Avoiding Despair (i.e. Depression) in Difficult Times (Part 2 of 2)
By Tim Bryant
In 2 Corinthians 4:6 Paul says that he was perplexed but not despairing. This becomes the biblical goal for each of us when we encounter perplexing situations – how do we have hope when it seems there is no way out? How do we gain biblical direction when there seems to be no options left? This is Part 2 of a 2-part article. (Click to go to read part 1)
For a despairing believer to pull out of deep despair, he or she will require regular renewal of the mind that God is Sovereignly at work in the challenges for good purposes as they obey. If they are going to respond right to this very difficult situation and experience the good purposes God has for them in their present challenge, the greatest need first of all is to look at the challenges through the eyes of biblical faith (Heb 11:1). Here is an assignment I often give to help its this.
List specifically some of the good purposes God intends in this challenge? Here are some example answers from others I have counseled in difficult times: God is finishing the good work in me of making me more obedient to Him like Christ (Phil 1:6; Phil 2:3- 8; Heb 5:8); God believes these trials are necessary for my perseverance and endurance in faith and Christ-like character – this is necessary for heaven (1 Pet 1:6-7; James 1:2-4; 1 Pet 4:18; Heb 12:14); He is teaching me to set my desires and hopes on that which endures forever (2 Cor 4:16-18; 1 Pet 4:1); God will not give me more than I can handle – He is faithful – (1 Cor 10:13; God rescuing Job 38-42); He is purifying what I believe are my “needs” in life so that He and His Word become all I need (Job 23:12; Matt 4:4; Luke 10:38-42); He is confirming my salvation ( 1 Pet 5:10); He is preparing me to be able to sympathize and comfort others in challenging circumstance like Jesus does (2 Cor 1:3-4; Heb 4:15; 5:2); He is provoking me to a greater trust in Him for the unknown (Deut 29:29; Job 23:8-10); He is helping me realize that because His Sovereign I and others are as safe in dangerous circumstances as we are in safe circumstances (Heb 9:27; Ps 139:16; Eph 2:10); He is helping me learn to actively leave to God my and other’s needs – spiritual, physical, etc. – as I pray for myself and others and represent Christ I am exercising such faith rightly (Jn 16:7-8; Col 4:2-5; 2 Tim 2:24-26; 1 Pet 3:1-2); He is teaching me to value the days on earth so I will make the most of my time and relationships for eternal purposes – (Ps 39:4-6; Eph 5:15-17; Ps 90:12); He is giving me opportunity to glorify Him and His good purposes before the angelic realm by how I respond (Jn 12:27-28); There are many more purposes God will reveal as I walk in faith and obedience to Him (Jer 32:19); The more confident you are that this present challenge will lead to all these good purposes of God in your life, the more hope will replace worry, anger, neglect, sinful escapes and despai (Ps 27:13)
You must commit to prayerfully review these at various times throughout the day and use them strategically to replace despairing thoughts (and work to memorize key accompanying scriptures). Remember, feelings and faith follow thinking, whether for the better or worse, make your thinking biblical – Rom 8:6. Remember, it is only by the grace of God and the Word of God that your faith can grow leading to obedience – Rom 10:17; Acts 20:32. You must learn to memorize and meditate on the Biblical perspective in your present challenge – Lam 3:16-18, 21-26; Hab 3:17-19. (For a clear method of meditation on the Word see “How to Effectively Meditate on the Word”- Col 3:16; to access all our assignments visit our Counselor Resource Center.)
Now, Get out a calendar, and by faith, begin to establish and maintain a daily schedule that reflects obedience to the things God has called you to fulfill even in the midst of the tough circumstance. As you do, keep dwelling on faith- building truths; the Spirit will produce hope, and hope will produce endurance n loving labor in challenging circumstances – 1 Thes 1:3. If your perspective does not lead you to a daily schedule that reflects love for God and others, you will not experience the good purposes, you must keep biblical truth feeding faith-motivated over – Gal 5:6.
Here are some key priorities to include in that schedule. Priority 1: Pursue spiritual growth during this time – Phil 2:12-13. Prayer and Meditation walks with 3X5 Scripture cards; Close fellowship with a godly group of Christians – Sunday school, worship and preaching, etc. – Rom 1:11- 12; Read godly literature that helps you grow in your knowledge, fear, love, and trust in God – Ps 27:4. Priority 2: Pursue loving growth toward others – 1 Thes 4:9- 10. Daily prayer for others – Eph 6:18; The Apostle Paul’s example; Daily ministry to others (i.e. Emails? Phone? Letters? Packages? Conversa- tions? Service Projects? How Can I Pray for You?) Priority 3: Be faithful to care for your physical, domestic, vocational, parental, etc. responsibilities – Eph 2:10; Priority 4: Any “extra” time, fill with productive enjoyment – no coasting! Create a List – Eph 5:15-17 Put all this on a schedule entitled, “My Proposed Biblical Schedule”. Enlist the help of one or more godly mentors (same sex, unless family member) and any others to help follow through with these commitments – Heb 3:12-13; Tit 2: 3-5; Phil 3:17. These mentors must gently but clearly call you back to faith-motivation when you slow or stop reversing the downward spiral of depression.
Remember, you must dwell on and do what is right, no matter how you feel. Remember, depression can be stubborn, so you must eliminate all excuses for not dwelling on and doing what is right. Remember, despair (biblically defined depressin) is different than perplexity – 2 Cor 4:7. The real cause of despair is not tough circumstances or crisis, but rather failure to do and think the Word of God out of the faith God has given me in the crisis. Remember, seek Faith-motivation verses feeling- motivation – Heb 11. FAITH IS BELIEVING THE WORD OF GOD AND ACTING UPON IT, NO MATTER HOW I FEEL KNOWING THAT GOD PROMISES A GOOD RESULT. (This is a definition of faith to hold on to given me during end intense trials in my life by one of my good friends and counselors at the center, Dr Ron Allchin.)
At our media store you can watch the full length biblical training on overcoming depression (click here)