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Posts Tagged ‘depression’

This week: panoramas from Hiroshima, what not to say to a depressed person, real men, killing moralism, and ebooks vs books.

After the Bomb – Hiroshima Panoramas (Google Maps Mania): I lived in Japan about a 45 minute train ride away from Hiroshima from 7th-9th grade. We visited Peace Park many times where the dome you see above still remains as the centerpiece of the park, the only building really left standing after the bomb.

Ten Things Not to Say to a Depressed Person (by purplepersuasion)

Over a person’s life-time, their risk of experiencing clinical depression is 10-20% in women and girls, and slightly less in males.  Yet despite the fact that depression is so widespread, it is apparently still a very misunderstood illness.  That’s the only conclusion I can draw from some of the insensitive, crass and sometimes downright bizarre things people have said to me about my depression over the years.

Killing Moralism (by Joe Thorn, The Resurgence)

We must always remind our people (and first, ourselves) that God commands us to act—not that we might become good, but that we might know and show him to be good. God does not reveal his will so that we can build our confidence in our ability to keep it, but so that we can exalt and exult in the God we know by grace.

Real Men Repent (by Carlos Montoya, The Resurgence)

I’ll never forget the day my dad came to me and confessed his sins against our family and me. He admitted he was wrong in so many areas of his life, and that by God’s grace he would be a better example of what a man truly is. He didn’t only do this with me, but also with so many people he had wronged throughout his life. It was in that moment I learned one of the most important things about being a man.

What are the deeper implications of the shift to ebooks – for us (Kindle Review)

eBooks are making reading a lot more accessible. People who couldn’t read can read now –  Larger text and Text to Speech is opening up reading to a lot more people. Additionally, People can read now in places and at times when they couldn’t read earlier. You can read on your phone, on your PC, or on your eReader. As Jerry Lee Lewis would put it – Whole lotta reading going on.

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This week: Mark Altrogge sharing some thoughts about depression from his wife’s 20 year battle with it, the failure of moral effort, being a resource to those you manage, and believing the reliability and accuracy of the Bible.

20 years of Depression (by Mark Altrogge)

My sweet wife, who was normally lighthearted and cheerful, sat there with a hopeless expression on her face.  Her eyes looked dark and empty to me.  She was unable to be around people.  She was completely incapacitated.  She was suffering pain I couldn’t fathom.

I didn’t know what was going on.  I thought it was a demonic attack.  I fasted and prayed and rebuked the enemy.  I thought it must somehow be my fault, that I wasn’t leading and caring for my wife somehow.  I thought I might have to step down from being a pastor.

The Absolute Failure of Moral Effort (by Zach Nielsen quoting Tim Keller)

Here is a great dialectical tension. Until you know your works are not any good, they are not any good. As soon as you realize that they are not any good there is at least a germ of something real, which is, you are doing it for God’s sake. You are doing it out of faith. You are not doing it out of fear that you are going to lose something or out of pride (now I know I am better than other people).

Be a Resource, Not a Limiter (by Matt Perman)

If you manage in a certain way (namely, with a command and control focus), you incentivize compliance. But if you realize that management is not about control, but rather about helping to unleash the talents of your people for the performance of the organization, and that this comes from trusting your people and granting them autonomy, then you see yourself not as the “boss,” but as a source of help.

Why I Believe the Bible (by Jim Hamilton)

Helped through the storm by the Schreiner-rock, I began to look more closely at what I thought were the hardest cases. I was not at all impressed with the actual argument against the historical accuracy and reliability of the Bible. In fact, I think you would have to know far more than any human being could ever know to be in position to declare definitively that the Bible is in error. Would it be harsh to summarize the argument against the Bible as the whining of rebels?

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I saw this post from Justin Taylor today and just had to draw more attention to Bob Kauflin’s story of his battle with darkness and depression. I remember being at this conference and hearing what Kauflin shared live, being in tears afterwards. It was definitely something that stuck with me and I have recounted it on more than one occasion to others. The thought that “you don’t feel hopeless enough” is such a powerful and profound application of the gospel and has given me pause many times to ask myself: “Am I hoping in myself here or in my Savior?”

The story was published in The Power of Words and the Wonder of God (pp. 149-151) but you can actually watch or listen to the full Q&A at Desiring God. Please read Bob’s story below or listen to it and let yourself be encouraged that though our sin is terrible, Jesus’ love goes deeper for us than we can imagine. The darkness will not last forever.

I helped plant a church in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1991. I began to feel increasing anxiety at different times when we first planted the church. Then in January of 1994 my wife and I were at a couple’s house for dinner, and I cracked. My life fell apart. Mentally I had no connection with what I was doing, no connection with the past, no connection with the future. I didn’t know why I existed. These were the thoughts that went through my brain. That began a period of maybe three years where I battled constant hopelessness. I would wake up each morning with this thought: “Your life is completely hopeless,” and then I would go from there. It was a struggle just to make it through to each step of the day. The way I made it through was just to think, What am I going to do next? What will I do? I can make it to there.

It was characterized by panic attacks. For the first six months I battled thoughts of death. I’d think about an event that was three months away: Why am I thinking about that? I’m going to be dead by then. I had feelings of tightness in my chest, buzzing and itching on my arms, buzzing on my face. It was a horrible time. And in the midst of that I cried out to God, and I certainly talked to the pastor that I served with and other pastors that I knew—good friends—trying to figure out what in the world was going on with my life.

Five or six children at that time, a fruitful life, a fruitful ministry. And this is what I discovered: although I’d been a Christian for twenty-two years (since 1972) I was driven by a desire to be praised by men. And I wasn’t succeeding. When you plant a church, you find out that there are a lot of people who don’t agree with you. People who came to plant the church left. All of that assaulted my craving to be admired and praised and loved and worshiped and adored and applauded. God, I believe, just took his hand from me and said, “Okay, you handle this your way.” I knew the gospel, but what I didn’t know was how great a sinner I was. I thought the gospel I needed was for pretty good people, and that wasn’t sufficient to spare me from the utter hopelessness I felt during that time.

I would read Scripture. It didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t affect me. I remember lying at bed at times just reciting the Lord’s Prayer to myself over and over and over, hoping that would help. I couldn’t sleep; then at times all I wanted to do was sleep. I remember saying this early on: “God, if you keep me like this for the rest of my life but it means that I will know you better, then keep me like this.” That was the hardest prayer I’ve ever prayed.

During that time I read an abridged version of John Owen’s Sin and Temptation and Jerry Bridges’ The Discipline of Grace.

About a year into the process I talked to a good friend, Gary Ricucci, whom I am now in a small group with at Covenant Life Church. I said, “Gary, I feel hopeless all the time.”

He said, “You know, Bob? I think your problem is that you don’t feel hopeless enough.”

I don’t know what I looked like on the outside, but on the inside I was saying, “You are crazy. You are crazy. I feel hopeless.”

He said, “No, if you were hopeless, you would stop trusting in yourself and rely completely on what Jesus Christ accomplished for you.”

That was the beginning of the way out. And I remember saying to myself literally hundreds of times—every time these feelings of hopelessness and panic and a desire to ball up in a fetal position would come on me—“I feel completely hopeless because I am hopeless, but Jesus Christ died for hopeless people, and I’m one of them.”

Over time I began to believe that. And today when I tell people that Jesus is a great Savior, I believe it, because I know that he saved me. That’s where my joy comes from. My joy comes from knowing that at the very bottom, at the very pit of who I am, it is blackness and sin, but the love and grace of Jesus goes deeper.

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Dr. David Powlison – Does God get upset when we disobey? from CCEF on Vimeo.

Depression’s Odd Filter (by Ed Welch)

You have to know that Jesus is not like a mere mortal. In human relationships, our love is way too dependent on how the other person is loveable. When you love others, they love you. When you don’t, they don’t. Jesus, however, is not like other people. When our love for him wavers, he loves us. Therein lies the fatal flaw in your hearing.

Millennials Snapshot (by Thom Rainer)

Only 13 percent of the Millennials considered in our study said that spirituality of any type was important to them. One out of ten. Most Millennials don’t even think about religious matters at all. This generation is not antagonistic toward religion, especially Christianity, but rather agnostic toward all aspects of religion.

Facebook Hype will Fade (by David Rushkoff, CNN)

We will move on, just as we did from the chat rooms of AOL, without even looking back. When the place is as ethereal as a website, our allegiance is much more abstract than it is to a local pub or gym. We don’t live there, we don’t know the owner, and we are all the more ready to be incensed by the latest change to a privacy policy, or to learn that every one of our social connections has been sold to the highest corporate bidder.

Whose Wife are You? (by Tim Challies)

If a wife wants to know if she is submitting to her husband, it may be that the better question for her to ask is, “Am I actively rebelling against his leadership?” It’s not a matter of the particulars of what she does compared to other women, but whether she is following her husband as he leads her into being his perfect complement

Are you sure you want a husband who…? (by Dan Phillips, Pyromaniacs)

You need to start with the premise that God’s “dumbest” idea about womanhood is light-years better than your “brightest” idea. You need to start there, and work it out.

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In my first post on Richard Baxter‘s The Cure of Melancholy, I laid out some of Baxter’s practical tips for those in the throes and fog of depression. Now, I want to walk through his tips for those who are trying to help those struggling with depression. Again, he has some great thoughts for us.

1. As far as you can, avoid those things that displease them and cause them to stumble. He has some strong words for us husbands here:

A husband that hath a such a wife [one that is struggling] is obliged to do his best to cure her, both in charity, and by his relatively bond, and for his own peace. It is a great weakness in some men, that if they have wives, who by natural passionate weakness, or by melancholy or infirmity, are willful and will not yield to reason, they show their anger at them to their further provocation. You took her in marriage for better and for worse, for sickness and health… Your passion and sourness towards a person that cannot cure her own unpleasing carriage, is a more unexcusable fault and folly than hers, who hath not the power of reason as you have. If you know any lawful thing that will please them in speech, in company, in apparel, in rooms, in attendance, give it to them: if you know they are displeased, remove it.

2. Divert them and interrupt their drifting thoughts! I appreciate what he says here:

As much as you can, divert them from the thoughts which are their trouble; keep them on some other talks and business; break in upon them, and interrupt their musings; rouse them out of it, but with loving importunity; suffer them not to be long alone; get fit company to them, or them to it; especially, suffer them not to be idle, but drive or draw them to some pleasing works which may stir the body, and employ the thoughts. If they are addicted to reading, let it not be too long, nor any books that are unfit for them; and rather let another read to them than themselves.

He recommends books from Richard Sibbes, also recommended here by my friend and pastor.

3. Set the great truths of the gospel before them which align most with what they’re struggling with. Baxter encourages us to read them encouraging books.

4. Help them find a solid pastor both for counsel and to sit under their preaching.

5. Gently seek to convince them of how much it grieves God to doubt His love. Listen to Baxter’s thoughts here:

Labour to convince them frequently how great a wrong it is to the God of infinite love and mercy, and to a Saviour who hath so wonderfully expressed his love, to think hardlier of him than they would do of a friend, yea, or of a moderate enemy; and so hardly to be persuaded of that love which has been manifested by the most stupendous miracle. Had they but a father, husband, or friend, that had ventured his life for them, and given them all that ever they had, were it not a shameful ingratitude and injury to suspect still that they intended all against them, and designed mischief to them, and did not love them?

6. Introduce them to strangers and strange company. This is an interesting suggestion to say the least! I think part of Baxter’s heart is to help folks struggling with depression to take their eyes off of themselves.

7. Engage them in comforting others that struggling more than they are. Why? Baxter’s thought and experience is that this will help them understand they are not alone in their struggle, that their struggle is not unique or incurable.

8. Do not neglect medicine! Depression may be just spiritual, might be just physical, or it might be both! Baxter encourages us to not rule out either.

The Cure of Melancholy is a great read and I highly recommend you read it, especially husbands. It should encourage us that depression and deep discouragement is nothing new and is not particular to our time and culture even. Baxter was dealing with same things in himself and in ministering to others almost 400 years ago!

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Depression is a very common struggle, even in the church in America. You might call that merely a blanket statement, but in my experience I’ve seen a number of brothers deal with deep discouragement and even more wives of husbands I know. I’ve seen my own wife struggle with the fog of deep discouragement and borderline depression. Personally, I’ve never battled it; I’m more of a thinker and less of a feeler. On top of that, a major weakness and sin in my life has been a lack of empathy for others. For most of my marriage, I feel like I have not been hugely helpful to my wife! I want to grow and God has been working on my heart, using my marriage, my kids, and a slowly growing understanding of the gospel. Countless times I have had to confess my lack of love and there are likely many more times my family has simply given me grace for my coldness and lack of compassion.

Out of my desire to learn and keep growing, I read through John Piper’s When the Darkness Does Not Lift. It’s a worthwhile read with an excellent closing chapter. However, in the book, Piper kept referencing another book, The Cure of Melancholy by Richard Baxter. I looked it up on my Kindle and bought and downloaded it for 99 cents! It didn’t take long for me to realize what a jewel this book is and what wisdom Baxter has for us even 400 years later! Baxter’s book on dealing with depression (melancholy) and discouragement is tremendously insightful, practical, and revealed that depression is not a new struggle. He lists a number of tips for those walking through depression:

1. Listen to folks wiser than yourself and believe them!

2. Trust that God is sovereign even over the purposes of Satan.

3. Avoid prolonged times of thinking and prayer alone! (see quote below)

4. Do not spend much time alone! (see quote below)

Avoid your musings, and exercise not your thoughts now too deeply, nor too much. Long meditation is a duty to some, but not to you, no more than it is a man’s duty to go to church that hath his leg broken, or his foot out of joint: he must rest and ease it till it be set again, and strengthened. You may live in the faith and fear of God, without setting yourself to deep, disturbing thoughts. Those that will not obey this counsel, their friends must rouse them from their musings, and call them off to something else. Therefore you must not be much alone, but always in some pleasing, cheerful company: solitariness doth but cherish musings. Nor must such be long in secret prayer, but more in public prayer with others.

5. As much as you can, think on these things:

  • The infinite goodness of God
  • Christ’s immeasurable love for you and how that love is demonstrated in His redemption and sacrifice
  • God’s offer of grace and free covenant
  • The awesome love and joy which we have in Christ and God has promised.

Do not be given over to complaining but talk of these things. Be honest but run to the gospel in conversations.

6. When you pray, resolve to spend much of that time in thanksgiving and praising God!

7. Do not entertain the thoughts and lies and temptations of Satan nor be troubled by them. Ask for help from trusted friends when losing the battle against these thoughts!

8. Be encouraged that you are even wrestling with sin and the weight of it. This reflects the heart of a believer, not an unbeliever outside of His love. Baxter says this:

Again, still remember what a comfortable evidence you carry about with you that your sin is not damning, while you feel that you love it not, but hate it, and are weary of it. Scarce any sort of sinners have so little pleasure in their sins as the melancholy, nor so little desire to keep them; and only beloved sins undo men.

9. Avoid idleness but seek to work hard. Baxter is not saying to avoid rest or downtime altogether but that idleness is dangerous.

One more immensely practical thought from Baxter for the depressed:

I would give you this advice, that instead of long meditation, or long secret prayer, you will sing a psalm of praise to God, such as the twenty-third, or the one hundred and thirty-third. This will excite your spirit to that sort of holy affection which is much more acceptable to God, and suitable to the hopes of a believer, that your repining troubles are.

I highly recommend this short read and thank God for Richard Baxter, who is known for having been a very practical and a powerful preacher of the gospel in the early 1600s. I want to leave a final sobering thought for those of us whom the fog of depression rarely if ever invades. If you are reading this and struggling with depression, please stop reading, this last note is not for you! Most of us are not dealing with the deep fog that depression can be. Most of us, like me, are dealing with discouragement or discontentment from something else…

The more pleasure you have in sin, usually the more sorrow it will bring you; and the more you know it to be sin, and conscience tells you that God is against it, and yet you will go on, and bear down conscience, the sharper will conscience afterwards afflict you,

Sin does not bring me joy but pain and death. It may bring temporary pleasure, but it won’t last. Much of my wrestling with discouragement is my own battle to let go of sin and cling to greater joy in Christ. In my next post, I’ll delve more into Baxter’s thoughts on how to help others who are wrestling with depression or deep discouragement.

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