The following tips come from the book Depression: Looking Up From the Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch. If you are someone who struggles with depression, or if you are someone who wants to help those who do struggle, I would highly encourage you to purchase a copy of this very helpful book. Please note that these lists are not meant to be exhaustive. They simply can help “prime the pump” as you think of ways to battle depression.
I Felt Like Thing Began to Change When…
The first list comes from people who were once depressed. They were asked to finish this sentence: “I felt like things began to change when…”
- I began to talk to myself rather than listen to myself. I began to speak different Scriptures to myself rather than listen to my own voices of hopelessness.
- I stopped saying, “It doesn’t work.” I was always looking for the answer. I would pray (trying to make deals with God), look at my own heart (for a minute or two), or briefly try some other seemingly spiritual activity. When they didn’t work, I would quit. I felt justified in quitting. Now I believe that it does “work.” There is contentment and even joy in long-term, small steps of faith.
- I had a pastor who kept the bigger picture of God’s kingdom in front of me. Depression made my world so small; when I saw that God was on the move, I began to have hope.
- My daughter became very sick. If forced me to see outside my own world.
- A friend didn’t give up on me. She was always loving me and pointing me to the truth, even when I didn’t want to hear about Jesus.
- A friend let me “borrow” her faith. My faith was so weak, but I always knew that she was confident in God’s presence and love, for the church and even for me.
- I forgave my father.
- I heard many stories of sorrow and victory from friends.
- I saw that it was 90 percent pride. I felt like I deserved certain things from certain people. It had been about me.
- A friend who knew me well told me I was being a martyr. It shocked me at first, but I knew she loved me, and I knew she was right.
- I began to believe that I was in a battle and realized that I had to fight.
- I saw that I was doing things rather than just having things done to me. For example, I was doing anger; I was doing big time complaining. In my heart, I was doing what I wanted.
- A friend who helped me to move from the “tyranny of the should” to living out of the gospel of grace.
- I realized that my interpretations were fallible. I had huge misunderstandings and made many false accusations.
- I began to force myself to read Scripture and listen to it.
- I began to understand God’s grace. I began to see that my wallowing in guilt was a form of works righteousness, not godly sorrow.
- Once I saw that it was good to see my sin, I began to tell myself, “When in doubt, repent.”
- I decided.
- I don’t really know what God used. It was lots of little things.
“It Was Not Helpful When…
This second list consists of things that were not helpful. “It was not helpful when…”
- I looked for superficial sins in my life. I was focused on specific sins, like the way I spoke to my children. I didn’t look for the sin that drove my deeper sense of need.
- I was angry, and no one tried to understand what my anger said about my relationship with God. They just said I needed to do the right thing.
- I was angry, and people told me I had a right to be angry.
- I was told to love myself more.
- I was told to lower my expectations for myself.
- People gave me answers before they tried to listen. It seemed like everyone had a remedy for me.
- People talked too much.
- Friends didn’t say some of the things on their minds. They were afraid to speak honestly because they thought I was too fragile to hear it.
- People tried too hard.
Specific Strategies to Try:
The following list contains homework assignments and specific strategies that have been helpful for some people.
- Take one biblical story, read it every day, and write down ten (or more) applications of it.
- Find ten positive qualities in a friend. Write them down and send the list to them.
- Write out your purpose for living. Allow it to be revised by others. Then memorize it.
- Become an expert in what God says to those who suffer. Consider starting with Hebrews 10-12.
- Write down things from the Sunday sermon that are good, important and true.
- Each day, speak or write something that edifies others.
- Take one aspect of creation (e.g. grass, a shrub, a squirrel, a leaf) and consider it until you can say it is good.
- Listen to God’s word. Use music that points you to Christ, or ask someone to read to you or teach you what he is learning. Be able to summarize what you heard. Practice listening.
- Keep a sharp eye out for grumbling and complaining. Like gossip, these sins are acceptable in our culture, so we don’t see their ugly roots. What does the grumbling or complaining really say?
- Consider these questions: In this culture, have we forgotten the benefits of hardships? What are the possible benefits to suffering? (Ps. 119:67, 71; 2 Corinthians 1:8-10)
- Since the label “depression” cannot capture the complexity of your experience, what other words (especially words that can be keyed to Scripture) more concretely capture what is going on in your heart?
- Get help. Ask a few people to pray for you and speak the truth to you. When you ask for prayer, ask for more than just the alleviation of depression. Use this as an opportunity to pray big prayers. Find some of the prayers in Scripture and pray them.
- You can’t always change the way you feel, but you can change the way you think. What thoughts have to change? Start saying an emphatic “STOP” whenever you notice them.
- Ask, What am I getting out of my depression? You might not have any answers, and the question might not be relevant, but it is a reminder that we are often doing more than we realize.
- Write up a depression flow-chart. Begin with a recent event that sent you into a tailspin. Be as specific as possible about the steps you followed to restore your equilibrium.
- What options do you have? You may feel like you are stuck on one long, hopeless path, but that isn’t true. You are making decisions every day. Right now you are at another crossroads.
- Search for a depressed person. Speak a word of encouragement.
- Never go to Scripture without finding Jesus in it.
- Be careful about analyzing on your own. Run your analysis by someone else.
- Walk as briskly as you can with another person.