July 29, 2018 • Life for Leaders
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
The fight against depression can sometimes be akin to a war, with the mind serving as the battlefield. Things people say, things we experience, and even internal thoughts or feelings all play themselves out in our minds like a song on repeat. This continual meditation manifests itself in our emotions and feelings, and eventually in our actions. When I have struggled with depression, this feeling has often been coupled with hopelessness in such an overwhelming way that it can be crippling. In fact, this hopelessness sometimes leads to isolation, and the resolve to exist in the culture of silence. Leaders who struggle with depression continue to build and serve publicly and openly. Yet, they embrace a code of silence as it pertains to their hurts, pains, and struggles.
This type of functioning depression is real and is often hard to detect because it is hidden beneath the myriad of works and services that these leaders provide to their community. Everyone around sees the public success, while the leaders struggle with feelings of private failure. So how can we combat depression and restore our hope in God as leaders? We must build strategies that break this code of silence.
It is important to note that there is no singular path to liberation from depression. Each person’s strategy will be different. Seeking help from a clinical specialist is strongly encouraged as part of a strategy. You are not faith deficient when you seek such help. In fact, many people will need help unpacking things at least once in their lifetime. Other components of a strategy could include intentionally engaging in fun and relaxing activities. Even taking time to bring literal and figurative light into your spaces can be helpful. The point is that you must determine what works uniquely for you to pull you out of the cave that is comfortable, normal, convenient, and yet toxic at the same time.
While we will all have different strategies with varying unique components, all strategies must include a way to break the code of silence. Depression often feels overwhelming because it is often a one-sided conversation. The pain, hurt, feelings of inadequacy and failure, sometimes speak constantly (usually after a victory or positive step). And all too often these voices resonate with us because there is a measure of truth and validity to what they present. However, these voices speak of an incomplete truth, and the absence of your voice responding to these indicting thoughts is critical to your liberation.
But what do you say? For Christians, our confidence and professions are not built in superstitions and random recitations of chants, but in the promises of God found in the Bible. When Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by the devil, how did he respond? He answered the devil each time by the scriptures, using the phrase “it is written”. When we are confronted with facts, yes, we must acknowledge them. Yet we should also use the Word of God to speak against the intended feelings associated with those facts. These feelings are often isolation, rejection, failure, defeat, despair, intimidation, loneliness, and inadequacy. Let’s use loneliness as an example. It could be very true that most people around you have rejected you and abandoned you, but the intent of the enemy is to get you to focus on that and make the logical yet faulty conclusion that you are alone and without support. However, God’s Word promises that he will never leave us nor forsake us (both in the old and new testaments).
Whether you declare these truths verbally, or rehearse them in your mind each time these feelings rise up, you must break the code of silence and profess the complete truth, using the word of God. Doing this empowers you to break the silence and restore your hope in God.
Lord, your Word is filled with promises and facts on how you support us. Life is sometimes difficult and can feel unbearable. In these hours of need, please reveal the facts of your Word to us. Let us clearly see your love for us. Teach us to rest in the fact that you are always present with us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.