The statistics are in and they are NOT good. People are depressed more than ever, at least, more than as long as someone’s been keeping track. According to recent studies, “WebMD reports that over the last 4 years the number of people struggling with major depression has risen 33%.” Or as some call it, America lacks overall well-being.
Bottom line, these are sad days.
The good news is, the scriptures provide an answer to depression. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Here’s where you tell me to put my faith in Jesus and everything magically gets better.”
Actually, I DO want you to put your faith in Christ, but there are far too many depressed Christians to just leave you there. The fact is, the Bible calls its readers (presumed Christians) to rejoice very often. The word “rejoice” appears over 160 times in the scriptures with the most famous verse being from Philippians 4:4 containing a double appeal.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”
With all those commands to rejoice, we must assume God knew we would trend toward depression and lose our joy. God understands the curse of sin is real, separates us from His presence and can fill our hearts with dread. Therefore, He both gave us His Son to take our sins and gave us His Word to teach us how to live in HIS JOY.
The secret to God’s joy is found in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible. God goes right to WORK creating the heavens, earth, land, sea, living creatures and man. Genesis 1 reads like a poem with stanzas, refrains and a climatic chorus of praise to the Creator’s accomplishment. The text is begging you to see a repeated theme. See if you spot it:
Genesis 1:4 (ESV) And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.
Genesis 1:10 (ESV) God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:12 (ESV) The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:18 (ESV) to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:21 (ESV) So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:25 (ESV) And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Okay. you don’t have to be brain scientist to see the theme. God created, and then TOOK THE TIME to celebrate the goodness of His work! Let me reiterate: He took the TIME to stand back and rejoice over what He had created. In fact, the Creator takes 6 moments (one for each day) to relish His accomplishment. That means each step of His massive work was cherished. Psalm 104 says, “The LORD takes pleasure in all He has made!” (NLT).
This, my friends, is the Bible’s FIRST secret to finding joy. God’s answer to your depression is movement, getting things done and feeling a sense of accomplishment. I know this because that same chapter stipulates that we are made in His image. That means what applies to God’s nature applies to ours. Case in point: you MUST get moving, doing something productive so that you can take joy in the God-inspired satisfaction of having completed a project. It may be finishing that first semester of college, or finally painting the bedroom, or cleaning the garage. There’s joy to be had if you’ll get your hands busy.
But there’s far more to Godly joy than just getting random things done. You were made to enjoy PURPOSEFUL accomplishment. If what you accomplish has no bigger purpose than yourself, little will change and momentary happiness will fade. Now consider that God created the world with a purpose – to show His glory and establish a dwelling place for mankind to be with Him. The ultimate intent of Creation, therefore, was to bring people together with Himself.
It stands to reason that the ultimate answer to depression is getting things done to accomplish God’s purpose. Think of Jesus’ joy mentioned in Hebrews 12. “For the joy set before him He endured the cross.” The cross is the accomplished work of bringing men back to God. The joy was in knowing His blood brought peace between man and God. I have personally experienced the joy of proclaiming Jesus’ work for most of my life. There have been however, seasons when I need to push through the resident stagnation in my heart.
I went back to school in my 30’s after deciding I need to get my Master’s degree. I started my first course and began to seriously question the decision, the cost, the time I would have to spend to get the degree. I was about to quit when I completed my first course. I had acquired just 3 credit hours toward a 70 credit hour program. I remember the feeling of euphoria I had that afternoon. It was only three credits but it felt like I had climbed Kilimanjaro (not that I know how that feels from experience). A true sense of enjoyment came to my life and I eagerly kept working until the program was finished. In fact, at times I was doubling the typical course load to get completed faster. Listen carefully: COMPLETING a task that helped me lead people back to God gave me true gladness.
The enemy of our joy is to sit down with a phone, scroll through the social media pages of other people and begin to compare your life to someone else’s highlight reel. Why not rather lift your eyes up and do something others can watc? Join in the work of Jesus to bring people out of sin, hopelessness and shame and into the family of God.
This weekend, we are going to discuss our next moves as a Church to accomplish this purpose. “Big Things Weekend” has me both thrilled and somewhat frightened at all God is putting in our hearts to accomplish. It may be hard, but the happiness is in knowing we can do it in His strength as His family. Join us this weekend at Waters Church and do NOT miss the pre-service. It will bring even more joy to the entire experience.