The Strength of Depression is Tolerance
Trying to navigate through the nuances of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many in a state of depression and suicide ideation and surprisingly Christians are counted in the number. However, prior to the pandemic, there had been a rising number of clergy, (pastors included), who were taking their lives fueled by depression. This unnerving trend is the focus of this article. My purpose is to expose the spirit of depression, how it has infiltrated the church, and how it can be defeated.
What makes me an expert on depression? Well, it’s certainly not my PhD in Counseling. It’s the fact that I, too, was a Minister when I attempted suicide some 30 years ago using a .357 magnum which failed to fire (and that was my second attempt). I believe I escaped, yes due to the grace of God, but also “for such a time as this.” I have intelligence on this dreadful spirit that will free many. My greatest revelation about depression is that we strengthen it by our apathy toward it. We’ve learned to cope with it, not realizing that inevitably it has a bitter and dangerous end. We have allowed it to creep into the church through ignorance, pride, and shame and have put up with this oppressive, bully spirit for far too long.
Due to my 20-year bout with and freedom from depression, I was a featured guest on the 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network. During the interview, I was asked how a spirit-filled born again believer could be depressed, particularly, a Minister of the Gospel. This is a common question among believers and is one of the reasons why so many are being defeated by depression. As my spiritual father, Dr. Creflo A. Dollar teaches, being a believer or member of a church doesn’t exempt you from problems or emotional distress. In other words, you don’t get a free pass. You bring problems with you into the church. However, the church is supposed to be the place where you “learn” to defeat those problems, not hide them or pretend they don’t exist. You don’t get delivered from depression; you get transformed out of depression. There is a root to depression and this is what must be confronted.
Depression is the sign of an empty spirit. Initially, as a Pastor, I studied the word primarily to feed God’s sheep. However, because I neglected to spend time in the word to feed my own spirit, I failed to get the nourishment that the word provided (John 6:63; 1 Timothy 4:6). This left the door open for wrong thinking and wrong believing which eventually led to wrong behaving, namely, depression and suicide ideation. This is a pivotal mistake made by many Christians today. It is paramount that you “make time” for the word. We are surrounded by so much unbelief in this world and spend entirely too much time exposing ourselves to such negativity. Think of the terror released by the media blasts regarding COVID-19. It’s no wonder that “men’s hearts are failing them because of fear.” The only way to counter unbelief and fear is by spending quality AND quantity time in the word and allowing that word to impact your life. If not, you are a prime target for the strategies of the enemy. Your life goes in the direction of your most dominant thought (Proverbs 23:7) and if you are not saturated in the word, your heart will become insensitive to it and by default, more sensitive to the negativity around you. Many believers, including clergy, who contacted me after the 700 Club interview expressed their challenges in “getting into the word.” If this is your problem, you don’t have a choice. Get back into the word! Do it whether you “feel” like it or not. What do feelings have to do with it anyway, which brings me to those darn emotions.
Uncontrolled or unbridled emotions fuel depression. Everyone has emotions; God gave them to us. Without emotions, life would be dull. However, emotions can be good or bad. The crisis occurs when you allow the bad emotions to dominate you. The book of James gives an excellent analogy of controlling something that can be used for good and bad. It says that the way you control a powerful animal such as a horse, is to control its head by putting a bit in its mouth (James 3). If you are unaware of this strategy and are riding a horse that runs wild, the results are potentially dangerous. This analogy speaks volumes for your emotions. They will get away from you if you don’t train them. You can’t wait until you are in the middle of a crisis and then try to pull the reigns; they are already in stride; they are taking you somewhere; and it’s usually not where you want to go. The point is you cannot allow your emotions to run wild because if you do, it’s a recipe for disaster. And that’s a problem in the church. Many believe emotions are totally a byproduct of whatever happens to you and that is incorrect. You can direct your emotions. You must change your mindset that you have no control over them, listing a litany of reasons that validate your disposition. Get in the word and counter all the circumstances and challenges that are coming against you and you can rejoice in the midst of anything. In fact, God expects that.
Deut 28:47-48 reveals a strong word for a joyless believer:
“Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; herefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.”
This scripture says that God brought judgment on the Israelites because they did not have positive emotions for the abundance of things He had given them. That means God was holding them accountable for their emotions—because He was treating them better than how they were rejoicing and this was part of the reason that He judged them. Under the new covenant, we will not be judged by God, but it still demonstrates that these people had a choice. My point isn’t that God is mad at you—because He isn’t due to the finished work of Christ, but if God expected them to rejoice for the abundance of what He had done for them, He expects you to rejoice. You, I repeat, “you” must take responsibility for your emotions. You can rejoice independent of your circumstances and that my friend is a major, major weapon for defeating depression. STOP NOW and think about what thoughts you have allowed to go uncontested and submit them to the word. Get back into faith and allow the joy of the Lord to become your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Before I close, I would be remiss if I failed to address the danger of shame and misplaced guilt which often accompany depression.
After my appearance on the 700 Club, I was inundated with “emails” from clergy who admitted that they were depressed or had suicide ideation but were not courageous enough to come forward as I had, mainly due to their congregations. Contacting me via social media was safe. As I said, depression is a bully because it is not until you fight back that it will back off. I could not reveal my battle with depression because at that time, I was an officer in the military and my security clearance would have been revoked. However, “my secret” nearly killed me. A major strategy of the enemy is to isolate you and suggest to you that you must hide behind depression out of fear and shame, which is really pride. Romans 8:1 say, there is no condemnation for anyone who is in Christ. Condemnation comes from the devil.
If you are depressed, being depressed is not who you are; it’s a trap that you have fallen into. You are a born again believer filled with the spirit of the Almighty God. I have annihilated depression in my life for good, and you can too. But you must be willing to take responsibility for your actions and confront depression by any means necessary. God has graced someone to help you—if no one else, I’m here, and Dr. Dollar’s liberating teaching on the Gospel of Grace will help you immensely—it exposes the deception and dangers of self effort. Finally, I’ll be bold to suggest that if you are severely depressed, be brave enough to take a break from the “business” of pulpit/ministry and study the Word and allow Holy Spirit to guide you through the process of re-capturing what is already yours—total life prosperity. But whatever you do, don’t allow pride to cause you to miss out on the greatest life that God has for you. A’int nobody scared anymore but the devil!
Space will not permit more than a glimpse of what God has revealed to me about depression so for more insight, get a copy of my book: Depression Exposed: A Spiritual Enlightenment on a Dark Subject, currently in its second edition. It has set many free.