Even women of God feel sad and overwhelmed at times, especially when they have numerous daily tasks to complete, including playing a supporting role to their spouse in pastoral ministry and caring for little ones. So when circumstances seem insurmountable, whom do we trust for help and counsel? Sadly, after years of suppressing feelings of sadness and loneliness, many keep silent and fall into depression. We master hiding behind a mask so well that we become experts in pretending that everything is fine, even in the company of those who know and love us.
The symptoms of depression creep in, often unnoticed, because they are common feelings that any woman can relate to, and we shun the idea that a woman of God may
actually be suffering from depression. David, a man after God’s own heart, experienced his share of depressing moments. For years he was in exile hiding from Saul, who or when he would take his rightful place as king of Israel, David sought solace in writing psalms that described his feelings. The thought of being caught tormented him day and night, and in his moments of affliction he wrote psalms, such as Psalm 102:7, 11, where he describes himself as a “sparrow alone on the housetop” and his days “like a shadow that lengthens” (NKJV).
Because of the high demands of pastoral ministry, many wives may become depressed by the specific situations in their lives, and once these are resolved they begin to feel “normal” again. Unfortunately, others don’t get over their traumatic events that easily. People in such situations need to seek help.
Situational Depression is a short-term form of depression resulting from a traumatic change in life. Such changes might involve moving to another parish, disappointment with expectations of pastoral ministry, spousal abuse or neglect, ongoing disagreement over a marital issue, loss of a lovedone, unresolved childhood issues, or loss of a job. Any one of these could result in months and even years of sadness. The symptoms, or warning signs, of such depression can include:
a. Feelings of hopelessness, despair, and unworthiness, despite praise from spouse, family, and friends
b. Chronic fatigue, even if your schedule is not hectic
c. Poor concentration, which affects your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and enjoy life
d. Lack of interest in sex
e. Feelings of anger toward loved ones, especially spouse and children, behind closed doors
HOPE AND HELP FOR HOPELESSNESS
Take comfort in the precious promises of hope, especially for us as women. Psalm 145:18, 19 assures us that “the Lord is near to all who call upon Him. . . . He also will hear their cry and save them” (NKJV). The Lord wants to save us and lift us from the dark shadows that surround our everyday lives. We are guaranteed that God will never leave us nor forsake us, and “when we pass through the floods and storms of life He will be with us, and, greatly to be praised, they will not sweep over us” (Isaiah 43:2, paraphrased).
For those dear sisters in Christ who are struggling with depression, the following suggestions might help you start on the road to wellness:
1. Seek professional help. The services of a Christian counselor can guide you on the road to healing and restoration. Don’t let pride hinder you from a better life.
2. Find a prayer partner. Prayer with a trustworthy friend at least one day per week will build your prayer life and provide much-needed support.
3. Do journaling. Writing daily entries—not only about sad moments but also about praises to God and victories won—is very therapeutic.
4. Spend personal time alone with God. God is omnipresent—which is great news!—so seek His face anytime, anywhere. Alone time with God is time never wasted. Our
nature walks, closet prayers, and early morning devotionals will help greatly. Tell it all to Jesus; He is eager to hear the prayers of His saints.
5. Get involved in diversional activities. Daily meditate on God’s word, take that much needed trip, or reward yourself for an accomplished goal. Take time to relax and enjoy a healthy hobby. Give motivational talks and provide spiritual mentorship to young pastoral wives.
6. Share your story. Encouraging other women who are experiencing similar challenges will help to heal and rebuild our own lives.
7. Provide yourself with good nutrition. Healthful eating feeds the mind and improves brain function. God wants us to prosper and be in good health. Eating a balanced diet rich in seeds, grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, and nuts will increase our energy level and help ease depression.
8. Get adequate rest. Proper and planned rest relaxes, repairs, and rejuvenates the mind and body and will help to restore balance to the mind. If possible, get between seven and eight hours of sleep a night.
9. Get plenty of exercise. Walk with friends at least 30 minutes a day or enjoy some outdoor activity, even if you do it alone. Exercise is very effective in improving our
overall mental health and is proven to help reduce depression and anxiety.
God’s Word never fails. He publicly declares in Jeremiah 31:3 that He loves us “with an everlasting love” (NKJV). That means that each one of us is most precious in His sight, and that our lives are valuable to Him. So give Him your heart, and He will pour out His Spirit in you.