How To Get Up When Life Gets You Down
We all know what depression is—in fact, we could probably write the book on it. Sometimes we call it “the blues” or “the blahs” or “feeling down and out”. Bunyan called it “the slough of despond”. St. John of the Cross called it “the dark night of the soul”. The army calls it “battle fatigue”. Psychiatrists call it “anxiety neurosis”. Most people call it “being down in the dumps”.
But the psalmist, not knowing precisely what to call it, simply described it. The psalmist writes: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you disquieted within me?” That’s depression. It’s a feeling we have all experienced at one time or another. The question is: How do we get out of it? How do we overcome it? In other words: How do we get up when life gets us down?
Tonight I would like to offer several steps which I believe can help us move through the time of despair and depression. Here they are.
Step number one—Add up your assets.
Assess your own individual worth. I saw an ad on TV not long ago letting us know that the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz” is now available on videocassette. The ad noted that that movie has been seen by more people than any other movie in history. Now why is that true? I think it is because it is a story of a group of people who are looking for what they think they don’t have, only to discover that in fact, they have had it all along. You remember the four main characters: Dorothy, who wants to get back to Kansas, the Cowardly Lion, who is looking for courage; the Scarecrow who wishes he had intelligence; and the Tin Woodman who is trying to find the capacity to love. They go off together, looking for the wizard, hoping to find some magical solution to their problems. But as the story unfolds, you discover that the most courageous one in the group is the Cowardly Lion. And who thinks up the best ideas? It’s the Scarecrow who thought he had no brain. Who shows the most compassion? Why it’s the Tin Woodman who thought he had no heart. And Dorothy? Well, she never left Kansas in the first place. It was only a dream. You see, each character discovered that they actually had the very thing they felt they lacked. That’s what the Christian faith is all about. That’s what this church is all about. We are here to help you discover everything that God has given you the capacity to be. The message I preach is that you are of infinite value to God and that God has put a tremendous treasure within you. God believes in you. You are not second-rate in any way, shape or form. You have about you the dignity of divine creation. You are made to enjoy God and to enjoy life. God has made a major investment in you. He gave His only Son for you, and don’t you ever forget that. And so when depression takes hold of you, when life starts to get you down, then you need to start adding up your assets. You will discover that you already have the very things you felt you lacked.
Step number two. Learn to laugh, especially at yourself.
Don’t take yourself or your circumstances so seriously. To be able to laugh at ourselves is one of the clearest marks of emotional and spiritual maturity. Part of the reason I love my job is that it regularly humbles me and makes me laugh at myself. Some years ago, for example, I was asked to speak at a special city-wide patriotic service to honor our military forces. I felt rather smug about the invitation. Well, the man coordinating the event was all excited as he prepared to lead me to the platform. He said to me: “Now Dr. Edington, you will speak first, and then the firing squad will come after you.” Now any thought that I may have had of my importance went out the window right at that moment. We need to learn to laugh, and we need to learn to laugh at ourselves—especially in those times when we are feeling blue.
Step number three. Regain the right perspective.
Did you see that letter in “Dear Abby”? The letter read:
About a month ago we had a flash-flood and I lost all of the treasures I had saved for forty-five years—albums filled with pictures and snapshots and letters and clippings. None of it can be replaced. Part of my life is gone. I am heartsick over it. I am sixty and have had a good life. Our children are married and doing well, but I just can’t stop dwelling on what I have lost. Abby, have you ever lost any treasures? If so, how did you get over it? Signed: Depressed.”
Here is how Abby responded:
I lost my beautiful mother in 1945. She was fifty-seven. A few years later I lost a wonderful father at age sixty-two. Not a day passes that I don’t thank God for letting me have my parents for as long as He did. I know many who were not nearly so blessed. And I think also of those who have survived a far greater tragedy losing their children. Now what was that you were saying about clippings and pictures and other treasures?”
My friends, seeing our problems from a more enlightened perspective is an important step in finding our way through depression.
Step number four. Lean on God in Jesus Christ.
The psalmist cried out of the state of depression: “Why are you cast down Oh my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?” But notice, please, the psalmist did not stop there. He went on to say: “Hope in God. For I shall again praise Him, my help and my God.” That’s the ultimate step to take in getting back up when life gets us down. That’s the ultimate step to take in getting through a time of depression. Recognize that God is with us here. He is beside us in Jesus Christ. Nothing can separate us from Him or from His love. He is with us and He is for us. Read the Bible closely and you will discover that this is the thread which holds it all together: God loves us in Jesus Christ, and God will not fail or forsake us.
G. Ray Jordan, the great preacher of another day, tells of a wonderful old saint in his congregation whose Bible was filled with notes in the margins. By some of the verses, the man had written just the initials “T.P.” When asked what T.P. meant, the man replied: “Tried and proved.” When you feel depressed, nothing helps more than remembering that you can lean on God through Jesus Christ in your life. It’s “T.P.”—tried and proved. When you remember that, then you will discover that the way out of depression is to go through it with Jesus Christ.