Several years ago, I was driving between Edmonton and Grande Prairie, Alberta. I was listening to a radio program about depression. I think it would be safe to say that the person being interviewed was not a believer. That being said, I think he had some extremely important and valid things to say about depression. He stated that, traditionally, most Christians have seen depression as a bad, or even an evil thing. He believed that, for the most part, North Americans have gotten caught in this trap and compensate by living these manic lives. He went on to suggest that if depression creeps into one’s life, then that person connects it to some type of pathology. At that point, he prattled on about the money the drug companies make from sales of antidepressants. Then he went on to suggest something that many would find outrageous. He suggested that depression was actually a gift. He concluded with this amazing statement: "Depression is the only time in a person’s life when he or she is soul-conscious."

Being soul-conscious 

That really got me thinking. I looked back in my life to times that I had been depressed. Granted, I would never want to relive those times. And yet as I examined several experiences, I found out several things. First, I was forced to trust God. Second, I spent great amounts of time with Him in prayer and Bible study. Third, I examined my life to ask important questions such as: Am I on the right track? Is my life balanced? Am I making good decisions? I also realized that after periods of depression, I usually had a new resolve to trust God and seek Him for further direction. I truly did become extremely conscious of my soul.

Depression can be a time to examine one’s life and try to figure out what God might be saying. It is easy to ignore God when things are going smoothly, but He’s the One we usually go running to when we hit bottom emotionally.

Acknowledging the dark side

All this needs to be qualified, however. There certainly can be a dark side to depression. Depression that sets in for a few days is not something to worry about, but if depression sets in for weeks on end and proper rest and diet don't resolve the low feelings, then we need to address what’s going on. If you struggle with depression for more than two weeks and you are not recognizing improvement, then you need to get to your doctor. He or she will help you determine if you are experiencing too much stress, lack of sleep, unhealthy nutrition, etc. You may be encouraged to make lifestyle changes and perhaps see a counsellor or life coach. The doctor may also suggest medication to help restore your chemical balance. If your depression leads to feelings of despair and hopelessness – or even worse, suicidal thoughts – then this is not a time to ponder why you are depressed. Get to a doctor as soon as possible, even if it’s at the emergency department at your local hospital. At this point, the depression has progressed beyond being a potentially helpful tool.

Listen to God

If your depression, however, is just momentary and does not coexist with feelings of deep despair or suicide, do not waste the moment. Become soul-conscious. Use this as a time to evaluate where you are with God, your spouse, your family, your ministry. Is God telling you to slow down, resolve conflict, or look for some type of change in your life? Depression left unattended can be a fierce enemy. But depression harnessed can be a great friend.

Be soul-conscious and see what God is trying to tell you.

Geof Cornelsen is a registered counsellor located in Valleyview, AB. He is a member of Focus on the Family Canada’s network of referral counsellors.

© 2007 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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