In order to identify, face and work through the root causes of depression and its associated issues, it is important that someone suffering from depression sees a trained Christian counselor or Christian professional therapist.
I struggled daily with many overwhelming, destructive fears when I was severely depressed. I was reluctant to share these fears with anyone I knew because I was embarrassed by them, was worried what my family or friends would think of me, and I also feared that if I shared those fears with them, the fears would destroy their lives as well.
Painfully aware that my life was a complete mess, I finally admitted that I needed help from a trained counselor, someone impartial with whom I could share what I was going through and confide in without fearing they would judge me or be adversely affected by the things I feared. They would also be able to give me practical counsel and help in determining what was wrong with me and assist in my recovery.
So when I was ten weeks into severe depression I went to see a local minister to receive counseling. Although I truly appreciate the time he gave me, he saw me just the once and sent me on my way. Though he gave good advice, this brief visit provided only minimal comfort and did not effectively address the traumas that haunted me. This is what I wrote in my diary that day. 13th March 1990 – Well, the day finally came where I saw the pastor. I was hoping for some huge touch from God, such as healing, or deliverance from oppression or possession, but no received such easy answer. As we can see, I was still under the mistaken impression that I could find an ‘instant’ solution to depression.
That the pastor saw me only once brings me to my next point – that we need wisdom in choosing the right counselor/therapist, as some counselors lack the knowledge and experience necessary to help someone suffering from depression. Some ministers think a one-off counseling/prayer session is sufficient, they do not realize that counseling needs to be continued for several months if not years, and on a regular basis. Some counselors make the error of using shock tactics in a futile attempt to try to force someone to pull themselves out of depression, which only places the depressed person under more pressure and fear.
If the counselor we are seeing is not able to help us, it may be necessary to seek another more experienced one. And that is exactly what I did. Two weeks later I went to see another counselor, a very compassionate lady and trained counselor who had experienced depression herself when incapacitated by a near-terminal illness. On 19th March 1990 I wrote – I’m a complete emotional and spiritual mess and I need help, dear Jesus, so I’ll be seeing a counselor in ten days, but I feel really guilty for taking up her time. I don’t want to impose on her. It is normal to be reluctant about seeing a counselor, but we must not let this deter us.
The counselor counseled me once a month for several months. She sympathised with what I was going through, offered practical advice, and through prayer, God’s Word, and her own experiences, helped me to face and deal with several deep emotional wounds and flawed thought processes.
Below are some excerpts from my diary about those counseling sessions.
The counselor said that depression is the worse ailment that we can have, because it affects all areas of our lives: mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. We make the mistake of thinking that because our spiritual life is affected, the cause must be spiritual. But this is incorrect. Depression touches every part of us, which means it touches us spiritually too.
The counselor listed the symptoms of depression, which described my condition perfectly. These included having no hope, being unable to see the future, you cannot ever see yourself getting beyond this current stage, you look at everyone else and wish you were any one of them instead of yourself.
She said that I should be on anti-depressants to help me, and that they will start to work after about ten days.
When I found the courage to share some of my irrational fears with the counselor, she gently helped me to see those fearful thoughts from another perspective – the true perspective.
As a result of her counseling, I was eventually set free from one of the greatest bondage of my life. For much of my life my inner peace had disappeared when about to make a major life decision, and only returned when I gave up all plans to make that change. Because of this, and due to the fact that as a child I had been taught that God would take away His peace to guide me or test me, I had reached the mistaken conclusion that God was actually removing my peace to guide me. The truth was that I had been suffering from panic attacks that were triggered by the stress of making those decisions. It was these panic attacks that had been robbing me of my inner peace, not God at all.
The counselor taught me that God gives us peace. Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled.” John 14:27 It does not say “My lack of peace I give to guide you.” We need to make our decisions prayerfully with wisdom based on God’s Word – and do so while dwelling in His peace. She reminded me that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
It was so ingrained in my thinking that panic attacks were God guiding me that I felt guilty and disobedient for no longer listening to them or doing what they demanded, even though I now knew that they were not from God. To deal with this irrational fear the counselor taught me to pray, “What ever Your will is for my life, Lord, please bring it about - even without my obedience or cooperation. You are God; You are greater than me or the circumstances, so You are able to bring about Your will regardless.”
In another session, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the counselor discerned spirits of fear and terror at work in my life. She took authority over these and broke them in the name of Jesus. ‘The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.’ 2 Corinthians 10:4. Note that this was only the beginning of being set free from fear and terror - I still needed to retrain my thought processes away from the habit of fearful thinking. Changing our thinking until it is in line with God’s Word is a slow but very necessary process. ‘We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 10:5.
During our counseling sessions, the counselor also took me back to some of my childhood traumas. We invited Jesus to join us as we recalled those events. This is what I wrote in my diary after one of these sessions:
8th August 1990 - It was really beautiful to see how Jesus healed me of my past hurts. On that occasion when I was seven, and hated and hit myself, the counselor took me back to that time, and told me to look to Jesus and see how He responded. Jesus told me that He accepted me as I was, and gave me a great big hug, and told me that He loved me, and that I did not need to react that way and punish myself, and that he understood. Jesus’ touch brought deep inner healing. Now when I remember that event, I see Jesus standing there, reaching out to and comforting me, instead of the deep pain that had previously been associated with it.
In August 1990 I read the book “Self Help for Your Nerves” by Dr Claire Weekes. From there, recovery from depression was so rapid that at the end of October, the counselor said I no longer required counseling. Although I was still suffering from many of depression’s side effects, she said it was time to get back into things, and encouraged me to join a home group and to return to active service in the church.
This is what I wrote in my diary following that final counseling session.
The counselor said I am to pray every morning:
“Lord, this is the day that you have made,
You have put me where I am in it,
therefore fulfill your created purpose for me in this day.”
Every night I am to pray,
“I thank you Lord, I don't understand - but I believe.”
The counselor said that to be in deep surrender to God
means to never look back
with regret upon the past,
nor forward to what I want to be in the future –
comparing ourselves to what we used to be,
or what we want to be,
is a hindrance for resting in God's will.
Each day I am to say:
“I am content to be who You made me to be, today.
I'm content to be where You put me today,
and I'm content to be how You made me to be today.”
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