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Overcoming depression with God's help

Depression is an issue that we need to talk about in church. I think at times we have not talked about it because of the stigma that used to be attached to it. I am glad that people have started to talk more openly about depression and some of the struggles they have been going through. Organisations like Beyond Blue and Lifeline has made it easier to speak out. Well known people like the former W.A. Premier Geoff Gallop and several AFL footballers have spoken out and now some of the taboo is lifted. But still in church we need to speak about it too.

Recently I read some statistics from the Australian Medical Association that really took me by surprise. They were that one in ten people will suffer major depression at some stage of their lives and that 500 out of every 1000 prescriptions written by Australian doctors were for anti-depressants.

Another survey of 17,000 women found that 52% had been significantly depressed at some time in their lives or were currently depressed. These statistics tell me that there are a lot of people out there who are suffering in silence and depression is an illness we need to talk about openly.

In my life I have suffered various times where I was depressed. Some of these occasions only lasted a few days and at other times they lasted months. In this message I felt led to share some of the things that have helped me and helped those around me that have suffered from various degrees of depression. I hope there might be one or two things that will help you or someone you know who is suffering from depression.

1. Don't suffer alone

A good place to start when you are depressed is by visiting your doctor, another health professional or your Minister. Visiting your doctor or someone else like that, will allow you to talk it over and perhaps discuss possible courses of treatment. I firmly believe the Lord is the "great physician", but I also believe God has given us doctors and medication to help us. Discussing your depression with your doctor might result in some changes to your diet, undertaking counselling or even taking medication for a period of time.

Another thing that has helped me greatly is to find a friend or a counsellor I can talk to. The Bible tells us to bare each others burdens (Galatians 6:2). I believe this means to help others in need or when they are suffering, but also to open ourselves up to others when we are going through hard times. Whenever I have "opened" myself up to a friend and let them know what has been happening I have always been blessed. It might have been just getting it off my chest by having a listening ear or other times the person has prayed for me and we have committed the problem to the Lord.

2. Count your positives

When we are depressed we often get caught up in a narrow frame of mind and we can only see what is immediately around us. It is almost like a "black cloud" covers us. Counting your blessings or counting the good things in your life can be a great help in times like this.

Now we may not think that we have many blessings, but one time when I did this I surprised myself. I started off with things like that I had a roof over my head, food in the fridge, clothes to wear and a family that loved me. This didn't seem like much, but as I dwelt upon each of them I realised that I had a lot to be thankful for and this started to lift my spirit immediately. Before long I had a piece of paper in front of me with lots of positives written on it and I was really thankful!

3. Look at your overall health

Most studies that I have read about various illnesses say that if your general health improves, so does your illness. Quite often when someone is suffering from depression the last thing they are often interested in is their diet and exercise, but I believe it is vital to getting well and managing depression.

Improving your general health might be as simple as looking at your diet and whether you are drinking enough water and eating enough fruit and vegetables. Getting enough rest is also another thing that can help in this fast paced life. Performing gentle exercise a few times per week and taking time out to simply enjoy life also makes a big difference. Whatever you do make sure you check with you doctor first and make sure you start slowly and remember to take baby steps.

4. Journal your thoughts

One thing that really helped me in overcoming depression is keeping a journal. Everyday I would spend a few minutes writing down what I was doing, how I was feeling and what things I prayed for.

Journaling also helped me to see how long I had been feeling down. When I looked back I was able to say I have been up and down for a while, but I seem to be in a good phase at the moment. It really helped me to track some patterns in my thinking and I could relate that back to who I had been seeing or what I had done.

This process also helped me to download my thoughts and get them out of my headspace. This was especially helpful when I wasn't thinking the best and I was going round and round in circles with my thinking. Journaling helped me to break that negative thought process especially when it was combined with counting my positives it had a powerful effect.

5. Fill yourself with Scripture

I believe the Bible is God's instruction book for life. It has hundreds of practical examples of what we can do in different situations and has thousands of promises for whatever situation we face. Although I have never counted them, I once heard it said that there are over 8,000 promises in the Bible!

Filling myself with Scripture has helped me in a lot of ways, especially when I am not feeling the best. I have found that when I read the Bible my faith is increased, it helps me to look to God no matter what I am facing and it also helps me to remember that the "big picture" and that this problem is not forever.

A practical way to fill yourself is by getting a list of your favourite Scriptures and placing them in a prominent place of your home. That way you can read them whenever you see them. At our place we have memory verses on the fridge, next to the bathroom mirror and even on the toilet wall!

6. Ask God for help

Prayer is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. A friend of mine once said, "prayer has the power to change the course of history - to move the very hand of God". I believe this with all my heart.

God has given us prayer so we can live victorious lives, but also so we can run to and rely on Him in times of trouble. Philippians 4: 6 "We should not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God". This means don't worry - just take it to God.

1 Peter 5:7 says, "Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you". There is a very important principle in this. God doesn't tell to caste our problems on Him. He says to caste our cares, our anxiety and our stress on Him and to trust Him for the outcome.

Let's pray

Dear Lord,
I ask You to help me when I go through times of depression. I pray you will comfort me, support me and help me to focus on You. I pray You will bring other people around me that can help and encourage me. I pray that in Your time and in Your way healing will come and that in future I will be able to use this experience to help and bless others. I thank You Lord Jesus that You came and died on the cross for my sin. I confess my sin to You now and I ask Your forgiveness. I pray that at this time and always, You will help me to live for You and that You will guide me and lead me in all I do.
               Amen

By Dave Quinn
Founder of PASSION Australia

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