The Anchor of Christ in the Storm of Depression
Depression and anxiety are real. And, Christians aren’t immune to them. But, there is a difference in how we deal with it. How are Christians able to deal with depression? What is unique about our hope?
Brody and Rob Conti (Snowbird Program Director) discuss the root causes, biblical instruction, and practical steps to fight depression and anxiety.
Depression attacks each person differently—they are driven by different triggers. Abuse, sickness, injury, loss, or any number of other scenarios can tear away at our hearts. It’s important to identify the root of the pain and realize that we are not alone.
Depression affects every part of our being. It controls everything about us, but Christ brings the ability to swim through the flood. Worship the Lord from your place of depression. Give thanks to Him and rest in His goodness!
- Psalm 88
- Ephesians 1
- What Does the Bible Say About Fighting Depression – Rob Conti (blog)
- Dealing With Depression – Rob Conti (Breakout session from SWO19)
- Romans Sermon Series – Red Oak Church
- Depression: Looking Up From the Stubborn Darkness – Edward T. Welch
- Spiritual Depression: It’s Causes and Cures by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Depression and anxiety are real. They are as real for Christians as they are for non-Christians, but there’s a difference in the way that we deal with it.
Brody: Welcome to the No Sanity Required podcast. Good to have you guys today, and we’re talking about something today that’s super, super close, I think, in the world of ministry that we operate in day-to-day and week-to-week. It’s something that’s, I don’t know that “close” is the right word, it’s common. It’s something we see a lot and we deal with a lot. So I’ve asked Rob to come on, Rob Conti, who’s one of the pastors at Snowbird, also a pastor at Red Oak Church. And a lot of you guys know him. And he’s also the Director at Snowbird Outfitters for all of our programs. And he has taught extensively on the topics of depression and anxiety. So I just wanna take a few minutes and walk through how the Christian can have hope when faced with the reality of depression and anxiety.
Brody: And Rob, before I have you sorta step into this, I think it’s important that people understand that as Christians, we’re not immune to depression and anxiety. In fact, as Christians, you could probably say we’re, in a lot of ways, I think we’re more susceptible to it because of the fact that we have a mind that is being renewed by Christ. And we have to sort of internally reconcile that with the things that we deal with emotionally or that we’ve dealt with in our past or whatever. And so I wanna hopefully give you some hope and encouragement today in this episode. And I’m really excited to talk about this. We’ve had this on the list, on the list of topics for quite a while, and we’re just now tackling it, but hope this is real helpful.
Brody: So Rob, talk like, let’s walk through on a normal… In a normal conversation with a student that we might be talking to who says, “I’m depressed. I struggle with anxiety.” Maybe they really do, maybe they don’t. Maybe they’ve been told that. Maybe it’s something that their mother or their stepmom, somebody’s self-diagnosed. Or maybe it’s clinical, and they legitimately are dealing with something that has been diagnosed and it might even be medicated. Where do we start, as Christians, in dealing with these two slightly different, but sort of in the same category, issues, depression and anxiety?
Rob: Yeah, that’s a good question. In a lot of conversations with students, I’ll do just that when they… If they say they’re depressed or they’re struggling with anxiety, I’ll ask them what they mean by that, like what… Sometimes, I’ll say, “Well, what does your depression look like for you?” And sometimes, you get them started. I’ll share my own struggles with it from over the years, and what it looked like for me as an unbeliever dealing with depression, and then what it’s looked like in my walk with Christ as I’ve had, I like to say, bouts with depression. I don’t like to say that I’m depressed as much as that it rears its head in my life. So get them to give me an inside look at how it attacks them ’cause there’s gonna be some similar traits that I can relate to, but it’s gonna be unique to that person.
Rob: And then from there, to maybe look briefly at, “What do you think causes it? Or what’s maybe a trigger for you that brings on a more serious episode?” I don’t think it’s necessarily super valuable to spend a lot of time in the past, other than to recognize, “Yeah, this is probably a legitimate reason why you would be dealing with this,” whether it’s maybe abuse, or sickness, broken relationships, injury to the… Anything really physical. A physical injury can lead to a time of depression. So it’s good to have a starting point of, “Yeah, you’re not crazy and you’re not alone in this.” And I think that’s an important place to… Where I really wanna get to them with them pretty early on is, “You’re not alone in this. This is not just you,” which would probably go for a lot of different temptations and struggle that people have that the enemy would like to, in our own flesh, would like to get us isolated, but to bring it out more.
Brody: Okay, so you said something that I think… And we’ve talked… Rob and I have talked about this so much through the years ’cause we deal with it so much, and we’ve both dealt with it personally in different ways. You mentioned finding the root of it, and that could be something that has happened like a broken relationship, abuse. We see this a lot with people that were abused as kids or are currently being abused. But then also, that sometimes, people just… This is just the reality of living in a fallen world. So it could be that, okay, a person listening to this is going, “Yeah, I wasn’t abused. My parents are still together. All my relationships are pretty healthy and intact.” So then, then what?
Rob: Yeah, so that’s good. Yeah, the person really close to me in my life will have bouts with it and cannot put their finger on why this has come on, why they have it. It’s yeah, I think that’s a legitimate point. And I think you said it right, we live in a fallen, sinful world. And I think it is one of the effects of that. In some ways, I think it’s the most sane way to view the world, I think, especially if we’re talking about on one… I think both ways, if for a person who’s not a believer, it could be easily overwhelmed with just the weight of evil and brokenness and the effects of sin and death, that they don’t have categories for. It’s a sane way, in some sense, to look at it, and for a believer, that we would emotionally feel the weight of what we see going on around us, and know that… And know why this is happening and see people suffer. In some ways, it makes sense that we would feel it. So yeah, and I…
Rob: What’s encouraging to me is that the Bible is not silent on it. The Bible doesn’t necessarily use the same terms that we currently use or, in the professional world of psychology and psychiatry, that that would be used. But the Bible deals with it, and I think a lot of the… I go to the Psalms a lot ’cause I think you see and you hear and you feel the Psalm writer expressing what it’s like to be depressed, while at the same time, holding fast to their hope in God. And I think Psalm 88 is a, to me, is a just really clear… I’ll read a section of it here for us.
Rob: It says, “O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you, incline your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. I am counted among those who go down to the pit, I am a man who has no strength, like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. You’ve caused my companions to shun me, you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in and I cannot escape, my eyes grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O Lord, I spread out my hands to you. Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Is your steadfast love declared in the grave?”
Rob: And so I think even right here, we see so much. He’s describing how he feels. And he’s not literally in a pit. [chuckle] he’s not literally among the dead. He says, “I’m like one set loose among the dead, like the slain in the grave, like one you remember no more.” He’s describing how he feels. And whatever the trigger was for the Psalm writer here, I think somebody who battles depression immediately can relate with these types of feelings. And he goes on to say not only does he feel… He feels cut off from God, he says, “I feel cut off from my companions, I feel separated from my friends, I’m alone in this.” And so I think so gracious that the Lord gives us a Psalm like this to relate to.
Rob: And again, though, what we see is this person’s not necessarily looking just for relief as much as he’s looking for that renewed intimacy with the Lord ’cause he goes on and he says, verse 13, “But I, O Lord, cry to you, in the morning my prayer comes before you. O Yahweh, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors, I am helpless. Your wrath has swept over me, your dreadful assaults destroy me. They surround me like a flood all day long, they close in on me altogether. You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me, my companions have become darkness.” And that’s where it ends. And so this Psalm, some of the other Psalms end on the…
Brody: An uptick.
Rob: The upswing, yeah. [chuckle]
Brody: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Rob: And this one just ends with darkness, despair. He said, “My best friend right now is darkness,” that spiritual cloud, that mental emotional cloud that I think depression can be. But again, he’s crying out to the right place. And I think it ends like that because I think there’s gonna be days for believers where our days end like that. You lie down and you’re still in that cloud, but we persevere in calling out to the Lord from that position.
Brody: That’s really interesting that… I’ve heard you do this talk. And for those of you that are listening, we have that resource. Rob has, I mentioned earlier, he’s taught extensively on this. And we have that resource available at swoutfitters.com. If you go there and search, we’ve got a ton of resources, teaching resources. And so you can listen to an extended talk that Rob has done on this. Actually, a couple of them. But something that I’ve forgotten when you talk about this Psalm is that there’s not… I kept, while you’re sitting here reading this, I kept thinking, I kept thinking [0:11:13.3] ____…
Rob: Wait, where’s the sunrise?
Brody: The other not… So okay, you’ve seen that movie, 1917, yet?
Rob: I haven’t. Good?
Brody: Yeah, Gahr said, he said, “For a combat veteran,” and Gahr’s got what? Four or five combat tours, couple of bronze stars? I mean he’s been in the thick of it. And he said, “If you remember back to what Saving Private Ryan did to the viewer to be drawn into the atrocities and the fog of war, the… “
Brody: Like being, feeling like you’re there in the fog of war and feeling the weight of it, he said, “This movie brings you into the psychological depressive nature of what the soldier deals with.” And I read this book called On Killing, and it’s about PTSD, and it’s written by an army psychologist, psychiatrist. He’s a professor of Psychology, I think, at West Point, and he talks about, a lot about the effect of the stress of war and everything that accompanies that. And so a lot of veterans deal with depression and so… And anxiety.
Brody: And Gahr, we were talking about that movie, and it was interesting that he said that because I don’t wanna give anything away and he… But the movie does not, it’s not… It’s like in Saving Private Ryan where you don’t end with this joyful, “Oh!” Like good guys fly off into the wild blue yonder, it’s not like that ’cause that’s not reality of war. And I remember doing my grandmother’s funeral and talking about, 68 years later, the war ended for her and my grandfather. It took death from this life to really bring it to an end. And in 1917, it’s following this guy… There’s a couple of guys in World War I, but it really hones in on one guy. And at the end of it, you feel sort of this weight because there’s no uptick, and this…
Brody: Someone we were watching the movie with, one of the staff gals, and she said, “Yeah, we saw this. I saw this with some of my friends from college. And at the end, they were all like, ‘We don’t like this movie, this is dumb. I hate the way it ended.'” And Little was real insightful in that moment, she said, “Yeah, because we’ve been entertained. We’ve been entertained and deceived, in one sense.” And there’s nothing wrong with watching a feel-good movie that at the end, you feel great. That’s actually how I prefer to be entertained.
Rob: Right, yeah. [chuckle]
Brody: So give me Nacho Libre, I’m happy.
Brody: But if I’m gonna sit down and watch something that’s weighty like that, the reality is at the end, a lot of times, you don’t feel like, “Oh! Oh! I feel happy. I feel joyful. This is one… ” It’s actually hard to go to sleep. And Little said, “Yeah, ’cause this is the reality of what these guys deal with.” And I think that for a person that struggles with depression and/or anxiety, especially depression, that’s one of the things that when he talks about… So you read from the ESV, I’ve got the CSB here where he talks about the flood waters, where’s it at?
Brody: Verse 17, “They surround me like water all day long.” He says, well, let me back up a verse. “Your wrath sweeps over me, your terrors destroy me. They surround me like water all day long.” When you’re in water, you’re so encompassed by that water that no part of you is not. And that’s how depression is, you’re not… It’s not like, “Oh, my pinky is not depressed right now,” or, “My ear is happy,” You know?
Brody: If you’re depressed, you’re depressed. And it affects your physical countenance, your emotional make-up, your spiritual, physical, emotional, psychological. And it is all those things, and it’s oppressive and depressive, and surrounding and controlling, and you feel like there’s no hope for this. And so before we shift towards… And this is gonna be a two-part podcast, I can tell you that. But before we shift towards what the hope is, I think it’s important for a person listening to stop right here and go, “Okay, yeah, it’s normal that when I’m feeling this way, it doesn’t… There’s no use looking for the silver lining in it. It’s, ‘How do I learn to swim in this?'” So if water… So in the, to use Psalm 88, if it’s a flood water surrounding me, I’ve got… There are gonna be times when I need to swim because I can’t get in the boat and get free from the water. And for the Christian, I think that’s what we’ve been given, is the ability, through the surrender to the Holy Spirit and leadership of the Holy Spirit, to swim in those flood waters and not drown and not die.
Rob: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I think another thing that stands out to me that is, to stay in that analogy of how he’s swimming, is he sees all this coming from the Lord, and I think maybe for somebody who doesn’t struggle with depression, it’s hard for them to get there. They might think that, “Oh, this person’s experiencing God’s judgment. He did something. There’s some sin.” And I think, though, for somebody who’s experienced depression, they go, “No, but I know that train of thought, but I think that’s the right… It’s the right Biblical train of thought,” because he’s… He, even in experiencing suffering and the way that he’s experiencing it, mental, emotional, spiritual anguish, he still sees the sovereign hand of God in it, and that’s good. He’s not seeing God as this cosmic sadist who’s punishing him, putting his finger of depression on him just to watch him squirm. He sees God as sovereign over all things, so whatever else may have led to this, he sees all that underneath the control of God.
Rob: But that’s the place of hope because the same God who brings and allows things to come into our life is the same God who we know, whether the Joseph story or Romans Chapter 8, he truly is working all things together for good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. And so if I’m gonna believe that promise, then I need to believe that this hasn’t escaped God’s notice, but that it can very much be a tool in his hand to refine me and to make me more like Jesus.
Brody: Yeah, and that he’s not going to let you drown. There’s times where… And I was okay. The first time I dealt with any sort of anxiety, anxiousness, depression, anything like that was in 2008, end of 2007 and going in 2008. Well, at that point, I was 30, mid to late 30s. And I’d never… So you brought up a good point right there. My attitude had always been, literally, and to that point, even though I had ministered to people with it, in the back of my mind, I always thought, “Just look around, man. Life’s good. Just, it’s fine. Just forget it, man. Just quit behaving like this. Quit… “
Rob: Be happy.
Brody: Be happy. Like strain really hard and be happy. And then it hit me and I remember… I had no answers. I remember thinking for months, this went on, I talked to Little… I’m like, I cried one time.
Brody: Which is really… I’m like the Grinch. “I’m leaking!” It’s like, what is going on? But I remember being emotional, and that… And we’re laughing ’cause anybody knows Rob knows Rob’s a crier and I’m not. We’re both very emotional. But I don’t tend to cry. But remember crying like that… I think there’s a Psalm where David talks about the laying in a, literally, in a bed of tears practically. I remember being that kind of emotional, and I felt bad for a little. I especially feel bad looking back. I’m like, “What?” She must have thought, “This big log is… ” It was never… At that point, we’d been married 14 years, probably. She had never seen anything like that from me, and…0:19:38.3 Brody: But I’m convinced, literally, the Lord stuck my head under those waters and let me feel what it… How it feels like to be drowning in that kind of emotion. I’ve never gotten over that. I’ve never felt that way again. Now, I’ve had… Since then, I’ve had bouts with anxiety, and that’s a little different, and maybe not even anxiety so much for me as anxiousness, that anxiousness like you feel your blood pressure kinda going up, and it’s like, “Why am I anxious right now?” And having to press into just God’s promises. But the Lord stuck my head under that water and let me feel what it’s like to be drowning and you can’t take a breath. And somebody’s listening to this who’s going, “Yeah, that’s it. That’s what it feels like.” And it’s… That’s how they would describe it. And that’s how the Psalmist describes it, which is crazy, because…
Rob: Inspired by God.
Brody: God wrote these words that you’re saying, “That’s how I feel.” Okay. So I wanna… While we’re in the Scripture, ’cause this is a Psalm of the Sons of Korah for the choir director. So, interestingly enough, it’s a worship song.
Rob: It’s a worship song.
Brody: If you’re happy and you know it… So we’re gonna do that song. Now turn next in your books to Psalm 88. We’re going to sing about being depressed. So this was… Literally, this is written to be used as a way to worship God. So I would say to the person who’s depressed, just cry out to God and worship him.0:21:08.8 RC: Just worship.
Brody: Worship God in your depression. Go to Psalm 88 and read it and memorize it and cry out to God in that, because he inhabits the praise of his people. I think another practical tool, and I’d like for you to talk a little bit about practical tools, would be, the Scripture teaches that thanksgiving is a very empowering thing, because when we give thanks, it’s an act of worship, and it’s a turning away from self-centeredness. And so I’m worshipping the Lord and I’m giving him thanks. So talk a little bit about how you deal with it, when you’re in a Psalm 88 frame of mind.
Rob: So Martyn Lloyd-Jones, he wrote a book on spiritual depression, I think he called it Spiritual Depression. And it’s real wordy, but the part that’s always stuck out to me, and I’ve also heard it, quoted a bunch, but he said, “Quit listening to yourself and start talking to yourself, like a crazy person,” which we all do, we all talk to ourselves. If you do it out loud, you need to stop. People are gonna think you’re nuts. But we all do it inside our head. But it really is an insightful statement of… I think when you’re depressed, and this would be, I think, another area where it’s similar with anxiety, is the thoughts that are just running away from you, or thoughts that are attacking you, assaulting you, that you’re going, “Where is this coming from?” It doesn’t seem like this is me talking to me as much as I’m just a passive listener to these negative thoughts or these anxious thoughts and feelings.
Rob: And so to quit listening to yourself, kinda standing up, telling that part of you to be quiet whether you’re flesh or however you’d see that, and speak truth to yourself. So a lot of what we’ve already said, like remembering the sovereign hand of God, remembering you’re not alone in this. But yeah. And then to go on the offense against depression and to speak truth. And we do truly… Brody was joking a minute ago, just… Yeah. Suck it up. Be happy. Look around you. But there really is… Look in the word of God, look at who you are in Christ, look at what God says to be true about you in Christ, meditate on that truth, and that should lead to thanksgiving. It doesn’t mean it’ll lead to a feeling of thanksgiving, but it’ll lead to an attitude and a mindset of thanksgiving, and then you really are winning that battle in that it will be temporary.
Rob: So I think for me, the first place I go, I guess the first… My primary weapon I draw in this fight is Ephesians Chapter 1. Go to Ephesians Chapter 1, and remember what Christ says about me, what’s true about me in Christ. If you go to that chapter, you’ll see over and over and over and over again, this is in Christ, he’s blessed us in Christ with all these incredible truths, all these incredible promises. And so that’s the starting point for me that leads to giving thanks. And I do believe, this is true no matter what you’re dealing with, emotions will follow truth eventually. There’s not a time limit set on it. But eventually, yeah, if this is how we live our life… And to me, it’s more of… This should be normal life, is pursuing God’s truth in Scripture, and setting our mind on that, meditating on that, and then when depression hits, if anything, I just… I lean into it and I double down on it.
Brody: So, yeah. Alright. When I think of confident Christians, Christians that… Least likely people to struggle with depression, which by the way, it’s amazing how many people that we’ve spoken with through the years, pastors and youth pastors that deal with it. It’s so common with people in ministry, just common with people in general, and I think what we’ve talked about already at this point, like the longer you walk with the Lord, the more you feel the weight of living in a fallen world. I know we were talking about the Tiger King, which if you listen to this podcast 10 years from now, it’s probably a thing in the past. But the Tiger King is something that people are crazy about right now, and Rob and I didn’t know what it was about, like, “What is this?” And several of us sit around talking and I’m just seeing it. So I watched I think two-thirds of an episode, Rob watched a little more, but what… We had an incredible conversation afterwards where it’s like people are being entertained by this, and my heart just felt sad, and we were talking about that, about like, you feel like you’re seeing the hopelessness and the futility of living in this world without Jesus.
Brody: And that in one sense is depressing like… So there are times where there’s that sort of that kind of depression, where you deal with more like a depressed attitude or feeling, and that can be different than being in the throws of personal depression. But there’s… If I’m thinking of the most confident Christians, people think pastors, they got it together, leaders, ministry leaders, people that have been walking with the Lord a long time, they don’t probably deal with this, and the reality is, nobody gets to dodge this bullet, nobody’s immune to it. And I found a year and a half ago or so, we were going through the Book of Acts, I read up church, we were preaching through it and got to the point where Paul gets to Corinth in Acts 18, and you realize there’s this moment where the Lord comes to Paul, Acts 18:9, the Lord said to Paul in a night vision, “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent. For I’m with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to hurt you, because I have many people in this city.”
Brody: So the context is that Paul… Let me give you kind of like where Paul’s been up to this point is, Paul has been in several cities, Thessalonica, then Athens, he was in Berea… Thessalonica and Berea, he saw incredible ministry, but everywhere he would go people would run him out of there, there was opposition. Then he gets to Athens and he has this amazing Act 17 situation where he represents the Gospel on… I don’t know if you remember this, but I think I used… I think I preached that particular text when we went through this in church, Rob and I share preaching duties, but it was I think like comparing the half-time show of the Super Bowl with arguing a case before the Supreme Court, it was like this weird… Like it’s the center of culture, it’s also the center of philosophy, and so anyway, it’s like the biggest stage you could be on, he defends the faith.
Brody: And really there’s no reaction, people don’t come to faith in Jesus, they seem interested but that’s about it. And next time we see Paul in Corinth, there’s pressure against him, and he seems to be at least dealing with anxiety or depression, fear, he’s facing fear, he’s facing discouragement. And the Lord comes to him and says, “Don’t be afraid. I’m gonna be with you, I will be with you. And don’t be silent.” And there’s principles there that we talked about where, going back to what you were saying a while ago, pressing into Scripture, speaking the truth, the Martyn Lloyd Jones quote is incredible. “Quit listening and start speaking.” There’s a time to listen, there’s a time to speak, and you need to speak truth into this type of situation.
Brody: And one of those truths is what Paul learns in Acts 18, which is, the Lord’s with us, so we should be bold in our proclamation of the Gospel. And I’ve found that if I will proclaim the Gospel to myself and to others, that that’s an incredible… God uses that to give me confidence because our confidence comes from the Lord and when we’re proclaiming the Gospel, we grow in confidence because the Gospel gives us our confidence. So anyway, that’s super insightful. So, let’s turn and land this thing by talking about… By getting real practical, like whole person, day-to-day life, how do I do… What are the things I can do personally and practically in this last episode on this subject? What are some things that I can do practically and personally? And then what are some things that maybe I can’t do, but that I need to look outside of myself and my own resources for?
Rob: Right. No, that’s good. So yeah, I think there’s still a stigma with these types of issues, in some circles referred to mental health issues, and that’s not bad, I’m not against that, I just typically don’t talk that way. But the stigma that, “Oh, if I really had enough faith, if I was really pursuing Jesus, I wouldn’t deal with this.” Or just to completely set it apart from a completely different category from your faith, “Well, this is only a mental health issue, this is only a brain chemistry issue, and totally separate. So I deal with this separate just like if my foot was sprained, I would treat that and not think, ‘Okay, what is spiritually going on that my foot hurts.”
Rob: And the truth is, there’s a mystery to what it means to be human, the way that our minds and our emotions, and our spirits, and our bodies are all intertwined, that makes us who we are like no one… No one person who’s an expert in any field understands all of that, the way that we’re woven together, only God does. And so it’s not necessarily helpful to try to only look at it from one angle or one aspect, and I think it can be very beneficial to look to help from people that have dedicated their lives to these different aspects. And so for me personally, I don’t have clinical depression, I believe I did when I was younger, pre-teen and teenager as an unbeliever, I think my depression was clinical, it was dangerous, it was going to a bad place fast.
Rob: And I was actually on medication for a while. And in hindsight… I’m glad I hated it at the time, but in hindsight, I think it was probably helpful for where I was. My depression now is not clinical, it’s seasonal bouts that not tied to the rotation of the earth, but just for whatever reason will come on me. And…
Brody: Seasonal in the sense that, it’ll come on you, it’ll last for a season and then [0:32:33.3] ____.”
Rob: Yeah, and then maybe a year, maybe a couple of years or maybe a month, I don’t know, just random to me anyway, but what I have noticed is that I have triggers, things that’ll set it off, things that I avoid. And I’ll come back to that, but for the most part, for me, I’ve really minimized its impact in my life by treating myself, like I was saying, as a whole person. So for me, people are different. For me, everything kinda goes together. If I’m disciplined in my quiet time, you can tell because of the way I’m exercising and the way that I’m eating. To me, it all goes together, and truly, those are all important aspects. Your diet is not separate from your emotional well-being or your spiritual discipline, it is part of it. And so for me, it’s important to try to eat healthy, exercise… Yes, pursue the Lord, be in Scripture, be in prayer. And then there’s things that I avoid. And so when I talk to a student or just dealing with this in my own life, I’ll say, “Okay, what are those triggers? What kind of sets you off?”
Rob: And for me, I know there’s certain types of entertainment whether movies or music or literature that I just stay away from because it depresses me, it’s negative, it’s… And maybe while I’m watching it, I’m not sitting there thinking, “Oh, this is negative,” it’s just… It’s not helpful, it’s not beneficial, and if I take too much of that in, it feeds my flesh, and my flesh is looking for opportunities to be depressed, and so I just don’t… I don’t feed myself that stuff, so there’s things that I avoid and they may be different for you and your struggle, but there’s a lot of stuff I just avoid. I don’t watch that stuff, I don’t listen to that type of music, I don’t…
Brody: Let me insert an example there, that makes me think. There’s a girl, her name is Michelle. I won’t say her last name, ’cause I didn’t ask her about using this, but she worked at Snowbird for a couple of years, and this was quite a while ago. She’s a mom with kids now. She really had to struggle with depression and some of it was tied to childhood, some things that happened in her childhood. But I remember she was in a live-in relationship. We see this a lot with girls, think about the girls that we see at camp and a lot of times, a girl that deals with depression, or a lack of self-esteem from abuse or neglect or broken relationship in a childhood, a daddy wound, then she’ll end up in a really unhealthy relationship with a guy, and we see this all the time.
Brody: You spend a lot of time counseling these situations. And this girl, Michelle ended up living with a dude for several years, and he was just real oppressive over her and demeaning to her and controlling. And he was abusive in that sense, emotional and psychological, and eventually when it was over, I remember she said there was a song, and I can remember the song, it was a Guns N’ Roses song, so this girl’s probably in her late 30s now, this was 20 years ago, and it was a song called November Rain, remember that, it’s just a depressing… I remember, I was a GNR fan, man. They came out my junior year in high school with the Appetite for Destruction and man, I loved it. But then that song was so depressing. I don’t remember all the lyrics, but it was so depressing, and she said she would just sit and listen to it over and over and over. And so I think it’s important to add… Not add, but just like an observation that I thought of when you said that is it’s critical that you stay away from those things, but it’s also critical that you recognize in your depression, you wanna run to those things.
Rob: You identify with it. Yeah.
Brody: So yes, she said, “I sat there and identified with this song and I listened to it over and over and over.” Well, it was actually perpetuating that depression, in that. And for her, it took meeting Jesus. She wasn’t a Christian at that time, when she came to faith. But anyway, an illustration of that, I think that, yeah, what you listen to matters, but it’s also you’re gonna likely run to those things that perpetuate those feelings.
Rob: I’m glad you said that ’cause yeah, that I think this important point is, I’ve learned that I can’t trust myself in those situations. The things that I want to do for immediate comfort in almost… I think it’s almost like you give yourself license to do things that you know you shouldn’t do, but it feels like it’s gonna comfort you, and it’s like, “I gotta know. I can’t trust that my instinct is wrong. I need to do the opposite.” When I get depressed, I wanna lay in bed, eat whatever I wanna eat, and watch movies, and just think, “I just need to escape for a little while. I just need to veg out.” And I’m just feeding that depression. It’s crazy, but we do the opposite of what we should do, so I gotta learn, “Okay, no, I need to do the opposite. I need to get out. I need to run. I need to exercise. I need to make sure I’m eating healthy.” And dude, those things matter, it’s part of the whole picture. And yeah, I need to, I probably need to entertain myself less during those times and be in Scripture more, and see that, “Okay, yeah, this is how I do what the guy in Psalm 88’s doing. This is how I cry out to the Lord. This is how I put my trust in his sovereign hand in this situation, avail myself to when he’s gonna lift me out of that fog.” Yeah, and I think sleep, sleep’s another practical thing so…
Brody: Yes, huge thing.
Rob: You know, I talk to a lot of people who deal with depression and anxiety and I’ll say, “What does that look like in the front of the conversation?” And almost to a person, they’ll say, “I can’t sleep. I can lay in bed, stare at the ceiling or toss and turn. Eventually, I put something on.” And so I’ll bring up the point that make sure you’re getting enough sleep and they’re like, “Yeah, I want to, I just can’t.” And I think well, that’s tied to this bigger picture. I say, “I promise you… So for me, that was me, man. I could not sleep. I’d lay in bed, and then those thoughts just assault me.
Rob: But when I started adding exercise and eating well to it, especially when I’m in that season of life. If I’ll work hard enough to get a good sweat just physically and then push my… So push my body, push my mind. It doesn’t always have to be I’m just only reading Scripture. There’s other good things that you can read or listen to that just make you think, just use your mind. If you do that throughout the day, if you work hard at your job or your school, and then when you lay down at night, your body will, you know, you’re like, “Sorry, I don’t have time to be depressed. I’m too tired.” [chuckle] Just fall asleep. And then that helps. It’s like getting a good night’s sleep is important. Sleeping when it’s dark outside and getting up with the sun, and not getting your whole cycle off that way is just another practical thing. So eating healthy. I don’t, I’m not saying… Now, I’m not a fitness nut, I’m not a… My diet’s not super tight, but I do, I think, enough that is healthy, that aids in me thinking clearly and feeling good and having enough clarity where I can read Scripture and understand it and engage with the Lord. So yeah, hopefully, that’s helpful and…
Brody: It is. And I, again, illustrating that I know if I can get up early, like you say, get up with the sun, if I get up when it’s still dark, and then start your day in the word, and then work hard all day, and if you’ve got an office job or a more sedentary job, it’s probably more critical that you bust some firewood and go for a run. Yesterday, I had one of those sedentary days and I was like, “Okay.” And I know, you’re talking about triggers, what will trigger it for me is if I can’t go to sleep one night, it… I can get by one night, but two nights in a row, it throws me into a cycle where I can’t get up in the morning. I’ll finally sink into deep sleep somewhere between 3:00 and 4:00 AM. Then when the alarm goes off, I don’t… I’m just like, “Oh, no!” And then you wanna sleep. So you sleep ’til the last minute. You rush out the door, you’re not prepared for the day, and you’re back in that cycle. So for me… And I knew yesterday, I’d had one of those sedentary days. And so I got at about 5:30 or about six o’clock yesterday evening, two hours of daylight left, I cranked the chainsaw, and I had four trees I needed to take down. And I worked and I sweated. I ran through three tanks of gas on my chainsaw, cleared brush, got done with that. And you’ve got this endorphin rush where right after that, you’ve got energy to play with the kids, read to the kids, hang out.
Rob: It’s like we are made to do that kinda stuff. [chuckle]
Brody: Exactly, exactly. And then at 10 o’clock, I was like, “Oh! I’m a really old man ’cause I can’t go anymore, I’m done, I’m tapped out.” And I crashed hard. Yeah, so recognize… Man, you are not gonna break out of this if you stay up ’til three in the morning, and that’s your cycle, and you sleep ’til noon. We were not created. This is not debatable. It’s not like, “Well, I’m a night owl. I like to stay up ’til 2:00, and then I like to sleep ’til 10:00.” I’m telling you, man, if you deal with depression and anxiety, that will cycle you right back into it.
Brody: You’ve gotta establish that pattern, and in that pattern has to be… If you don’t like to exercise, you don’t like to go run. I hate running. I don’t like to run. And you can call it running or jog… I call it jogging. If you ain’t in an all-out sprint, then it’s jogging. And I hate to go plod along running. I hate it. And years ago, I found that I enjoy mountain biking, and it accomplishes the same thing, but there’s an element of adrenaline. I need something that’s got… That’s consequential. That’s the way I’m wired. And mountain biking is consequential. If you mess up, it’s a broken collar bone, it’s a concussion, it’s… And so I like that. I like to pick heavy things up and set them back down. Some people hate lifting weights. Doesn’t matter what it is. If you go walk for 90 minutes as hard as you can walk, you’ll be tired.
Brody: Just do something. You were made to move. God made us to move. I don’t wanna turn this in… It’s not a fitness broadcast, podcast, but it’s important. And I’m glad you bring that up. I think it’s very important. And sleep ties into that.
Brody: And diet. If you’re chugging coffee at night, this… Or a lot of people get into a cycle where they feel like they depend on an alcoholic drink to go to sleep or whatever.
Rob: Yeah, that’s been…
Brody: It’s not good, man. It’s a bad cycle. You’ve got to be in a cycle where you’re getting the sleep you need, the food matters, movement. If it’s not exercise, it’s movement of some sort that matters. So I think that’s important.
Rob: Yeah. And recognizing, you brought up the drink. I think there’s… You need to recognize what you run to, what you gravitate towards when you’re feeling that way or thinking that way ’cause it may not be something that’s bad in and of itself, but that it’s… You’re substituting your time with the Lord or your dependency on the Lord, your cry out to God from the darkness, from the pit. You’re subbing out the Lord for that thing. And it could be a drink and/or it could be movies, it could be food, it could…
Rob: It could, yeah.
Brody: That’s a big one that we see.
Rob: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Rob: Which is evil, in and of itself. [chuckle]
Brody: I think guys will turn to that, and girls. And that triggers the cycle. And then you’re depressed ’cause you looked at it and you indulged.
Rob: Yeah, now, you got guilt and shame on top.
Brody: Yup, yup.
Rob: Yeah. So recognize those things and turn from it. That’s what repentance is, turning from that and getting your eyes fixed on Jesus. And you can’t… None of us have 10 hours a day just to read the Bible and pray. You have to do other things. But to engage with it and work hard in every aspect of it. And it may take a while to get momentum going, and you may feel like you’re faking. You’re faking being happy, or you’re faking being thankful, you’re faking wanting to read the Bible. And in some sense I say, “Yeah, alright. Well, fake it until it’s real.” If at least if in your heart of hearts, in your innermost being you know, “This is where my hope is,” it’s not fake. You’re just having to crawl out of that pit, but trusting that that’s by the Lord’s strength.
Brody: That’s good. Last thing then, I think, would be, let’s… What if, or what are some things that people can look to as resources? Let’s put some resources in folks’ hands to wrap this up, some things they can turn to for help.
Rob: Yeah, so a really good book, I think it’s really helpful, whether this is you or maybe you’re listening ’cause your spouse deals with it and you don’t deal with it yourself. So it’s like you just don’t have a context for it, other than you’re starting to maybe get embittered towards the person in your life ’cause you just don’t get why they can’t suck it up. Either way, this would be a good book to read, would be Edward Welch, Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness. That’ll be a help to you or for yourself or for somebody in your life, a really good resource. John Piper preached a sermon on depression that if I went back and listened to it, I’ll probably realize how much I stole from it, but it’s just really, really helpful. No surprise there. And then having somebody that you can talk to. For me, there’s times where I’ll just tell Brody, “Man, I’m struggling this week.” And then we sit down, he’ll pour a glass of wine and light some candles, and then we just stare at each other and he tells me that I’m good enough. [chuckle] No, we don’t do that.
Rob: I just say, “You know, I’m struggling this week,” and he’ll usually say, “I’m praying for you.” And then we talk about normal stuff. But it just helps to get all that stuff that’s going on in the inside, get it out in the light of day. Just let somebody else know, and that’s usually enough to break the lies that I’m believing inside my own mind like, “Okay, somebody else knows. They care, praying about it.” And that helps tremendously.
Rob: And you may need professional help. You may have clinical depression that’s more serious than a seasonal bout. It may be continuous, and you may need medications. I’m a pastor, I don’t understand brain chemistry, and I don’t separate it from spiritual. I just don’t know how they interact. I know that spiritual matters, I know that Scriptures matter, prayer matters, fellowship matters. It’s part of it, but I don’t understand the chemical part, and I don’t think we need to be afraid of secular resources where brilliant minds have dedicated their lives to the study of an aspect of this. And so if somebody in our church was dealing with depression on that level, to that scale, I wouldn’t be afraid of them going to see a doctor. As the pastor, I’d want to stay involved to have the pastoral insight into it, and not just hand them over like, “Oh, that’s no longer a spiritual concern.” It still is. But not to be afraid of, just like we’re not afraid… You know right now, currently, as we record this, we’re praying for a vaccine for the COVID-19, and it doesn’t have to be a Christian who finds that vaccine. I’ll be happy whoever it is, yeah.
Rob: And so I think there should be a monitor where a doctor or a pill doesn’t become your functional savior, but where it really can help, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that.
Brody: That’s, man, I hope that somebody listening to this that that… I hope that someone hears that and it gives you some relief that it’s okay to go to a place of clinical professionalism, you know? And I hope that there’s somebody listening to this that doesn’t think, “Oh, I need a pill and everything will be okay.” There’s a balance. All things in moderation, as Scripture teaches. 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Corinthians 9 or 10, both talk about moderation. All things in moderation are important, and then so balance. The Christian life is a life of rhythm and balance. You’ve gotta find the balance and tension between the spiritual, the physical, the emotional. We’re living in a fallen world, but we are part… We are redeemed, but now, we know, in part, and there’s something that we’re yet waiting for. And we’ve been going through the book of Romans in our church at Red Oak, and we’ve talked about how, when a person becomes a Christian, they are justified and set free from the penalty of sin. And then over the course of their life, they’re out from under the power of sin, though the presence of sin is still a reality. And so they can live in victory, but the power of sin is very real. But that ultimately, when we’re with Jesus, there will no longer even be the presence of sin.
Brody: So hope it’s been helpful. Thanks for joining in. Please comment, ask questions. You can go to any of our social media platforms, or you can email us if you’ve got questions or you need further counselor help. We’ll do anything we can to help you in this area, that’s why we’re here, and we wanna help any way we can. So until next time, we’ll see you then.
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