Under the Juniper Tree
“Even Christians Get Depressed”
by Christian fiction author, Shelia E. Lipsey
This is a three part Christian workshop discussing what causes depression and how to manage depression. Please read the three sections and let's discuss the material in each section. If you are dealing with depression, let's talk about it as a community. If you have questions or would like more information, please leave your responses in the comment section below.
The Introduction and Part One are also included here. Please take part in all three sessions.
Topics Discussed so far in the Introduction and Part One
Do Christians get depressed? Think about this question for a moment. Ponder over it before you answer.
If we are grounded and rooted in God and our faith, how then can we say that we become depressed? Isn’t that what having faith is all about – believing and hoping in that which we cannot see? Isn’t that why Jesus is our Savior, our Lord, our Father, our everything? Doesn’t his word say if we abide in Him and he abides in us then we can ask anything and it will be done? Doesn’t he tell us to cast our cares upon him? Or what about the passage of scripture that says, ‘He doesn’t put anymore on us than we can bear?’
If I believe God’s word is true, then why are there times when I feel down and out, troubled, like there is no hope and no where to turn? Why do I cry, moan and groan, as if there is no tomorrow and no one who cares? Why do I close myself off from loved ones, family and friends and seek shelter in the confines of my room? Why do I feel isolated and alone, like no one understands what I am going through and how I feel? The answer I give to you is what I have come to call “under the juniper tree.” In other words, I am going through a period of depression. There, I said it – depression. I said it again. Maybe it’s taboo to some believers, but God is not a good of condemnation. He has made us in his own image, that’s true, but God also placed us in bodies of imperfection, that because of Adam and Eve’s sinful nature, must be subjected to various groaning and ailments – including depression. (Leave your thoughts on these questions below and let's talk about it.)
PART TWO CONTINUES HERE
What Causes Our Depression?
Depression can be brought on by a number of reasons, situations, or feelings of guilt. It can also be due to a mental deficiency and brain dysfunctions. However, the depression focused on in this article has more to do with situations and events that occur in our lives such as”
Failure in our lives
The death of a loved one
Condemnation from others
Guilt and inadequacy
Disappointments of life
Feelings of low self-esteem
Fear of losing or rejection
You may think I made a mistake when I listed ‘church’ as a one of the reasons for depression. However, I meant to list it. Sometimes the church (the body of Christ) can be judgmental and condemning. Church people can be condescending, harsh and cruel when others are spotlighted as having committed some sinful act. The reality is that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Secondly, the church has a way of sometimes categorizing sin. We often put sin into categories and list them from bad to worst. A white lie isn’t as bad as outright telling a lie that harms someone else. Or we say that surely murder is worse than someone who commits adultery. But sin is sin and we are not the ones to judge or condemn each other.
The word of God in Romans Chapter 8 verse 1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” We should give messages of hope that set people free and not hold them captive. God’s message should be a message that draws people in, not push them away. We, who are saved, who profess to be children of God, should love all. We must begin to look within ourselves and come to the realization, ‘there but by the grace of God, go I.” We should be about delivering people, not making people feel guilty. The very church that God wants to use to save his people from a life of damnation is the very church that sometimes sentences people to an earthly life of hell and damnation by finger pointing and accusing and outright convicting. We are to love our enemies as Christ loved the church!
There’s a story about a young man named Geraldo. Geraldo was a great guy. He loved to attend church every Sunday and Wednesday night. He had a beautiful wife and three small children. Geraldo also had a great job and a nice home. He lived the all American perfect dream. At least that’s how it appeared to everyone from the outside.
However, things were far different than they appeared. You see, Geraldo in spite of all the good things people saw, was often depressed. He always felt like he wasn’t good enough, that he could never do enough or achieve enough. He thought that other people saw the same thing he saw when he looked at himself in the mirror everyday, a man of defeat. Geraldo was always worried about his life to the point where he looked at himself as a failure. He felt like at the age of 53, that he had let not only his family down, but himself and most importantly, he felt like he had let God down. Geraldo wore a smile on the outside and cried with pain on the inside. How could God love him when he was so messed up? There are many people in your home, your neighborhood and your church who feel just like Geraldo.
The answer for Geraldo and for us must be extracted from the word of God, if we are to experience the good life that God wants for each of us. We must look to God, the author and finisher of our faith. If we don’t we can find ourselves being crippled and held captive by depression to the point that we are at a stalemate in life. Our churches should have more ministries that address depression and teach us how to cope by using the word of God.
But many churches want to push the word depression under the rug as if it does not exist. We should be about doing our father’s business by seeking ways to open our hearts and our doors to those who are suffering from the debilitating grip of depression. We have outreach groups that address issues of grief, drug dependency, alcoholism, family issues, and others. Why not address depression? Reveal the promises of God. Reach out our hands to help someone else. Take the time to listen and look deeply at your neighbor, the church member sitting next to you in Sunday School or worship service.
We must minister to those who are depressed. We must remind them that ‘nothing is too hard for God.’ We must remind them that God is our rock of Gibraltar, a constant friend is He. Let us minister to those who feel sorrowful for the sinful acts they have committed or are committing. We must teach them that the word of God says, “if we confess our sins, that He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
We all have regrets over things we’ve done, decisions we’ve made. We’ve done (and probably are still doing) our share of lying, cheating, stealing and hurting other people. We’ve all done things that are still hidden away in our closet full of skeletons. We’ve all done and said things that we are ashamed of. We’ve all made wrong choices in life that produce problems in our lives. All of these things can set us up for depression. But instead of isolating our brothers and sisters, as God’s children we must be willing to open up to them and let them know that they are not alone! Let’s be about ministering to our people!
Jeremiah 29:11-13 is one of my favorite passages of scripture. It says, For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” God wants good things for us! God doesn’t want me to be without hope, which means to be depressed. God wants me and you to know that he has plans to give us hope, to give us futures. He wants us to call upon him and pray. He promises to listen to us if we will only seek him with all of our heart.
Another one of my favorite passages is found in Habakkuh Chapter 3 verses 17 -19. Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
What To Do In My Depression
Focus on God. It is difficult sometimes, I know. I have found it almost impossible to turn my focus toward God when I am depressed. But it is what we have to do, what we must do if we are to come out of the black hole of depression. God does love you and me. No matter whether we feel His presence or not, God is yet beside us in the midst of our despair and loneliness. He is the one who is keeping us. Psalms Chapter 42 verse 11 says, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
Hope in God is the road that will lead us out of the village of depression. No matter how hard it is to travel, muster up every bit of energy and resilience and fight the good fight of hope and faith every time depression comes your way. It may be easier said and done, I know it is because I am constantly bombarded with bouts of depression. Yet, God is my refuge, my light, my salvation and my steadfast hope. He will be yours too, if you let him.
Depression will surely visit you, but do not allow it to move in and take up permanent residence in your life. Do not allow it to take root in your life. We can do all things through Christ Jesus is not just another bible verse. It is true and it is true every time.
We will not give up, for we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. We are his children, the sheep of his pasture and he will not allow us to be destroyed.
The next time depression knocks, send God’s hope to the door.
Here are some more Promises of God to read when you find yourself in the valley of depression. Please select a passage and tell us how it applies to your life.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed."
1 Peter 1:6-9 "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls."
Psalms 27:1-14 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident. One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek, That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent. He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.' Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother have forsaken me, then the Lord will take me up. Teach me Your way, O Lord, And lead me in a level path Because of my foes. Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence. I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord."
Get from under your juniper tree! God is waiting for you!
Novelist, Shelia E. Lipsey,is a native Memphian. She attended Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi, graduating magna cum laude with a BBA degree. Lipsey, a published author, professional copyeditor and inspirational speaker has been actively writing and speaking most of her life. Lipsey has written several short stories and over 200 poems which she has plans of publishing in the near future. Her novels with Urban Books are entitled, Into Each Life (Jan. ’07), Sinsatiable (Aug.’07). Lipsey’s third novel, My Son’s Wife will be released October 1, 2008.
Visit her website today for more details and to read excerpts: http://www.shelialipsey.com/
Among Lipsey’s list of literary accomplishments and affiliations, she was awarded Conversations Book Club 2008 Author of the Year (thebestbookclub.info), Dallas Morning News Bestselling Author ’07, Urban Knowledge Memphis Bestselling Author ‘07; Founding president Memphis African American Writers Group (MAAW), president Urban Christian's UC His Glory Book Club (uchisglorybookclub.net)
Shelia is also the founder of 1st Annual Living Your Dreams Literary Arts Seminar (livingyourdreamsnow.net); founder of The Word According to Shelia Newsletter; Publishing & a contributing writer for Victorious Voice Magazine (www.victoriousvoice.com) online member of Black Writers Christian Network (firstname.lastname@example.org), Booknibbler_Christian, Black, Copy Editor (http://www.shelialipsey.com/).
Lipsey is also acontributing blogger for Sankofa Literary Society(sankofaliterarysociety.org), guest columnist at Blogginginblack.com, as well as several other online literary groups.
Part One and Part Two are also included here. Please take part in all three sessions.
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