Beating the Christmas Blues


For many people Christmas is not “merry” at all, but lonely, sad and often painful. For them, the carols, parties and greetings have lost their meaning. Whether attributed to SAD (seasonal affective disorder), difficult circumstances or relational problems, about 10% of Americans struggle with some degree of depression. Many others are simply discouraged.

There is a distinction between depression and discouragement. We all get discouraged from time to time by allowing negative thoughts to dominate our attitudes and actions. Depression, however, goes deeper and can be brought on by physical causes. It’s also a condition of the soul whereby people become overwhelmed in a prison of hopelessness or despair.

Each of these in their own way carry a degree of responsibility. This is why discouragement is disobedience to oft-repeated command in the Bible, “do not be discouraged.” Depression, in my view, is a result of living in a broken world but may not be sinful in itself.

Some of history’s greatest fell victim to this disease of the soul, i.e., Lincoln, Spurgeon, and King David. Psalm 42 clearly describes David’s struggle with depression: “My tears have been my food day and soul, why are you cast down within me?...[God] why have you forgotten me, why must I go mourning?...As with a deadly wound in my bones….” Depression affected his sleep, his diet, and robbed him of any sense of wellbeing.

While I am not a licensed psychologist, 40-plus years of ministry have taught me a few things about how to fight depression. I recall a time in my life when a sense of hopelessness engulfed me, and I entered that dark night of the soul. Looking back on that experience, I now believe it was a spiritual attack. For me, the key out of the dungeon was praise. I still believe offering praise to God, singing, shouting and rejoicing in the Lord, is one of the best ways to combat depression.

If you’re one of the 10%, if you’re fighting a battle with depression or just plain discouraged, here are a few more things that will also serve to set you free:

Spending time in God’s Word and prayer.

Get into the Psalms and meditate on the words and then turn them into prayers. “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for us.” (1 Peter 5:7) Nothing will serve to drive out the negative voices and destructive thoughts like the truth of Scripture. “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (Psalm 9:9)

Repenting of sin

It’s not uncommon for deep-seated feelings of guilt to erupt into depression. As I mentioned, depression may not be sinful in and of itself, but unconfessed sin can lead to bitterness, resenting, and alienation of affection. Take the time to examine your heart and determine not to allow such feelings to go unaddressed. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

Finding community

If you are fighting discouragement or depression, know that you are not alone. You are not dealing with something that is not “common to man.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) God created us as relational creatures with a need for community. This is why you need the church. We are called to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

Getting a physical examination

If these things prove to be no help, you should consult with your physician and get a physical exam. It is well documented that disorders of thyroid, pancreas, or other hormone producing glands can impact our moods and cause destructive thoughts. The Lord has given us the medical knowledge to deal with chemical imbalances in our bodies and this should remain an option for you, especially if you have no idea what is causing your depression.

Finally, as believers, part of what it means to live by faith is to live in hope. Biblical faith is trusting God with your past, present, and future. It’s remembering your sins have been forgiven, that the Lord will never leave you or forsake you in the present, and that he has promised you a future home with him in heaven. Living in hope means we truly believe the best is yet to come.

If you’re fighting a battle with depression or discouragement, I offer a few things that can serve to set you free