Confessions: Anxiety, Depression, and Some Helps.
I wrote an article recently in which I alluded to my difficulties with depression and anxiety. Frankly, I was surprised by the feedback I received from that particular article. And while I appreciate those of you who have written to me to encourage me, please know that was not the motive behind my article, but I am certainly grateful for your kindness to me and even my family. In the spirit of full disclosure, my battle with depression and anxiety has been an ever-increasing and ongoing journey for me (and my family) for the last several years. I don't speak of it a lot except for a few very close friends and family. Believe me when I say they take care of me well. I know in Christian circles depression and anxiety are surrounded with much controversy and many opinions. I am not remotely interested in diving into the opinions of men regarding this painful subject.
Here is what I will let you know about my struggles. We (my family and I) are not sure of all its causes. Depression and Anxiety are syptoms of other issues, not an end in and of themselves. Some of my issues seem to be biological and others seem to be spiritual. As I write this, I know full well that folks have wrestled with it for much longer than I have and at more severe degrees. There is no one size fits all as it relates to this struggle. I am both a counselor of those who wrestle with depression and anxiety and I am also a sufferer. I believe Charles Spurgeon captured the agnoy of depression and anxiety when he stated, “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.”
Depression and anxiety can be very lonely and isolating. I want you to know that you're not alone in your struggle. Since my initial article describing my own struggle, many of you have reached out to me and asked me what I do to cope with this affliction. I was surprised by how many reads my article received. I was surprised by how many people e-mailed me and texted me and reached out on social media. And I was encouraged that you were willing to say 'no' to struggling in isolation.
As I said in my previous post, I really believe the Lord has afflicted me, yet my hope is in Him and I do not feel hopeless. While this side of eternity I will always struggle with sin, my family, my pastor and elders and close confidants do not believe there is any bestting sin causing these afflictions. They seem to believe as I do: The Lord is afflicting me for my sanctification so that I may grow to depend on Him more. If that is the case, I am grateful He chose me, although I hurt much.
Because of the overwhelming response from you all, I’ve decided to dedicate my Thursdays for a season of exploration (as the Lord allows). I would like to explore resources that can aid those of us who are melancholy. I would like to learn together and grow together. Most of all, I pray that we can process our struggles in a God-centered way. So, consider this post my first attempt at giving you some of the resources I use to lift my thoughts toward the Lord. Some of these are more spiritual than others. Sometimes I may recommend resources that aren’t even Christian but seem to help form language around how I feel. I am not an expert. I am a fellow traveler- a practitioner if you will. And writing about this is therapeutic for me. So, today I'd like to begin by suggesting some readings I've found particularly helpful along this weary road.
I read the Bible a lot even when I can barely lift my eyes. I believe all Christians should read the Scripture, but especially my fellow weary travelers. May I recommend a plan I have been using for years now. It keeps me focused and disciplined in this area and allows me to be reminded of the grand narrative of Scripture: How God in Christ is making all things new by the power of His Holy Spirit.
Book I Have Read and Re-Read:
This is a book written by a confessionally reformed Medical Doctor, Michael Lundy and Theologian/Baxter expert, Dr. J.I. Packer. This book details how Baxter helped those medically and spiritually that suffered from depression and anxiety. Much of Baxter's own words are updated and utilized in this book. I found this book to be encouraging for those struggling and informational for those who care for us strugglers. I wrote a book review for it and you can find it here.
This is an excellent short book aimed to provide straight forward biblical advice on everything from spiritual depression to biological causes. Dr. Murray's ministry means a lot to me. As a Pastor, Theologian, Counselor, and Professor he aims to administer the gospel to the whole man- body and soul.
Ryan is a great friend of mine and I trust Him immensely with the care of my own soul. He is a top-notch soul-care physician, pastor, and theologian and this short little book on anxiety briefly orients the reader toward the God of all comfort while providing real tangible advice to anxious, weary souls. I give this book out on a monthly basis to those who wrestle with anxiety.
Other than the Bible, no other book in my life has been more comforting and soul-nourishing than this particular edition of Calvin's Institutes. John Calvin aimed to warm his reader's affections for Christ Jesus and the Lord has used his writings (which have endured for hundreds of years) to pull me out of some very dark places. I commend this book to you wholeheartedly.
That is enough for now. Again, these are just some things I am reading to (by God's grace) care for myself for the glory of God. Next Thursday I will spend some time introducing you to some of my favorite songs and musicians. As always, please feel free to reach out. Grateful you're hanging in there while my internet is spotty. Forgive any typos. I've had to write much of this on a phone.
 Charles Spurgeon, “Joy and Peace In Believing” Metropolitan Tabernacles Pulpit (MTP), Vol. 12, Sermon 692 (http:/spurgeongems.org/vols10-12/cha692.pdf), accessed 2/14/19