"Work"-ing through Depression


Chapter 3 of Piper’s little book, When the Darkness Will Not Lift, is entitled, “Fold Not the Arms of Action.” Piper writes, “Waiting for the Lord in a season of darkness should not be a time of inactivity. We should do what we can do. And doing is often God’s appointed remedy for despair.” He quotes one of my favorite Puritan pastors, Richard Baxter:

Be sure that you live not idly, but in some constant business of a lawful calling, so far as you have bodily strength. Idleness is a constant sin, and labour is a duty. Idleness is but the devil’s home for temptation, and for unprofitable, distracting musings. Labour profiteth others and ourselves; both soul and body need it. Six days must thou labour, and must not eat “The bread of idleness.” (Prov. xxxi. 13-27.) God hath made it our duty, and will bless us in his appointed way. I have known grievous, despairing melancholy cured and turned into a life of godly cheerfulness, principally by setting upon constancy and diligence in the business of families and callings.

This has to be the hardest thing for me to do when I’m feeling depressed. The last thing I want to do is get up and get busy. I tend to prefer to wallow in my self-pity for a little bit. If I wanted to be really honest, then I’d admit that I may even enjoy feeling sorry for myself sometimes. I am thankful that I am beginning to hate this about myself. I know that it is just a twisted form of pride, so I’m on my way to understanding how to fight it, to not allow those feelings to control me, to preach the truth to myself when my feelings are wanting to take over, and seek genuine repentance.

Of what am I repenting? I can think of several things: laziness, joylessness, pride in the form of self-pity, prayerlessness (many times I realize I haven’t prayed as I ought for a couple of days), discontentment, and all their synonyms.

What should I preach to myself in that critical moment of decision between rolling over and getting up? Maybe something like this:

Listen, girl…you know you’re heading for a dark pit and you don’t really want to go there. You know this feeling…and that’s all it is…a feeling. Don’t let it rule you! Don’t allow the enemy one more moment of your day–he’s out to steal the whole thing! Don’t let him. Start praying now! What do you mean, “You don’t feel like it?” It is right for you to pray to your Heavenly Father. It is right for you to want to, so if you don’t want to, then you need to pray all the harder. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s help–for the right feelings, for joy, for love for Jesus, for desire for God. Pray for your “want to” to match up with what is good for you and what is true of you. Confess your sins and apply God’s grace and forgiveness, provided for you by nothing less than the sacrifice of Jesus. You are His child. You are a new creation, and with His help, you’re going to live like it today. You’ve got no reason to be gloomy!

It is good and right for you to want to read His Word, so pull that book from the table and start reading whatever is scheduled for today, whether you feel like it or not, then read a little more because you need it. Write down something important for today that you want to remember. And let your thanksgiving start! Say it out loud so your ears can hear. Giving thanks will radically change your attitude and your feelings. If you persist, then pretty soon you’ll really be feeling joyful. It’s OK to fight through the feelings in order to get to joy in the Lord on the other side. You know it’s there–you’ve tasted it before! Seek Him earnestly and He will reward you.

Next, I have to tell you to get in the shower (and don’t forget to sing Him some praise), get dressed to your shoes, and fix your hair and face. Put a smile on and start serving your family. You can’t wallow in self-pity if you’re dead, which is exactly how you must consider yourself today. You’re dead, but Christ is alive in you…so, let death work in you that life may work in Karl and the kids. The gospel is a mighty high calling…don’t despair…His Spirit provides all the energy, grace, and power you need for today…so work at it with all your might and do all you can to live up to the call. Don’t think about tomorrow! Just try to make it til naptime, then repeat this lecture! Your labor for the Lord is not in vain. He is and will be your joy! Press on!

Well, it has done me a world of spiritual good to type that out! I feel joyful and thankful and like working hard already, and I haven’t even taken my advice yet! Just reviewing the truth is a tremendous help to lifting the darkness.

1 Peter 1:3-9
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (emphasis mine)

18 Comments on “"Work"-ing through Depression

  1. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who lectures myself. Actually a great and proper tool of refinement for self–calling self to account, “preaching” to self the gospel. It is an exercise of faith to say it, hear it and then receive it unto action.Helpful post.

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  2. Thank you for this post. Been in a place where the darkness will not lift since January, and I especially needed to hear this. I did it for a while, then just got tired. My relationship with the Lord slipped. I’m a pastor’s wife and thus without the luxury of having a bad day (or bad time) in public, and I used that as an excuse to give in to my bad days in private. My husband has been so very sweet since he found out I’ve been battling depressed feelings (he knew something was wrong, but I’d never talked about it), but the question really is, Is God, God? Yes. Did Jesus Christ come, live perfectly, die, raise again, and is He now interceding for me before the Father’s throne? Yes, so what business do I have to let His interceding go to waste, when it cost Him so much?Thank you thank you thank you for the reminder of what our great God has done. I think I’ll actually go work out now. 🙂

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  3. And all the momma’s said….”Amen”.What a wonderful reminder! You share your heart and it blesses so many. Thank you Leslie 🙂

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  4. I sometimes get feeling depressed too. I remember reading a book once ( I think it was by Ed Welch, but I can’t remember) that said that when you are feeling that way you should get up and do something for someone else. I find it usually works for me! I rarely feel depressed anymore. (Well, it does help that I got my hormone problems figured out….:-))

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  5. Thanks for that reminder during these ‘dark’ days. They are dark for me because I don’t function well on little to no sleep. I am so thankful for my children but this time of sleeplessness can at times make it harder to function.

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  6. With no job, no children yet, my husband working the evening shift and living in a new state not really knowing anyone, I badly needed this. It is so easy for me to absolutely nothing all day, 5 days a week. It is so easy to think I have no purpose. I needed to be reminded of God’s call in my life, my REAL purpose. I’ve been reading “Get out of that Pit,” by Beth Moore. It is great. Sounds like I have found another great book to read. Thank you for such a great post.

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  7. Thanks for sharing this! I agree w/Kim, you bless many.

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  8. Great post Leslie! The idea of preaching to myself is something I have been growing in too. Have you ever tried looking yourself in the mirror and saying those things out loud to yourself. It feels very strange at first but I have found it helpful. I also love something E. Elliot said one time…I think it was her.”Do the next thing” I have used that many a time!Thanks for being so honest not just about your struggle but about your answer to it.

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  9. This looks like such a good book. I agree, talking truth to yourself is a very necessary thing to do!

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  10. Mrs. M–I have said, “Do the next thing” to myself many, many times. And then I have to tell myself, “NO, blogging is not the next thing!”

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  11. I think perhaps you preach not only to yourself, but this one as well…I’ve found, just as you said, gratitude is often the best medicine for my melancholy…as is the Word…as is prayer…Thanks for sharing.

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  12. Excellent post Leslie! I am reading “When I don’t Desire God” at the moment and it is great. Thanks for your words, I needed them.

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  13. Leslie,I love what you *preached* to your self…we need to be reminding ourselves of what we already know over and over again, so that we can persevere.I am naturally a very melancholy, introverted person. I have to fight those tendencies. I have not always succeeded, but God has been so gracious to forgive me and help me do better.When I focus on others and what they need, instead of what I think I need, I am a much happier and cheerful person. It is when I look inward that I have problems.Great Post!I hope it encourages others!Kim

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  14. Hebrews 1:8-9″But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above our companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” I’m hoping because we have the one who was anointed with joy living in us that we can draw on His joy in our lives.

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  15. What a wonderful post! Hi there, I just stumbled upon your blog and this post was so good. I struggle with it too, but to a lesser degree than I used to. I also LOVE John Piper. I am needing to read When I Don’t Desire God.

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  16. This is an absolutely wonderful and WELL-NEEDED post!!!! I am sooo very glad that you share this!! The part about repenting of prayerlessness is especially hitting me hard right now!!! His,Mrs. U

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  17. Okay, I think your not an “F” like me, not a “T” afterall (I wrote more about your quiz results at my own page). =)My pastor uses that phrase all the time, “Preach to yourself those things you know to be true from God’s Word”. And wow, I certainly do need to do that a lot.My pastor has also just recently added this book to our church book table. I hope to read it soon.

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  18. I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face after reading this post. Kim told me about it and read it to me over the phone, but reading it again and seeing your struggle of depression so near to mine and then seeing the joy and peace come out of your sermon to yourself gives me hope. I will be transparent and say that I too struggle with many of these same issues along with other things that God is allowing our family, marriage, finances, etc…to go through right now.Thank you Leslie for being real and speaking a truth to all of us mommas as well as to yourself! I’ve gotta get this book!

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