One of the Bible’s most descriptive stories of how God deals with depression is evidenced in the life of Elijah. This man, a prophet of God, was not immune to depression. We see his suicidal ideation in the 19th chapter of 1 Kings. This passage explains that Elijah “Came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Elijah’s mood is so low that he has a desire to die.
As ministry leaders we all encounter seasons of life where our daily experience is marked with the following:
- A lack of resiliency: Our ability to bounce back from small disappointments is lacking. We are like a deflated basketball that does not bounce.
- A lack of satisfaction even in the area of our call and mission.
- A lack of vitality emotionally, spiritually, physically and relationally.
- A loss of clear vision. The future aspirations do not appear to be in focus.
Sometimes we find ourselves is a bad place that is impacting almost every area of our life and ministry.
Depression is not one-dimensional. But rather, it can be based in the biological, mental, spiritual and relational areas of life. Let’s take a closer look at the Physical / Emotional Domain. Did you know that we have been gifted ‘this side of heaven’ with what I refer to as God’s Natural Anti-Depressants?
Here are just a few that may be of great benefit when you avail yourself of them.
- Natural Light: Exposure to natural light on the skin and the retina of the eyes affects the melatonin in our body as well as the level of Vitamin D, which is essential for mood health. It is because of a lack of exposure to natural light that some people experience a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a low-grade depression that seems to persist in the time of the year that there are days with less daylight.
- Hugs: Being hugged by someone you want to receive hugs from actually releases endorphins into our body increasing our mood stability.
- Exercise: Regular exercise, twenty minutes or more, three times a week can contribute greatly to the improvement of mood. It causes the quickest release of endorphins into the bloodstream giving an immediate anti-depressant effect.
- Sexual Intimacy: Sexual intimacy in the context that God intended it is the strongest release of endorphins into the body other than illegal drugs.
- Laughing: Researchers in recent years have been able to prove that laughter has an anti-depressant effect. It is God’s mood stabilizer. However, the Bible, in Proverbs, spoke of ‘laughter being good medicine’ several thousand years ago.
- Worshipful Prayer: There are a number of even secular-based research studies that also indicate that prayer has a positive impact in the process of healing emotionally and physically.
- Uplifting Music: Daniel Amen, M.D., in his book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life writes about his research utilizing the SPECT Scan on the human brain and found that music has a powerful impact. Some music can cause agitation and/or a depressed mood. However, uplifting music, including worship music, can have a profoundly positive impact on our brain chemistry.
- A Nutritionally Healthy Diet, Adequate Sleep, and Physical conditioning: Some well-intentioned men and women in leadership positions in ministry and other caregiving vocations can make the error of minimizing the impact our physical condition has on depression. The default setting that assumes depression is purely spiritual or psychological overlooks the biological component.
When encountering depression, as we all do, use God’s Antidepressants as your strategic plan that can lead you toward the vitality essential for a life of ministry.