Craig Groeschel - Two Truths to Remember When You're Battling Depression
Today, we're gonna talk about depression. And I wanna tell you about a good friend of mine that I'm going to call Tim. That's not his real name. Now, just so you'll know he is a real person and it's not me. Like at the end of the message, I'm not gonna, I'm Tim. I'm not Tim. It's a real person. And we've been friends since high school. If you met Tim, what I promise you is you would love him. Everybody I know says he's the most generous, most kind, most uplifting person. If you had one conversation with him, you'd be like, I want to be friends with Tim. This guy's amazing. And after a very good, very positive, very uplifting conversation, when you walk away feeling great, you would have absolutely no idea that Tim made a very conscious and difficult decision just to get out of bed on that day, 'cause he didn't want to and he didn't feel up to it.
And you wouldn't know that he gave you all the energy that he had to try to give you a good experience. When on the outside he looked happy, but on the inside he felt hopeless, empty, dark, afraid, and alone, because Tim has battled for years, not only with ongoing chronic and crippling depression, but serious suicidal thoughts that have plagued him for years and years and years. Now, to someone who hasn't experienced depression, you might be dismissive if you met Tim, you're like, "Dude, you got so much going on in your life. Just like pull out of it, just cheer up". And he would want you to know that depression is not just sadness, it's not just discouragement, but it's constant darkness. It's sometimes like no feeling, like no feeling at all. Like no motivation, no hope. And what's really sad is that the church should be the safest place to talk about feelings of darkness and depression. And yet, it's often not.
Sometimes in some faith communities, there's almost a stigma to it, where someone who feels hopeless also feels ashamed to talk about it or maybe even guilty like, spiritually. I must be doing something wrong. And then other well meaning Christians might just say, "Hey, just suck it up. Come on, it's not that big of a deal. I mean, come on, pull out of it, pull your stuff up by your bootstraps, get over it, you know, just put your faith in Jesus and everything will be okay". And the depressed person doesn't feel safe opening up, and so withdrawals even more, and the depression seems to compound.
Have you ever thought about this? Like if you're in a life group and someone says, "I have a sore throat," you would say, maybe go to the doctor. If someone breaks a bone, you would say go to a surgeon. If someone is battling depression, sometimes the implied message in the church is just, keep smiling and keep it to yourself. If you are one of the many people today, especially in this painful culture we're living in at the moment, if you're one of the many people today fighting with depression, one of the biggest mental health problems in our culture today, you will both identify with the verse that I'm about to read to you, and it may make you angry. You may identify with it and it might make you a little mad.
Proverbs 12:25. You'll identify with the first part. Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression. Duh. Okay. Anxiety, fear, worry, stress causes depression. Then scripture says, But a good word makes it glad. Everybody say good word. Good word. Anxiety causes depression, but a good word makes it glad. If you are battling with depression right now, you might say, "It's not that simple"! It's not that simple. A good word? A good word doesn't pull me out of my darkness, but I wanna remind you that this is the Word of God. The inspired truth of God. And if that last part feels a little bit too simplistic today, it is my prayer that somehow by the power of God's Word, that a good word might just bring a little bit of hope, and a good word might just bring a little bit of healing. And the title of today's message is Two Truths to Remember When You're Battling Depression.
And Father, I cry out to you and ask for your help to communicate a good word from heaven. Would you bring healing? Would you bring light into the darkness? We pray this in Jesus name, and everybody said. Amen. Amen.
Well, I hope this isn't gonna be a depressing message, but depression is a very complex issue. And in case you're feeling proud because you don't battle with depression, don't, because depression doesn't discriminate. In other words, if you don't have it, that doesn't make you more spiritual than someone that does. It can hit anybody at any time. It doesn't discriminate. And there's also like no one size fits all. When we talk about this, I just wanna acknowledge and say, a very complex issue. I've said it every week. I am not an expert at all. I sought a lot of expert advice and I've read and researched. And according to the experts I'm talking to and according to all the research that I've done, there are essentially four root causes of depression that I want to acknowledge today. The first is what we say is like a biological cause.
If you're badly with depression right now, you may not have done anything wrong whatsoever in your life. You might actually have a chemical imbalance in your body or in your brain that's causing you to feel a certain way. You might have chronic pain that's certainly not your fault, that's just leading you into a state of darkness. You might have a nutritional deficit. You might have hormonal changes. You have a baby and you come out of it and you feel postpartum crazy, the reason is 'cause you're postpartum crazy like your hormones aren't functionally like normal and you have unusual feelings. You might not be sleeping enough, you might not be exercising enough or getting enough sunlight. There are biological causes to depression. There's also what we would say would be relational causes.
In other words, you might be having a really big problem with one of your kids or have a kinda a life-threatening issue and that's weighing on you or your marriage is falling apart or you've got issues with people that you love or you're going through a divorce or you've been rejected. Or you went through a global pandemic and had isolation for 18 months and didn't have real fellowship whatsoever. And you wonder why you're feeling dark? You might have some biological reasons, some relational reasons, or you might have circumstantial causes. At the root cause of your depression you might have lost somebody close to you and you're dealing with feelings of darkness.
And you just wish you could talk to them one more time. Or you might have been through some type of trauma. Or financially you did everything you could to hold it together and you couldn't keep up and you filed bankruptcy. Or it could even be something that appears to be good, like you look forward to retirement and then you retired and you're like, "Now I'm gonna have fun"! You're like, "Who am I now? What's my purpose now"? Or in my age group, there's a lot of people that are sending their kids out, and now they have no more children at home and they're feeling the sadness and depression of being an empty-nester. We cried on the first four kids we sent out, we got two more and now we're kinda like, "What are you guys doing here"? You know? We did cry, but... We'll be sad, but like, we might actually have a little bit of party. I don't know for sure, but... Nah, just kidding.
I love all of them a lot. And there's two of them still in my house. And it could be that it's biological, relational, circumstantial, or you might have depression from real spiritual attacks. And we have to remember that we do not battle against flesh and blood, but we have very real spiritual battles against the forces of darkness that want to steal, kill, and destroy everything that matters to God. And nothing matters to God more than you do. There are different root causes. Depression doesn't discriminate and there's no one size at all. And I'm obviously not a doctor or a licensed counselor. I am a pastor. And so what I wanna do today is I wanna try to talk to you from a very spiritual perspective, acknowledging that this is a complex issue and you'll certainly want to get holistic help, but I wanna talk to you from a spiritual perspective today.
And I wanna show you in the Old Testament, a very depressed man of God, and I want you to understand, this was a prophet. And so this was a guy that spoke on behalf of God and he represented God. And he told people what God told him to say. And yet this man of God, this person of deep and committed faith was also in a very deep and dark and desperate place. We're gonna look at the prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations 3. And I wanna give you a little bit of context to understand his depression. You may remember Solomon's temple, which was one of the greatest tributes to God in the history of mankind. It stood for 400 years or so before it was tragically destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC.
Well, Jeremiah saw the destruction. He would've witnessed his loved ones being murdered, his close friends being taken captive. He would've watched perhaps family members being deported away as his city, his homeland, the house of God is completely destroyed, and he saw it and he was depressed. The only thing I can relate to is when I was a young pastor at First Methodist church downtown, when I was at seminary, the day that the Murrah building was bombed. And when I came back, I had special access on that day to get in. And they turned our lobby of the church into a morgue and I was 23 or four years of age, and they said, "Whatever you do, don't look in that lobby". Well, being dumb, I looked in the lobby and what I saw was a site that I... It was horrific. Bodies. And he saw this firsthand. He saw loved ones and he was depressed. Just like some of you right now. Didn't know where to turn.
And I want you to watch the descriptions of a man of God who found himself for a moment without hope. Look at the descriptive metaphors. If you've never battled with depression, this is an incredibly accurate description of what someone would feel. He says this, he says, "I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord's wrath. He has driven me away and made me," this is what he says, "walk in darkness rather than light. He's besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He's made me dwell in darkness like those long dead. He's walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. I've been deprived of peace; I've forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, 'My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord,'" listen to his dark cry. He says, "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. I well remember them well and my soul is downcast within me".
The prophet of God, the man of God is broken. He momentarily has no hope. Two things to remember when you're battling depression, two things to remember. The first thing that I wanna try to help you remember right now is this, that your emotions are actually valid. A lot of times in a church culture people say, doesn't matter what your feelings are, don't believe your feelings and you shouldn't pay any attention to your feelings. And I wanna show you that your emotions are valid. And the second truth I want you to understand is that your situation feels hopeless. If you depressed right now, you don't know what to do, you don't know where to turn, you don't know how to get out, you may have tried to pray and you've tried to read your Bible and you tried to believe, and you did it for so long, and now you have no hope whatsoever.
And what I just told you on those truths are completely true, but they're incomplete. They're true, but they're incomplete. And what I wanna do is I wanna show you the complete truths, because so many people get stuck on what is true, but is what is also incomplete. So let's look at them again. First of all, I went to know that your emotions are valid, but they are not permanent. They are valid, but they are not permanent. And the second thing I want to remember is that your situation feels hopeless, but with God, there is always hope. With the presence of our God, even when you don't feel it, even when you don't see it, even when everything feels hopeless with our God, there always is hope. And I wanna unpack these truths and dive deep into them and pray that a good word will bring you hope. When you're hurt, when you don't know where to turn, when you feel like you've done it all and you can't get out, I wanna tell you that your emotions, they're valid, they're valid, they're real. And they're actually an important part of your healing.
An expert would tell you that one of the ways to heal and to actually change your emotions is to start by acknowledging your emotions and literally naming your emotions. If you feel hopeless right now, what I want you to do is just say or think, I feel hopeless. Those of you online, you could even type it in the comment section if you want. What do you feel? Name what you feel. You might say, "I feel angry". "I feel hurt". "I feel pissed off at the world". "I feel betrayed". If you're depressed, you might say, "I feel empty right now," or "I feel numb". You name your feelings. You might say, "I feel afraid". Speaking of being afraid, how many of you are afraid of spiders? Raise your hands, afraid of spiders, afraid of spiders. I wanna show you a study that was done, that was not just with house spiders, but this one was actually done with tarantulas.
How weird is that? Three people on the front row just ran out the building. If you're listen right now, you don't see what we're seeing, but there is full blown nasty and hairy tarantula on my stage. I didn't wanna get close to it. I'm gonna tell you about the study and what they did is they took some people who were afraid of spiders and they exposed them to a tarantula in a cage, and then they broke them into four groups. Now, would you mind taking that tarantula away? Now I can concentrate again. Now what they did, let me say it again in case you missed it, is they took people who were afraid of spiders, put a tarantula in a cage and exposed them to the tarantula in the cage. They broke 'em into four groups, and they gave them four different assignments. The first group, they said, I want you to label what you're feeling. In other words, "I feel afraid of hairy spiders". Label what you're feeling.
The second group, they said, make observations, just a general emotionless feeling-less observation like that tarantula is in a cage, that tarantula is big. To the third group, they said, just say something irrelevant. Just say something irrelevant, like it's a Tuesday, or it looks like it might rain. To the fourth group they said, don't say anything at all. And they gave them four different assignments, label what you're feeling, make observations, say something irrelevant, and don't say anything at all. And they took the people that were afraid of spiders and they brought him back a week later and they exposed them again to a tarantula, this time not in a cage, and they measured their physiological responses, did they sweat, did their heart rate beat, did they pee in their pants, you know, what did they do?
And what they discovered out of the four groups by far the one who labeled their feelings a week previously did exceptionally better. They were less nervous, many of them were actually even able to touch the tarantula. And what they learned from that in other studies, and they will teach you that naming your emotions opens the door to changing your emotions. Your emotions are actually valid. Name your emotions. It's not something like spiritual to pretend like they're not there. They're there. God gave you emotions. They're valid. But they're not permanent. When you recognize they're not permanent and you identify them, I feel alone, I feel desperate, I feel hopeless, when you name it, that opens the door to God being able to change it. And because our emotions are temporary, very, very important, we are not gonna make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions.
When you are feeling down, we're not gonna make permanent decisions based on that. Not only are we not gonna make permanent decisions, but don't make permanent conclusions. When you feel, "Well, all men are this. Well, all people are that. Well, all churches are that. Well, you can't..". No, no, no, we're not gonna make permanent decisions or permanent conclusions based on temporary emotions. When you feel afraid, when you feel threatened, you might feel like quitting on your marriage. You might feel like quitting on God. You might feel like running out the door and shutting everybody out and getting a big bottle of Jack Daniels and drinking yourself silly. In the darkest times, you may feel like life is not worth it. And your spiritual enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy may whisper to you, "You'd be better off if you weren't here". And in the moment that may feel true.
But I want you to know that is never, ever, ever, under any circumstances true, because God knew what he was doing when he made you. He knew you before you were formed in your mother's womb. And he put you here on earth to know him and gave you good works in advance to do. And so we're not gonna make permanent decisions or permanent conclusions based on temporary emotions. Your emotions, they're valid. They're real. God gave them to you. We're gonna feel them, but not be ruled by them. Not ruled by them. Your emotions are valid, but they're not permanent. And the second thing I wanna show you today is that your situation may feel hopeless, but with God, there is always hope. With God where is always, always hope. You may not feel it, you may not believe it, but I want to bring a good word to you today. And I'm praying the good word will bring you hope. God always can give you hope.
In fact, I wanna show you in our text today, in Limitations 3, so in verse 20, and then I'll read 21, in verse 20, do you remember what Jeremiah said? In verse 20 he said, "My soul is downcast". My soul is downcast. And then verse 21, he turns to God and he says, "Yet this I call to mind," I feel hopeless, I feel depressed, I'm walking in darkness, I have no hope whatsoever, "yet this I call to mind". And because I call this to mind, therefore I have hope. In the middle of his darkest moment, he calls to mind the goodness, the character, the nature of God, and he talks about it, and it's beautiful the way he talks about it, verse 22, he says, "because of the Lord's great love we're not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They're new every morning. And in the middle of his darkness, he declares God 'great is your faithfulness.'"
I call this to mind. Because of the Lord's great love we're not consumed. Because of his love... The word love in the Hebrew text is the plural form of the word hesed, which is a very powerful word, it's very difficult to translate. It's in the Bible 248 times, and it's packed with meaning. Many Hebrew words, they're more like a sentence or a thought, or almost like a mini story. It's very hard to translate some of them into English, because they're so rich and deep with meaning and the word hesed, translators try to say like loving kindness or translate as mercy or loyalty or such. But this word is impossible to describe apart from the fullness of God's character. Two definitions I like, translators said it this way, hesed actually means the unbreakable devotion to God's promises. It's a covenantal commitment to God's character.
That's what it is. Because of his love we're not consumed. And his compassions never fail. The word compassions is translated from the Hebrew word rahamaw, which is the very same root word, which actually means a mother's womb. I love this. What happens in a womb? Well, the womb is a safe place. The womb is the sanctuary where life begins, in the womb the life is nourished and is strengthened and is protected. And it's in this womb that the compassions never fail. They're new every morning. The grace of God is new every morning. His presence is new every morning. He gives you enough every morning. He gives you the daily bread. He gives you daily grace. He gives you daily compassion. He gives you daily goodness. He gives you daily presence. With him there's always hope. There's always hope.
So what do you do when the whole world feels dark? Well, acknowledge it. Like call it what it is. I feel depressed. I feel hopeless. And then just also acknowledge: I need help. This is a safe place to say that you need help. And I wanna say it again, asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of wisdom. I need help. And then get help. What might you do to get help? Well, you might talk to a counselor. That's wise. You might go to a doctor who might prescribe helpful medicine. That's wise, and that is not unspiritual. You might change your diet. That's wise and spiritual. It works with the way God designed your body. You might start to exercise or you might journal, or you might get in a life group. Oh my gosh, I don't know how people deal with the forces of darkness without people of life standing by them to encourage them, pray for them and cheer them on.
We need community and we need each other. And we are better together. Iron sharpening iron to help us become the people of God called to walk in his ways and share his light and his love. You might pray, and you might pause, and you might praise. I call this to mind. I call this to mind. And when you do these different things, do you know what happens? Let me tell you what happens. You start to change your posture. When you're depressed, if you're talking to a depressed person question are their shoulders up or their shoulders down? They're down. Is their voice loud with confidence or quiet in darkness? Are they smiling or are they frowning? They're frowning. Their posture's down.
Now, I can't prove this, but I can almost guarantee you, but Jeremiah said "I'm in darkness," his posture is down. "I've lost our hope," his posture is down. And then he said, "Yet I call this to mind". He changed his posture. "Yet I call..". Here's what I want you to know. Your posture, it reflects your mood, but your posture can also impact your mood. Yet I call this to mind. And I don't know if he did this or not, but perhaps he did, maybe in his darkness, he looked down, and then he changed his posture. And maybe he looked up and raised up his hands toward heaven. Anytime you raise your hands toward heaven, what happens if you raise your hands if someone puts a gun to you? That's a sign of surrender. I surrender! I need help! I can't do this on my own! I surrender.
What else is it? It's a sign of victory. We won. We're winning. What I love about this, when you surrender to God, you find victory in God. When you surrender to him, you find victory in him. And Jeremiah says, "I say to myself," watch this. "I say to myself," sometimes you just have to preach to yourself. If you've never preached to yourself, sometimes you just have to say to yourself. And he says, "The Lord is my portion. Therefore I will wait for him". He says to himself, "The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him". He says to himself, "The Lord is good to those who seek him". He says to himself, "It's good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord".
Sometimes you just have to preach to yourself. Why so downcast, O my soul. My soul is downcast within me. Yet I call this to mind. I don't know what you would say to yourself, I may say, "You, O Lord, you are a shield about me. You are my glory. You are the lifter of my head. My God, he is my refuge and my strength. He is my ever present help in time of trouble. The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He restores my soul. Even though I walk through the valley of darkness, the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me, my God, in the presence of my enemies, goodness and mercy", say it to yourself, preach it to yourself, "will follow me all the days of my life".
Sometimes you just gotta preach to yourself. So I need to hear this. So why are you so downcast? Put your hope in God. You're feelings. They're valid. They're real, but they're not permanent. You feel like you have no hope, but with God you always have hope. There's always hope. When he's on the throne, there's hope in your home. There's always hope. There's always hope. For I am convinced, you might say, that nothing can separate me from the love of God, not death, nor life, not angels, nor demon, neither the present or the future. You preach it to yourself. Not my depression, not my darkest days, nothing in all creation will be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, my Lord. You preach to yourself.
Is that gonna solve everything? I don't know. Sometimes you gotta renew your mind. Sometimes you gotta correct your body. It's complex. We're not gonna belittle it, but we're not gonna, we're not gonna surrender to it. We surrender to God. Amen. We fight. We fight, we fight. This is how we fight our battles. We fight with the presence of God. Anxiety, it weighs the heart down. It makes you feel depressed. But a good word... Oh, a good word. Too simple, preacher, insulting. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe not. Maybe a good word from God is just enough to get you through today. Today. Maybe it is just enough to get you through this hour. And maybe it's just enough to get you through the minute. A good word. And there's a good word available for you now. And there's a good word available for you in the next minute you need it.
So Tim, not his real name. That is a real person. And is not me. Told you that. There are so many times over the years that I'd pray for him and he'd get in his car and drive home. And that I would pray the big prayer. God, protect him. I was so afraid I wouldn't see him again. I was so afraid he was gonna take his life. And to brag on him, he would say the only thing that got him through was Jesus. But what I love about him is in the darkest of dark, he just didn't give up. He just didn't give up. He just didn't give up.
And so let me tell you what he did. He went to counseling, and that helped a little bit. And he tried some different medicines and one ended up helping a little bit. And he became a prayer warrior and that helped quite a bit. And he changed his diet, that helped some. And he started exercising a lot and that actually helped some. And he didn't just attend a life group, but he started a life group, and that helps some. And he's been daily renewing his mind. And he would tell you today that his depression after years of fighting is gone. He is free from depression. And he told me to tell you that your emotions are valid, but they're not permanent. And he told me to tell you, your situation feels hopeless, but with God there's always hope.
So, Father, we pray today for a good word and for hope.
As you're praying, wherever you are today, online watching, those of you who would say, just let's call it what it is, no shame in it. It may be in your life. It may be in the life of someone you love. Depression is in your heart. Depression is in your home. Would you just lift up your hand right now? Just lift up your hand around the room, lift your hand. Those of you online, you can just type it in the chat, depression is in my home. You just type it in.
Father, we pray, I know that a 30-minute message is not gonna cure everybody's depression, but, God, I pray that a good word would bring hope. Hope to make it through this moment. Hope to turn to you. Not to make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions, but to look to you. And we pray in the name of Jesus, your risen Son, for healing and for hope and victory over depression.
As you keep praying today, many of you don't know where you stand with God. Have I been too bad for him? Am I too far from him? Because of his great love, we're not consumed. He loves you so much that he became one of you in the person of his Son Jesus, Jesus is God in the flesh, perfect in every way, holy and without sin, and Jesus died on a cross to forgive our sins. If you feel depressed, if you feel dark, if you feel hopeless, if you feel guilty, if you feel ashamed, we step away from our sin, we step into the grace of God through Jesus, and God forgives our sins. He forgives every sin. We become brand new, wherever you're watching from today. Those who say, "I need his grace, I want his forgiveness," we're repenting of our sins, we're receiving Jesus. When you call in his name, God hears your prayers. He forgives all of your sins and you become brand new.
Those of you, you're lost, you feel darkness, you feel no hope, you feel ashamed. This is your day. This is your moment. Call and his name. Jesus, I give you my life. Jesus, I give you my life. I need your forgiveness today. I give you my life. That's your prayer. Jesus, I give you my life. Lift your hands high right now, all over the place, lift them up and say, yes, praise God for you. Others of you say yes, Jesus, I'm surrendering to you. God bless you guys. All of our church, you say yes, Jesus, online just type it in the comment section, just type "I'm surrendering my life to Jesus". Would you pray wherever you're watching from, pray:
Heavenly Father, I surrender to you. Jesus, save me. Forgive my sins. Make me new. Fill me with your spirit, so I can walk in your joy, and show your love. Thank you for new life. I give you all of mine. In Jesus name I pray.