Fighting Against Depression
This week I received the sad and sobering news that a former collegemate had taken his own life. He had been battling depression and this dark monster had finally taken him to such a bleak place that all hope was lost. In losing this battle for his life, he left behind a wife and daughter to grieve his absence and to start their own battles filled with confusion, heartbreak, and perhaps even guilt. For when a loved one dies, no matter the cause, it is not uncommon for the “survivors” to be filled with questions that begin with “What if” and “If only.” Some call it survivor’s guilt, but whatever you call it, it is a false guilt full of misplaced blame that holds no truth.
As the news of this kind family man’s untimely death penetrated my heart, I felt led to write to you. Because you just might be battling depression, or you might be dealing with the aftermath of losing someone you love. I’m here to tell you that the battle is difficult, and the enemy is treacherous. But God is with you. You are not alone, and He can and will lead you out into the sunlight once again. But you must fight with the weapons He provides. And you must fight not just to survive but to return from the battle in complete and absolute victory. God wants you to be free from the debilitating effects of depression.
One more thing before I outline the weapons of war we are gifted with. If you are a Christian and battle depression, you may be tempted like I was to believe the lie that if you were a good Christian, you wouldn’t feel this way. If you were really close to God, you would be walking in joy and victory right now instead of feeling the dark oppressive weight driving you into the ground. If you were faithful enough, prayerful enough, good enough, then God would have already delivered you from this battle. And those lies lead you to believe that you deserve to feel utterly lost or like God doesn’t love you because of your failure to overcome at this exact moment. Friend, those are lies of the enemy whose only goal is to destroy you. Cast those thoughts from you, see them for the lies they are and keep reminding yourself that they are lies because they will keep repeating in your mind like boomerangs until the truth destroys them.
A description of the armor of God can be found in Ephesians 6:10-17. I’m going to use the NIV version and take it verse by verse offering my thoughts as we go. Remember that I’m focusing on how this pertains to depression, anxiety, emotional, mental, and spiritual battles. There is application to “physical” battles but that is not what we’re discussing today.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”Verse 10
Here we can see that we must depend on the Lord’s mighty power. We are not strong enough in and of ourselves for this battle. We must turn to God in surrender seeking His mercy, grace, and strength for each day. Sometimes we must depend on His strength just for our next breath when the world seems to be crushing us.
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”Verse 11
I see two points to highlight here. First, you must be fully armed. You are in a battle and if you aren’t careful to put on the full armor, you will leave an area vulnerable to attack. Be intentional about getting fully dressed each day with God’s armor. And secondly, the devil is scheming against you. This isn’t a neutral battle against yourself or “the universe.” It is a battle against an enemy who wants to decimate you and take everything from you including your life. You must be willing to take a stand against him knowing that he is out to destroy you. Winner takes all.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”Verse 12
This is where God lets you know exactly who you are fighting. In the previous verse, He told you the devil was your enemy. Just in case you missed the full impact of what that means, here he gives you a further list outlining those on the devil’s side. Rulers. Authorities. Powers of this dark world. Spiritual forces of evil. IN THE HEAVENLY REALMS. Again, God is not talking about humans (though humans can be used by the devil for his dark purposes). God is talking about evil that we can’t fight with earthly weapons. Fighting people does no good and often just creates more pain and chaos. We must take the fight to the spiritual realm where the root of battle lies.
“Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”Verse 13
I find it interesting that God says to put on the full armor so that when the day of evil comes, we can stand. He doesn’t say when the day of evil comes then put on our armor. We are to be ready even when we don’t think we’re in a battle because we don’t know when that day will come. If we wait until we sense the battle, we are already vulnerable and may take damage by the time we get prepared for the battle. Better late than never, however, so if you are in the middle of a battle, you might as well go ahead and get your armor on to prevent more injuries.
I love God’s promise in the second half of this verse too. After we have done everything, we will stand. We will not fall before the enemy. But it won’t be easy because we have to do “everything.” I think this everything means trusting God with everything and giving Him everything we have. We do our part by surrendering to God and putting on His armor. He does the rest and enables us to stand in victory. I think this will make more sense as we get to the next verses.
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,”Verse 14
Once again God tells us to stand firm. And now He shows us the arsenal He has given us. The belt of truth is first because without truth we are liable to fall for the lies of the enemy. I used to wonder why God would use the imagery of a belt for truth. It seems an optional piece of apparel for the most part. But then I began to think about it being around our waist, the center of our being, and its ability to hold an ensemble together. Without a belt, things start drifting from their proper place. And the same goes for truth. Without truth, everything else has a tendency to drift.
Next is the breastplate of righteousness. I love this one because the breastplate covers our heart. The righteousness of Christ is the breastplate that filters everything that goes into and out of our hearts. The breastplate protects this most vital of organs. Proverbs 4:23 says to guard our heart for everything we do flows from it. Don’t leave your heart vulnerable to attack. Make sure the breastplate of righteousness is firmly in place.
“and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”Verse 15
God’s Word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). His Word brings direction and peace, yes, peace even in the storms and battles of life. And to obtain this particular piece of armor, we must be fitted and readied by regular reading of His Word. For those who find it difficult to read the Bible, I would encourage you to try a reading plan (I use the YouVersion Bible app, but there are tons of excellent resources available). Short plans and devotionals can help you find some stepping stones into God’s Word. I would also point you to the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) as perfect jumping off points as they introduce you to Jesus from the perspective of four different authors. The more you read the Bible, the more you will glean from its pages. God’s Word has a way of speaking to you right when you need it.
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”Verse 16
The shield of faith is the only piece of armor that God provides clarification on its purpose. Faith can extinguish the flaming arrows of the devil. Not just deflect them but extinguish them. What this means is that when we don’t understand what is going on around us or why we are going through difficulties, we can lift up the shield of faith and watch those arrows burning with “what if, why, if only, and how come” fall to the ground in a pile of ash. Faith tells us that because of who God is we can trust His faithfulness even when we don’t understand.
“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”Verse 17
The helmet of salvation protects our minds from attack. Through the salvation provided by God, we can turn over the anxieties and worries that cloud our minds and let God’s truth, power, and saving grace enfold us. This salvation isn’t talking only about the salvation of Christ for eternal life but about the daily salvation He provides for every circumstance, every hardship, and every heartache. For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). This sound mind can be obtained by taking up the helmet of salvation.
The sword of the Spirit is both an offensive and defensive weapon. We must be sure that when using it offensively, that we are only wielding it against our true enemy as outlined in verse twelve. Sadly, many Christians (and professed Christians) get this wrong and use the Word of God as a bludgeon for our fellow man and woman. Please don’t do this, God’s Word is meant for the healing of the human soul not for inflicting punishment. However, this is a mighty weapon for defending against the devil’s attacks and then for going on the offensive against him by attacking the lies and defeating his schemes. I believe the sword of the Spirit is listed last, not because it is least important, but because it requires the most skill to wield effectively and without hurting ourselves and others. Use God’s Word to attack the devil and you will succeed. Use it to attack the person next to you and you may injure both yourself and them in the process.
I hope that you’ll spend some time reading Ephesians 6 for yourself and seeking God’s insight into his armor. He will likely reveal Himself and deepen the meaning of each of these weapons for you in a very personal manner. I also want to encourage again to never give up. God will walk you through this battle and He will carry you through when you are weak and faltering. From someone who has battled depression, I’m here to tell you that the victory is possible, though the road may be longer than you had hoped. My prayer is that you cling to God, listen to His directions, and follow Him because on the other side of the battle is freedom and liberty worth fight for.
May God spark the will to battle on and light your way to victory.