Yes, absolutely! There is hope for depression. Here is a simple, Biblical plan from the book of Philippians that will help you to live a happy, hope-filled life:
1. Let Go Of The Past
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13, 14)
A good deal of depression is caused by worry. We worry about the past, and about potential things that could go wrong in the future. The Apostle Paul certainly had plenty in his past he could have worried about. He had persecuted Christians and blasphemed Jesus Christ. He was a wicked man before he was saved on the road to Damascus. Yet, Paul said, “…this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind…” Paul chose to forget the past. He saw Jesus Christ as his goal and He looked forward to Him. Did you fail at something yesterday? Why live your life today dwelling on it? Look forward to Jesus Christ and follow Him. Did you confess a sin to the Lord yesterday and receive forgiveness for it? Why bring it back up today? Every day, have a fresh start, forgetting the past and reaching forward to the future. The future for the Christian couldn’t be better. Our future is Jesus Christ!
2. Pray About The Future
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7)
God’s peace passes all understanding. The Bible says that if we pray about everything, “…the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The phrase, “Be careful for nothing…” means, “Don’t worry about anything.” The way to keep from worrying and to have peace in your life is to pray about the situation. The peace of God will then keep, which means to guard, your heart. Just as a squadron of soldiers guards a military base from enemy attack, the peace of God will guard your heart from the attacks of worry and doubt. The words heart and mind in this verse are talking about your thoughts and emotions. The peace of God guards our thoughts and emotions in a way that passes all understanding. No one can understand why a Christian can have peace in the midst of the storms of life, but we can have it, through Jesus Christ!
The reason the peace of God that passes understanding “…SHALL KEEP your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” is because, most of the time, our worry is about things that might happen in the future. “Shall” is a future word. So, the peace of God looks into the future and guards our hearts and minds when we pray. Incidentally, pray for what you want to happen. If you are facing bad circumstances in the future, pray for God to change things: “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Luke 11:9) If God doesn’t want to give you what you are asking for, He will change your mind and change your prayers. But, it is not wrong at all to pray for God to answer specific needs in your life. Nothing will give you more hope than praying for the things that you want God to do for you, and seeing God respond to your prayers by doing exactly what you asked Him to do! “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” (James 4:2)
3. Change Your Way Of Thinking About The Present
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Philippians 4:8, 9)
Is the way you think causing you to be depressed? Change your thinking to BIBLICAL THINKING and it will cause you to have peace and contentment in your life. God outlines eight things here that we should think about. Let’s study them. The Word of God teaches that we should think about things that are:
(1) TRUE: The Devil wants to fill your mind with lies. “God doesn’t love you. The Bible isn’t true. God won’t answer your prayer.” Don’t fill your mind with things that aren’t true! The best way to fill up your mind with truth is by reading and memorizing the Word of God. The Bible is truth. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) For us to properly reason and think through a situation, we have to think Biblically. Knowing the Bible means knowing what God thinks about the situations of life. That will help us to think right, and to make the right decisions.
(2) HONEST: This has to do with the way we live our lives. We ought to live honorably. If you are doing things that you shouldn’t do, stop. If you are not doing something that you should be doing, start. For instance, if you are a Christian, you know that you should be attending church. If you are not doing that, it may lead you to feel guilty. Guilt, then leads to depression. The easiest way to get rid of such depression is to start going to church. Solomon said, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might…” If it needs to be done, do it, and put everything that you’ve got into it! On the other hand, if you are committing some sort of sin, that can also lead to depression. Stop doing what you know you shouldn’t do. Do what you know you should. This will help you to feel better about life, and to not live in depression.
(3) JUST: Just things are righteous. They are the things that are right. If we dwell on everything that is wrong with the world, and all the wrongs that people have done to us, it will rob us of our peace. Think about things that are just, that are right with the world and with people, rather than those that are wrong. It will make you into a happier person!
It is good to note here, that justice has never been better exemplified than by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. When Christ died for our sins, He was fulfilling the just demands of a holy God that sin be punished. Also, because He had no sin, Jesus was able to die for our sins, in our place, as our substitute. When a sinner believes in Jesus Christ as Savior, God declares him to be just, or righteous, not because of his own works, but because of his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, when we think about things that are just, we should meditate on the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and about the righteousness that God has given to us by grace, through our faith in Him.
Sometimes, when the Devil is beating you up, or you are beating yourself up thinking about what a sorry person you are, think of this: You are righteous in the sight of God. You have been declared, by the Lord Jesus Christ, to be just. God loves you so much, that He gave His Son to die and absorb the just punishment for your sins, the punishment that you deserve. That is true love!
(4) PURE: Pure things are clean. Christians ought to fill their minds with purity, not with filth. What we read, watch and listen to reflects on how we think. We should fill our ears with clean music. We ought to fill our minds with clean literature. If you watch television, look at things that are clean. Many Christians spend their time wasting their brains with entertainment that isn’t fit for the hogs in the barnyard! Bad music and bad images lead to bad thinking. As my pastor often says, “Garbage in, garbage out. Righteousness in, righteousness out.”
(5) LOVELY: Forgiveness is lovely. If you are holding a grudge, it will end up holding you, and you will destroy yourself with bitterness. If you are bitter towards someone, let it go for your own health and well-being. God commands us to forgive others, and to pray for our enemies. This is not only the right thing to do, but praying for your enemies will take a lot of tension out of your life and help you to be mentally healthy.
Jesus Christ is lovely. Nothing is lovelier. Think on Christ, and it will lift you out of depression. I went to a restaurant to eat one time, and was kind of down. The hymn, “Rock of Ages” started playing over the speaker system. I started thinking about Jesus Christ, and those thoughts brought me out of my depression. When Job went through all his suffering, God did something very interesting. God got Job to look up, away from all that was going on around him. God started asking Job questions that led him to realize how powerful and wise God is. At the end of this time of questioning, Job was a changed man, and God turned things around for him. (See Job 38:1-42:17) When you are depressed, get your mind off circumstances and onto the Lord Jesus Christ. He will lift you out of your depression!
The Word of God is lovely. Meditating on the Bible is the single best way to change your thinking. The Word of God says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2) A lot of junk builds up in our minds during the day. We need these negative thoughts and attitudes emptied out. The Word of God transforms us by renewing our minds. As you read the Bible each day, it will clean and renew your thoughts. The word, “renewing” in Romans 12:2 means to “renovate.” Have you ever seen an old house that has been renovated? That is what the Bible does to our minds. It sweeps away the sin and filthiness of the day and rebuilds our thought processes.
(6) GOOD REPORT: We shouldn’t fill our minds with negativity and gossip. Choose to meditate on those things that have a good report, a good reputation. You can think about every negative aspect of a person until you grow to despise them. Pick out good things to think about. A critical, cynical attitude will help to make you into a grouch that no one wants to associate with! Think about good reports, not bad. “Good report” thinking will change your whole outlook on people and life!
(7) ANY VIRTUE: These are things that are morally excellent. Any time that you find this characteristic in a person or a thing, think on it. The Apostle Paul certainly demonstrated this kind of moral excellency when he was on board a ship that was doomed to sink. He said, “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.” (Acts 27:25) Do you ever feel like your life is sinking? Believe God! God will take care of you. He promises in His Word to do so. There is great virtue in believing God when things go wrong. Ultimately, most depression is caused by living a life of not believing God. God is in control and He will work things out for good. The Lord Jesus Christ loves you! He will do what He has promised in His Word. Live a life of unbelief, and you will be miserable. Live in faith, and you will be happy. “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”
(8) ANY PRAISE: We can spend our lives dwelling on every negative thing, or we can find things for which we can praise God. One of the easiest ways to be lifted out of depression is to think about all of the ways that God has blessed you. Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have food to eat? Do you have clothes to wear? Is God blessing you in other areas of your life? The hymn, “Count Your Blessings” says,
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
Your reward in Heaven, nor your home on high.
So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.
-Johnson Oatman Jr.
John Gill, one of England’s eminent Bible commentators wrote: “…think on these things: meditate upon them, revolve them in your minds, seriously consider them, and reason with yourselves about them, in order to put them into practice.”[i] You don’t have to live a life of depression and emptiness. Change your thinking, and God will change your life!
* A NOTE ABOUT MEDICATION AND DEPRESSION. While good Christians debate about whether medication is ever needed to treat depression, it is this author’s opinion that in some circumstances, there are clinical reasons for depression that require a doctor’s treatment. While most depression can be treated by simply following the Bible, we must remember that God never condemns doctors or medication. In fact, the Bible books of Luke and Acts were both written by a physician. It is also important to remember that because there are dangers associated with taking certain anti-depressants, they should not be abused or taken unnecessarily.
[i] From Gill’s Exposition of the Bible note on Philippians 4:8
© 2007 Stephen D. Baker All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Originally published in the book HOPE: GOD’S SHELTER IN THE STORMS OF LIFE.