Hi, My Name Is Ralph Bass...This Is My Library

The ninth in our series of counseling case studies.

DEAR PASTOR: I believe that I am depressed. I can’t enjoy the things that I used to, I get less and less done each day. I long to go home and be by myself and I find myself doing a count down of the hours until I can go home. Yet when I am there, I don't do anything except watch TV. I can't even sleep at night. I am so tired. My pastor asked me if there was any overt sin in my life. I thought about this a lot and I could not think of any unconfessed sin. Does the Bible offer any help for me?
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Counseling Case Study 9

ANSWER: How does depression start? Depression starts with disobedience to God’s word. At some point in your past you have been faced with a responsible, godly option and an irresponsible ungodly one. You took the irresponsible one. Sometimes that disobedience is very overt. Maybe you were faced with discouragement in your marriage, and dealt with that discouraging, difficult problem, in a godless way. Perhaps you had a violent fight with your husband, perhaps you committed adultery, and perhaps you smothered your problem with drugs or alcohol. Maybe you had an abortion. At other times, disobedience is very subtle, which seems to be the case with you because you cannot “think of any unconfessed sin.” However, behaviors we often don’t look upon as sin, often actually are. For instance, perhaps you neglect to clean the house or cook supper for your family. Maybe you don’t support your family, as you should. Perhaps you argue with people, but play down your role, blaming the other person. The point is your actions were not what God would have wanted of you. The result? Relations go sour and life is difficult. From this you find yourself spiraling downward in defeat, discouragement, and depression. As the days and weeks passed you keep taking the easy, but irresponsible and godless option with problem after problem. And, as a result, you spiraled further down, down, down.

King David of Israel did the same thing. He sinned against God by committing adultery and murder. After a while he said in Psalm 32, “Day and night your hand was heavy upon me.” He had acted in a sinful way. He was feeling great guilt, which is often what depression is. He did not handle this sin in a Godly, responsible way by repenting of it to God. Instead he tried to cover it up and, as a result, he was soon saying, “...my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long.” Can you relate to that in your life? Is that the way you feel?
Now, depression starts with disobedience, but it is made a permanent part of your life by a lack of self-discipline. One of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 is self-control or discipline. In I Timothy 4:7 you are told to “...exercise (or discipline) yourself toward godliness.” You must pray and ask God for the fruit of self-control in order to deal with this problem of depression Scripturally.

Discipline, in the face of negative feelings, is so critical. Christians want to feel better before they act obediently and responsibly before God. That is wrong. When Cain sinned against God, by offering an unacceptable sacrifice, the Bible says his countenance fell - he was depressed. What was God’s counsel? Was it, “try to feel better so you can do the sacrifice again?” No! It was, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” God’s counsel was “do well,” do the right things, no matter how you feel, and do it now. If you do, your countenance will be lifted up - you will feel better. Obedience precedes feeling. Remember that, obedience comes before feeling.

Now, here is where we are. We have identified the two central elements that produce this problem of depression; an irresponsible response to the obedience of God’s word and an undisciplined response to doing what God requires of you. To get out of depression, first you must face up to your sin and repent of it. Next, you must pursue a godly disciplined and responsible plan of action in putting this behind you. Do two things right now. One, act responsibility by making a list of responsible actions that is long overdue in your life. Do it right now. Maybe that list will include repentance of a sin. Maybe it will include doing the laundry, or cooking supper for your family, or filling out a late tax return. Whatever it is, make a responsible, godly decision-making list right now. Two, follow through no matter how you feel. Be disciplined. Do it because it is the right thing to do. That is all the reason you need. Remember Paul’s words in I Timothy 4:7, “...discipline yourself to godliness.” Next, find an accountability partner to help you stick to your list of needed actions. Perhaps your pastor or one of the leaders of the church will fill that roll. Get started on this project today.

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