1 Depression: It’s Cause and Cure – Jonah 4: 1-11 If Jonah was alive today we would have quite a lot to say about his psychological state. We would diagnose him as depressed and probably suffering from a Post Traumatic Stress syndrome. His attitude and behaviour show some absolutely classic signs of what we today call depression. So as we look at Jonah tonight, we have a great opportunity to discover more about depression – how it is caused and its cure. Depression is one of the most significant problems of the 21st century. Depression hits every single one of us at different times. There is no human being who is immune from depression. No one is exempt. Male, female, young, old, children, teenagers, senior citizens, young adults – we all go through days of feeling more down or depressed or pessimistic to some measure. So, it's important to understand that there is a normal level of depression that we all face without exception. However for many depression goes beyond the normal depression cycles and it has become a settled unhappy way of life. For many it seems that there is no way out of this continual dark cloud hanging over your life. You just want to give up on everything and at times you feel like you want to give up on life itself. Many well known people have suffered from depression. Winston Churchill the famous British prime minister, often referred to depression as his 'black dog'. Florence Nightingale, nurse and health campaigner experienced a number of severe depressive episodes in her teens and early 20's. Then there is Britney Spears and some of her behavior is consistent with depression. A number of people in the Bible had depressive episodes at very least. Moses, Elijah – 2 of the greatest godliest men had severe struggles with depression. David the Psalmist clearly is very down in some of the Psalms – he seemed to face the giant of depression which was bigger than the giant Goliath. I have found that most teens and young adults suffer from enormous depression, often from trying to cope with life, peer pressure and trying to be part of the in crowd. For many it feels like all hell has broken loose, feelings of worthlessness and failure, feeling trapped, suicide thoughts start to fill the mind. In that time one of the worst things you can do is to stop going to church. Now I know you feel God has abandoned you and you keep looking for some sin which you may have committed which you feel has brought this on you as a punishment of sorts. You feel rejected and abandoned by God, and hurt. One Christian wrote this - I could not bear to be with all the shiny happy Christians at church when I was in such pain. My sleep was badly disturbed, and I was sometimes afraid to drive in case I fell asleep at the wheel. I was exhausted, couldn't concentrate on my work, and couldn't think of what to do. I wanted to be left alone in 2 the black hole I lived in. I was a mess; I felt that God had deserted me, that I was an irretrievable failure. There was no point in my doing anything, or being anywhere.” A Christian Doctor who suffered from depression wrote this about it: “How did I deal with my situation? Not very well when I look back on it. Like many professionals, and indeed Christians, I covered it up to those around me, for fear of losing face and making myself vulnerable. I kept telling myself I wasn’t supposed to feel this way. Every morning when I went out to work I put on my mask of ‘all is well in the world’. To everyone else I seemed my usual jolly self, but inside I felt thoroughly miserable and as soon as I got home again the mask came off and I could stop the pretence. I remember sitting in church on some occasions wanting to scream out ‘are you all as happy as you make out to be, or does anyone feel as bad as I do?’” Listen if you’re discouraged, despondent or even despairing tonight then I want you to listen carefully and see a biblical e.g. of a person who got depressed. What caused it and what is its cure. Let me say to you – There is real hope for the depressed person – did you hear that? There is real hope for you. Depression can be overcome, not only now, but it can be cleared completely out of our lives. Not because I’ve got a way of dealing with it, but because God has a way of dealing with it. That’s why there is hope. Depression can affect you in one or more of many ways. It can affect you physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. • PHYSICALLY You may go through things like sleeplessness, loss of energy – you just don’t feel like doing anything, loss of appetite, loss of sex drive, unkempt appearance and actual physical ailments like weakness & dizziness, tiredness, restlessness and very poor self image. • EMOTIONALLY It may affect you in sadness and gloominess, or you become weepy and crying, or great hostility towards someone, anger or irritability or anxiety, fear and worry or hopelessness, apathy or loss of affection. In my experience I have found that anxiety, aggression and depression are all married. If you have anxiety, you will have aggression and depression. • COGNITIVELY One’s thought patterns may become unstable and illogical. You just can’t think clearly. But you also need to understand depression usually has a strong chemical link. • CHEMICALLY Our beings are chemical and often depression is nothing more than a shortage of certain chemicals within your body system. And sometimes that can be treated naturally and sometimes we need to put certain chemicals back in, in the form of 3 NSAID’s (Non steroidal drugs) which are not habit forming and the body discharges the excesses. Our bodies and chemical shortages can be likened to a car that runs out of petrol – it needs some chemical to keep it going. So your body at times needs an input of further chemicals and I can only say to you that I am a great believer in a short period of time, of anti-depressants. There are others who may need a chemical moderation for life, and that is not a problem because anti depressants are not habit forming. Let me say -a mature, wise person should welcome the opportunity of finding chemical relief. • SPIRITUALLY You may feel down, apathetic towards God. You couldn’t care or else it may manifest itself on open hostility towards God, where you are really angry with God and against him for something you think he has done to you or not done for you. That was exactly Jonah’s case. Sometimes Christians unfortunately see their depression only in spiritual terms as though it is only a spiritual problem. But in no way is depression just some spiritual problem that Christians need to feel guilty about. When people come and see me and they are depressed their opening line goes something like this, ‘Pastor, I know I shouldn’t be feeling like this but…..’ And so in reality, they’re adding guilt to their depression. Depression can be overcome, not only for now, but it can be completely cleared out of our lives. Not because I have got some special unique way of dealing with it but God has a way of dealing with it and there is also great medical help available. So let’s look this evening at the big depression Jonah got into. But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 But the LORD replied, “Have you any right to be angry?” 5 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.” 4 10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” 1. The Cause of Jonah’s Depression v2,3,5,8 As you look at Jonah 4, I wonder if you can see what caused Jonah’s depression. He was certainly depressed – there is no doubt about that. Let’s look at some of the symptoms of depression that Jonah demonstrated. Look at v.3 “3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” I just want to die. I just want to get out of life – suicidal – ever felt like that? Another symptom is found in v.5 “5 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.” He runs away from everybody – Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city – He just goes and isolates himself. Have you felt like running away from everyone and everything? It’s often a symptom of depression. Another symptom is wanting to give up on everything - v.8 He says “It would be better for me to die than to live.” Do you see Jonah’s depression – he just wanted to run away from everyone and everything and give up on life itself and just die. That’s real depression. Do you notice what his depression follows? Do you remember it followed a high emotional period – that he was the instrument of one of the greatest revivals in history? I mean up to a million people could have come to know the Lord through his ministry in less than three days! How do we know it could be a million? Because it says there are about 120 000 children – who do not know their right hand from their left – that’s children under the age of 6, 7. And Jonah has been the human instrument through which this incredible, massive revival has taken place. He should be on top of cloud 9! But instead he’s so depressed he wants to die! So what are the causes of his depression? • Anger Look at Jonah 4:1 “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.” Here we find Jonah very upset and angry, troubled and displeased about what God had done. Anger was seething from Jonah. In v4 God asks “Have you any right to be angry?” Not only is there anger in Jonah but there is also a lot of self-pity. • Self-pity V2 “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to 5 live.” Self-pity – poor me Lord - I’m the one who looks stupid says Jonah – I’m the one who looks like a false prophet. And so there we find Jonah- full of anger and self-pity. That combination is the cause of his depression. The so called shame he feels because God didn’t do what he had prophesied and his anger and his self-pity is what has caused his depression. So Jonah is sitting out there under a tree or a vine and he’s having a pity party for himself – he’s having and enjoying his little gripe session – poor me, poor me he’s saying – I’m going to go and sulk. I want to say to you, in love, when your are depressed – avoid the pity parties if you can – they only make things worse – they only make you feel more sorry for yourself and make your depression worse. Avoid ‘gripe groups’ as well – when you get together with a few friends and you just gripe about everything. They don’t help – in fact they generally make things worse. Don’t pity yourself. In fact the bible calls self pity sin. (A support group can be very positive if it deals with the future, but if you feel more depressed after it, then is no good!) Tim La Haye, an eminent Christian psychologist has written a book called ‘How To Win Over Depression’ and in his book he has worked out what he calls a depression formula and this is the formula which causes depression according to Lay Haye. “Insult or injury or rejection + Anger x Self-pity = Depression” Let me illustrate – someone says ‘You’re a big nuisance and problem around this place’. That’s insult or injury or rejection. You start to get angry at that person for rejecting you – you start thinking ‘poor me’ – they don’t like me around here – poor, poor me and the next thing you’re in depression. Certainly this formula was applicable in Jonah’s case. Insult, injury to his pride – because what he preached was going to happen didn’t happen – he got very angry and then ran away from everything to pit himself and so the result was depression. You might feel No, that formula is far too simple, that doesn’t include my situation and I’ve got real depression and I can’t point to a definite reason. You may well be right. Perhaps if that was broadened fractionally by adding into that 1st section – Loss of something or someone meaningful + anger x self pity = Depression I think most situations would be covered. A loved one dies, now not everybody get depressed when a loved one dies – one mourns the loss but if that loved one was an old suffering person you don’t get angry as it were that there life has been cut short and you don’t pity yourself because they’re gone because in a sense it is a relief. Another example- a person looses their job – gets angry and self-pity = depression. A person losses their marriage or home or car – loss of a loved object + anger x selfpity = depression. If you look at your life tonight and go back to the start of depression – you may well see there was a time when there was a loss of something and anger followed. Maybe you did not think of it as anger as such, but really you are cross – why should it happen to me, what have I done to deserve it and depression follows. So let’s look again at its cause – loss of something special to you – it may be 6 your esteem, your status, your freedom, your physical fitness, your health, maybe a material thing, maybe a loved one – You got angry about it – pitied yourself and depression has resulted. Do you see what effects this depression had on Jonah – he gave up his involvement in God’s work? He went and sat on the sidelines and watched. He started to argue and moan at God. God why this – I’m angry with you. But let us move on and see the Cure. 2. The Cure of Depression We’re not told whether Jonah got over his depression or not but certainly part of what was needed to cure him from his depression did happen. • Understand if possible the cause of the problem. He saw the reason for what had happened. He saw the reason why he had lost some of his self-esteem. God explained things to him from his perspective. God explained to Jonah why he had done what he had done in saving the Ninevites. God arranged a situation to teach Jonah this during his depression. God provided a vine which grew very fast and gave Jonah some shade to sit under while he had his pity party and obviously Jonah was very happy about this shade, But then God provided a worm which ate the roots so it died and then God sent a scorching wind and so the sun blazed down on Jonah so hard. All the more he wanted to die. He got angrier about what was happening to him. He had lost something else meaningful to him – the vine to give shade, he got angrier and more self-pity, which led to a deeper depression, so he just wants all the more to die. But now you say ‘Was God playing games with Jonah?’ No not at all (Sometimes people who are depressed think God is playing games with them). No not at all – he was doing it to teach Jonah a lesson – a lesson about his concern for the Ninevites. He said Jonah I’ll arrange a situation in your depression so you can understand why I did what I did. God said, ‘Jonah you’re concerned about this vine that was destroyed. In the same way Jonah I, God, am concerned about the Ninevites.’ God was saying, ‘Jonah you need to change your thinking patterns – instead of thinking about your lost self esteem you need to rethink the situation from another perspective – see my side’. My friend, that is the 1st very important critical step in the cure of depression. • Change your thinking patterns and attitude. There is a sense in which depression begins in your thoughts. You’re going to have to change your thoughts and attitudes towards the person or thing causing your depression. Don’t keep blaming them or the situation. Accept it. As long as you continue to feel done in or bitter towards that person or thing or action you’ll not make any significant improvement out of your depression. Change your thoughts about the situation – maybe an understanding of why it occurred, if there is an 7 explanation, will help. Unfortunately there are not explanations for everything in life, but if there is get it and understand it – change your thoughts and attitudes about it. The Bible exhorts us to fix our thoughts in Jesus, not your situation. My friend, listen to me, if you want help, you have got to change your attitude to what caused the 1st loss situation- change your thoughts about that, If you keep on thinking bitter sore thoughts you’ll not get out of your depression. How do you do that? As I have already said get the facts if possible – understand if possible. If you can’t get these facts start to really pray about your attitude and thoughts. • 2 Pray about it. He prayed to the LORD. Here Jonah does the right – he prays about it. He tells God of his anger and disappointment. of all pray with someone else about it – go to someone else and pray it over. Now I know that prayer doesn’t come easy when you are depressed but it is important that you seek to worship and pray when you are really down. Michael Card has written a prayer for “ Ah God! Behold my grief and care. Willingly would I serve you with a glad and cheerful countenance, but I cannot do it. However much I fight and struggle against my sadness, I am weak because of this sore conflict. Help me in my weakness O Mighty God! And give me your Holy Spirit to refresh and comfort me in my sorrow. Amid all my fears and grief's I know that nothing can really part me from You; neither things present, nor things to come, neither trial, nor fear, nor pain. So Lord, I will still trust in your Grace. You will not send me away unheard. Sooner or later you will lift this burden from my heart, and put a new song in my lips; and I will praise your goodness and thank and serve you here and for evermore – Amen.” If you can't understand the cause or change your thoughts, then Turn to God as a practical starting point. There are also lots of studies that show there is a connection between intercessory prayer & better health, including depression. No matter the situation pray about it. • Repent of that Anger and self-pity The bible calls anger and self-pity sin. Turnaround from it. Stop being angry, stop pitying yourself. Stop focusing on yourself – sometimes too much time is spent thinking about self. Take yourself in hand – see that those are wrong. Confess to God perhaps you don’t even feel like NOT being angry. Ask him to help you give up that anger and self-pity. Ask God for victory. Thank him for it. Repent – change your mind and attitude about anger and self-pity. It’s certainly not meant to be part of the Christian life. Looking at the formula again: 8 Change thoughts on 1st part (i.e. loss) + repent of anger & self pity = removal of depression. As I conclude let me say that this book of Jonah shows us that God is compassionate and merciful. God may have so ordered your circumstances to teach you a lesson like he did for Jonah – don’t blame God. God has a way of stopping us in our tracks. When things are going wrong – don’t get anger with God – stop and say God what are you trying to teach me in this situation? My friend even if you are at fault – turn to God – if you’re in distress turn to Him – look to him for a way out and in doing that come before him – repentantly. Acknowledge where you’ve been wrong – whether your action or not. If you are not a Christian you need to turn to God for the 1st time to say come into my life, change me. Some time ago we had a depression support group and we can do that again.