Overcoming Discouragement and Depression!


April 2006

Dear Ministry Partners,

Clay Dyer was born in 1978, but only stands 3 feet 4 inches tall. He was born with no legs and without a left arm. His right arm ends at the elbow with no fingers. Clay is not the kind of guy most people in Alabama figure would be a professional bass fisherman. He has spent the last 10 years fishing in about 350 tournaments and winning 30 of them while placing in the top 10 finishers in about 20 more tournaments. Clay gets around by shuffling on his short stumps. He casts by holding the rod between his right arm and left shoulder while pushing down the release button on the reel with his chin. He ties his own knots using his mouth, and lands his own fish — manually pulling them in by wrapping the line around his arm and swinging them into the boat. He drives his own bass boat 75 miles an hour across the lakes and occasionally jumps in the water for a short dip to cool off during his fishing tournaments. His performance has been good enough to draw sponsorships from Evinrude motors, Stratos boats, Lowrance electronics, and Strike King lures. An ESPN TV crew filmed Clay in action last year, and he has been featured on CNN and in USA Today. Clay is a dedicated Christian who is active speaking with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and other outreaches which minister to youth.

I don't know about you, but I think it could be really discouraging and depressing to live without legs and one arm. Most people would think there would be no way to make a living, no way to have fun, and no way to minister to others. What Clay did reminds me of the philosophical proverb, "If life gives you a lemon, make lemonade out of it." In an article in Sports Spectrum magazine, Clay said he realized early in his life with the Lord that there was no secret or shortcut to building strong faith — he relies on the old standards of daily prayer and time in the Word. Clay gives God all the glory for what he has overcome, and says one of his favorite scriptures is Philippians 4:13, "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."

Discouragement is a very real part of life on this fallen planet. Many times things have not gone the way we prefer. Sometimes it is our own fault through bad choices, often it is someone else's fault, and usually the devil is behind it all in some way causing the unfortunate outcome. Particularly when it comes to Christians, the devil stirs up persecution in various forms — and the enemy's favorite way is through other Christians because of the added discouragement of a "brother or sister" hurting us. I think the goal is best illustrated by something Ted Haggard has said over the years — that we are supposed to be dead to sin and the flesh, so we should have no more emotional response to insults and persecution than a dead person in a casket would. However, most of us are not to that place yet in our spiritual growth, and many times we have been hurt or discouraged by things said or done to us.

Another minister friend of mine once pointed out that many people of God in the Bible were discouraged or depressed at times. Examples include Moses, Job, Jeremiah, Elijah, and David. We know that their faith in God delivered them. We need to always make an honest assessment of our situations, but not leave God out of the equation. Here are some practical things we can and should do when feeling disappointed, discouraged, or depressed:

(1) Understand that there are seasons to life — there are times when loved ones will die, companies will have lay-offs, people may let us down, or our bodies may fight an infirmity or disease. This is a fallen world with a devil still active. We need to not take it personal and overly blame ourselves — getting under condemnation and guilt — and not blame God (when it is actually Adam and Eve's fault!). If we have sinned, we need to confess it as sin. Then, get our faith up and look for God's answers. That's what David did when Ziklag was burned, the families all kidnapped, and David's own men spoke of killing him (it doesn't get any worse than that).

(2) Take action — think, investigate, get counsel, and pray to get a plan to move out of the problem you are in. Do something to change your situation for the better. It might only be tiny things you can do each day that eventually make a difference. Depression is like a tunnel — you may not even be able to see the light at the end, but there is an end to it and you will reach it if you keep moving forward no matter how slow the progress might seem.

(3) Be aware of the acronym HALT. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Everything looks and feels worse when those four conditions exist, so actively address them. To not be hungry, eat small "meals" more frequently or add healthy snacks between meals to eliminate the emotions of hunger. Dealing with anger is the most complex of these four, but it is possible to forgive and release anger to God. Forgive people by name in prayer who have made you angry, and tell God you are giving Him your anger, hurts, and pain. Command the spirit of anger to leave you. The number one reason for depression is anger that is internalized. Try to end situations that are frustrating, and try to stay away from people who make you angry. And consider renting some funny (clean) movies to cheer you up. To not be lonely, be around other people at church, or call people on the phone. Get out of the house for some exercise, maybe walk at a mall. To not feel tired, get to bed earlier so you get enough sleep. Take a short "power nap" in the afternoons if it is feasible. And get a nutritious diet that provides level energy without the highs and depressing "let downs" that sugar and caffeine cause. (Note: depression that is long-term and debilitating with no obvious reason could need deliverance if caused by a spirit, or medical attention if caused by a chemical imbalance.)

(4) Pray. Talk to God. It is a fact that Christians are never alone. God is always with us, and He will always understand. We can pour our heart out to Him. Just talk to Him, and pray to Him with your requests any time. He may surprise you and tell you the answers to your need! Or He may work quietly and gradually to change the situation without even being obvious.

(5) Help someone else. One of the best ways to get your mind off your own troubles is to get involved helping other people. This also sets in motion spiritual principles that cause you to reap help. Also, when you see people who are in worse situations than your own, it makes you feel better about your own circumstances. It is like the person once said, "I complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet." Volunteer at your church or perhaps a local food ministry feeding the poor. Getting out of just being involved in yourself is healing and healthy.

Much of dealing with discouragement and depression is dealing with change. Most people don't like change they did not initiate, yet people or circumstances have sometimes thrust change upon us which has been discouraging or depressing. We need to realize we are just stewards in this life — since we can't take it with us, we don't really own it. In fact, God owns it all (Psalm 50:10, Haggai 2:8). Accepting the fact that we don't ultimately own or control the things or people around us helps free us to adjust to change. We are simply supposed to do our best for God with whatever is in our ability to influence. Change, failure, or disappointment should not affect our personal security if our security is in God. Our self-image or self-esteem need not change if our career changes, our finances change, our health changes, our relationships change, etc., if we are completely dedicated to God, and our fulfillment is in Him. We just need to have faith that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God" (Romans 8:28). God doesn't cause everything, but He can work things out for us.

We ultimately win if we don't quit. Christian motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said, "Success in business, athletics, science, politics, etc., seldom comes on the first effort. Walt Disney went bankrupt a number of times.... Athletic skills are acquired over a long period of time and after countless hours of practice. Authors by the hundreds can tell you stories by the thousands of those rejection slips before they found a publisher who was willing to 'gamble' on an unknown. It's more than just a cliche that persistent, enthusiastic effort produces powerful, positive results; that failure is an event, not a person — and that the only time you must not fail is the last time you try. Whatever your target might be, chances are good that you are not going to hit the bull's-eye on the first effort you make at being 'successful'. The key is persistence and the willingness to try again in the face of those early misses."

Ministering to believers,

Dale & Judi Leander


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