The BIG IDEA
Depression can be caused by many things, and the result is a sense of hopelessness. Hope is worth fighting for because God has a plan for our lives.
When we are feeling depressed a natural inclination might be to withdraw, or numb ourselves with alcohol, drugs or even activities where we ‘check out.’ Sometimes we try to pretend the feelings don’t exist by masking them with a smile. Responses where we don’t deal truthfully with how we are feeling can keep us from seeing where God wants to shine the light of truth in our lives and can keep us from experiencing his power. Not acknowledging our feelings of depression can also prevent us from getting medical care or professional counsel that might help identify underlying physical/biological causes.
Even if we don’t feel like it, we need to run towards God, and not away from Him. We can find hope in him. He is the source of truth about ourselves and our situation. His Word can help us discover some potential underlying factors in our feelings of depression. Through his Holy Spirit he can give us his presence and his comfort. He will give us wisdom for how to respond in our situation. The Holy Spirit also can give us supernatural strength to persevere, even in the midst of seemingly impossible circumstances or pain.
Depression is no joke and it’s not something that you can just wander out of. The enemy wants you to give up and just sit in your depression. Instead, we must choose to fight depression with the hope that God gives us in his Word.
- What I want the group to know and understand: There are many underlying causes to depression, and if they or friends suffer from depression they are not alone. Depression can have both biological/physical and spiritual roots. God is our source of hope.
- What I want the group to experience: A desire to fight for hope and perspective.
- How I want the group to respond: Be willing to look at underlying causes of depression and not just try to alleviate the symptoms. Make the choice to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to run towards God and not away from him if they are experiencing depression. Point friends who are struggling with depression towards help.
The SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TOPIC:
We all have friends who live with depression daily. Maybe we ourselves are struggling with depression. The causes can be complicated and difficult to identify. Scripture tells us that issues of sin or conflict can affect our emotions. Sometimes a feeling of hopelessness comes when something we have placed our hope in lets us down or when we see no end or way out of a situation. Sometimes physical causes related to diet, chemical imbalance, or fatigue contribute to depression. Counselors say there are many underlying causes of depression. Whatever the reason, we need to fight for truth and perspective. We have an enemy who wants to separate us from God and who comes to kill, steal and destroy. We need to choose to believe truth and not our feelings.
Edward Welch, a Christian counselor and author, describes it this way, “Even though I’ve been a believer for decades, I still live by how I feel. Depressed people encounter feelings and say, ‘why bother, there’s nothing good.’ These feelings demand a radical call to live by faith, rather than by sight. When a depressed person lives by sight, everything is dark.”
The idea box is a place where you can find some creative ideas for leading this study. You might find videos, activities, or great illustrations that really bring the main point home. The ideas come from small group leader like you, so if you have an idea that isn’t in there, click below to share it with the community!
Can you think of a poem or a song where people express feelings of depression?
One of the challenges of depression is that we often feel alone in it. Today we are going to look at some different passages from the Bible that show us we are not alone and give us perspective.
The first one is about a guy named Elijah. Elijah was a prophet of God. He had just boldly stood up to an evil king named Ahab and his wife Jezebel. Elijah took a stand, and called people to return to God. He challenged the false prophets of the false gods to a test and saw God reveal himself in a powerful way. Elijah had just had a huge victory. Let’s see what happened next. (1 Kings 18)
Read 1 Kings 19:1-18
1. What happened in this story? What was Elijah thinking/feeling? (Make a few observations from verses 3, 4, 10, 14)
Allow the group to discuss. He was afraid and running for his life. He was probably physically and emotionally tired. From the chapter before we know that he was probably coming down off a huge adrenalin rush (v.3). He told the Lord he was done and wanted to die (v.4). He had been serving the Lord, but the people weren’t responding. Maybe he felt a sense of failure, hopelessness or “what’s the point?” He told God he was the only prophet left and now there was a hit out on him (v.10, 14).
2. How did the Lord respond to Elijah?
He strengthened him. Gave him food and had him rest. (He met physical needs and allowed him to sleep. Later they talked.) He reminded Elijah of his power. He listened to what Elijah was feeling and spoke truth to him. He gave him others to stand with him.
3. How long did Elijah’s depression last?
We don’t know. We do know that from when he first told God he wanted to die, there were at least 40 days and 40 nights. And it seemed from the second and third conversations with God that he was still feeling the same despair after those 40 days. This shows us that there is not always a quick fix for depression.
4. The book of Psalms is a collection of poems and songs that express a variety of deep feelings. Many can give encouragement and perspective to people struggling to have hope in the midst of their circumstances.
Look at the following three psalms. What was the person experiencing? What did they do? What did God do?
Psalm 40:1-3 (He was in a pit, a miry bog – a stuck place in his life. Often depression feels like being stuck in a pit. He cried to the Lord and waited patiently. God heard his cry and brought him out of the pit and gave him reason to praise God.)
Psalm 32:1-5 (He said he was affected physically, he groaned, he had no energy, there was no relief, until he confessed his sin to God. When he acknowledged his sin and did not cover it up, God forgave him. Experiencing God’s forgiveness brought happiness. v.1-2)
Psalm 42:3-8 (His experience was that He couldn’t stop crying, day and night (v.3). His soul was cast down. His emotions were in turmoil (v.5). He was being taunted by his enemies (v.3). The writer of the psalm poured out his soul to God and he remembered how he experienced God in the past (v.4). He told himself that there would be hope in the future that he would again rejoice (v.5). He remembered that God loves him and is ever present both day and night. (v.8))
5. In the midst of his depression, Elijah believed that he was all alone. God showed him that not only was God still with him, but that there were other prophets who had not turned away from the one true God. Have you ever been upset about something only to find out later that what you were believing was not true? How did finding out the truth help you?
Allow the group to discuss. Leaders: This may be a hard one for students to find examples for. Start them off with an example from your own life.
6. When things around us or inside us feel dark, what are some truths we can cling to/place our hope in? Divide up the verses below and match them the truths.
- Trouble and suffering are normal and not a surprise to Jesus. He is greater than anything we will face.
- Jesus will never leave us or forsake us.
- God’s love and faithfulness are never dependent on us.
- Our sins can be forgiven.
- Even if we feel like our suffering is our fault we can still cry out to God.
- Someday all pain and suffering will be gone.
- Revelation 21:1-7
- 2 Timothy 2:13
- 1 John 1:9
- John 16:33
- Hebrews 13:5
- Psalm 107:10-22
7. If you were struggling with depression, how do you think the Lord would respond to you? What are some truths we have discussed that are helpful to remember?
Allow the group to discuss. Remind the group that the Lord sees your situation. He wants you to run to him and not away. Have the group share which of the previous verses are most meaningful to them.
8. How do you think the Lord would want you to respond to a friend who is struggling with depression? How can the Holy Spirit help you in this situation?
Allow the group to discuss. First of all pray. Some ideas include encouraging your friend to get help, being a listener, being present, encouraging your friend not to give up and avoiding making light of the situation. The Holy Spirit is a comforter, he provides wisdom, guidance, and can give you the words to say as you rely on him.
9. Write your own psalm (poem, spoken word, rap, or prayer) to God about a situation in your life. Express your emotions to him (whether anger, sadness, frustration, happiness, hopelessness, or excitement). Include truths about God and things you can choose to praise him for in the midst of your circumstances.
Have the group share if they want. If this activity is too difficult for your students. Have them pair up to do it, or even write one poem as a group.
If you’re depressed, tell someone. Tell a doctor, friend, family member or counselor. Please do not suffer alone, especially if you feel suicidal. If your depression is caused by a physical condition, a doctor can prescribe medication to relieve the problem.
FOR FURTHER STUDY:
Our review cards are an excellent way to review your past lessons with your students before each study. Not every lesson has one yet but if we have them, you can find them on the PRINT page. Check them out and use them each week to help your students grab hold of the truths in these studies.
What ideas do you have that could improve this study? Are there creative things you do to bring this topic home to your students? Please share with the community clicking the FEEDBACK button or leaving a comment below.