22 veterans die by suicide every day. Anti-depressant medications are being prescribed at record levels. Something is wrong. Why do so many see suicide as their only option? And is there a solution to depression other than medication? It is time for the Church to recognize that it represents an alternative approach to addressing the mental health crisis in our country through the healing of spiritual wounds.
Weekly Challenge: Spend at least 2 hours this next week doing something that brings you joy with others. Write down why you think it brings you so much joy.
When people talk about the horrible things in life, sometimes the reaction is “Well, that’s just life.” If that is all life is, why not be depressed? This is not new. The Bible is filled with examples of depression and struggling characters. We are given Abraham, who suffers a deep depression, Elijah, who was overcome with the physical symptoms of his mental state, David, basically the whole book of Psalms, and Jonah, who considered suicide.
The key to combating depression and suicide is being proactive and intentional. Job had everything taken from him, and then finally his health as well. He was innocent and loved by God, yet he was surrounded by circumstances that would make suicide seem like a viable option. Even his own wife fed him this first lie – “Curse God and die”. The second lie was one that veterans may be able to relate to more than others and that is that “your family would be better off without you.” Job was told that he must have committed a grievous sin to have this misfortune rain on him and his family. This was and is not true. While Job didn’t know the mind of God, he trusted the character of God. We can learn from Job that when it feels like God is silent, we can focus on God’s character.
We did an exercise where we each had a coin. Most of us had penny problems that, at a distance, didn’t obscure our view. However, when we focused on the penny and brought it nearer to our eyes, it blocked out everything else. What you focus on will grow. Part of the horror of depression is that we cannot know when it will end, so we focus on the problems.
As in a traffic jam, seeing that the resolution is coming can offer us all the encouragement we need. This is how depression feeds suicidal thoughts – the idea that there is no end, no way out. Suicidal ideation is when the problems become the focus. When you can’t see God anywhere, focus His provision. You have gotten out of every traffic jam you’ve ever been in so far. Refer to the past, and know that just because God isn’t necessarily visible to you right now, He is working.
Satan will use discouragement to allow depression to permeate. When you stop doing the things that matter, you are starting to lose. Depression makes you stop. You stop doing things that you enjoy, and time seems to crawl. You have to act out of obedience and discipline instead of your feelings. You have to be intentional to get out of the valley. You have to trust facts over feelings, and the fact is that you have something offer the world. Rebuilding the wall of optimism is difficult but possible.
The world needs you. You are still valued and valuable. Intentionality will win.