Do You Know How to Change a Life?
I once heard this testimony from a counselee who came to see me because of depression:
“My mother suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness for most of my childhood. She would be in bed for months at a time, and then I would come home from school one day and she would be gone, in the hospital. After a few weeks, she would come back home, usually drugged or just flat. She’d be ok for a while, but then the depression would come back, and it would start all over. Finally, when I was in high school, she got the diagnosis: Major Depressive Disorder.[i][ii] She was put on medications, and pretty much stayed stable until the end of her life, when the drugs finally destroyed her kidneys and she passed away. I am terrified that this is my future. My doctor thinks I have it, too.”
The Root of Depression
As I reflected on what this counselee told me about her childhood, I knew that it didn’t have to be that way. Biblical counselors often see people with a diagnosis of depression, but as we get to the heart issues, we begin to see that these cycles they thought were inevitable really do not have to continue. As my counselee and I uncovered the thoughts, beliefs, and desires of her heart, we found that much of what she and the doctor saw as depression was rooted in her thinking about herself and her circumstances. Self-focus, identity issues, entitlement, anger, and an unbiblical view of God and of self, are very common in individuals with a diagnosis of depression. Remember, our feelings are produced by our thoughts, and our thoughts come from a heart that is either focused on self and circumstances, or focused on God.
As we began peeling back the layers of this counselee’s problem, she began to have hope. Though it was hard work, she was motivated as she saw changes happening by the power of the Holy Spirit. As she put off fleshly perspectives and put on biblical ones, hope grew bigger than her problems. She began to see that she was choosing, because of her heart’s orientation toward self instead of God, to think in ways that led her into self-pity, a victim mentality, and bitterness. As she learned to think biblically about herself, her circumstances, and her identity in Christ, the depression began to lift.
Crushed by the Weight of Pain
Thinking back to her mom’s life, I wonder…If there had been just one brave friend to go into that dark bedroom, pull back the curtains, and say to her, “Dear one, I know that you feel crushed by the weight of your pain, but I want to take you to the One who is able to carry it for you. You don’t have to live this way, and I can prove it to you. Come, let us reason together…” Oh, how different her life—and my counselee’s—would have been! This particular mom was a believer, but her mind was so clouded with past trauma and sadness that she just could not see past her sorrow to the power and love of God. She needed someone to help guide her in the Word and show her the truth about herself, about God, and about her pain.
Applying This in Your Life
Who do you know today that is suffering with depression or some other diagnosis? Are you up to the challenge to be that brave friend who pulls back the curtain and facilitates that first step toward hope? God could use you to help save a life and a family from the hopelessness of a psychiatric label.
Does the idea of stepping into that role scare you? If so, you may need to get some training! While all believers are competent to counsel, specialized training in intensive discipleship may be just what you need to get past the “fear factor” that would keep you from stepping into someone’s life to help them address their heart issues. Reigning Grace offers an excellent training course in Biblical Counseling. You can learn about it here: https://www.rgcconline.org/track-program.html. While we do offer a Certification Track that will prepare you to be certified with ACBC or IABC, we also offer opportunities to audit the course, with no homework or testing. If you think the Lord would have you minister in this way (and we all are called to bear one another’s burdens), but you believe you are not equipped to help, this course is perfect for you.
Wrapping Up With My Counselee
As my counselee and I wrapped up our last few sessions, we reflected on how things might have been different had someone intervened biblically in her mother’s life. Carefully studying the sovereignty of God here helped us remember that her childhood was part of God’s plan for her life, and that all things work together for good to those who love Him. She recognized that she would not have the relationship with Christ, the compassion for others, or the wisdom she has now had she not experienced the childhood God provided for her. She left our time together equipped with an armory of weapons against the unbiblical thinking that had led her to that first session, and a great deal of hope for her future and for her own children.
An individual’s thoughts, beliefs, and desires are powerful, and they work on the emotions to create habits of mood. These habits can be transformed with biblical truth. It just takes one friend who loves the Lord, and the sufferer, enough to boldly speak that truth in love. I’m challenging you today to be that friend. This is how discipleship works. This is how to change a life.
[i] While I do believe there are some sufferers who truly have a brain disorder and may need medication, and I would never advise anyone to stop taking medication, I also believe that the vast majority of people who are diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder can overcome that label through the power of the Holy Spirit, ministered through intensive discipleship.