The holiday season is upon us. What is promised to be a time of joy and happiness for all is often met with mixed emotions for many Christians. Overwhelming feelings of concern, worry, grief and loss can all combine to make this time of year stressful. Most would agree that these feelings do not come from a lack of joy for the birth of our Savior, or because we aren’t thankful. Rather, it is the high expectations that this time of the year brings that can cause the blues or more seriously, depression.
Many Christians may wonder if it’s really possible for a Christian to get depressed. In fact, I have even heard preachers say that Christians should never be depressed and I must admit that I have been tempted to say those words also. Some believe that experiencing depression is the result of being a weak Christian, when one’s faith is not strong enough to help them overcome their circumstances. There are many Christians with Paxil, Effexor, and Prozac in their medicine cabinets or purses, and there is a reason. Clinical depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting more than 19 million Americans each year, according to the National Institute of Health. Depression causes people to lose pleasure from daily life, can complicate other medical conditions, and can even be serious enough to lead to suicide. Depression can occur in anyone, at any age, and to people of any race or ethnic group. Unlike an occasional feeling of sadness, depression is never a normal part of life, no matter what your age, gender or health situation. However, while clinical depression is a mental illness, there are spiritual coping mechanisms available to Christians.
I am a firm believer that depression is a strategic attack of the enemy. Part of his weaponry is to isolate the believer from others in the body of Christ and to break their fellowship with God. Paul admonishes the believer to put on the whole armor of God so that we might be able to stand against the wiles – tricks or strategies – of the devil. In this passage of Scripture it is significant that Paul specifically tells us to put on a helmet of salvation. Why a helmet? It is because helmets protect the head, the logical center of the body, and this is where the enemy’s attack usually begins; in the mind.
How well I know this strategy – the enemy often begins with bringing thoughts to your mind that you have not considered for some time. Christians must know that when experiencing a barrage of thoughts of inadequacy, insufficiency, guilt, shame, hurt, loss, and grief, just to name a few, the enemy is seeking to separate you from God. Rather than allowing your thoughts to be bombarded by the enemy, cover your mind with the helmet of salvation. This helmet protects your thoughts by reminding you that God’s love for you is so strong that he took your place in the death chamber (John 3:16). It lets you know that his mercy for you is so great that even while you were still a sinner, he died for you (Romans 5:8). It lets you know that nothing you could do would allow you to earn his grace, for it is by grace that you are saved and that through faith, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). It lets you know that no deed, good or bad would be so devastating to God that it could separate you from His love (Romans 8:38-39). Christians must use the helmet of salvation as a spiritual defense from the enemy’s attacks.
In addition to our spiritual defense there are other ways to ward off depression during the holiday season.
- Relax. Don’t try to do everything and be everything for everyone.
- Don’t disregard feelings of sadness or loneliness. There is room for these feelings to exist even if one chooses not express them. Look for support groups in your church and hospitals. Remember you are not alone.
- Leave yesterday in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Know that Christ promises to never leave you not forsake you.
- Do something for someone else. Helping someone less fortunate can help you realize how blessed you actually are.
It is important to understand that all of us will experience depressing periods in our lives and we may be equipped mentally, emotionally and spiritually to handle these situations better at different times of life than in other times. However, we should never allow depression to weave into our beings. Clinical depression is a medical condition that can be approached spiritually and medically. If consistent thoughts of sadness and loneliness are present for prolonged periods of time, it is important to speak with a medical provider or a Christian counselor as soon as possible. For thoughts of suicide or harm to others, call 911 immediately.
Let the words of John speak to you, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” 3 John 1:2. Grace the holiday season with the power of knowing that you can manage the stress and overcome depressing feelings with God’s help!
By Pastor Mia Wright