Depression is often an easy thing to spot, but it remains a very difficult thing to describe.
What I mean is that there seems to me to be a scale of depression rather than a state of depression. While I do believe that people can be labeled as depressed, I do not believe it is a simple line that you cross over. You are not either depressed or not. I do not believe there is a point of no return. And here’s why I believe that:
We are all depressed to some level.
Imagine a scale of 1 to 100. 1 is the lowest of the low. 100 is the highest of the high. If I were to ask you how you feel today, what number would you give yourself? Would that number be different from yesterday? Do you think it could ascend or descend by this time tomorrow? If so, you are proving my point.
This is why this should be an encouraging thought for us today: no one is too far gone.
I do believe there are some people whose normal disposition is about an 85. They are generally joyful and it takes a lot to take them down.
I believe that there are some people who hover around a 40 for most of their lives. They are typically more downcast.
On this scale, some of us are at more of a disadvantage than another. We started lower. In fact, a more depressed person struggles to experience a higher point on the scale which may be a low number for another.
Disagreeing Perspectives on Depression
In our society, we are quick to label someone as depressed. While I do think there are serious situations that warrant such a designation, sometimes I worry that people throw that label around too casually. In addition, some people are too quick to prescribe or to recommend a simple step in order to get to the next case.
The disagreeing perspectives on depression seek to have a single solution for a complex problem.
- Many doctors think medicine is the solution.
- Many therapists think counseling is the secret.
- Many associates think positive thinking, exercise regimens, clean eating, or essential oils could be the fix.
I have yet to find a simple solution to such a complex situation as depression. I don’t think it is a one-size fit all approach. I do not believe that one step will get you out of the pit. It is a process that requires more than one effort.
If a person would label himself or herself as a 40 on the depression scale, no treatment will make them an 85 overnight. That type of person may never know what it is like to even see an 85. More than likely, it will require numerous approaches.
- Medicine might make a 40 go up to a 50.
- Exercise might take the 50 up to a 57.
- Cleaning up one’s diet might take the 57 to a 65.
- Focusing on religious practices could take that 65 to a 75.
- Getting outside might make a 75 to an 80.
If you are depressed to an unhealthy level, or if you hover around the low numbers on this scale, be careful of anyone who tells you that a single prescription or practice can remedy your situation.
When Jesus was on the earth, he had a thorough strategy to deal with complicated people. He used his words to raise a dead girl (Mark 5:41), but he also made sure her parents fed her well (Mark 5:43). He knew the power of prayer to make the demons run (Mark 9:29), but he also understood the importance of nourishment for his disciples to walk (Mark 8:3).
God knew that suicidal Elijah needed to hear God’s voice (1 Kgs. 19:12) and to have a good meal (1 Kgs. 19:7), and so he provided both. Even after Jesus’ 40-day fast and temptation, God sent angels to minister to him (Matt. 4:11) which probably entailed all different types of service.
We are multi-faceted individuals, and rarely will a single approach get us to where we need to be.
If you are depressed, I would beg you to seek the LORD first by pouring out your heart before him (Ps. 62:8). If you are low on the scale, do not believe that you are past the point of no-return or that one fix will dramatically move you up the scale. Maybe it will be a combination of prayer, community, diet, exercise, sunshine, counsel, and a host of other things that will get you to be where you need to be.
We may all know some level of depression, but depend on God’s wisdom to help you progress to the abundant life he provides (John 10:10).
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.