How to Find Biblical Joy When You Battle Depression
Depression / Mental Illness
By Gina Smith, Crosswalk.com
"The most widely divergent sorrows may all be taken to the foot of the cross and find there cleansing, peace, and joy." Elisabeth Elliot
A few years ago, the word "Joy" became my word after God had ushered my family and me into a season of some very difficult circumstances. It happened one night when I couldn't sleep. I quietly tiptoed out to our living room, sat on the couch, and wrapped myself in a warm blanket. The only light in the room came from 3 letters that sat on a shelf: "J-O-Y." As I sat there, I reflected on what a difficult season we had found ourselves in: the loss of a ministry that we had been in for 25 + years, the loss of both of my husband's parents, who were our biggest support system and cheerleaders, parenting two adult children, and the entrance into the new and mysterious world of anxiety and depression. Little did I know that it was only the beginning and that we had been thrust into a very long season of unknowns.
That night I knew God wanted me to learn His definition of joy. Not merely intellectual knowledge of the definition. No. That's not what He wanted for me. He wanted it to be my heart and soul, down deep experience. He wanted me to experience joy.
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4
I came to the end of every resource I had been clinging to and was forced to sit alone before the Lord. He opened my eyes to the fact that I often find joy in the blessings that He has provided for me more than in HIM - the Provider of the blessings. I needed to begin the process of learning what it meant to find joy in Christ alone.
Biblical joy is not something that comes and goes; our circumstances do not dictate it. Biblical joy is something that exists even when we are suffering or going through a heavy trial because it is based on the knowledge that God is present, walking with us in our trials, producing good fruit in us as we go through the trial, and will use it as a platform for him to be seen by others. (Excerpt taken from "Everyday Prayers for Joy")
There are seasons when I find myself feeling exhausted, and I battle depression. Yes. I have so much to be grateful for. I practice thanking God for the things I have to be grateful for regularly. I trust God's Word, spend time in it daily, and cling tightly to the truths I read. I battle depression, yet I have biblical joy because I am clinging to what I know about God and His promises. I am choosing to do the next thing. I persevere because He enables me to move forward even when life is hard.
The only stable thing in this life is God-the Provider of all things. The enemy of our soul has a full-time job to get our focus off of the One in whom biblical joy is found. Biblical joy is found when we focus on our Provider, which needs to be a daily choice we make no matter what season we find ourselves in.
Verses That Help You Find Biblical Joy When You Battle Depression
Colossians 3:2 - "Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth."
When we shift our focus from our circumstances to God and His promises, we will find ourselves becoming hopeful and encouraged as we remember there is more to this life than what we are experiencing in the present.
2 Corinthians 4:18 "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
When we remember all that God has waiting for us for eternity, we can have joy even when we are tired, have a heavy heart, or battle depression. There is so much waiting for us that will not fade away!
Psalm 146: 3-5 "Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God."
When we choose to place our hope in God and not in the things and people around us, we are settling into a relationship that cannot and will not hurt us or fail us in any way.
"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12
Clinging to James 1:12 is like clinging to a life raft that God throws out to us when facing difficulties and hard times – even depression! With the help of God, we can persevere through even the hardest of times, and he promises (His promises are the life raft! The hope! The joy! ) that we will be rewarded!
What Good Comes From Battling Depression?
It can be a time when you learn to cry out to God in a new way, acknowledge your weakness, and get to know Him more deeply. You will grow in your need and dependence on Him for strength.
You are given an opportunity to look to him for guidance on what you need to do to deal with your depression. You can ask for wisdom to know what has brought you to the point of being depressed and ask him if it is something physical or something circumstantial. You can ask Him to lead you to the right source for the help you need. Then you will be able to see how creatively he answers our prayer.
You will become more sensitive to others who might struggle with depression and see how God uses your difficult time to help others.
Find Biblical Joy in Depression By Focusing on God in Prayer
Thank Him for Who He Is: Father, thank you for being YAHWEH-SHALOM - "The Lord Our Peace. Thank you for promising that I will find peace when I look to you, even in my hardest circumstances, even in depression. You will meet me where I am, provide peace, and guide me to the right place for help.
Thank Him For His Faithfulness: Thank you for how faithful you have been in the past. I have had seasons of depression, and you were faithful to bring me through those seasons and provided all that I needed. You surrounded me with supportive people and even led me to doctors who could look deeper and find out why I was struggling. You have made me more like you through this struggle, and I am so thankful!
Thank Him for His Promises: Thank you for your promises that give me hope in my depression. Thank you for Psalm 34:18, which tells me that you are near to the brokenhearted and that you save the crushed in spirit. Thank you for going before me, for being with me, and that you will never leave me (Deuteronomy 31:8). Because of your promised strength, I know that I will be able to persevere (Philippians 4:13). I acknowledge you and trust in you, and know that you will make my path straight, leading me through this time of depression.
Thank Him For His Provisions: Thank you for how you have provided for me. For my supportive family and friends, for doctors that can give help, insight and counsel, and for your Word that brings comfort and biblical joy!
More from Gina Smith's Series on Biblical Joy:
How to Find Biblical Joy When Life Doesn’t Look the Way You Thought it Would
Can Biblical Joy and Depression Coexist?
Finding Biblical Joy in Loneliness
Biblical Joy - The Key to Perseverance
Gina Smith is a writer and author. She has been married for 34 years to Brian, a college professor, and athletic trainer. For 25+ years she and her husband served on a Christian college campus as the on-campus parents, where Brian was a professor and dean of students. They reside right outside of Washington DC and are the parents of two grown children, one daughter-in-law, and one son-in-law. She recently authored her first traditionally published book Everyday Prayers for Joy, available everywhere books are sold. You can find Gina at the following: Website:ginalsmith.com, Instagram, , and at Million Praying Moms, where she is a writer.