Every night when I got into bed, I could only think of everything I ever did wrong. The shame was overwhelming. I had the ability to turn anything and everything into a moral issue and it would make me so sick that I’d feel like I’d have to confess it or die. But over the course of many years, I managed to get a hold on this problem. I started to recognize the things that actually needed to be confessed versus the things that the enemy was trying to shame me with.
I’ve come across other people who have experienced similar problems. One of the most devious ways I’ve seen the enemy work is by telling Christians who struggle with depression that they’re not really Christians, because if they were they would be joyful. How much more manipulative could the enemy be? In order to sink and lock us into our depression, he makes us guilty for not feeling happy which creates a never-ending loop of brokenness and shame.
If you’ve bought into that lie, I’m telling you now it’s a trap. Tell it to shut up and go back to Hell.
Outside of ignoring the manipulative voices that whispered their dark thoughts to me, I learned to battle depression with joy. I know people say it’s bad to fall asleep with the TV on, but for me it was a spiritual discipline. Growing up I often passed out on the couch watching cartoons or in my room while blasting some P.O.D. It’s a habit I practice to this day, even though I rarely need it now.
I found that my cartoons were funny enough to keep my brain from entertaining the depression that a dark room could easily bring. It kept me laughing until I was ready to pass out and made my sleep all the more enjoyable. In fact, in college, few things gave me more happiness and comfort than waking up to find that the TV was still on with the DVD menu of the Simpsons on loop. In the middle of the night I found that I wasn’t alone or sad because humor was lighting up the room.
Apparently I’m not the only person to stumble across this trick. In his book, This is Awkward, Sammy Rhodes tells a story of a friend of his who went to a pastor to find help in battling depression. He expected the pastor to give him a bunch of Jesus-ey answers: “Pray more, read your Bible more, etc,” but what he found instead was a pastor who had struggled with the same problem. He instructed him to buy the entire series of Seinfeld and watch it every night. “One of the best and simplest ways to fight depression is with humor,” says Rhodes.
Maybe there’s something to this “beating depression with joy” thing after all. But don’t get sad if it takes some time to figure it out. Remember, joy is a fruit of the Spirit and fruit does not grow to fullness overnight.
This is an adapted excerpt from my book, A Taste of Jesus.
Rhodes, Sammy. This Is Awkward: How Life’s Uncomfortable Moments Open the Door to Intimacy and Connection. Nashville, TN, Nelson Books, 2016. p. 80.