Recently I was reading about a man who suffered severe depression. He had finished a very difficult project, which left him unpopular with the powers that be. Consequently, he was forced to leave his former location and was feeling terribly alone, sorrowful, and, frankly, quite fed up with life.
He believed in God, so he turned to Him in prayer. He didn't ask for deliverance; perhaps he felt he had endured all he could. So instead he prayed, "O Lord, take away my life." I Kings 19:4. But he soon learned that God doesn't take away life; rather He "giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; ... For we are also his offspring." Acts 17:25, 28.
God answered the man's prayer, but not in the way he'd asked. He inspired the man to get up and get on with his life. From this encounter with God, he learned that he had never really been alone, that there were lots of other people committed to the same cause he was. As he followed God, his human needs were met.
The man's name is Elijah, and in the Biblical account of his life we find invaluable clues for combating depression.
We might say that depression, looked at from a spiritual standpoint, is the argument that we are material beings, cut off from God, from good. Instead of seeing ourselves as we really are—completely spiritual, the expression of God—we may feel trapped by material conditions. These feelings may be the result of changes in human circumstances, such as our environment, interpersonal relations, employment, or body chemistry. But the root problem is the belief that we are material beings instead of God's perfect spiritual offspring. Under the influence of depression, we may feel fear, selfishness, lethargy, or sorrow. To attribute these qualities to man, God's likeness, however, is like suggesting that the sun's rays can begin to express cold and darkness.
God's child cannot be separated from Him, and so life cannot be dismal and stagnant.
The real nature of man and his relationship to God could not possibly include separation or mortality. As Mrs. Eddy explains in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health, "God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis." Science and Health, p. 258. This spiritual assessment is quite the reverse of the depressed mortal that we may think we are when we are viewing ourselves as material.
In the creation narratives of Genesis, the Bible helps us differentiate between a material and a spiritual assessment of life. In speaking of these narratives, Science and Health points out: "Spirit names and blesses all. Without natures particularly defined, objects and subjects would be obscure, and creation would be full of nameless offspring,—wanderers from the parent Mind, strangers in a tangled wilderness." Ibid., p. 507.
That last part describes what depression can feel like. We seem to wander around separate from God, unsure of who we are or why we exist. But that's not where we can leave this profound question. The Bible tells us that man is God's offspring, made in His divine likeness. God's qualities constitute our spiritual identity. And we are indispensable to God because we are His expression.
A totally material view of man presents something quite different, of course. It would define man as material, sinful— assert that he can have an identity unlike God's. Thus he's supposed to be capable of expressing and experiencing things God would never ordain for His offspring.
Human life can become quite miserable lived under this burden. Material existence, with its fickle hopes and diminishing resources, can be depressing!
Our depression, though, does not occur because God's creation has come to include anything less than the "all" that "Spirit names and blesses." It happens because we are believing that God's expression of Himself—His child—can be depressed, separated from Him, and consequently that life can be dismal, hopeless, stagnant.
We may feel at a distinct disadvantage if we honestly can't say we believe in or feel the presence of God in the midst of depression. But divine Love initiates in us the recognition of His existence and presence; and this ensures our response.
Christ, as God's divine message to us, floods our consciousness continually with the assurance that we can't be separated from God, from Life. Through Christ, God assures us that we really are His likeness, as the Bible affirms that we are.
God's message to us cannot be truly resisted, because it carries with it the power necessary to dissolve whatever would inhibit our realizing its radiant presence in consciousness and feeling its influence in our lives.
My own battle with depression came to a climax one evening when I decided with spiritual conviction that I would not accept the relegation of my life to any evil, including emotional depression. I knew God couldn't express sorrow, helplessness, and lethargy through me. These are not part of the divine nature, and therefore, as His likeness, I could not express them either. At that moment I wasn't too sure what was part of that nature, what He was expressing through me. But my willingness to refute what I knew wasn't spiritually true left my thought receptive to what was.
Refutation of what wasn't true was not an act of human will, for at that moment I felt humanly powerless. It had to have been impelled by Christ, Truth. Christ was already present in consciousness, showing me the opposite of the lie—the joy, strength, and vitality that God expresses through man. And Christ impelled my awakening to its precious message!
My conviction of man's oneness with God evidenced a Christ-impelled unwillingness to consent to depression—to a limited, material assessment of life or identity. Depression does not have an identity—mine or anyone else's. Divine expression, not depression, constitutes the identity of man.
We all have the wherewithal to choose expression over depression, for we each have God's Christ in consciousness. And we have Jesus' exemplification of Christ, whereby humanity has actually seen the divine nature lived in the world.
As we heed the Christ more and more consistently, we leave behind the darkness of depression for the joy of being God's expression.