Tips on overcoming depression are best tackled by experts in the field. I do not claim to be one, neither have I experienced any lasting bouts of depression. However, I have, on occasion, felt bitter pangs of discouragement.
Refiner's Fire, Polymer Clay Relief Sculpture,
I do have one claim that qualifies me to discuss this subject. I know Jesus, who is more than an expert on helping you overcome depression. If my words can lead you to Him, then I have the confidence that He can help you overcome.
Anything that I write is merely chatty counsel from one Christian to another. After all, as Christians, we delight in sharing our understanding of God's Word and testify to what He has wrought in us. We also find encouragement in knowing that if He worked a victory for one, He could surely do the same for another. He promises that He does not play favorites. You are just as precious in his sight as I am.
Perhaps you're in a season when you feel overwhelmed. Life feels like one continuous cycle of disappointment and failure, with no escape in sight. If you sat me down and told me of the crisis that now dominates your life, I too would be weighed down with concern for you. It could be financial worries, or the diagnosis of a serious medical condition, or even a relationship that seems broken beyond repair… How could anyone under such circumstances ever feel anything but abject despair? To suggest that there are ways to overcome your depression would seem unthinkably cruel.
I would not dare speak to you while you are in the midst of such deep darkness. I too remember times when I felt so dejected that the thought of experiencing joy again seemed so remote. Only Jesus can reach you there and help you in overcoming depression.
He'll help you recognize that the pain of depression, is an even greater cruelty than your circumstances itself - no matter how desperate they appear to you.
Times of Refreshing
I found that the first step to overcoming depression was acknowledging that depression is a state that Jesus redeemed me from. He already won that victory for me at the cross. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, available for every believer, even for me.
But just knowing that is of little use in overcoming the depression that oppresses and chokes the life out of us. Somehow we must press past intellectual assent to the practical walking out of depression into the joy that He promises.
Jesus declared that He came to give me life, and that more abundantly! If vibrant, joyous life was not what I was experiencing, then somehow I was missing something. Like all things spiritual, I found that this was an issue of my perception.
To perceive is defined as " to notice, understand or comprehend using the senses, primarily the sense of sight" – something that is vital to an artist.
As artists, we understand the struggles of translating the beautiful three-dimensional world that we view, onto the two-dimensional limited surface before us. To do that, it is imperative that we see differently. We resort to tools like foreshortening, use of clever perspective choices, colors that advance or recede, manipulation of object sizes… The final fruit of our efforts is geared to someone who is not versed in the techniques we employ as artists. They must see the art, as we want them to perceive it.
How does this relate to overcoming depression? I found that training myself to perceive correctly was the way forward to hope, and eventually joy. My perception of sad, desperate, or overwhelming circumstances, was not the final truth. Like any two-dimensional landscape that hangs in a museum, it offered but a partial glimpse into the world of the artist, only communicating part of the truth. No matter how expertly executed, that painting could not convey the feel of the wind, the sounds of birds, the murmuring of the brook nearby, or warmth of the sun on the artist's cheeks.
Overcoming depression was possible if I realized that there are two realities at play. To deny the current misery of whatever I faced was not the solution, because my mind would always rebel against the truth of its existence. Instead, I learned to acknowledge that there is a hierarchy to the two realities – they are not twins of equal power. There is a higher reality and a lesser one. The painted landscape, no matter how skilled, would pale in comparison if I could take the viewer by the hand, and step out of the frame into the living scene portrayed.
Similarly there was a higher reality to whatever crisis flooded my being with hopelessness. While my senses perceived only the dire circumstances, I was blinded to a higher, more powerful reality. I could not perceive the reality of the same circumstances when infused with the presence and working of God. I needed God's help to open my eyes to that more powerful reality. So will you.
Before you think that this is a stretch, let me give you some scriptures that explain that God, already familiar with this form of blindness, provided help for us.
If you want to overcome depression, then pursue a change of perception. It will help you see through the darkness into the light. No matter how long you have dwelt in a land of hopelessness, Jesus can be trusted to turn that blackness into light. But it does require something from you, as it did from me. I had to choose to spend time with Him.
Since Jesus is the Word, spending time with Him is really spending time reading the Bible. While you are depressed your mind chews continually on your crisis, rehashing over and over again, the hopelessness of it, the enormity of the problem….
Instead, now read His Word to you and think deeply on that – dwell there, rehash His promises, imagine it happening to you, and for you. I found that the more you think about that, the more hope will spring up in you.
Strangely enough, resolutely thinking on His promises cannot be done in silence, but only by speaking aloud His promises and personalizing them.
Here is how I pray the same verse above in Isaiah, to clear up my discouragement:
"Thank you Lord, for bringing me, blind as I am, by a way [that] I know not; Thank you Lord for leading me in paths [that] I have not known: Thank you for making darkness light before me, and crooked things straight. Thank you for doing these things unto me, and not forsaking me."Is 42:16
Isa 42:18 "I hear you Lord, though I was deaf; and I look Lord, though I was blind, thank you for letting me see."
You don’t have to know how it is going to work – you just need to trust that it will. If you find your mind returning to your darkness, speak your thanksgiving again with another promise; the Bible has so many of them!
This may sound simplistic, but it has the limitless power of a limitless God behind it. It is His immutable WORD.
If you complain that you have tried this and it hasn't helped you overcome depression, I wont be surprised, because that is how I felt at first. Then I discovered why it did not work.
I simply quit too soon, or, if I were to be brutally honest, applied myself only halfheartedly to the task of changing my perception. That is like a beginning artist complaining to a veteran, that it is impossible to make a two-dimensional surface appear to have depth! We know better.
As an artist, you would energetically pursue understanding how to effectively transform a flat surface to appear like a three dimensional landscape. To overcome depression, throw yourself just as fervently into speaking His word, extending your faith to believe it, and then stick to thanking God, until you begin to see things differently.
You will, without exception, find yourself overcoming depression and walking into His marvelous light. Your circumstances will also change – sometimes gradually, or sometimes miraculously – that is an adventure worth embarking on with Jesus.
God places a premium on backing His promises, when His children exercise their faith by trusting His Word.
Is 55:11 "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper [in the thing] whereto I sent it.
When you turn to art to explore the ambiguity of a troubling season, perhaps seeing the two aspects that I've explored will help you.
In the polymer clay relief sculpture above titled Refiner's Fire, I've attempted to portray being caught in the fire, prayerfully and patiently enduring being purified. Times of Refreshing is about that elusive first glimmer of hope from being drenched in the Word. Neither work even remotely captures the joy I've experienced, at the end of each trying season, when Jesus has proven to be so faithful, beyond my wildest dreams.
I'm sure that you'll think of other creative ways to effectively convey your unique emotions in art, as you overcome depression and step into His marvelous light. Jesus endured much for you to experience a life of abounding joy, despite the battles you now face. Eventually, you will spend less time depressed and more time enjoying the fullness of His joy.
If you can "see" your trial as a temporary battle, that has already been won for you; then you are well on your way to overcoming depression and enjoying victory.