Depression and Faith

Homily on a realistic outlook through the eyes of depression and faith. 

Dysthymia – a place where hope is rare. This was my first diagnosis 20 years after being labeled nonspecific depressed. For those of you who don’t know what dysthymia is- the symptoms are ongoing and mostly “on” more days than one gets a break. Dysthymia is milder, yet more long lasting than major depression. Each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include: 

  • Lasting sad, anxious, or “empty” mood 
  • Less ability to concentrate, think, and/or make decisions 
  • Less energy 
  • Fatigue 
  • Feeling hopeless 
  • Weight and/or appetite changes due to over- or under-eating 
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as fitful sleep, inability to sleep, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much 
  • Low self-esteem 

To diagnose this condition, an adult must have a depressed mood for at least 2 years—yes 2 years straight. (Or was that 2 decades in my case). 

I have been trying to be gentler with my expectations of myself with this condition. Some of my expectations include: 

  • I expect to one day be happy most days 
  • I expect that on a happiness scale I can achieve and maintain an 8 out of 10 
  • I expect to reach and maintain a good level of passion for something—anything if I could just find the right thing that fits for me 
  • I expect to ditch this malaise 
  • And, I expect all this to just come upon me one day without putting in the grueling effort it takes me now to get to even half of the results I want. 

As you can imagine, I have set myself up for quite a letdown and daily frustration as each day falls terribly short and reminds me that I am still blue or grey rather, cloudy, knowing there is always sun up above the clouds yet not seeming to reach the sky very often or taste the rays down here below. 

Dysthymia – a place where hope is rare. 

Hope, as defined by Wikipedia: Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.” It is an anticipatory emotion. 

It is not just a wish that something will take place. There is an optimistic belief and faith involved.   

So, what are we to do when we are without that optimism? 

First, we keep in mind John 10:10b. The New Living Translation states”…My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” The Passion Translation puts it this way “…But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more that you expect, — life in its fullness until you overflow.” 

This verse alone does light a spark of hope within me. But I have to be careful to not go all Pollyanna, Pie in the Sky with it. The truth is that depression is a real thing that people struggle with for their whole lives sometimes. And I, in particular, need to be careful that I am not grasping back onto my expectations and choosing to not deal with what may just be who and how I am (at 52). I mean how many decades can I keep railing against this state of being. It is exhausting. 

But hope—there is hope. 

Romans 15:4 New International Version 

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. 

Centuries ago, it is recorded that God said:  
Isaiah 43 New International Version 

43 But now, this is what the Lord says— 
    he who created you, Jacob, 
    he who formed you, Israel: 
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; 
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 
2 When you pass through the waters, 
    I will be with you; 
and when you pass through the rivers, 
    they will not sweep over you. 
When you walk through the fire, 
    you will not be burned; 
    the flames will not set you ablaze. 

We shall not be overtaken, overwhelmed. It does not say that we will not “feel” overtaken and overwhelmed. Sometimes we have to out think our emotional thoughts. 

When reading the Bible, it is easy to read quickly without really thinking deeper, especially when a story is so familiar. Let’s talk Babylonian captivity. 70 years of exile and punishment. That is a whole generation away from home. A whole lifetime living under someone else’s rule, as prisoners from an overthrow. 

Now, something like that is NOT dysthymia. It is major depression from a traumatic event. But had people come to just accept it as a normal outlook on life? I ask because many did not return to Judah once they were allowed to. They survived the captivity. We know this because they were allowed to return. Had it been pleasant? I think not. 

I am guilty of clinging to the hopeful happy stories in the Bible. I do not always recall to mind the length of negative events and cycles within Jewish history. It is easier for my mind to jump to “I want to be used by God”, “I want to do something to glorify God”. And while the Bible is full of stories of people like that…we do not know their whole story. 

Think of Rahab the harlot. She hid some Jewish spies for a few days and was rewarded, as in allowed to live when the town got raided. And YES, she goes onto marry one of the Jews and has a child that will become Boaz – who marries Ruth and is the ancestor of David and thereby Jesus.  But we do not know the rest of the story. Did she grieve for years at the loss of her friends and relatives? Did she have to work hard to outlive her former life and reputation. Surely, just because she housed the spies and they got an inside view, doesn’t mean that everyone that came into the city welcomed and revered her. During her life she was not listed in the genealogy of Jesus yet. 

It is all fine and well to honor her now (and for the last few millennia) but what was her whole life like? It wasn’t a wall of fame. 

Wow, this is not the story I wish to be writing.  

Right now, I am sensing that these two stories could be taken depressively. No wonder, I, we, like to think of the triumphs in compact/ condensed snippets. They are happy. They are successes. They are cause for celebration and remembrance.  

Why dwell on the negative? 

No one is dwelling—simply remembering what is actually occurring. 

Yes, we are told in Philippians 4:8 New International Version 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Sometimes though it is tough when we are depressed.  

So I am thinking that when we are low, it is also good to have perspective. 

We will not be overtaken by the water nor the fire AND we are not the only ones. This is part of life

Here is a song by Jeremy Camp that captures our hope: 

Jeremy Camp – Same Power (Official Live Video) – YouTube 

Same Power 

Jeremy Camp 

I can see 
Waters raging at my feet 
I can feel 
The breath of those surrounding me 
I can hear 
The sound of nations rising up 
We will not be overtaken 
We will not be overcome 

I can walk 
Down this dark and painful road 
I can face 
Every fear of the unknown 
I can hear 
All God’s children singing out 
We will not be overtaken 
We will not be overcome 

The same power that rose Jesus from the grave 
The same power that commands the dead to wake 
Lives in us, lives in us 
The same power that moves mountains when He speaks 
The same power that can calm a raging sea 
Lives in us, lives in us 
He lives in us, lives in us 

We have hope 
That His promises are true 
In His strength 
There is nothing we can’t do 
Yes, we know 
There are greater things in store 
We will not be overtaken 
We will not be overcome 

The same power that rose Jesus from the grave 
The same power that commands the dead to wake 
Lives in us, lives in us 
The same power that moves mountains when He speaks 
The same power that can calm a raging sea 
Lives in us, lives in us 
He lives in us, lives in us 

Greater is He that is living in me 
He’s conquered our enemy 
No power of darkness 
No weapon prevails 
We stand here in victory 
Greater is He that is living in me 
He’s conquered our enemy 
No power of darkness 
No weapon prevails 
We stand here in victory 
Oh, in victory 
Yeah 

The same power that rose Jesus from the grave 
The same power that commands the dead to wake 
Lives in us, lives in us 
The same power that moves mountains when He speaks 
The same power that can calm a raging sea 
Lives in us, lives in us 
He lives in us, lives in us 

Yeah, He lives in us 

Songwriters: Jason Ingram, Jeremy Camp 

Until Next Time~ 
Blessings, Kate 

10 thoughts on “Depression and Faith

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  1. Dear Kate, this is just what I needed today, thank you so much. As a devout Christian woman, I’m afraid to admit that I deal with Depression…for decades that’s been considered a lack of “genuine faith”, or worse–sin. We walk with the Lord day by day…and He’s not offended or shocked by our “not so great” days. Instead, He provides His Word–and sometimes it comes through lovely bloggers. Thanks again–blessings on your New Year ❤

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Your words make me misty-eyed, thank you!! One of many things I love about the Lord is that, if need be, He’ll drag me out of bed and through the day.

        First thing I do is read my devotional (Pastor Joseph Prince) and the passages in my One Year Bible. I LOVE knowing I’ve read through the whole Bible each year for quite some time–it shows I’ve learned some discipline…and surprisingly, I’ve actually remembered more than I imagined my aging brain could manage, haha! (I’m 69…younger on some days 🙂 ) Keep the faith, Sister–I’ll be praying for you! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Kate, I am blown away by your depression type since I had no knowledge of this diagnosis. I, too, deal will depression but nothing like the symptoms you describe.
    Your strength and ability to steer us to events in the Bible where God’s chosen people did suffer for extended periods of time; are often overlooked or forgotten. Thank you for your reminder! I continue to pray for you. Jeremy’s song was an awesome ending to this post!

    Liked by 2 people

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