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Jun 5

Fear and Depression: Conquer Them With These Crucial Keys

Our current global financial crisis is taking a toll on people in many ways. Some have already lost their jobs. Others fear that as the world economy continues its downturn, they will lose their jobs too. Others are concerned that they wont be able to afford their house payments and will lose their homes. A substantial number of people fear that the economic situation will spiral down into another GreatDepression.

All of these concerns and uncertainties are contributing to widespread anxiety and despair. Of course, fear and depression are not new to human beings. They are ongoing dynamics that have been around as long as we haveexisted.

The Bible is essentially an owners manual on how to conduct our lives. If we apply it, it assures us of overall peace andhappiness.

Some fears are not bad. Fear keeps us from taking unnecessary chances that might endanger our health or lives. (The proper fear of God is a healthy fear that involves standing in awe of Him and His power to intervene in judgment and ultimately to decide our eternal destiny, leading us to respect and obey His commandments rather than scoff anddisobey.)

However, when normal fears graduate to the point that they interfere with a healthy state of mind or infringe on our ability to function effectively in life, they have becomeproblems.

Lets take a glance at the extent of the problem and consider some ways to combat it in our ownlives.

The numbers of those who suffer crippling fear are surprising. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that in a given year, one in 11 adult Americans suffers from a phobiaa fear so extreme that it interferes with the ability to function normally. One example is acrophobiafear of heights. A person who suffers an extreme form of this phobia might fear even to enter a tall building or be afraid of venturing higher than a fewfloors.

An online search for phobias and fears can easily bring up lists of hundreds of entries ranging from ablutophobia (fear of washing or bathing) to zoophobia (fear of animals). Some of these phobias are relatively common, and some are veryrare.

Far more people suffer from anxietyconstant fearful uneasiness. Though generally less intense than phobias, anxiety can also reach the point of being disabling. In general, any fear that is not God-oriented or healthy presents an obstacle that denies us normal happiness andwell-being.

Unhealthy fear began among human beings when Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Genesis 3:10 Genesis 3:10And he said, I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.American King James Version). After they disobeyed Him, they became afraid of God, whereas before they had regarded Him as a friend. Fear and terror are among the curses God said would come on His people Israel if they disobeyed Him (Leviticus 26:16-17 Leviticus 26:16-17 16 I also will do this to you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 And I will set my face against you, and you shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and you shall flee when none pursues you.American King James Version).

Like unhealthy fears, depression has also been around ever since man departed from the commandments of God. When Cain and Abel brought offerings to God, the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering (Genesis 4:4-5 Genesis 4:4-5 4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect to Abel and to his offering: 5 But to Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.American King James Version). Though the Genesis account does not state explicitly why God didnt respect Cains offering, 1 John 3:12 1 John 3:12Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And why slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brothers righteous.American King James Versionimplies that God wouldnt accept it because evil was present in Cainslife.

Its interesting to note Cains reaction after this rejection: So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed. And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? And why do you look sad and dejected? (Genesis 4:5-6 Genesis 4:5-6 5 But to Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. 6 And the LORD said to Cain, Why are you wroth? and why is your countenance fallen?American King James Version, The Amplified Bible). So the first specifically recorded incident of depression in the Bible occurred in connection withsin.

Fears and depression often go together. Psychologist and author Dr. Archibald Hart explains that you seldom see depression without some anxiety, or anxiety without some depression. They are two sides of the same coin. It just depends which side lands faceup ( The Anxiety Cure, 1999, p.170).

These fellow travelers often make life miserable for many people, so its imperative that we know how to deal with and overcome them. Professional therapy and medication are often used with success, but well here explore five tools and techniques that everyone can use and apply at little or no cost to successfully deal with fear anddepression.

One method many people have found helpful is to record their feelings. Dr. Hart writes: How can you change your thinking habits without engaging in a lifetime of therapy? One way is to get yourself a little notebook to record your beliefs whenever you catch them (p.113).

Mistaken thoughts about life situations or how others feel toward us can lead to depression or anxiety. Perhaps youve never thought about it this way, but the benefit of journaling is attested to not only by health professionals, but also by theBible!

Gods servant David, though generally a man of great courage and sound mind, at times suffered from depression and anxiety. For example, he referred to depression when he said, The Lord shall enlighten my darkness (2 Samuel 22:29 2 Samuel 22:29For you are my lamp, O LORD: and the LORD will lighten my darkness.American King James Version). He expressed vivid thoughts of depression and anxiety in Psalms 22:1 Psalms 22:1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?American King James Versionwhere he wrote: My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? (New InternationalVersion).

Biblical scholars recognize that the thoughts of this psalm presage the anguish of the Messiah, but the psalm also expresses deep emotions that David feltthough we do not know the specific circumstances in his life that triggered thesethoughts.

Davids pen expressed his agonies as he progressed through the psalm, yet at the end his words are exultant (verses25-31).

David is the primary author of the book of Psalms. Through this remarkable collection we can learn of events in his lifes storyin which he often expressed strong emotions. Almost without exception Davids writings end on an exultant note; he worked through his anxieties and sorrows through writing and pouring out his heart to God. We can read his psalms and be encouraged, and we also can write out our own feelings and take them to God to lift ourspirits.

We live in a fast-paced, overstressed world. Stress is one of the causes of anxiety and depression. Counselor and author Rex Briggs writes: There is a lot of external pressure in this type of society and little emotional support. Perhaps that is why anxiety disorders are the fastest growing psychiatric condition for which people seek help today ( Transforming Anxiety, Transcending Shame, 1999, p.39).

Some people are particularly vulnerable, such as those involved in caregiving occupations in which they are providing emotional and/or physical support for others. Research shows that these people suffer from depression, anxiety, insomnia and stress about three times as often as non-caregivers. Mothers carry a heavy load of caregiving, especially if no father is present, and thus could fall victim todepression.

Regardless of occupation, those who want to avoid excessive stress must maintain balance. This includes getting enough sleep and exercise. Exercise is a proven method of reducingstress.

Not that long ago, people were usually employed in occupations that involved physical laboror in many cases they walked quite a bit to get to and from work. Today, however, most people either drive to work or take mass transit, and their work is relatively sedentary. Many do not perform chores around the home as earlier generations did, and they relax in front of the TV when they gethome.

One result of this is that too many people dont participate in stress-relieving physical activity. Lack of exercise contributes to a lack of restful sleep, which in turn feeds into the stress-on-stresscycle.

A simple antidote to this is to initiate an exercise program to burn off some of the stress you feel. Research has demonstrated that weight-bearing activities help relieve stress. This includes walking, which most people can do easilyenough.

The Bible was written in a time when people were physically active and didnt need an exercise program like many need today. Scripture does recognize, though, that physical exercise has some value (1 Timothy 4:8 1 Timothy 4:8For bodily exercise profits little: but godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.American King James Version, Good NewsTranslation).

Most mental health professionals understand that some foods are beneficial and some are not, especially if eaten in excess. Some foods enhance our natural tranquilizers while some are natural stimulants. Both can be beneficial, but we need to strive forbalance.

Since the Bible is Gods inspired, revealed Word to mankind, its the first place we should look for overall guidance in dietary matters. God gave His people guidelines on what they should eat and what they should avoid, and provided them with an environment in which a healthy, balanced diet would come somewhatnaturally.

The ordinary food of the average Hebrew of Bible times was bread, olives, oil, buttermilk and cheese from their flocks; fruits and vegetables from their orchards and gardens; and meat on rare occasions (Fred Wight, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, 1987, p.43).

The Bible Almanac similarly states: Vegetable products formed a major portion of the diet When meat was used, it was often for the purpose of serving strangers or honored guests. Grains were an important part of the diet Fruits and fish were a favorite part of the diet (James Packer, Merrill Tenney and William White, editors, 1980, p.465).

Mental health professionals who emphasize sound nutrition, in connection with sound mental health, recommend balance from all the major food groups. This includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products and protein, as describedabove.

A person who is suffering from anxiety should limit intake of stimulantsincluding caffeine. One who is suffering from depression, if he or she chooses to drink alcoholic beverages, should do so in carefulmoderation.

A feast is made for laughter; and wine makes merry (Ecclesiastes 10:19 Ecclesiastes 10:19A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry: but money answers all things.American King James Version), but alcohol is also a depressor of the central nervous system. Excessive alcohol consumption will drive someone deeper into depression. Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise (Proverbs 20:1 Proverbs 20:1Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whoever is deceived thereby is not wise.American King James Version).

As the English poet John Donne wrote several centuries ago, No man is an island. This brief statement expresses a simple but vital truth: It is not healthy to be alone. In the beginning when God created Adam, He stated, It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him (Genesis 2:18 Genesis 2:18And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.American King James Version).

The truth is that we need other peopleespecially when we face various challenges or crises in life. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has not another to help him up.American King James Versiontells us: Two are better than one For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help himup.

God intended that we should share our experiences in life. It is especially vital that we have someone to share our burdens with when were laboring under the crushing weight of fear ordepression.

Without having someone with whom we can share our burdens, we may well think theyre insurmountable. But the truth is that no trial is too great if we have divine help and wholesome fellowship with other Christians and with God (Philippians 4:13 Philippians 4:13I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.American King James Version; 1 John 1:3 1 John 1:3That which we have seen and heard declare we to you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.American King James Version).

Other people can help us see the lighter side of life even when things look bleak. Humor is a valuable tool to provide balance to extreme thoughts and feelings and by nature neutralizes fear and depression. Its been said that laughter is the best medicine, and it is one of the vital antidotes for mental disorders. Depression is not just a mental affliction. It involves an imbalance of endorphinsthe good chemicalsin the brain, and humor helps boostendorphins.

The Bible long ago expressed the effectiveness of humor in providing relief for a depressed spirit: A merry heart does good, like medicine (Proverbs 17:22 Proverbs 17:22A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones.American King James Version).

Whenever Christians gather together, they can mutually edify one another by the synergistic effect compared to iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17 Proverbs 27:17Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.American King James Version). When all is said and done, the best guarantee of a long and healthy life may be the connections you have with other people (Nancy Shute, Prescription: Dont Be Lonely, U.S. News and World Report, Nov. 12,2008).

The most important thing you personally can do to combat and overcome fear and depression is to develop a vibrant relationship with God. Secular research and biblical instruction alike verify itseffectiveness.

At one time psychologists believed that faith in God detracted from psychological wellness, but research has shown otherwise. Modern psychologists predicted that religion would be exposed as a neurosis and outgrown; instead, religious commitment has been shown empirically to be a vital component of basic mental health (Patrick Glynn, God: The Evidence, 1999, pp.19-20).

Further, people of committed religious faith report much higher levels of personal happiness and psychological well-being than do their agnostic or atheistic counterparts (pp.61-62).

The Bible is essentially an owners manual on how to conduct our lives. If we apply it, it assures us of overall peace andhappiness.

Many of its passages assure us that a relationship with God will enrich our lives: Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble (Psalms 119:165 Psalms 119:165Great peace have they which love your law: and nothing shall offend them.American King James Version). God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7 2 Timothy 1:7For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.American King James Version). Love is one of the attributes of Gods Holy Spirit, and perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18 1 John 4:18There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.American King James Version).

Psalm 19 contains several statements about how the Word of God engenders a healthy mind. It converts the soul (Psalms 19:7 Psalms 19:7The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.American King James Version), rejoices the heart and enlightens the eyes (Psalms 19:8 Psalms 19:8The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.American King James Version).

Another element of a healthy relationship with God is prayer. Men and women of God in the Bible prayed. Jesus told His disciples to pray, and He taught them how (Matthew 6:9-13 Matthew 6:9-13 9 After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For your is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.American King James Version). Jesus prayed regularly to His Father and on at least one occasion prayed all night (Luke 6:12 Luke 6:12And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.American King James Version). He prayed in part because He experienced the same human emotions and temptations we all experience (Hebrews 4:15 Hebrews 4:15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.American King James Version).

The night before He died, Jesus was very anxious as He said, My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Matthew 26:38 Matthew 26:38Then said he to them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even to death: tarry you here, and watch with me.American King James Version, NIV). He countered this by praying earnestly three times to God (Matthew 26:39-44 Matthew 26:39-44 39 And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will. 40 And he comes to the disciples, and finds them asleep, and said to Peter, What, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. 42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, your will be done. 43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. 44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.American King James Version), and in so doing was strengthened to face the excruciating ordeal that awaited Him in the hours tocome.

Prayers can likewise strengthen us in times of fear and depression. Both David and the prophet Daniel faced threats to their lives that they overcame through prayer. Both men habitually prayed three times a day (Psalms 55:17 Psalms 55:17Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.American King James Version; Daniel 6:10 Daniel 6:10Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled on his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.American King James Version). The New Testament tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17 1 Thessalonians 5:17Pray without ceasing.American King James Version).

Still another tool in our kit for a healthy mind through a relationship with God is meditation. Meditation is focused thinking. No amount of meditating can magically erase the stress of losing a job or a loved one. But it can help people cope (Michelle Andrews, How to Beat Stress and Angst Through Meditation, U.S. News and World Report, Dec. 29,2008).

The apostle Paul urged Timothy to meditate on Gods Word: Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them (1 Timothy 4:13-15 1 Timothy 4:13-15 13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Neglect not the gift that is in you, which was given you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 15 Meditate on these things; give yourself wholly to them; that your profiting may appear to all.American King James Version). The author of Psalm 119 said that he meditated on Gods law (verse97).

Meditation enables us to replace unprofitable thoughts with healthy ones. If you find your life burdened with stresses and anxieties, the end of the day is a good time to overhaul your thinking. Dr. Hart advises, This is a good time to do a mental wash when you review anxieties that are cluttering your thinking and dump those that are not important (p.204).

Worry is a form of fear, and excessive worry can also morph into depression. Jesus knew that we are prone to worry, so He said to His disciples, Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on (Matthew 6:25 Matthew 6:25Therefore I say to you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?American King James Version). He added: For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:32-33 Matthew 6:32-33 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. 33 But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.American King James Version).

The ultimate solution to all of humanitys needs and problems is for Jesus Christ to return, for God to establish His Kingdom and for mankind to receive the gift of eternal life. But God has promised to provide the essentials of life now to those who seek Him, and His unbreakable promise is that those who turn to Him in repentance and obedience will eventually live forever in His everlastingKingdom.

May we all believe God when He tells us in Isaiah 41:10 Isaiah 41:10Fear you not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.American King James Version: Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous righthand.

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Fear and Depression: Conquer Them With These Crucial Keys

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