Jack Graham - Help! I'm Depressed
I was diagnosed ten years ago with prostate cancer. I'd never been sick in my life to speak of, and now there's a cancer diagnosis and I actually was prepared for the ensuing surgery and the follow-up. I was spiritually prepared. I was ready to go; get this over with, get this done. Typical of Jack Graham, just go, go, go. And so, I had the surgery. A successful surgery, though there was some question as to whether or not they got all the cancer. That rocked my world. And now I realized I was in for a bigger battle than I thought. Not just the physical battle, but a spiritual and an emotional battle. And something happened to me in the ensuing days and weeks that has never happened before, and I pray, never happens again, but I was taken down by anxiety and depression.
Sleepless nights, fears and worries that I had never known before, a sense of mortality. And then comes the emptiness and the weariness, and the loss of appetite, and no longer enjoying the things that you previously enjoyed, and even loved, activities and all the rest. In many ways suffering alone. My family standing right with me, Deb right with me all the way. Very few people knew what I was going through. Took some time off, the church allowed me. But even after the time off, I was still not ready to go. But it was time to go, so it was go time, so that's what we do; we go. But I was dealing with something that was life altering in many ways.
And the one question I kept asking my wife and some sleepless nights, and some of my friends who knew what I was going through, I kept asking, "Am I going to be okay? Am I going to get through this? Am I stuck like this? This feeling of helplessness and hopelessness and emptiness"? I got some help. I'll tell you more about that later. But I tell you that story at the outset to remind all of us that we all need God's help every day. And in episodes of life in which we are taken to the mat, one of those crisis moments or a challenge in your life that can take you out, that there is hope and there is healing, and your life can recover; you can live again. You may be feeling like a walking dead man or dead woman right now. That's one of the descriptions of depression. You just, it's not living. It's sort of like dying a slow death. But you're going to be okay. And I'm going to declare that over you today!
Now we live in depressing times! Just watch the news. Would you agree? So depressing what's going on in the world, what's going on in our country, it's downright depressing! But not just what's going on in the world, and the fact is that we're told in the Scripture that "In the last days perilous will come", troubling times will come, dangerous times will come. So, we shouldn't be surprised at the depressing news and the depressing state of affairs that is in our world today. But what about your own world? Not something coming from the outside, but something that's coming on the inside as a result of circumstances in your life or crisis in your life. A child rebels, a marriage splits up, a beloved spouse dies, you lose your job, or you're facing the loss of health; you're, perhaps, dealing with chronic pain in your life.
And you've asked yourself, "Am I going to be okay? Am I going to get through this"? Depression has been called the common cold of emotional illness. It affects 20 million adults right now in America, not to speak of the teenagers, and, yes, even children can be depressed. And even spiritual leaders and Christians, no one is exempt from this. Depression is breakdown, it is burnout, it is a tiredness that you can't even hardly describe. But Moses experienced this, to the degree that in Numbers chapter 11 he was so oppressed and overwhelmed by his responsibility, that he prayed to die. He said, "Lord, I don't want to live". He was ready to give up his life, to check it in.
Same thing happened to Jonah after his experience in the great fish, in the belly of that fish, and then the revival that came subsequent to that. And he was angry that God would show mercy on these miserable Ninevites. He was an angry, pouting prophet. As a result of his self-pity and his anger, he fell into a depression and in Jonah chapter 4, verse 3 he prayed, "Lord, let me die! I don't want to live anymore. Just take me out". There's one other man in the Scripture in particular that I want us to focus on because he is a classic example of what we're talking about, depression. His name is Elijah; remember him? A mighty man of God.
In fact, he was called the man of God. He was a powerful prophet, a godly leader and he was serving God in a very dangerous time, a very difficult time in the life of the people of Israel because a wicked king was on the throne; his name was Ahab, and he had a very wicked queen. Even more wicked than the man was the woman beside him and her name was Jezebel. Now I doubt anybody here has named your children Jezebel lately. The only cat I ever had in my life, I was a small child. And that cat kept scratching me and I gave that cat a biblical name Jezebel. That was the last cat I had. You don't want a Jezebel in your life. So, Elijah stood up in the midst of immorality and idolatry in the land!
It's so depressing, isn't it, to see so much sin rampant in our world today! It's depressing. He stands up against it, courageous leader! He calls for national repentance and revival. And revival came to the people of God! He's on a mountain top, literally and spiritually. And yet in just one day everything changes, and Elijah is plunged into a pit! First Kings 19 first four verses: "Ahab told Jezebel". poor little Ahab; he runs to his wife, "all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword", it was a blood bath, "Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, 'So may the gods (little g) do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.'" In other words, "There's a contract on your life, Elijah. You're going to be dead by tomorrow"!
So, what did the bold, courageous believing prophet do? Did he stand up to this wick woman and her weak husband? No. It says in verse 3: "he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba", that's about eighteen miles out in the desert, "which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went another day's journey into the wilderness", and it was a wilderness physically, but it was another kind of wilderness in his own life, "and he came and he sat down under a broom tree", that is a juniper tree, "and he asked that he might die, saying, 'It's enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.'" He prays to die! He said I'm no better than my fathers.
Someone said, "I don't know who had told him that he was better than his fathers; it must have been his mother". I don't know. But he's depressed! That's a classic example of depression, anxiety in the Bible. The struggle is real, folks. It's real for millions of people and it's real for people online, watching right now. Some of you who couldn't get out of bed today to get to church so you're hanging on, you're hoping on, you're watching this service. I pray God gives you a word today. Some of you got yourself here; you don't even know how, but you're hanging by a thread. You just pushed yourself and you're here. Or you know someone in your family, maybe a husband, a wife, a father, a mother, a child that's depressed, and you don't know what to do. You don't know what this is.
And one of the things that can happen is that we as Christians, we just kind of write it off as someone being emotionally weak or unstable. I know as a young Christian when I heard about people being depressed, I didn't, I never said this that I'm aware of or remember, but I'm most likely thinking to myself, "What's wrong with you? Snap out of it. Come on, come on! Get going. Don't worry; be happy"! But I've since learned, and this is wisdom that comes from God and experience in life, I've since learned that if people could snap out of it, don't you know if they could, they would. Nobody wants to live like that. Nobody wants to be miserable.
Let me give you several causes for depression: One is fear. That's what we have in Elijah, the anxiety. He was fearful for his life. He was so afraid that Jezebel was going to kill him. He was under threat, under opposition. Now he had stood up to all of this and more, but somehow now he had had enough. Maybe it was just too much. It was the tipping point. And so he ran in fear just to get away from Jezebel. And he prays to die. Now I don't know what happened from running to Jezebel and praying to die. It's somewhat hypocritical, isn't it? Because if he really wanted to die, he could have just stayed put and Jezebel would have taken care of that for him. But he thinks he wants to die. He's lying to himself in effect, but it's fear and anxiety. There's something that depletes in us with...
Remember, I told you last week in the message about stress and anxiety, and if you push it and push it and the pressure builds, the Bible says anxiety produces depression. And in a way it's a gift from God. If you find yourself depressed because you've just been so overworked, so overwrought, so over worried, so overwhelmed that your body, your brain just kind of shuts down to keep you from going over the top. I mean, it's a way to slow your body and your mind down. But what happens with all these chemicals in our systems in the brain, we're emptied of a brain chemical called serotonin. That's the "feel-good" chemical in your body. God put it there. But if that's depleted by anxiety or fear or exhaustion, or another thing, then that's depression. It's a mental illness; it's a physical illness. And it's rooted in anxiety and fear.
That's why Jesus said don't be worried about anything, because it's dangerous. Can be deadly. That's why the Bible says over and over and over and over and over again, hundreds of times, fear not, fear not, fear not. Do not fear. We've learned what fear can do. But not only fear but fatigue. He had gone eighteen miles to Beersheba. He outran the chariot, and then deeper into the desert into the wilderness, a day's journey. He is physically exhausted and fatigued. So he sat down under this tree and just physically disabled and defeated, he prays to die. But it was exhaustion; it was fatigue. For me, one of the most devastating effects of this thing was just the sheer exhaustion and fatigue. Just-couldn't-get-going! Then there's self-pity. The prophet was having a pity-party.
If you read the story, when he prays to die, he laid down and slept under the juniper tree, and when he got up, God asked him in verse 9: "What are you doing here, Elijah"? So, Elijah explains, he says, verse 10, "I have been jealous for the Lord God, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars (these are terrible people who have) killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away". Self-pity. He thinks nobody cares. He's thinking, God Himself doesn't care. So, he tried to run away, and he throws this pity-party. The problem with a pity party is nobody wants to come to your party except I, me, myself and my. Not good company typically when you're in this state. Self-pity. Then there's isolation. He was all by himself out there in the desert, isolated from the family of faith, isolated from his friends.
There was no support system. He was alone in the wilderness. David said, "I'm alone like a pelican in the wilderness, like an owl in the desert". And you may find yourself lonely, and we're going to deal with the subject of loneliness in a later message in our HELP series. But you're lonely because you feel alone. Now you're not alone. If you're a Christian, God will never leave you or forsake you. But the lie of depression says I'm alone. Nobody cares. You're a single parent and you're going it alone. You're raising children, you're working multiple jobs, you're utterly and totally exhausted. You don't how you can keep going. You're alone and you may be depressed. Your husband or your wife dies and you're oh so lonely; it aches because your heart is broken. Older adults battle depression.
And many of you who have lived a few years and you've come here the last season of your life; it's winter in effect in your life and you feel all alone and alienated and people don't seem to care. We can make it worse by saying things like, "Well, people don't care about, the church doesn't care about me, no one cares about me". It's all this self-pity and isolation that can exist. And that's what depression does: it just kind of removes you from people who do really care, who would help you and can help you. But you don't want the help. You want to just try to go it alone and that complicates it. It's why it's so very important that we as a church have a ministry to older adults who are lonely.
So, Elijah was alienated; he was isolated; he was alone, and when you get yourself isolated, you become a target of the enemy, and that's when Satan's lies born out of the pit of hell, start attacking you. Because ultimately here's what depression does: it lies to you! Or Satan uses your depression to say, "You're worthless, you're wasted, you're finished, you're done! Nobody cares! You might as well die! People would be better off without you"! These are the lies that come out of the darkness. How can we recover? I want to give you some words that begin with the letter "T". You may want to write these down. First of all, time. Give it time. It's a process of healing.
Again, I'm the kind of guy that if it doesn't happen in the next fifteen minutes, I'm wondering why. I remember actually, this is how crazy I was. I remember actually just sitting and staring at the clock, trying to make it go faster in my mind where I could get out of this thing. But you can't push yourself out on your own, and it takes time. Then truth. Remember, I said depression is a lie! Exchange the lies for the truth! When Satan comes against you, when you start talking yourself crazy talk things that are silly, it's not even true about yourself, counteract it by the Word of God and what God says about you! You are a child of God! So many people during times of depression feel so worthless and weak. But you're not worthless and weak! You're stronger than you think! "I can do all things through Christ".
Now sometimes it's just putting one foot in front of another. It's just getting up when you feel like laying down. I learned what I had preached in the past and that is we do not feel our way into acting, we act our way into feeling! That's faith. We start believing what God says instead of what we say. We hear the still small voice. That's what happened to Elijah. God spoke to him. It was revelation. God gave him another word; God gave him a challenge. Do you know what many depressed people need? If you're depressed, you know what you may need? You need a new mission in your life; you need a new challenge in your life. And God's using this season to prepare you for something bigger, something greater, or something else. He's preparing you so listen to Him!
Someone said to me, they were just talking really about prostate cancer I had, but said to me something like this. "Jack, I'm praying that you'll learn everything what you need to learn from this experience". That was good advice; good counseling. And I learned a lot of things and so will you. I learned God's Word to stand on God's promises even more. And I'll give you one of them. This is something to hang on and hope on. Jeremiah 29:11! Somebody watching me right now, someone listening to me right now. You need this because you wonder if you have a future. "'For I know the plans for you,' says the Lord. 'Plans not to harm you, plans not to hurt you, plans for your welfare and for your good.'"
God has a future and a hope for you. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, He gives beauty for ashes. Then there's trust. Trust in God. I mean really trust Him all the way. Faith, believing what God says is true, knowing that you can't fix this but He can. Trusting Him that He's working all things together for good. Psalm 23 was probably written in a depressive period for David's life. He said, "Yea, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me". And then there's touch. Reach out to others. Don't get yourself isolated as Elijah did and some of you are right now. But you need support and encouragement.
Call someone who cares. We're here to help you carry the load. You don't have to carry this all by yourself. Then there's thanksgiving. Write down every day, I learned to journal and just to write down everything every day my thoughts, but my thanksgiving to God. Just write down three things every day. Just name three things every day, the blessings of God upon your life. And you know what happens? It's scientific proof, your brain starts to change. The chemicals in your body, the composite of you: the soul, the body, the mind, it begins to rethink, and your mind is transformed. Thanksgiving is therapy! And then there is therapy. Yes, I mean professional therapy. See a doctor.
If you find yourself depressed, in one of these states, you need to go see a doctor. You may need to go see a Christian counselor. You may need to see a professional, a psychologist or a psychiatrist. And yes, medication is appropriate when needed. You get medication for your cholesterol, you get medication for diabetes, you get medication for headache. It's just foolish to think that you wouldn't take a medication if you're battling depression. Because these medications typically, they do a lot of things, but ultimately, they rebuild the serotonin in your brain. What they really do is kind of get from an unstable condition, to get you even and level again where you can start repairing and you can start healing.
So, it may be appropriate. What is not appropriate is to medicate yourself with alcohol or drugs! Or bad behavior! So, get the therapy you need, and that includes talk, not just medication! But therapy is important. And then finally, there's testimony. Elijah was reassigned a new work and a new calling in his life. And he got up from that desert, depressed experience, and he returned. God said, "What are you doing here, Elijah? There's more work for you to do". I said it a moment ago, some of you just need a new calling, you need a new challenge in your life. You need to get going again! You're stuck!
So put one foot in front of another! And what I learned, we often learn It's what the Apostle Paul learned who said to the Corinthian Christians, "Our God is a God of all comforts, and with the comfort with which we are comforted, we comfort others". When you are healed, you want to help others. When you are broken, you want to help other people put the pieces back together; to pray for people, to love people, to serve people. I tell you, I'm a better comforter of people, I'm a better counselor, I'm a better helper because of that experience in my life. And so will you. You're going to be OK.