I'll be the first to admit that suggesting 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.
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, 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 will 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 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, the diagnosis of a serious medical condition, or a broken relationship that seems 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 counsel 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!
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 and I am no exception!
But just knowing that is of little use in overcoming the depression that oppresses and chokes the creative life out of us. Somehow we must press past intellectual assent to the practical walking out of depression into the joy 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 our beautiful three-dimensional world onto the two-dimensional limited surface that we work with. To do that, it is imperative that we see differently. We resort to visual tools like foreshortening, 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 precisely 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. It is pausing to ask for His help to understand what you read and how to apply it to your circumstance. While you are depressed your mind chews continually on your crisis, rehashing the hopelessness of it over and over again, the enormity of the problem….
Instead, now read His Word to you and think deeply on that – dwell there, rehearse 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 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.
If you, just as fervently practice speaking His word, as honing your artistic skills,
exercising your faith to believe it, thanking God for the positive outcome, you too will walk free!
Your circumstances will also change – sometimes gradually, or sometimes miraculously. You will, without exception, find yourself overcoming depression and walking into His marvelous light.
God places a premium on backing His promises, when His children exercise their faith by trusting His Word. I am a witness to that.
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 experienced, at the end of each trying season, when Jesus proved 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 He has already won for you; then you are well on your way to overcoming depression and enjoying victory.
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I felt alone and all but forgotten
A victim of naught I had begotten
and lacking a friend
without glimpse of an end
In bleak darkness
I struggled for sight
If I only knew how,
I’d put up a fight
Blinded, I swallowed
the bile of despair
My cries echoed thinly
in thick black air
quelled not a Voice
Softly it told me
that I had a choice
“In darkness when blinded,
follow my Word
Obey my voice, act
on all that you’ve heard”
Lord, look at how
overpowering the odds
Speak the strong word,
since you are my Lord
This awful, dense darkness
is here to stay
I’ve not the clout
to chase it away
Spoke the Voice,
now firmer still
“You have the power,
t’was bought on the hill
I took your darkness
and your black despair
Breathing my last
in the sin-soaked air
Swirled around me
every foul foe
Demons of despair,
sickness and more
Wave upon wave
of despicable vice
Polluted my flesh
and exacted a price
Overcome your trouble,
no matter how bleak
My Words of triumph,
you must boldly speak
Darkness will flee
as you resist despair
a change in the air.”
Heart scrambled with fear,
I did as he bid
yet with mouth intrepid
A pinprick of light
flooded the gloom
Black took to flight
as hope filled the room
Long I lingered
His words to ponder
When spoken in faith,
with power they thunder
No debt of despair,
I’m in the black
He paid it in full,
I’m heir to no lack
© Sara Joseph