A friend recently revealed on a social media site that she was severely depressed. It came as a surprise to many as she appears to “have it all.” She is extremely pretty, very intelligent, has a great job, lots of friends, and lives a life of relative luxury. So why would she be depressed? After all, isn’t she “living the life?”
We are some of the most worrisome and anxiety-ridden people in modern times. Western civilization continues to become more depressed, despondent, and weary. We chase after so many things that promise happiness, only to discover they never deliver on that promise. Consider this:
- According to the National Institute of Mental Health, (NIMH) nearly 40 million Americans suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder. Some believe the number may actually be closer to 55 million.
- “Major Depressive Disorder’ is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44. It is more prevalent in women than in men.
- According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the number of people ages 12 and older using anti-depressants increase almost 400% between 1988–1994 and 2005–2008.
- The United States leads the world in people using psychiatric medication.
Anxiety, worry, and depression aren’t new. They have haunted and crippled mankind since the beginning of time. Religions and philosophies are built on how to overcome life. Buddha devised a philosophy to deal with life and its sufferings through meditation and the elimination of desire. Hinduism, and other eastern religions, have their own ways of handling life very similar to Buddhism. In the West, on the other hand, we tend to push spiritual ways of handling those issues to the back burner, and prescribe pills, counseling, and some religion for added measure.
Christ offers a different approach.
One of the most important passages of scripture is John 10:9-10. It sets the foundational understanding of life and the timeless promise of Christ himself. “I AM THE LIVING GOD, The Gate; if anyone will enter by me, he shall live and shall go in and out and shall find the pasture. But a thief does not come except to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have whatever is abundant.” (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
Christ plainly states his purpose: To save us from the thief who steals our joy, and to give us a foundation and framework for true life. It is based entirely on living in the spiritual realm and the development of the mindset of Christ himself. Jesus’ promise is that by soaking ourselves in his teachings and life, we can enter a peaceful “pasture” or life. He emphatically states that his purposes is to give us an abundant life, one that can take anything thrown at it. Despite what many say, Jesus never promised us to heal of our physical ailments. What Jesus did promise us is how to handle worry and anxiety, the chief ingredients of a depressive life and the tools of the “thief.”
In the “sermon on the mount”, Christ tells his disciples to “seek first the kingdom and all these things will be added unto you.” His comment comes while teaching his followers about anxiety and worry, something that has not changed since that day Jesus spoke those words on a hill in the Middle East. Jesus’ answer to living a life free of worry and anxiety is to seek the spiritual truths found only in the spiritual realm. Any other way is a temporary fix, a bandaid on the problem.
Christ’s true promise is a life free of crippling worry and fear. Yet, grabbing ahold of that life can seem difficult and illusive. Just what is the “kingdom” Christ tells us to seek that promises us a life free of worry and anxiety? What does it look like? What are its characteristics? How does one go about seeking something that seems to be so invisible?
‘What Jesus did promise us is how to handle worry and anxiety, the chief ingredients of a depressive life and the tools of the “thief.”‘
First, it is essential to understand we will all face some sort of anxiety, worry, and even depression. It is said the prophets, and even David, struggled with anxiety and depression. The issue isn’t whether we will struggle with those things, but in how we deal with them. Second, we must understand anxiety, worry, and depression are tools Satan uses to attack our spiritual growth and development. Third, (yes, this will generate lots of controversy) There certainly are rare cases of physical reasons for depression, anxiety, and worry from substance abuse and the such. Those individuals have abused themselves so serverly that it has physically impacted their brain. There are also those individuals who have such a wretched worldview that medication is needed to protect them from themselves. However, I believe the extreme vast majority is due to a skewed worldview and mindset, not to mention demonic possession. Christ came to give us a Spirit and worldview that empowers us to overcome the enemy. Too many Christian have bought into the idea that their troubles can be solved with a pill, when in reality they have refused to surrender themselves to Christ. Fourth, anxiety, depression, and worry were around in Christ’s time. His promise was for the weary and heavy hearted. If Christ’s teachings and promises of overcoming life can’t provide me with all that is necessary to fight the enemy, then he is of little to no use to me. He simply becomes a moral teacher who gives me answers that tackle some problems, but ignores the big ones which are better left to the psychologists and therapists; the experts in the field. In fact, I can embrace Buddhistic teachings which many of those psychologists and therapists say are having a positive impact on anxiety and depression.
To win the war the disciple of Jesus must determine that they can be victorious through Christ. The apostle Peter writes in his second letter: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (Underlining added). We must understand that Christ provides us what we need to overcome. It’s his desire that we do so.
‘Once the mind falls, the spirit is easy prey.’
The disciple must look at all of life from the spiritual viewpoint. Everything needs to be evaluated in terms of that worldview. In Ephesians 6, Paul eloquently describes that viewpoint and the tools needed to fight the enemy. Once that principle is established and put into practice, the world takes on an entirely different look. We can then see the true enemy, learn how he operates, and fight him in Christ’s way. Unfortunately, too many Christians try to live in two world of reality: the way of Christ and the way of the world. It’s impossible to do so because they are contradictory. James says nobody can receive the wisdom needed to deal with life because of that double-minded worldview.
To develop that worldview, the follower of Christ must develop the mind of Christ. We can’t overcome the “thief” if we do not have our minds radically changed by the Spirit. Paul strongly talks about this transformation of the mind throughout his letters and especially in Romans 12 and Philippians 2. But one of the best descriptions is found in Philippians 4:6-9. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Did you see it? Not only does Paul tell us not to be anxious, more importantly he tells us how to overcome those anxious attacks. Some years ago, I worked as an therapist in both hospital, group, and individual sessions. The issues and struggles people face are mind-numbing. Many are searching for answers to set them free from a life they see as painful and useless. Some go as far as to take their life. They had been convinced that there was no hope. Others, however, were able to break free from those struggles when they changed their thinking. There is no great happiness than to see someone overcome life. The evil one’s goal, strategy, and tactics are quite simple. The goal is your spirit. The strategy is to attack your mind because it is the “guardian” of your spirit. The tactics are too many to list: fame, fortune, money, you-name-it. Once the mind falls, the spirit is easy prey. The disciple understands this and protects the mind and spirit by thinking on that true, noble, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy things. If the mind is filled with those things, the enemy can’t be victorious. He may make some sneak attacks, but the wise disciple quickly extinguishes them with the proper mindset and worldview; just like Christ did in the wilderness and in the garden.
The disciple of Jesus realizes that protecting the mind and spirit means complete and absolute surrender to Christ. It is a complete surrendering of our way of thinking, our mind, our bodies, every aspect of our life to Christ. It is a difficult process, but one that must be undertaken even to the point of ultimate suffering. Things do not bring us happiness. Neither do the qualities that the world lists as the criteria for being happy. The only cure for anxiety and worry is to embrace the life Christ offers us.
Don’t be fooled. It’s not an easy life we are called to live. It takes meditating and speaking with Christ, much patience and practice, and a completely different way of viewing life. Jesus himself said the way is narrow and straight. He also said that many would reject it because the enemy would sow seeds of doubt and depression.
Stand strong and firm knowing that the message of Christ is more powerful than the universe itself.