Depression in the Christian Life Part 2

My Story
I began struggling with depression when I was 15/16.  I just remember a constant frustration about my life.  Feeling like I was in a rut that I could not break free from.  My life felt empty, regardless of what I had.  It worsened as I grew up.  By the time I was 18, I was finishing up high school, working 30 hours a week at Taco Bell and spent the rest of my time at home or church.  I had no friends in high school and had no close friendships with people at my church, at least the kind of friendships that were open to these difficult times.  I truly felt like I had nothing and I strongly believe that is what caused me to constantly seek a girlfriend.  My thought was if I could just find a girl that could become my wife, I would be happy but that only proved to make my depression worse with each failed relationship.

The summer between high school and college I worked at a camp for underprivileged children and that was the first time I remember a moment in recent history that was not clouded by depression.  Being able to help children who had less than I ever had changed my perspective and being able to help them find hope in Christ encouraged me as well.  Some of the staff that I worked with also aided in this bright summer.  They took true care into my life and worked with me.

When I entered college, I had a new perspective on life.  I still struggled with relationships and the false hope I thought they would bring me but I was finally able to begin the work of what I wanted to do, become a pastor.  It was during this time that I really paid attention to my emotions and could place a finger on what I was struggling with.  With the new found knowledge of my depression, I could begin working against it.  And that was where I met the greater struggle...having the desire to not be depressed.  While it may sound odd, people who struggle with depression don't want to but they also struggle to have the desire to change in order to correct the problem.  That is where my friends, girlfriend (now wife) and especially my family began to play a major role in my life.  I could finally say I had true friends.  I was in a relationship with a godly woman for more than just to be happy and I had opened up to my family about my struggles.  My parents instantly loved on me and cared for me.

God designed up to be social
One of the elements I was lacking in my battle against depression was the connection with other people.  I am not a huge social person and building new relationships takes time.  I also am diligent on achieving my work which means I can abandon people for duties.  Once I took the first step and opened up to my family, it made it easier.  Then I opened up to my roommates at college.  Then my wife before we started dating.  Little by little I began to trust people.  It did back fire some times but most of the time, people respected my courage and understood my struggles.

God does not want us to be alone.  In fact he says that it is not good for us to be alone and no project, job or animal can replace the relationship shared between two people.  While the highest reflection of that is a man and woman bound together in marriage, even friends can share a strong bond, as did David and Johnathan.  We place ourselves in a troublesome spot when we neglect the relationships God has placed in our lives.  By keeping open communications, even with just a few people, your life will gain more value.  You will have a reason to change and the support system to do so.

My response
Along with opening up to people, which is what I was doing with that lady from my church, I told her about how I structure my life around some core disciplines.  My life revolves around prayer and Bible reading.  If I do not accomplish either one of those in a day, I can feel it.  I have challenged myself so much to make it a key part of my life that my body aches when I do not perform either task.  By placing them as the pillars to my day, I know that I am starting my day off on the right foot.  I am placing my mind before God saying, "let me see as you see and do as you do".

It is important to establish a spiritual practice for your day.  Even if you don't struggle with depression, keeping united with Christ is very important.  For those who have that cloud over them, this can help remove it from their day.

Be open with the right people.  Let them know that you are not perfect and they will love you anyways.  Build a strong foundation on God's word and even depression will fail to shake you.  It can still be a struggle some days.  When I wake up and don't want to pray or read, but I must remind myself that these are things that I cannot substitute.  So dealing with depression is not about managing the problem but setting my sights on God and allowing him to work out the rest.