We have recently discussed the fallacies of psychology and have shown how depression and other emotional problems are not diseases. So, if depression is not a physical ailment, what is it and more importantly is there a way to overcome it?
The Bible speaks much about the peace of God. In fact, He is specifically called the “God of peace” 5 times in the New Testament. The word peace, or a derivative thereof, can be found 269 times in the NIV. With the exception of James and 1 John every other epistle in the New Testament, either begins or ends (and sometimes both) with a greeting of peace from God. For example:
Philem 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
2 John 3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, will be with us in truth and love.
Peace was not just something these writers “wished” or “hoped” their brothers in Christ would have. This was something they knew God had promised to those that love Him. We are not simply asked to “try” to have peace. No, we are taught that peace is a fruit of the Spirit and as such, should be something that is evident in the life of those who walk in the Spirit. As a tree produces fruit, the Spirit produces fruit in our lives. One part of that fruit is peace.
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Note that not only is peace a fruit of the Spirit, so is joy. As we have mentioned in another article, the fruit of the Spirit is in conflict with what the world calls clinical depression. Some try to excuse this away and claim to have the joy of the Lord while at the same time say they are ‘clinically’ depressed. This is simply not possible. We either live by the Spirit or the flesh; we cannot choose both.
Gal 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law…25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
There is no question as to whether or not it is possible for a believer to experience peace, the Bible is clear that peace comes from God and is offered to all who truly trust Him. Paul calls this the peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). God not only gives peace, He gives us a peace that is so great the human mind cannot comprehend it! So how do we find this peace?
Of course the first step is a person must be saved. This step is vital and must not be overlooked, even by those who believe they are already saved. Everyone who has been suffering from depression should first and foremost examine they’re faith. Faith comes by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, the one taught about in Scripture. You must ask, do I believe in the Jesus the Bible talks about or do I believe in a Jesus taught by man? These could be two different people. Just because you believe in someone “named” Jesus does not mean you truly know the Jesus written about in God’s Word. If you do not know the Bible very well or have never read the Bible for yourself, you may want to examine just who or what you are trusting in. The Jesus of the Bible offers real peace, and we must believe Him and take Him at His Word. This brings us to the next step. We must read and study God’s Word.
If we have been ‘saved’ by the Lord Jesus Christ, then we should desire to learn more about Him. To do that, we must turn to God’s Word. While we talk to God in prayer, He talks to us through His Word. The Bible tells us that through the knowledge of Christ we have everything we need for life and godliness! Everything!
2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Scriptures can thoroughly equip us. We need nothing else, but it cannot equip us if we do not read it. If we do not spend time learning about God, listening to the instructions He has given us for life, we are not going to experience the peace that He has promised. We must read and study His Word regularly.
Finally, we must put into practice what the Scriptures say. While this sounds simple, it seems to be a major struggle among many Christians. They believe in the Lord, they read God’s Word, but they never actually do what it says. The Bible speaks about this very thing.
Phil 4:9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
The Bible actually tells us how to have peace, but we have to do what it says to experience it. I think the reason why many readers miss this instruction is because they do not realize the impact our thinking has on our emotions and behavior. The Bible actually speaks quite often about what our minds should be focused on and it does tell us what kinds of things we should be ‘thinking’ about. This often gets overlooked; especially by those who have already bought into the lie that depression, anxiety and other behavioral issues are diseases. If you read the Bible assuming that it cannot help you in those areas, you will miss the vital passages that are there to do just that thing.
Our thinking does affect our moods, attitude, and behavior. Our emotions are strongly tied to our minds - to what we think. Our emotions cannot determine on their own what is or is not factual; they simply react blindly to the thoughts in our heads. This is why we react so strongly to movies. A good movie can make us frightened, sad, happy, angry, etc. As our minds are focused on the script and the scenes rolling before our eyes, our emotions truly feel these things. Our emotions do not care that we have not just fallen in love or off a cliff, they react as if we have.
Just as our emotions can be stirred up by a movie, they also react as strongly to any thought process that goes through our heads. The old adage, ‘garbage in, garbage out’ is actually a profound and Scripturally sound statement. If your mind is full of garbage, your emotions and mental state will suffer. The Bible tells us specifically to think on certain things. We are told to keep our minds on Christ. If we do not follow these instructions we will not experience true peace. While harboring one bad thought does not generally cause depression, years of poor thinking habits can lead one to a depressed state. In the same way, consistently following the Biblical mandate to renew our minds in Christ will lead us to the peace that He has promised.
The Bible says we will be able to know God’s will when we are transformed by the renewing of our mind.
Rom 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Our mind is not our brain, it is not merely tissue in which chemicals react and interact to cause us to experience certain behavior. God, we know is Spirit (not flesh and blood) and He has a mind.
1 Cor 2:16-3:1 "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
As Christians we are now instructed to renew our minds and have the mind of Christ. Medication will not help you to renew your mind; this has to be done by Jesus. Remember earlier when we said that the Bible had all that we needed to equip us? It does, and it specifically tells us that the Word will judge our thoughts and attitudes. Those are areas that can be controlled and they are addressed in the Scripture.
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
The Word of God judges our thoughts and attitudes because they are something that we can control. It is not only possible to do so; we are instructed to do so. Notice the link here between the thoughts and attitudes. He talks as if they are both something that need to be addressed. This goes along with what we were saying earlier, our thoughts affect our attitudes.
The Bible then tells us how to adjust them. We are told to fix our thoughts on Christ. The Word of God that judges our hearts is also that which can adjust our thinking and attitudes. If we spend time in God’s Word, we are not only finding the instructions to help us overcome, we are actually following those instructions by doing so.
Col 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Heb 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.
We are told to think about Christ and things pertaining to Him. We are not to be focused on the things of this world. As we read and study God’s Word our mind is focused on Him and the things above.
Is this really enough to overcome? Will just thinking about Jesus really give us peace? The answer is yes, if you actually do this. As we mentioned, we must put into practice what we have learned. In order to do that we must read and study God’s Word regularly. The only way to think on the things of the Lord is to be in His Word. There is no replacement for that. In order to think on the things of Christ we must know about them. The Word of God is the only place we can learn from.
This is also something that will never end. In order to keep our minds on Christ we must continually study and be in God’s Word. Putting this into practice cannot be accomplished through quick and easy rituals. While prayer is an important part of our fellowship with the Lord, talking to Him in prayer instead of listening to Him by reading His Word will not give you peace. Prayer alone will not help you. While listening to and learning from other godly men and women can be helpful and important, reading about the Bible cannot replace reading the Bible for ones self. Attending church can be beneficial but it alone will not offer peace. Memorizing the Word is a good thing, but randomly quoting Scriptures without studying the context is not enough. One-minute or even 10 minute daily devotionals cannot replace reading God’s Word in context, by yourself, regularly. While it often sounds too simple, it is not that easy. It requires dedication and commitment.
The world has embedded itself within the church and has caused much confusion in this area. We buy “what would Jesus do” bracelets, wear Christian t-shirts, put “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper stickers on our car and somehow think this puts our mind on Christ. Thinking about what we think Jesus would do is not following the Biblical mandate to think on Christ. Slogans involving words about Jesus will not bring us peace. Forwarding emails that are supposedly about God, but in reality are merely written by men (who know little or nothing about Him) is not thinking on things above.
While none of these things in and of themselves are necessarily bad (though strong objections might be made for some) nothing, I repeat, nothing can replace being in God’s Holy Word. Philippians has to be my favorite book in the Bible because it showed me how to experience the peace of God. This book helped transform my mind by showing me the things to think on. When I read these characteristics I know there is nothing worldly that fits this description. The things to think about have to be Godly, and His Word reveals these things to us. We read in this book how Paul instructs us to have that unfathomable peace.
Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
What are your thoughts focused on most of the day? Really examine your thought life over the next few weeks. How much time is spent in Bible study and how much is spent in front of the television or computer? I find that even watching the news for extended periods of time can cause me to have bad thoughts and feelings. When you hear of all the wrong going on in the world all day long, it gets to you after awhile. What about other things, how much of the day do you spend worrying over problems, other people, or yourself? These thoughts can cause us to feel angry, bitter, jealous, fear, envy, etc. Every time you have a thought that causes a sinful attitude ask yourself, does that thought live up the criteria in this passage? When you notice that you are thinking on things that are not excellent and praiseworthy, change what you are thinking about. Stop and spend time in God’s Word. Put your thoughts on the things that Paul teaches; fix your thoughts on Jesus. I hope to address this more thoroughly in a future article, for I want people to realize how to truly apply these passages to their lives. It works, it truly does.
Rom 8:5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.
Consider these passages and prayerfully read, study and meditate on God’s Word. It is our prayer that you spend more time in God’s Word than you do even at our website. Do not let anything replace His Word in your life, for it and it alone has all you need for life.
Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.