Winter is a season when my bipolar depression heads downward. As a pastor these spiritual exercises help to offset the damage depression has on my spiritual life.
The first thing to remember is that depression is a disease that effects body, mind, and soul.
How does depression affect our spiritual life? Depression is a liar. It induces false guilt. False guilt locks us into lies that cause us to spiral downward. It traps us into thoughts of worthlessness. And worst of all leaves us feeling hopeless. Depression can be devastating to our spiritual lives.
Fortunately, we have spiritual resources as we battle depression.
First, the Bible teaches that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. Caring for our physical bodies is very much a spiritual activity. Physical exercise, a healthy diet, and rest are spiritual.
“For physical training is of some value…” 1 Tim 4:8 Exercise can have an immediate effect on our mood. Researchers say that a physical workout has an antidepressant effect by increasing the flow of endorphins and stimulating norepinephrine,
We are the food we eat. Research has shown that microorganisms of the “gut” produce neuroactive substances as serotonin. One piece of research found that consuming 7-9 servings of vegetables a day made participants have a lighter mood.
Medicine is another way of caring for our bodies. When chemicals in our brain are not functioning correctly medicine may be a way of balancing hormones. Medicine is a way of caring for our bodies.
Building community is a spiritual activity. The Bible advises us, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2
Community happens when a group of safe people share heart to heart, helping each other carry burdens. From the beginning we were wired to need other people.
A small group of like minded spiritual seekers offer spiritual strength. Support groups like AA or NA haves proven the power a healing community can have.
“Bearing each other burdens” is healing.
As a pastor I have often thought that the church could learn from support group. Worship gatherings might be more effective if we began, “Hi. My name is Rick and I am a sinner.”
Share with safe people. We need to remember that many people are not safe Use discernment in sharing.
Spiritual reading strengthens our spirit. Depression weighs us down with negative thoughts, so reading should provide positive input. Cognitive therapy is a secular way of managing the lies of depression. As part of my spiritual practices, meditating on the promises and prayers in the Bible helps me when my thinking is distorted. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2
Prayer goes hand in hand with spiritual reading. With our feelings being upended by depression we may not “feel” that praying is doing any good. But regardless of how we feel God is with us. He hears us.
There are many ways to pray. Quiet silent prayer is one. Reading famous written prayers and making them your own is another way to pray when you are at a loss of what to say. Praying the Lord’s prayer is a model prayer Christians have used for 2,000 years.
Psalms in the Hebrew Bible is filled with prayer and praise. The Psalms run through the gamet of emotions and you will identify with some hard to express feelings.
Contemplative, or listening prayer, brought great relief to me during my deepest depressive times. In those times it was as though God had wrapped me in His love.
There are other spiritual exercises that are helpful. Keeping a gratitude journal. Offering praise music to God. Or if you are not able to praise, listen to praise music on your audio devices. Volunteering helps fight depression.
For me this season has been better than other winters. I am grateful.
My wish for you, my reader, that some of these thoughts will be helpful.
May your seasons of depression become seasons of light.