Let’s face it, as much as some of us love the holidays, they are not always easy. As the year winds down and the holiday season winds up, depression and anxiety tend to rise in our society. Things such as the loss of a loved one, financial stress, and other things are felt more acutely this time of the year.
What is true for society as a whole is often true for ministers of the Gospel. I’ve read two articles recently that reminded me of this truth. Here’s one by Paul David Tripp that’s the first installment of a series on dealing with depression.
I’m not writing this end of the year blog because I stole the idea from someone. I’m writing this post because I’ve had multiple battles with depression and in case anyone who reads this may be fighting it right now – I want to help you.
I used to be embarrassed about my own struggle. How could I be depressed when I’ve been so ridiculously blessed? In comparison to so many, I know I’ve had a cream puff life. Nevertheless, depression has been part of my experience.
I have studied depression and anxiety and have learned to fight it. I’m not as embarrassed of it as much as I used to be, but I also don’t plan to own it if I start to feel it coming upon me again! Oh no – I plan to fight it!
Part of the reason I don’t feel as uncomfortable sharing my own struggle is because of the fact that some truly great leaders from history have also struggled with depression. None other than the prince of preachers himself, Charles Spurgeon, struggled with it. Some days he could hardly get out of bed!
Additionally, men of steel like Abraham Lincoln and Elijah the prophet had their battles with depression. One of the world’s greatest leaders in the twentieth century was Winston Churchill, and he too had moments of deep despair. Churchill referred to his depression as “the black dog.”
I don’t think the weakness or struggles of others ought to normalize it for any of us, but I do find it informative and helpful to know about. For those of us who are normal, everyday men and women (i.e. made of clay and not steel), it’s good to know some of our heroes had to fight this battle also.
Using Churchill’s metaphor of “the black dog,” let me say, if you’re struggling with depression or even a deep discouragement right now, it’s time for you to kick the black dog of depression and enjoy your holidays.
From my experience, let me give you some pointers…
1. List 12 things you are grateful for right now. Don’t overthink it! God is the source of all blessings. If you are thankful for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, then praise God for that!
2. Think about how you can enjoy one or more of those blessings before this day is over. Plan on it and do it. And once you do, take the time to thank God for it.
3. List 5 people you are grateful for – and think about why you’re grateful for them.
4. Call someone you just listed who you’re thankful for on the phone or visit them in person and tell them that you thank God for their contribution to your life. Tell them why they are a blessing to you. **If you must message them another way, by all means do, but nothing is as good as your voice with all its feelings telling someone how much you love and appreciate them.
5. Find someone to serve who needs some help today and see if you can’t encourage their heart just a little bit.
6. Find an intercessor – one of those people who seem to have a special connection in prayer with God – and spend a few minutes in prayer with them. Thank God that help is on the way for your troubled soul.
Brothers and sisters in the good battle, rejoice in the Lord’s goodness with all you’ve got! And do it in spite of how you feel. Praise Him! And in so doing, you will be kicking the black dog of depression and on the path to enjoying your holiday season.
Just a reminder: We are not doctors. Don’t hesitate to seek out trained health care professionals if you are struggling. If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network.