Milk and Honey Magazine's secrets to understanding the good life Jesus has for His daughters. A life free of sin, brokenness, depression, and overwhelming stress. God has you in His arms, lovely girl.

Facing Depression Correctly

Alison Freeman

Spring gave a convincing false start last month in Chicagoland. It was the first of March, and I found myself outside in the shining sun, enjoying a mild 60° breeze. After three months spent licking icicles (which have since returned,) I was unable to resist nature’s charms—shed a quick tear for global climate change—and took a walk in the woods. After about a mile, I stopped to sit on a split log and looked up into the sky. Gazing into the vast blue dome rimmed in still-naked black oak branches, I took a deep breath and thought, “I am so glad I exist."

Although I had this moment of joy, life isn't always a ray of sunshine. Doubtless, I am not the only reader here who has found herself very, very far from the idea of rejoicing in being alive. Life gets us down on this compromised planet, and seems to be doing so with more and more efficiency. Depression is on the rise in the U.S. and global west, and much recent research suggests this trend is most acute among teens and 20-somethings.

We, even those struggling with depressive emotions, experience good things. But when the bad things keep succeeding at destroying them, it becomes foggy which is winning—death or life? Consulting the Biblical worldview, we are assured that in the end, life does actually prevail entirely over death. Good not only wins out over evil, but completely consumes it, making the pain of the earth by comparison a, “momentary, light affliction.”

But does that feel true?

And before you protest, “It doesn’t matter how I feel—” Yes it does. You only have one mind and heart to live out of—aligning your inner world and emotions with truth is one of the major concerns of the Holy Spirit. It matters. When you align your heart-level understanding of the goodness of God with the truth, you will shatter hopelessness in your life.

Milk and Honey Magazine's secrets to understanding the good life Jesus has for His daughters. A life free of sin, brokenness, depression, and overwhelming stress. God has you in His arms, lovely girl.

The problem is, if you’re facing depression or doubt, what feels true? Emptiness. Anger. The horror of human rights violations. And against all of these true pains, stands a little pile labeled, “good feelings.”  Our construct of what opposes evil is just too weak to justify the pain.

Our understanding of the nature of good—of life and love—is thin and insufficient. It does not cover the multitude of sins we have experienced. Shall we throw in the towel then? Join the “life is hard, and then you die” chorus? Mimicking the Apostle Paul’s rhetoric, by no means!

What we need when the light does not seem strong enough to compete is not a surrender to evil, but to mature in our understanding of the enormity of good. Jesus was pretty well aware of where the world was at and what it needed when He appeared on earth. In John 10:10 He says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (ESV) In this statement, Jesus marks out the territory of His work. He brings life. He brought it in the beginning, and now that it has been compromised by death, He wants to reintroduce us to life to the full.

What is this life to the full? For the faintest taste, dig into the best of your life. The most fleeting, most purely distilled moment of clarity and feeling you have ever known is life, and it is only the beginning of the beginning. In the rudimentary life and love we know now, we only taste the first sip of the vastness of God’s experience of glory, relationship, and exchange of love.

God’s good is shalom. What we have experienced as a fleeting glimpse, God knows as a complete system. It is where He lives, and it is where we came from. It is the good news. It is at the same time complete, and growing. As Isaiah prophesied, “Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7 ESV).

The word peace in this prophecy is shalom, a more robust word than we have in English for the concept of complete wellbeing. It is used in the Bible to describe safety, oneness, soundness in human relationships, peace from war, and accord in the physical body. This is God’s style. Reality is, we exist in a universe where the heavens declare the glory of God, order reigns, and love prevails—but on the one corner that is in rebellion. Unfortunately, that corner is our whole experience. Fortunately, His glory is expanding.

Every good and whole experience you have ever had you can blame God for. Every destructive pattern is a result of our rebellion, and that of the enemy. James agrees, saying, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17, ESV) Accepting this reality—that of God’s prevailing goodness—is what rescued my heart from cursing God.

However, coming to accept it looked very little like reading an article online assuring me that God was good. Even if you want to align your inner beliefs with the truth, how do you do it? Our individual needs and wounds all require a special God-designed path to healing. However, I believe there are some universal ingredients to change that allowed me to climb up the ladder from despair to joy.

Real change requires real changes. If you’re tired of being estranged from God’s joy by your doubts, tell God about that! He won’t withhold the way out from you.

Milk and Honey Magazine's secrets to understanding the good life Jesus has for His daughters. A life free of sin, brokenness, depression, and overwhelming stress. God has you in His arms, lovely girl.

 ⚐ Ingredient 1: Humility

Are you at the end of your rope? Good. Let yourself fall. Whatever you may fear losing in admitting to yourself you can’t keep it all together, you will gain back one-hundred fold in the rewards of being truly humbled. I fell so hard last summer after leaving my fiancée more or less at the altar, my pride broke. I believe that is the single most crucial change that took place within me. I realized I was not good at life, and began to beg God that He would make me worth something in His kingdom anyway. Of course, that had always been the state of things, but while life was going well, I was blind to just how much self-focused pride I lived out of.

Action Step: Start by getting transparent with the most trusted people in your life. Confess those sins and fears that are the hardest for you to admit. When you get acquainted with the fact that you are part of the rebellion, you can truly know God as the rescuer.

⎈ Ingredient 2: Understand Your Purpose

Do you ever ask yourself the question, “Why am I here?”  What is your answer? If you have a disordered understanding of your purpose on earth, you’ll never be able to fulfill it. Subconsciously, I had given the answer, “To relieve as much pain as possible before I die.” Noble, but wrong. I constantly struggled to believe my existence was justified. The truth is, you are here because God thought you should be. Your existence is justified by default. You didn’t choose to create you, He did. In the words of the traditional Westminster Shorter Catechism, the chief end of Man is to, “to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

Action Step: Take a walk. Look around at the leaves on the trees, listen to the birds. Is it hard for you to believe God wanted them? In an elementary sense, you exist because you too were wanted by God. Ask God for the grace to accept yourself as a creature in His world.

⚓ Ingredient 3: Change Your Reality

Here comes the gritty one. Despite long-standing heresies, we are not pure spirits trapped within tainted bodies. God called the bodies good too. Though it may be tempting to believe you can change your perspective by purely internal work, you’ll see a fraction of the results as compared to if you reorder what you see, hear, do, and experience as well. When my life came unglued last July, I knew couldn’t make the changes I wanted while still in familiar places and old patterns. Most of all, I knew I had to plug into a life-giving church. The Church was the crux of a lot of my pain, and being honest, I knew I was in danger of giving up on her.

As humans, what is it that we most easily know to be true? What we observe. If you need to know that marriage can work, get around faithful, fruitful married couples. If you need to see that “on earth as it is in heaven” is actually happening, find where the Kingdom is spreading and camp there for a while. Where you spend your time—your living situation, church, workplace, and online life—influences your mental world more than anything else.

Action Step: Access your newly-growing humility and admit you can’t do this alone. Get back in the Church. If you go to a healthy Church, there’s a lot going on there—find a discipleship group or ministry you can invest in and form transparent relationships. If you don’t have a place, ask God to help you find one, and don’t give up until you do. The Church is Christ’s hands and heart on earth. You need her.

✦ ✦ ✦

Surrender is tough. There is good news, though—you are on God’s side, and He’s way better at this transformation thing than you are.

God is good, and all that is evil He is against. We have an advocate, and a rescuer. He brings life. That is the gospel. Once you sense His glory, you just might find you’re happy to be alive. Even so, through all of this life on earth, it will take work to keep His plan clear to us. Sin is really here, winning battles and causing pain. But He is winning the war.

Remember this verse from the Sermon on the Mount? “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9, ESV, emphasis added) The word for peace in “peacemakers” is eirene, the closest Greek equivalent to the Hebrew shalom, but with a stronger denotation of oneness. We are fully functioning as God’s offspring when we co-labor with Him in bringing peace—oneness—to the earth. The shalom we crave is written into our design, and it will continue forever.