Every. Single. Time. It really was deciding the battle wasn’t just physical. It was spiritual. More spiritual than it was physical. And then I had to fight like heck spiritually. Prayer. Worship music. Getting out and walking when I didn’t feel like it. Reaching out! That was the hardest. Reaching out for prayer when I didn’t want to. Also acknowledging I was going downhill before getting to the bottom. I used to deny the warning signs because I was so afraid of going back down. Then I’d be at the bottom before anyone could help. I had to start believing God WANTED to heal me. I had to start choosing faith when I didn’t feel like it. I basically had to choose the opposite of my feelings every time. And the episodes got fewer and farther between. And less intense. I also went through a lot of therapy and 12 Step work in the beginning. Understanding myself and learning HOW to process my emotions were huge building blocks. Emotions are like laundry. They pile up if you don’t process through them. Also huge for me was faith in the healing power of Jesus. I didn’t believe He could/wanted to heal me in an instant. I thought it had to be a process. But it doesn’t have to be. Some things are and some things aren’t. My faith in Jesus grew and my pits of despair shrank. What’s changed the most is my faith. I cling to Jesus for dear life almost every day. And because of that, my life has changed. I went to The Source and most of my problems were solved. Instead of trying to find individual solutions for each problem. I seek His face and His presence. There really is healing power in the presence of Jesus. And He does want to heal your broken heart.
“The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” –Psalm 34:18
I’ve been learning so much lately about prayer. And praying in faith. It changes your life. Because God becomes your everything and He really does answer prayer.
And the life He has planned for you is so much better. And through prayer you begin to pray for His will instead of your own because you begin to know God and love God. And when you realize truly how much He loves you, and how deeply He loves you, and how powerful He really is, somehow all the sadness falls away. And His loves consumes you. And there is no more room for fear, doubt, sadness, and deadness. Just life. Because He puts that life in you. And He wants to do it!
And it may feel like you have to do a lot of work spiritually now. And you have to fight on your own. But really all you have to do is say, “Jesus help me. Jesus I need you.” I spent many episodes on the couch saying those very words over and over. And then someone would reach out. (Because God leads His people. And those walking in obedience will reach out to you when you don’t have the strength). And instead of lying about my life and how I was feeling, I’d tell them the truth. I’d say, “I’m having a rough day.” And they would send me encouragement and get me vertical. Out of bed and out of the house. Be there physically and emotionally for me when I couldn’t help myself.
Some practical tools I used were when I was in the depths I wouldn’t allow myself to check out on anything that wasn’t Christ centered. I would only listen to worship music. Or the audio Bible. Or listen to a teaching on YouTube. I wouldn’t let myself zone out on anything worldly. If my body and emotions were down, I forced myself to focus on Jesus one way or another.
And He always shows up. Jesus always comes when we call. In a real and tangible way. Not just like the, “bless your heart, I’m praying for you, Jesus loves you” Christianese. But He shows up and touches your heart. Feeling returns to the dead places in your heart. Tears flow because it’s painful to feel how loved you are. You feel in the depths of your being God is with you. Jesus loves you. You can have a beautiful life. God never intended this to be your life. The life He had (and has) for you was so much better. And He wants to redeem your life. Heal your life. Restore you. Once you grasp and believe that. Know that. Then there’s no stopping Him. He’s God.
“Question: Where do I start?”
So I’ve read “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young every day since fall of 2015. And I still do. (**I wrote this in 2016 and no longer read Jesus Calling. However, God did allow this to be used as a tool in my life at that time**). It’s written like Jesus is talking to you. That really helped me read the Bible like God is talking to me, and not just some random people. Before I read it every day I pray, “Holy Spirit come and give me the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the heart to learn all that you have to teach me today. Open my mind to understand the scriptures.” I pray for deeper dependence on, and greater awareness of God. I cling to the promises.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” –Jeremiah 29:11-14a
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” –Deuteronomy 31:6
All of Romans 8. No condemnation. Works all things for good. Nothing can separate us from His love.
Often my daily devotional will lead me to verses. I read the verses in the Bible, not on my phone, and I’ll linger on surrounding verses. I pray that God guides me, and He usually does. Straight to the passage I need.
Also the Psalms. Those always help. The 30’s and 40’s. Emotional and deep. But truly they are all good.
Alsoooooo I started listening to the Bible like a story. From the beginning. I decided when I’m listening I’m not studying. I’m just enjoying God’s Word. And that allowed me to let go of absorbing it all and just like a child, marvel at God. The Old Testament is super fascinating. Written more like a history book than instruction.
When you seek Me you WILL FIND ME. When you seek Me with all of your heart.
God promises He will be found. So sometimes just keep seeking. And if you can’t find Him say, “Jesus, I’m seeking you, trying to find you. Help me seek You with all of my heart. Show me how to seek You so I can find You. I want to find you and I know You want to be found by me. Help me Lord.”
Start clinging to and claiming the promises. If you say them out loud you’ll start believing them for yourself. There is power in speaking words of life out. I had to do that. And asking out loud God to help my unbelief.
Yeah. Saying things out loud is powerful. Often the lies we are believing sound reasonable in our head. And once you say out loud, “Jesus, I feel worthless. I amount to nothing. But You say I am something and You love me.” There is power in that. He can meet you in that admission.
I know the battle is a hard one to fight. And I’ve never fought your specific battle. But I know Jesus is on your side. And He is victorious. And He WILL see you through this. Because you are God’s special possession. (1 Peter 2:9).
I’ve learned so so much about the power of prayer. About asking in faith. Often people from broken homes with wounded childhoods don’t ask because they are afraid of not receiving. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. And it’s almost too painful to hope and believe for your own healing, for God to help you, because what if it doesn’t happen? How many times has it happened before that you hoped and it was dashed? So you learn not to hope. Not to expect. Because it’s safer and less painful. But that is only true of man. Our hope in God is never wasted. And faith comes first. The miracles come after. Believe and then see. It’s hard for wounded people. But God is good. And a little bit of trust goes a long way with Him.
Jesus is my life and the only reason I am where I am today. Giving Him full control and total surrender is scary, and the opposite of the world. But it is where true life is found. Joy and peace. Just keep going to The Source of all life. Why go to the empty things of this world to escape? Their escape is temporal and often not satisfying. Jesus always satisfies. I never leave His presence empty handed. He is the Giver and will give you only good things. Because He Himself is goodness.
Keep fighting. The enemy is going to attack harder the more you rise up to fight. But you are an overcomer with Christ. Know that the Devil is only shouting louder, but all he yells are empty threats. You are victorious in Christ. You will win. Believe it. Receive it. Claim your inheritance in Christ and don’t let anyone or anything take it from you. Protect it like a treasure.
I believe depression is spiritual. I believe there is a demon, or unclean spirit, of depression/despair that comes and imposes itself on you. Isaiah 61:3 speaks to this. “A garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Once you see depression as not your own (not a part of you, but as an outside entity or personality) you can then begin to fight. When fighting against yourself there is no winning. But when you begin to see yourself as fighting someone or something else, it enables you to fight and fight harder. The blood of Jesus never fails.
One of the biggest turning points for me in my battle against depression was rejecting the idea that it was God’s will for me. That depression was just a part of my life that I had to accept and struggle with. Once I realized that God is powerful, God does love me, God has better plans for my life and wants to free me, I was able to believe in full faith that He wanted to heal me. Matthew 9:20-22 was one of the most impactful passages that really solidified that in me.
“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.” –Matthew 9:20-22
I remember exactly where I was when I heard those verses. She believed that just a touch of His garment would heal her. “Your faith has healed you.” I said, “Ok Jesus. I may not be healed today, but I believe my faith in You will heal me. So even though I’m not experiencing it in this moment, I believe that one day I will be healed and free from depression.” And you know what happened? I began to feel lighter and more hope flow in. I was being freed in that very instant.
Praise and worship are absolutely weapons of warfare and another of the biggest ways I fought (and still fight my various battles today). You may not feel like praising and worshiping God, but when you do, the devil has to flee. He can’t stand people praising God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. I have attached some songs and resources below that were especially helpful in my fight.
I have been free from alcoholism for 4 years, and depression for almost 2 years now. I was saved, believed in Jesus, and still struggled with depression. It wasn’t until I started rejecting the spirit of despair that I got freedom and breakthrough. It is so important as Christians to be aware that we are in a spiritual battle, and Jesus calls us to fight. Just like Joshua had to fight the Canaanites in order to inherit the Promised Land, so we too must fight for our inheritance in Him.
“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” –Joshua 1:5-6
God does love you, and Jesus does want to heal you and free you. If you struggle with depression or any other mental health disorder, I pray this helps you. If you know anyone who struggles, please share this post with them. It may just change their life.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” –John 8:32