Friday, November 13, 2009
HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM “DEPRESSED” AND WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY ABOUT DEPRESSION? 4.Sleep Changes/Appetite or weight changes~
Is your head hitting the pillow and you are unable to put to rest the worries of the day? Do you wake the next day feeling like you are in a fog? When stressed, are you sitting down with a bag of potato chips 45 minutes after dinner? Are you craving sweets, like Milky Way bars and Twinkies…starches, like rolls and macaroni and cheese? On the opposite end of the spectrum, are you so frantic that you are painting until the early morning hours…so distracted by work that you go an entire day eating only one meal or a cup of yogurt driving to your next appointment. Dr.Janet Greeson summed up the issue in the title of her book, It Isn’t What You Are Eating, It’s What’s Eating You? As a result of “what’s eating us,” we are consumed physically, spiritually and emotionally. Some of us wear it as bags under our eyes and 50 lbs. of extra weight. Others neglect their bodies and wither away to empty shells.
The Master Craftsman designed a complex, integrated system in the human body. Physical signals remind us to meet our physical and spiritual needs. When our stomach feels hollow, it may even growl and we are reminded that we are two hours late for lunch. The food converts to energy that allows our bodies to function properly—our muscles have the energy to move. Nutrition empowers our brain to interpret, store, and send messages more efficiently. Similarly, sleep is a natural way for the body to restore and heal itself. Scientist confirm that sleep is the body’s way of hitting the reset button when over stimulated.¹ In addition, researchers are discovering the connection between sleep and memory.² Obviously, Americans are bombarded with weight loss advertisements, the food pyramid, and uber-thin models—we know about healthy eating habits but we aren’t following through. As a result, we ride the sugar high to the energy crash an hour later. The majority of us eat processed foods high in calories, but low in fiber and vitamins. Then, spend hours in front of computers and television. Studies show a strong correlation between the more hours spent watching television and the higher the chance for childhood obesity.³ Others have become obsessed with having control of their bodies and count every calorie and excessively exercise. Millions of Americans have had cosmetic surgery, striving to be perfect. Others cut gashes in their flesh to release the emotional pain, feeling alive from the pain and endorphin rush. The use of steroids and body dimorphic disorder is on the rise, especially for those 14-22.4 Numbing emotions with drug and alcohol is becoming “normal” self-medication. In summary, adequate rest and healthy eating are important to our cognitive, spiritual, psychological and physical well-being. Without it, we are emotional zombies.
For many years I rode the roller coaster ride of unhealthy extremes. When mildly depressed, I would overeat and oversleep. When severely depressed or there was an impending crisis, I couldn’t sleep or eat. During my year of unemployment, there were several months that I would pull the covers over my head and avoid mounting troubles. During my divorce, I didn’t care about eating—which normally I enjoy both as a social activity and the pleasure of food. After my mom’s death, I lost 35 lbs. in four months. As a result, I was drained emotionally and spiritually. If I wasn’t at work, I was in bed. Sleep was my “drug of choice.” I rationalized that I wasn’t getting drunk, doing drugs, or having sex with random strangers—it couldn’t be sinful. However, it is not in God’s will for sleep or eating to become unhealthy and negatively impact our daily lives. Balance is a key to healthy living. Proverbs is full of practical advice, “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” Proverbs 10:3-5 Any indulgence can lead to a destructive lifestyle. The scriptures encourage moderation, “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” Proverbs 23:20-22 In short, seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance to find a healthy balance.
The Bible emphasizes the positive effects of getting adequate rest and nutrition. Fleeing for his life the prophet of Elijah prayed, “I have had enough Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am not better than my ancestors.” Maybe you are not running for your life; however, like Elijah, you may be frustrated by the current situation to the point that you see no way out. You feel helpless and alone. No one cares…no one understands…no one can help! When Elijah fell into a state of depression, God sent an angel to remind him to take care of his physical needs, “All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat’…He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by the food, he traveled forty days and forty nights” 1 Kings 19:5-8 As I’ve emphasized before, we not only serve an omnipotent God, but a practical one too. Jesus and his disciples were ministering to large crowds and as a result their energy was drained—Jesus encouraged them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 Jesus understood firsthand that in order to give, we need to fill our own spiritual and emotional vessel. Numerous times, he went away from the crowds to be alone with God.
One of my dear friends is currently in the midst of a divorce. After years of trying to work out the difficulties in the relationship, she’s come to terms with the reality that her spouse isn’t willing to take responsibility for his role in the marriage. To the church and her children, she’s held up a facade of a Christian union—when in reality, she’s been devalued, disrespected, and emotionally abused. She’s been up many nights crying~ grieving the death of what she dreamed her marriage could be, lamenting the loss of her role as partnered parents/grandparents, worrying about the affects on her children, concerned about how it taints her testimony and upset by the negative rumors spread by her husband. One night she had a breakthrough in the middle of the night, she had a vision that Christ had wrapped his wings around her. She had a strong sense that God simply wanted her to rest and rely on him—He was there to shield her and heal the deep wounds. Jesus instructs us to earnestly pray in privacy, “When you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:6 The message of resting in God isn’t exclusive to the disciples; Jesus emphasized, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” John 14:1
Do some soul searching and ask yourself are you having trouble finding rest, because God is forewarning you or trying to press a message into your subconscious? Scriptures remind us to pay attention to our dreams, “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings…” Job 33:15-16 It isn’t that God doesn’t speak to people in modern times; it is that we are either too overwhelmed to listen or are simply ignoring the signs. My God is far too big to fit into anyone’s box or paradigm. He is unconventional and we need to look for Him everywhere and in everything, the smile of a stranger to the innate wisdom of a child.
After a recent surgery, I took extra time off of work to get some much needed rest and relaxation. When I rolled over at 3:30am, I was unable to go back to sleep. I did a mental check list: Do I have to use the restroom? Am I hurting somewhere? Am I worried about something to do tomorrow? So I just laid there thinking…eventually, I began praying. I was somewhere between consciousness and sleep when a vision of a river formed in my mind’s eye. The water was overflowing the banks and leaking out onto the fields—destroying the surrounding grass and corn fields. As I floated above and gently flowed with the river, I noticed the walls of the banks were starting to be reinforced. Finally, I came to a dam in the river. At that point, I began wondering, Lord, this is strange what does this mean? In no way am I so holy that God speaks to me on a regular basis—but when He does, I know and obey His voice. For me, the voice is gender-neutral, gentle and soft. It isn’t so much speaking—but rather, thoughts and feelings, similar to what people call an epiphany or “Ah-Ha Moment.” When I’ve experienced this, it is during quiet times, rather than the movie-depicted-hype, condemnation, and dramatic booming voice. Once again, I look to the story of Elijah, “Then he was told, ‘Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.’ A hurricane ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn't in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, "So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?" 1 Kings 19:8-16 In my dream-vision, it was me asking, What am I doing here? The wisdom came, You are the river. For a period of your life, you lacked direction and went against My plan for you. Now, I’ve redirected you and have stopped you. I don’t normally hear God speak to my spirit so clearly, so this was a startling revelation. Feeling like a reprimanded child, I thought, Why God? Why do you have me dammed up? When are you going to let me flow again? Like the river, I’m strong-willed and it is against my nature to be creatively and financially stuck. Like a great story-teller, it was almost as if He was turning the pages of a book; waiting for me to ask the question so He could turn the page. When the flow of the water is stopped, it has time to recollect, redefine its boundaries, and lastly, there is powerful energy stored up. Multiple landscapes flashed in my mind: a quiet brook, the Grand Canyon, whitewater rapids…Then, an electric power plant came to my mind’s eye and I admired its size and beauty. I instantly understood what controlled the water’s gentle ripples or powerful waves was God’s hand. Then, I became aware of pools of stagnate water around the edges; it was so different from the previous images. Lord, I don’t understand? He answered, That’s what happens to the river if I stays dammed. It is of no use to me or anyone else. I brought you to the Vineyard to heal and restore you--to help you understand the reason for and the love in boundaries. I’m getting ready to release you. Be alert! Watch for the signs. Otherwise, you’ll become stagnate. The voice of the Lord was so clear to me, that I didn’t worry about the vision—there was no need to ponder its meaning. Instead, I was at peace; I simply rolled over and went back to sleep. On the Friday of that week, my daughter had her fall parent-teacher conference and the school principal approached me about substitute teaching. I felt flattered and restored when she said to me, “In order to get hired full-time, you need to get your name out there.” I have to admit, God’s direction isn’t always so clear, so I’m very grateful for the vision. I can’t help but think that if I didn’t take a break to rest, I could have missed out. For me, the lack of sleep is usually my signal that I need to pray about the situation—that I am over-whelmed and under-equipped to solve the issue on my own.
Christ is waiting for you to hand your burdens over to Him so that you can rest and eat well. God is the healer of dis-ease. Furthermore, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 A true gift is something given out of love; we didn’t do anything to deserve it. The peace the Holy Spirit infuses the Christ-believer with is a true gift—you just need to reach out to receive it.
1. Miller, Greg. (2009, April 3). NEUROSCIENCE: Sleeping to Reset Overstimulated Synapses. Science, 324.
2. Stern, Peter. (2009, April 7). NEUROSCIENCE Sleep and Memory. Sci. Signal, 2 (65), ec119. [DOI:10.1126/scisignal.265ec119]
3. Crespo, Carlos J. DrPH, MS; Smit, Ellen, PhD; Troiano, Richard P., PhD, RD; Bartlett, Susan J., PhD; Macera, Caroline A., PhD; Andersen, Ross E., PhD (2001, March 15). Television watching, energy intake, and obesity in US children. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 155, 360-365.
4. Ruffolo, J.S., Phillips, K.A., Menard, W., Fay, C., & Weisberg, R.B. (2006). Comorbidity of body dysmorphic disorder and eating disorders: Severity of psychopathology and body image disturbance. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 31, 11-19.