2 Infamous ELEPHANTS Named Anxiety & Depression

These ubiquitous elephants must be addressed because of the destruction they cause.

Before I fully introduce these elephants, let’s set our minds on God’s Word.

Click the link for the readings: Isaiah 41:10, Proverbs 12:25, Matthew 6:31-34, Philippians 4:6-7, & 1 Peter 5:6-7.

Actual wild elephants herd together in groups of as few as six to eight and as large as a hundred. So today, we’re taking a practical bite out of not one but two elephants. Perhaps you’ve already met these infamously dark twins known as anxiety and depression.

What are they?

These mood disorders are different, yet they often occur in tandem.

Anxiety is sometimes as simple as worry or nervousness about an imminent event with an unknown outcome. Concerning the psyche of our souls, anxiety is characterized by excessive apprehension about real or perceived threats, typically leading to avoidance behaviors and physical symptoms such as increased heart rate and muscle tension. Anxiety can lead to depression, but it doesn’t always. And it doesn’t have to.

Depression is characterized by continuous melancholy and a loss of interest in regular life. It affects how you feel, think, and behave and can lead to various emotional and physical problems. You might have trouble doing everyday activities and even feel like life isn’t worth living. Clinical depression (diagnosed by a professional) isn’t something you can “snap out of.” It usually requires a long-term treatment plan for healing, and that’s okay.

“Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health concerns in our society” (UMN). But most people can improve from these sooner rather than later with pastoral counseling, professional therapy, medication, or a combination of all three. There is hope for healing!

Here are a few of the clinical facts and factors that impact us.

Again, it’s not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is a common thread that we should all take seriously. Almost 20% of our nation’s adults will experience some form of mood disorder described as anxiety in any given year (that’s 1 out of every 5 adults)! Nearly 32% of teens are affected by anxiety disorders. The contributors include genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life-changing events.

It is thought that over 264 million people worldwide live with depression. In 2017 well over 17 million adults in the U.S. had at least one major depressive disorder. Depression occurs more often in women than men. And as a factor, depression is the leading cause of disability in our nation for those 44 years old and younger (some of this data is from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America). It can be triggered by damaging life crises. Many people who develop depression have a history of anxiety disorder earlier in life. Still, some people’s brain chemistry or melancholy nature causes them to possess a greater tendency towards depression.

Both disorders can be caused by prolonged spiritual warfare. Followers of Christ learn that we have an “adversary.” He doesn’t fight fair! Jesus identified him as a thief who seeks “to steal, to kill, and to destroy” (1 Peter 5:8, John 10:10). And whether or not he directly causes your disorder, he’ll kick you when you’re down and take advantage of you.

Good Christian people can fall prey to these issues. I’ve experienced them both. “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:17).

What does God say about these elephants?

It appears that medical science is finally catching up with the Bible. God’s wisdom says, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression” (Proverbs 12:25). The NIV gives clarity by saying, “Anxiety weighs down the heart.” God’s simple counsel for us is to “Be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6).

If the Psalmist David were in the pulpit today, he’d testify. He’d explain how God healed him despite his anxiety and depression. He’d explain how meditating on God’s promises and encouraging himself in the Lord allowed His Shepherd to walk him through his valleys. He’d also tell us that we must remember what we’re grateful for and force our wills to praise God through it all. Start reading the life and times of David and his many psalms, and you’ll see all of this. And you’ll find that God can use you greatly, despite the anxiety and depression you’ve endured.

In Matthew 6:34, Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (ESV). Here’s this pastor’s paraphrase of Matthew 6:31-34: Stop your future tripping! Haven’t I always taken care of all your needs?! You’ve got enough to deal with today. So here’s all I’m asking you to do. Live in the present and seek Me, My Kingdom, and My righteousness!

Let’s talk about prevention and treatment.

Child of God, please realize that most of the things you worry about are not likely to happen. You see, many of our fears are illusions. Our minds can lie to us by providing us with false evidence appearing real. You can rebuke those negative thoughts and declare them fake news. Repeatedly you’ll have to cast “all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Pray out loud and read the Bible’s promises out loud to yourself. I’ve found great help from Scripture memorization and cardio exercise (I love the feel-good dopamine high). Don’t talk yourself out of good nutrition and sleep habits! They’re significant for good mental health.

Abstain from alcohol because it is a depressant! You can join a support group and build a relationship with a professional therapist.

If medication is needed, give it a try. My opinion is that the fewer drugs I take, the better. But I’ll never condemn you for using prescription medication.

Whatever you do, keep walking. You must take daily action to stay in God’s will for you.

Here’s what you’re not going to do!

You’re not going to ignore the wise counsel God is providing you.

The Prophet Elijah got so low that he was temporarily suicidal. But God sent him good company, good food, and good sleep. That’s a good start toward healing! But we can also learn what not to do from Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-8).

One mistake Elijah made was that he isolated himself. The longer you stay isolated, the longer you delay healing. So don’t isolate! Self-pity says you are alone, and that’s a lie. So don’t believe the lies! Satan will say that you’re hopeless, but you have a purpose. So resist the devil!

Let’s not forget God’s unwilling Prophet Jonah. He asked God to kill him. I believe his depression was due to resentment. He finally did what God told him to do. But when God acted mercifully toward the Ninevites, he got angry. He didn’t think they deserved mercy. So what you’re not going to do is allow unforgiveness, resentment, and anger to keep you in bondage. You can address these spiritual problems today.

You might have never personally experienced these elephants before. Thank God! But what you’re not going to do is belittle someone who’s suffering because you can’t identify or sympathize. Don’t assume that they have a lack of faith. Resist the temptation to tell them, “it’s all in your head.” And don’t say, “you’re too blessed to be stressed.” That’s about as helpful as telling your wife to calm down when she’s upset!

If these elephants are in your room, here’s what you’re not going to do. DO NOT claim them as your identity. They might happen to you, but that’s not who you are! You don’t own them, and they don’t own you.

Are these elephants in your room?

Christian, there have been seasons when the Scriptures I’ve shared with you have been my lifeline. Sometimes we endure anxiety and depression because we lose focus. It could be a lack of faith, but it’s usually a lack of focus. But, the quality of our faith will grow when we adjust our focus (1 Kings 19:9-18). For example, my body wants more bread than it needs. But my soul needs more of God’s Word than it wants (Matthew 4:4). At times, we must fast from life’s distractions and focus-feed our souls.

Anxiety weighs down the heart. It presses it down. “But a good word makes it glad.” I pray this message has been a good word to uplift your soul.

We don’t have to go through these issues alone. “By prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Many people here have lived this, and they know how to pray for you too.

Reach out and call for backup today.

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