I recently finished reading a book on depression.  The Christian author contends that Injury + Anger x Self-Pity = Depression, and his solution is to confess the self-pity and praise God; confess the anger and praise God; and praise God in the injury.  That solution may work for people who are discouraged or disappointed, but by the time someone gets to severe depression, it is difficult or impossible even to read the book, let alone stir up the will power to follow his steps.  I know that asking God for help is a genuine key to success in this area, but on its face it reminds me of the old Bob Newhart routine where, as a psychologist, his answer to every fear, phobia, anxiety, and compulsive or paranoid behavior was “Stop it!”  He didn’t have a lot of success.

(I have started reading a book on the wounds, burnout, and depression suffered by Christian workers.  At least it better identifies the characteristics of the mental illness called clinical depression.  Book report later if I can get through the reading.)

The mental processes of the severely depressed are radically different from those of the healthy Christian individual, at least in my case.  For many years (since I came to know the Lord at age 16) it has not been any issue at all to resist certain temptations:  smoking, drinking alcohol, blatantly violating laws, etc.  My wife has been a help to me in keeping me accountable, but these are areas that were basically non-issues.  (Purity in thought and action was and is a genuine struggle, but that’s another matter.)  The fact is, things that had long ago ceased to tempt me are once again on the table for consideration; I think that the distractability, emotional instability, and erosion of self-control have given my diabolical enemy an open door to tempt and test me.

So as I drove down to South Carolina and back, I noticed every sign for cut-rate cigarettes and cigars (if they had advertised pipe smoking it might have been too much for me to resist), and I had to make a conscious decision each time to drive on by.  Choices that were once automatic without any consideration whatsoever had to be made over and over again.  Ditto for every liquor store and fireworks outlet I passed.  (I know, fireworks are a fairly harmless issue, but they are illegal in NYS, so unless I wanted to shoot them off in my car or along the road, why would I consider buying them?  But I did think about it.  Every time I saw a sign.)  A damnable lie from a TV comedy kept going through my head: “During the war, we all had stress, but we didn’t take pills–that’s what booze is for.”  I know that alcohol is not the answer to my problems, but I had to know that all over again every time I saw a sign.

For the same reason that it is hard to get out of bed or into the shower, it is hard to resist temptation; but I am making that effort a priority.  As important as the next step is, I have little mental energy left to battle my self-pity or anger. All I can do is be willing, and let God empower the restoration work.

And that’s today’s scenic view of my long, dark ride through the valley called depression.

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