Depression is one of the darkest and loneliest places to be. My experience of depression was not just feeling down for a few days or being in a “bad mood”. For me, depression was an enemy, it made me unable recognise myself; it took over and consumed my whole being. It became so toxic and poisonous to everything and everyone around me. It is the worst thing I have ever experienced in my entire life.
Thankfully, I am no longer in that place. I believe in God and I believe that it is His transforming power that pulled me out of that dark place. I experienced depression before I was a Christian and I also experienced it whilst a Christian. I know the guilt and shame that comes with being a Christian experiencing depression, professing your belief in a God that heals but not yet experiencing that healing yourself. I know what it feels like to cry out to God and feel like nothing is shifting and you are still so consumed with the darkness. I know how it feels and my heart is burdened for those experiencing this darkness, I want to see them set free and set free for life.
Coming to the place I am in now has been a journey. In some of the darkest nights, it was so hard to see God and feel His presence. But, in hindsight when I look back, He was there walking me through it all. Whenever I think back to the deep pain and darkness that consumed my heart, it is a wonder to me that I did not die from that pain alone but God is a loving God and He kept me alive and transformed my life.
Today, I am able to stand firm on His promises. I am not moved by feelings and I have learned how to be in control. One of the ways by which I have overcome is through His word. I have certain scriptures that are so embedded within me – they encourage me, they uplift me, and they remind me of His promises. This way, even if a moment of darkness tries to arise, I am already armed with His truth so no darkness can settle.
One of the scriptures that helped me in this fight against darkness is Nehemiah 8:10, I quote from the AMPC Bible.
“Then [Ezra] told them, Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet drink, and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. And be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.”
Focussing on the latter part of this verse, the prophet spoke and told the people that their strength is in the joy of the Lord. The AMPC further expands it to specifically say “be not grieved and depressed”, this verse talks right into depression and gives the solution – the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.
So, when reading this scripture, it is important to ask – what is the joy of the Lord? My personal definition of joy is that joy is a deep sense within you that God is in control. It is a dependence on Him and a security that is found in Him. It is expressed in undying loyalty to God and belief in His promises.
Joy is different from happiness. Bishop Clement Asihene, a Bishop in the church I attend (Victory Bible Church International), explains that happiness is due to happenings – happiness is an emotional response to circumstances we find ourselves in. An example, we are happy when we receive gifts, the happiness is because of the gift I receive, because someone has thought of me. However, this happiness is momentary, sure whenever you remember or see the gift it can spark that feeling again but it is not a lasting engraved feeling within. Whereas joy exists whether situations are good or bad – joy says God is good all the time and means it. Joy is embedded deep within you.
So, this verse says “the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold” meaning that your strength is found in your assurance of God. To be strong, in order not to be depressed, you must embrace the joy of the Lord. You must know deep within you that God is for you. A stronghold is “a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack”, so joy will fortify and strengthen you against any attack of the enemy. When the enemy attacks you with feelings of sorrow, God’s joy will act as a stronghold on your behalf and you must remind yourself of His promises.
A practical way to embrace this is to spend more time in His presence, Psalm 16:11 says “…in Your presence is fullness of joy…”. Fullness means “to be filled to capacity” so the more time you spend in His presence, the capacity of your joy will be full, and you will then be strong and able to stand. How do we spend more time in His presence? Through prayer, worship, and fellowshipping with other believers.
Often when, during this battle with depression, all those things I mentioned were difficult – I did not feel like praying or worshipping and I certainly did not want to be around anyone. However, the more I FORCED myself to do these things, the stronger I became and now, I am here writing from a place of victory. If you do not feel like praying, call your Pastor or a fellow Christian and ask them to pray with you for some time on the phone to strengthen yourself. Play worship music in the background always and never, never miss church services. There were times I would go to church and just sit at the back because honestly, it was the last place I wanted to be but the more I did that I saw myself gaining strength and overcoming depression.
The place I am in today is a place of triumph. I have overcome and I am here to encourage you to come to this place too. Be intentional about seeking Him. The more time you spend with God, the more your capacity of joy gets filled and increases and the stronger you become.