Skip to main content

FREE: earlier issues of SPAG Magazine, a Puzzle Book and More – for a limited time only

FREE: earlier issues of SPAG Magazine, a Puzzle Book and More – for a limited time only

Coronavirus: FREE issues of SPAG Magazine (until 30 June 2020)

As many of us have to remain indoors due to the coronavirus for some time, we’re now providing issues 9 to 20 to you for FREE!!!  See below for links to the current and earlier issues. Check out the other booklets etc that we’re sharing with you for free as well, further down the page. (Please contact us if you’d like to subscribe.)
The latest issue is available: June to August 2020 – our fifth birthday celebration MEGA-issue: 
Our feature article is:”Fancy flying from advanced aeronautics,” and many more!
You can read it online in a ‘flippable’ format on the following link. (Note that this is on a third party website, so there may be some advertising.)
You can download a pdf (not flippable) copy on this link.
Along with our latest issue, we’re sharing two bonus booklets with you:
1. the best of the “Letters to Lou:”
2. humorous articles:

LINKS TO THE FREE ISSUES HERE:

Issue 19 (Dec 2019-Feb 2020):

pdf downloadable copy: LINK

online flippable copy (not downloadable): LINK 

Issue 18 (Sep-Nov 2019):

pdf downloadable copy: LINK

online flippable copy (not downloadable): LINK 

Issue 17 (Jun-Aug 2019):

pdf downloadable copy: LINK

online flippable copy (not downloadable): LINK 

Issue 16 (Mar-May 2019):

pdf downloadable copy: LINK

online flippable copy (not downloadable): LINK 

Issue 15 (Dec 2018-Feb 2019):

pdf downloadable copy: LINK

online flippable copy (not downloadable): LINK 

Issue 14 (Sep-Nov 2018):

pdf downloadable copy: LINK

online flippable copy (not downloadable): LINK 

Issue 13 (Jun-Aug 2018):

pdf downloadable copy: LINK

online flippable copy (not downloadable): LINK 

Issue 12 (Mar-May 2018):

pdf downloadable copy: LINK

online flippable copy (not downloadable): LINK 

Issue 11 (Dec 2017 – Feb 2018):

pdf downloadable copy: LINK

online flippable copy (not downloadable): LINK 

Issue 10 (Sep-Nov 2017):

pdf downloadable copy: LINK

online flippable copy (not downloadable): LINK 

Issue 9 (Jun-Aug 2017):

pdf downloadable copy: LINK

online flippable copy (not downloadable): LINK 

OTHER FREE ITEMS:

We’ve put together a puzzle book taken from all of our 20 issues. It also includes a few other interesting pages which I think you will enjoy. Following is a link to the downloadable pdf copy: LINK and here’s the link to the online ‘flippable’ version of the puzzle book: LINK

We also created a booklet of verses of encouragement which we hope you find helpful during this stressful time. Each verse comes with a photo of beautiful scenery. Here’s the link to the downloadable pdf copy: LINK and here’s the link to the online ‘flippable’ version of the verses of encouragement: LINK

If you’d like to check out some fascinating things online, we’ve put together a document in pdf format with links to lots of different internet pages including music, Christian comedy and more as a way to encourage you to retain your sanity: LINK

You might also like to check out news snippets about the coronavirus, Christian related news items and more: LINK At the moment we’re trying to update this every couple of days or so, though in normal times we tend to update it only every week or two.

If you haven’t taken advantage of our free month of devotions, here’s the link to the downloadable pdf copy: LINK and the link to the online ‘flippable’ version: LINK


Help keep our website free of annoying advertisements, for as little as $2 per month. Contact us for banking details if you’d like to set up an automatic monthly payment. Your contribution may also help to cover our increasing costs which were around $1,600 in 2017/2018.

If you’re not on our subscription list (free subscription), then if you provide your email address to us, we’ll add you to our list, and you’ll be one of the first to receive it 🙂 Here is our email address:

Having Struggles?

Having Struggles?

Here are some articles which you may find helpful if you are going through struggles. We will continue adding to these as we share them in issues of SPAG Magazine. If you have an issue or a topic that you’d like us to cover in an upcoming issue, please let us know. You can complete the form at the end of this page, or email us at: 

Can Christians Have a Mental Illness?

Five Key Ways to Support a Friend (or Stranger) With a Chronic or Invisible Illness

Good Grief: Coping with Chronic Illness

Happiness Habits – Articles on Learning How to be Happy:

  1. Keep a happiness journal;

  2. Forgiveness and friendship;

  3. Difficult decisions;

  4. Friendship;

  5. Understanding yourself;

  6. Putting off procrastination;

  7. Derailing Depression (parts 1-3)

Believers Who Suffered Depression;

Let’s Talk About Sex;

  1. Introduction

  2. Purity (or the world is not enough);

  3. Masturbation and celibacy;

Where is the Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Why Do I have Trouble Making Friends?

Tell us what topic or article you would like us to share in a future issue of SPAG Magazine:

Can Christians Have a Mental Illness?

Can Christians Have a Mental Illness?

Vicki Nunn

by Vicki Nunn

Introduction

Over the centuries, people with mental illnesses were locked away in institutions or jails and subjected to the most appalling treatments and conditions. Some were killed out of fear, or (as happened in various countries early in the 20th century including Australia and the USA), they were sterilised or euthanized as a means of ‘improving’ the genetic human stock, or to remove them as a burden on our society. Unfortunately this concept arose from the theory of evolution which was taking a strong hold in many countries at the time.

When I was growing up, people never talked about mental illness other than just to make fun of the ‘crazies.’ Television programs and comedians mocked people with mental illness, and many people were so afraid of them that they took care to avoid them and to ostracise them, and to ensure that they were locked away.

As an adult, I’ve been fortunate to have personally known people who have suffered various mental illnesses including schizophrenia, bipolar-affective disorder, depression and more. I say fortunate, because it’s given me more of an understanding of the problems and issues with which mentally ill people struggle, and also because I came to value them as individuals, and to admire them for their resolve in living as normally as possible while struggling with their illness.

As someone who has personally suffered depression and panic attacks, I know that mental illness can have a profound and life-changing impact upon us.

Mental Illness in Modern Times

It is really only up until recently in our society, that mental illness has been more openly discussed, and we are becoming more accepting and compassionate towards those with mental illness. Rather than just locking people up and treating them as ‘unfixable’ or even as less than human, we are at last finding some medical treatments and psychotherapy to help them as best as possible.

Within the church though, it is an area that has been slow to change. In some churches there is still the belief that Christians simply do not suffer mental illness, unless they’re committing sin or are lacking in faith and are being punished for their actions, or possibly even as a result of a curse.

Other churches run with the concept that the person needs to be freed from demonic possession.
Some still treat the afflicted as if they are carrying an infectious disease and should be avoided, or they arrogantly look down their noses at the poor unfortunate, offering them indifference or condescension instead of solace and compassion.

Those then that suffer from mental illness while they are Christians, are usually forced to hide their condition in shame and embarrassment, as if they are disgusting failures. As a consequence, many Christians who struggle with this, do not seek out help from within their own churches or they feel that they can’t discuss their situation with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Many struggle on alone, for fear of being judged and shunned.

Thankfully this is changing, and more churches are recognising that Christians can suffer a mental illness and it’s not always because they’re sinning, possessed or cursed. More are offering support and help.

What Causes Mental Illness?

In most cases, the causes of mental illness are still unknown. Research suggests that they are caused by physical, biological and environmental factors or a combination of these.

The illness can come about from a disruption in the unborn infant’s brain development or caused by injury at birth. Sometimes neurological pathways in the brain function incorrectly. It can develop through a physical injury to the brain as a result of an accident or it may be caused by chemical imbalances.

It may result from a brain infection, exposure to toxins or lack of good nutrition, particularly in one’s developmental years.

Some families are born with genetic abnormalities that make them more susceptible to mental illness which may be triggered by trauma, abuse or other factors.

Other mental illnesses can be brought on by the use of drugs such as marijuana or long-term alcohol and drug abuse.

Some mental illnesses can be the result of physical, psychological and/or sexual abuse, particularly in childhood, which can impact on the person’s psychological development.

How Can People with Mental Illness be Treated?

A combination of medication and psychotherapy can assist, though the person may still continue to struggle with the illness’s effects throughout their life, particularly its impacts on their personal and social functioning.

While these therapies assist in many cases (but not necessarily cure), not every person is able to find a successful treatment and some people will need to remain in the care of their families or in institutions for the remainder of their life.

There are many families who struggle daily with caring for a loved one with a mental illness. (See our other article – “Good Grief: Mental Illness” in issue 7 of SPAG Magazine which is available to purchase online – link here)

Can Christians Have a Mental Illness?

Yes, many Christians do have a mental illness, although few make it known.

As a result of misinformation and lack of compassion within some churches, some Christians come to believe that they’re lacking in faith if they’re not healed, and may be actively discouraged from seeking medical and psycho-therapeutic help. Others unsuccessfully try to have the demon removed, or they may simply suffer through it because they’ve been lead to believe that because of their sins, they’re being judged and punished by God. Many suffer in silence because they don’t want to be condemned and shunned by their fellow Christians.

Of course, if a Christian is consciously indulging in a sin, then this is the first thing which they must put forward to God, seeking help and healing, praying for wisdom and forgiveness and with the Holy Spirit’s help, deliberately working at ways of ridding themselves of it. This isn’t always easy to do.

We must understand though, that not all illnesses in the believer, whether mental or physical, are the result of our sin or because we are cursed. By Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection, our former, present and future sins are forgiven. We don’t have to prove ourselves worthy of forgiveness – it is Jesus who was worthy to take our sins for us, so we already are forgiven by our faith in Jesus and God’s promise for the forgiveness of our sins.

Can We Assume that it’s Mostly Due to Sin?

So what do we say to those who are still suffering sickness? Do we judge them simply as sinners and not offer them compassion, prayer and comfort? Why would our loving heavenly Father on the one hand promise forgiveness of sins, and with the other, punish us for them through mental or physical illness?

I’ve known many Christians who have long-term illnesses, both physical and/or mental, and I know that their illness is not the result of sin. I know this because I have seen God working in them and I see that they seek to make God the priority of their lives.

Personally, I know that physical and mental ailments are not always due to sin. I was born with a congenital defect in one hip which affected me even as a child. Was my problem due to sin? Of course not – I was born with this defect.

Then when I was in teens, I developed a spinal disease that led to the development of scoliosis and caused pain. By the time I was 21, the pain began to increase and by my late twenties was impacting my movement. The pain and restrictions affected my every day activities as well as the ministry to which God had called me.

In prayer I regularly sought God’s guidance about whether it was from sin and asked repeatedly for healing and clarity about whether I would be healed of it, but if anything, my pain and physical restrictions increased. In my mid thirties, God eventually answered my prayer and told me that I wasn’t going to be healed, not as a form of punishment because of my sin or lack of faith, but so that I would develop compassion and empathy for others who suffer.

Therefore, mental illnesses too are not always the result of sin. What do we say to those who are born with a mental illness? “You’re obviously still sinning, so don’t come and talk to me about that until you’ve fixed it?” Of course not! Can we make the judgement that a newborn infant is responsible for a deliberate sin and is being punished for it with a mental and/or physical ailment? If a person can be born with a physical or mental ailment, or develop it later, we cannot condescend to assume that the person is actively sinning and being punished for it.

In fact, not a single one of us is without sin. Yes, we are forgiven, but not a single one of us is able to go about our lives without committing a sin. If we don’t suffer a physical or mental illness, does that mean that we are somehow better than others who do have one? Are those with a physical or mental illness somehow committing a sin that’s worse than ours?

Let’s ask an important question, “Are some sins worse than others?” The Bible makes it clear that there is only one unforgiveable sin: blaspheming of the holy spirit. No other sin is unforgiveable or worse than others.

If we are suggesting that a person with a physical and/or mental illness is being punished for sin, than why isn’t everyone being punished for theirs, because none of us is able to live without sinning. Yes, we are working towards becoming more like Jesus, but that work isn’t completed in us until after we die.

accusing-judging-a-man-walking-away-ashamedsm

Churches and Believers Are Becoming More Compassionate

Thankfully there are churches which offer compassion and understanding to Christian sufferers, and hopefully more churches will learn to accept that those with a mental illness should be allowed to seek appropriate medical treatment without fear of condemnation.

Just as we treat people with physical illnesses with proper medication and treatments, we should also treat people with mental illnesses with compassion and allow them to seek the medical and psychological treatments available to them. Would we deny medical help to a person with diabetes or heart disease or for a broken leg? Why then should we deny treatment to those with a mental illness, particularly since some mental illness are caused by physical problems?

Perhaps the reason we don’t treat those with a mental illness the same way we treat people with physical illnesses comes from our long history of superstition and fear in connection with mental illness, and because we don’t understand its cause or know how to treat it properly.

Perhaps even, we shun sufferers out of pride and our own sense of superiority.

hands-4-holdingsm

Conclusion

While mental illness may in some instances be a sign of demonic possession, once a person becomes a Christian there is no way that a demon would be allowed to remain inside someone who is occupied by God through His Holy Spirit. God abhors evil, and so He would not allow evil to reside alongside Him in a believer’s heart and mind.

We cannot make the assumption either that mental illness is caused by demonic possession in every non-believer, although it’s possible in some cases.
Aside from demonic possession, we’ve discussed that while mental illness may on occasion spring from deliberate sin, in most instances it arises from various physical, biological and environmental causes, or a combination of these.

Modern medication and psychotherapy can be a tremendous assistance to those with a mental illness, although not everyone can be helped. Hopefully as our medical knowledge increases, we will be able to improve our treatments.

As Christians, we need to be mindful that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering from a mental illness. Statistics suggest that as many as 45% of the Australian population will suffer a mental health condition in their lifetime. I can only assume the statistics are similar in other countries. In any one year, around one million adults have depression, and more than two million suffer anxiety. Depression is claimed to be the leading cause of disability worldwide¹.

We should ask God to help us to become more empathetic towards those who are afflicted, rather than add to their already heavy burden by our own callousness or judgement. If we act towards the mentally ill with intolerance, indifference or out of a sense of superiority, then which of us has the worse ailment?

Challenge

Here’s a challenge for you to prayerfully consider. What is your response towards those with mental (or physical) illness? On the day of judgement, how will God view your attitude and actions towards those who are afflicted?

Bibliography
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Cat. no. (4326.0). Canberra: ABS.Bibliography:
Unknown author (unknown date) “Causes of Mental Illness” (WebMD) available: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-causes-mental-illness, accessed 17/10/16
Unknown author, no date, FAC – Family Caregiver Alliance: “Grief and Loss,” available https://www.caregiver.org/grief-and-loss, accessed 20/10/16
Authors: Glynn, Shirley M., PhD, Kangas, Karen, EdD, and Pickett, Susan, PhD, no date. American Psychological Association: “Supporting a family member with serious mental illness,” available: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/improving-care.aspx, accessed 20/10/16
Author: Karen Hanna, 23 March 2016, Karen Hanna Coaching: “Grieving Mental Illness,” available: http://www.karenhannacoaching.ca/uncategorized/grieving-mental-illness-2/, accessed 20/10/16

7. Derailing Depression

7. Derailing Depression

by Vicki Nunn

“Why am I so overwrought, why am I so disturbed? Why can’t I just hope in God? Despite all my emotions, I will believe and praise the One who saves me, my God.” Psalm 42:11 [Voice]

Introduction

Depression is a mental illness and Christians can suffer it too, although there are some Christians and churches who think they know better – ignore them because they are uninformed. We discussed this in more detail in our article “Can Christians Have a Mental Illness” in the Dec 2016/Feb 2017 issue and have shared it on our website (link here.) We even took a glimpse into the lives of well-known Christians and Biblical people who struggled with depression at some point in their lives.

sadness-depression-unhappy-fake-smilesmWhile sometimes depression may arise from sin, more often it does not, and no amount of confessing our sin or asking for deliverance or just having enough faith, will necessarily remove it.

As someone who suffered depression and anxiety for several years, I know that mine was the result of ongoing bullying and harassment combined with terrible, long-term physical pain and lack of sleep, which eventually led to depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Mine was not the result of sin, or not having enough faith, or being disobedient towards God.

Unfortunately for some of us, depression can be a nasty cycle where the depression causes unhealthy behaviours, eg avoiding people and social activities, not getting enough sleep, not eating properly etc, which can then contribute to deepening of the depression and perhaps other disorders, and around and around it goes.

As we begin this topic, may I remind you that God’s love for you is unchanging. When we are weak or troubled, God loves us no less than when we are strong.

God has no wish to inflict pain and suffering on us – why would He desire to see our child raped and murdered; or to cause us horrendous bodily harm; or to see our family persecuted or our home burnt to the ground? It’s not in His nature to wish harm on us.

He can and will use our experiences though, to stretch and shape us, and from them we can develop more empathy, compassion and understanding for others who also suffer. Since one of our greatest commandments is to love one another, then developing these traits can be a helpful gift for us in our interaction with those who suffer.

While personally I would have preferred not to experience horrendous pain and depression, I believe that I’ve become a more compassionate, understanding and tolerant Christian as a result.

What is Depression?

Depression is a feeling of sadness that doesn’t pass quickly and can include lack of enthusiasm in our normal activities, stress at the thought of interacting with others or attending work, and ongoing negative thoughts and feelings that are not normal for us. Some people can experience other symptoms as well such as anxiety and panic attacks.

Many people with depression try to mask it and can outwardly appear happy, but are twisted up inside. They fear judgement by their fellow Christians, as if they’re failures. Those who have never been through depression, haven’t a clue about the suffering and pain that depression brings.

Where Does Depression Come From?

One of the problems with depression is that it’s not something we can be talked out of by “just getting over it,” “by looking on the bright side of life,” “confessing our sin,” or “having more faith.” It really is a serious issue that should be tackled and in many cases, it can’t be overcome without help.

Depression can stem from trauma and stress, even dating back to our childhood. It can result from being in a hostile work or home environment, from ongoing financial hardship, to worries about what is happening in the world, concerns about our children and family, loss of a partner or family member, health issues, long-term illness and so on.

It can also occur due to a physiological problem such as a chemical imbalance in the brain, hormonal imbalances, thyroid problems, lacking in particular vitamins or minerals or even not getting enough sunshine. It may stem from another mental illness, or as a side-effect from some medications, use of narcotics or alcohol etc.

Statistics suggest that as many as 45% of the Australian population will suffer a mental health condition in their lifetime. In any one year, around one million adults in Australia have depression, and more than two million suffer anxiety. It is claimed that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide1.

Symptoms of Depression

Some of the symptoms of depression can include:

  • Difficulty sleeping or too much sleeping;
  • Finding ourselves focussing on the negative and unhappy things in our life;
  • Difficulty enjoying things we once took pleasure in;
  • Feeling emotionally numb or apathetic, or feeling like crying, screaming or shouting even over trivial matters;
  • Complaining a lot, particularly if this isn’t something that we usually do;
  • Worrying much more than usual;
  • Overeating or not eating;
  • Feelings of guilt that don’t seem to pass;
  • A physical reaction such as knots in the stomach or tightening of the throat muscles that won’t relax;
  • Lack of enthusiasm for socialising, lacking the motivation to leave our home or perhaps even wanting to close the doors and windows and turning out the lights, as if we’re trying to shut out the world;
  • Anger with people around us and even God, which may be out of proportion to the situation, or won’t go away;
  • Lack of patience and even lashing out at others over small things;
  • Doubting that others love us, including God or perhaps feeling like we aren’t worthy of love;
  • Reluctance to read the Bible or pray, or to attend church or Bible Study;
  • Feeling hopeless or even like there’s no point in going on, perhaps even as if we’re in a deep, dark pit with no way out; and
  • Thoughts of suicide.

If several of these ring a bell, particularly suicide, I would encourage you to seek help as soon possible. There’s no point in delaying or making excuses, because in many cases, depression doesn’t go away on its own. Obtaining medical help in the early stages of depression can make it much easier to manage than when it’s in full swing.

While God sometimes does heal depression, for many people it will be a part of the struggle of our life’s journey, perhaps even one of the burdens that we carry for life.

There are many things that can lead us down the path to depression including unhealthy workplaces, nasty people, broken people in our families, and even our own learned responses and behaviours may be unhealthy and can contribute.

Blaming Others – Nasty People

There’s something important that we should know – we can’t blame others for how we feel or react to a situation – it is entirely up to us about how we deal with our emotions. Our emotional responses are ours to deal with. Nobody else is responsible for our feelings and our reactions.

While it’s true that nasty people can affect us emotionally, we may have options about how to deal with them. In the workplace we may need to take the situation to a manager, someone in a higher position, or the Personnel Officer. If it’s a toxic working environment, sometimes it may be necessary to seek employment elsewhere.

Prayer is vital, particularly asking God to help us to ignore any nastiness, and as difficult as it may sound – praying for the person responsible and asking for God to bless them. That’s a shocking thought isn’t it – that we should ask for God’s blessings on such a horrible person? Our natural human response is to say, “Hey! That’s not fair! They don’t deserve it.”

Having worked in such a situation myself, daily asking for God’s blessings on a particularly horrible person for two years, I was slowly able to let go of that person’s rudeness and pass it onto God, even though on occasion they still managed to hurt me. After a while, I began to feel sorry for them, because they must have felt so unhappy and miserable with their life, for them to act like that. Through my prayer, God was slowly able to change my attitude towards them, and my anger began to dissipate.

In time, I came to a point where I was able to forgive them. That doesn’t mean that I ever trusted them or expected them to change their behaviour. Forgiveness isn’t so much about healing our relationship with that other person, but about healing our own broken or hurting heart, and then being able to move on.

There’s a well-known passage in Luke 6:27-38 about loving our enemies. I particularly like the way it’s worded in The Voice Bible version:

“If you’re listening, here’s My message: keep loving your enemies no matter what they do. Keep doing good to those who hate you. Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other cheek too. If someone steals your coat, offer him your shirt too. If someone begs from you, give to him. If someone robs you of your valuables, don’t demand them back. Think of the kindness you wish others would show you; do the same for them.

Listen, what’s the big deal if you love people who already love you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you do good to those who do good to you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you lend to people who are likely to repay you? Even scoundrels lend to scoundrels if they think they’ll be fully repaid.

If you want to be extraordinary – love your enemies! Do good without restraint! Lend with abandon! Don’t expect anything in return! Then you’ll receive the truly great reward – you will be children of the Most High – for God is kind to the ungrateful and those who are wicked. So imitate God and be truly compassionate, the way your Father is.

If you don’t want to be judged, don’t judge. If you don’t want to be condemned, don’t condemn. If you want to be forgiven, forgive. Don’t hold back – give freely, and you’ll have plenty poured back into your lap – a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, brimming over. You’ll receive in the same measure you give.” [Voice]

Aren’t those words in the first verse challenging?

Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you.”

Perhaps I should print that on a poster and put it somewhere so I’m reminded of it every day.

Time to Move On

Sometimes workplaces are toxic, particularly when the management encourages awful behaviours – I’ve been there too! Eventually, despite our prayers and our best efforts to ignore the nasty behaviours, we may have to accept that it’s time to move on. God doesn’t expect us to stay in a situation where it contributes to us developing or adds to our depression.

Is it possible to move to a different branch within the business? We can work at making ourselves as employable as possible by undertaking new training, and then seeking a job elsewhere.

While we aren’t responsible for suffering depression, we are responsible for trying to overcome our own emotional responses to difficult situations. Sometimes though, it’s ok to give up on a situation or a person – it doesn’t mean that we’ve failed – it’s just time to move on. We shouldn’t stubbornly cling to the belief that a particularly nasty situation or person can improve – sometimes they do, and sometimes they never will. That was a difficult and painful lesson for me to learn.

This is the same for our relationships with friends and family – people can be toxic anywhere, even within the church. As mentioned, prayer is vital in these situations. Pray also for clarity in any difficult situation – ask God to make it clear about whether we should stay in contact, or if it’s time to move on.

We Have the Right to Healthy Relationships

We have the right to have healthy relationships with others. If someone is nasty, just because they’re a relative or a Christian in our church or in our circle of friends, that doesn’t mean we have to put up with their awful behaviour. There will be times when we can’t avoid those nasty people and we may have to take the step of speaking to them (as scary as that sounds), eg if they say something racist or nasty, we can say “I didn’t feel comfortable with that comment.” If they say awful things about others, we can respond “I don’t feel comfortable with gossip.”

If the person continues with comments that make us feel uneasy, we can add, “I think it’s time to change the subject.” There are times when no matter what we say, a person will continue with their negative remarks. In those circumstances, we have the right to walk away.

Getting Help for Depression

Sometimes when we’re depressed, it can be hard for us to recognise that what we’re experiencing is depression nor understand that we need medical aid. We should listen to our family and friends if they’re suggesting we seek help. Depression isn’t something about which we should be ashamed, especially when we consider the earlier, startling statistics about depression in the general population, and yet it’s something seldom discussed, as if it’s some terrible thing we should hide it because people might think we’re weak or weird, or as in some churches, that we must be terrible sinners.

  1. eye-with-tears-and-makeupsmSee Our Doctor

If we’re suffering depression, our doctor should first rule out any physiological cause for it. If it stems from a physical issue, then our doctor should be able to help with the right medication, vitamins etc, by switching medications if necessary, or looking into other medical interventions.

  1. Get Medication and/or Help from a Therapist

On the other hand, if our depression is not from a physical cause, then our doctor should be able to guide us to where we can find help. They may recommend a course of anti-depressants combined with guidance from a qualified therapist.

If our depression arises out of another mental illness, then our doctor should be able to put us in touch with a psychiatrist or psychologist who specialises in mental disorders.

  1. Pray, Pray and Then Pray Some More

We should be keeping prayer as the cornerstone of our day. This can be challenging when we are depressed, but if our relationship with God is not at the core of our life, then it can make matters worse and is likely to deepen our depression.

Happiness Habits for Helping to Keep Depression at Bay

If we’re suffering depression or heading towards it, and they don’t have a physical cause, are there some happiness habits which we can put into practice? Yes, there are, although I can’t guarantee that this is some magic cure, but it should hopefully contribute to an improvement in our mood, and help us to handle each day a little better. It may even stave off severe depression.

What are these habits?

  • Prayer;
  • Counselling;
  • Focus on facts – not feelings;
  • Look after ourselves;
  • Find things to enjoy; and
  • Find God’s purpose for us.

1. Prayer

While it may seem obvious to pray when we’re depressed, it can sometimes be difficult for us to do so, because our depression can mess with our minds and cloud our thoughts. We may struggle with finding the enthusiasm to pray, or the depression may overwhelm us so much, that we simply can’t focus other than to say a few perfunctory sentences.

Because prayer is such an essential part of every Christian’s life, we can’t afford to neglect it. I’m not suggesting that prayer will cure us of depression, though in some instances, getting into a regular prayer time may help us overcome it more quickly, but if we aren’t regularly in communication with God, than how can God help us? For that matter, how can we possibly have a relationship with Him without prayer? In all of our interactions with others in our every day physical life, communication is vital to the health of any relationship, therefore it’s also vital in our relationship with God.

For many of us, prayer is HARD – we don’t all have the gift of prayer. I can tell you that in my thirty years as a Christian, I still struggle with my prayer time. There are days when I’ve felt too lazy or when I just couldn’t seem to settle my mind, or when I want to allow the busyness of my life to take priority.

In addition, it’s far too easy for us to get into the habit of just praying for ourselves, and when we do that, it can cause us to focus on what’s going wrong in our own lives and can add to our depression. In a way, it’s a bit like acting as a petulant, spoilt child because prayer becomes all about “Me, me, me!” (I’m putting my hand up there and admitting to indulging in that one at different times.)

In an earlier issue of SPAG Magazine, I shared about a simple prayer technique which has stood me in good stead over the years: JOY. = Jesus; Others; and lastly Yourself:

(a) J = Jesus.

First, praise God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. For some of us, it can be a struggle to praise God because we are so focussed on our physical life, that sometimes it can almost seem like that’s all there is.

Spending time in a regular prayer routine, can help us to change our focus, our attitude our mind and our spirit towards God. There are many amazing resources on the internet about different prayers for praising God, and lots and lots of good books. An old hymn book may aid us in this matter, and daily devotionals can be a great source of inspiration. The Bible has many prayers of praise and can remind us of God’s unchanging love.

Hebrews 13:15 reminds us that believers are supposed to keep offering praise:

“Through Jesus, then, let us keep offering to God our own sacrifice, the praise of lips that confess His name without ceasing.” [Voice]

Following are some suggestions for praising God:

  • Praise God for His salvation.

In Ephesians 2:8-9 we read:

“For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing.” [Voice]

  • Praise God for His loving kindness.

In Psalm 117 it says:

“Praise the Eternal, all nations. Raise your voices, all people. For His unfailing love is great, and it is intended for us, and His faithfulness to His promises knows no end. Praise the Eternal!” [Voice]

  • Praise Him for His goodness.

In Psalm 135:3 it reads:

“Glorify the Eternal, for He is good! Sing praises, and honour His name for it is delightful.” [Voice]

  • Praise God for His wonderful grace.

See Ephesians 1:6 which reads:

“Ultimately God is the one worthy of praise for showing us His grace; He is merciful and marvellous, freely giving us these gifts in His Beloved.” [Voice]

  • Praise Him for His mercy, justice and holiness.Psalm 99:3-4 reads:

“Let them express praise and gratitude to Your amazing and awesome name – because He is holy, perfect and exalted in His power. The King who rules with strength also treasures justice. You created order and established what is right. You have carried out justice and done what is right to the people of Jacob.” [Voice]

(b) O = Others.

woman-young-upset-cryingsmSecondly, pray for others, including our family, friends and our church and its Pastor. I’ve personally found that praying for persecuted Christians very helpful, because it takes my focus off myself and my own problems or needs. It also helps me to put my own problems into perspective and to see how truly blessed I am. Previously I’ve mentioned that we have a prayer page on our website with prayer needs for many of our persecuted brothers and sisters which you may like to use.

(c) Y = You.

Finally, it’s time to put forward our own needs and problems to God. We shouldn’t be discouraged or worried about opening up to God – He already knows what we think and feel, but opening up that communication between us will enable the Holy Spirit to commune with us, so that God can speak with us. We should discuss our depression and the struggles we’re having, and asking God for guidance and clarity about how to manage them.

(d) . = Stop.

Yes, that’s a full stop there. We should endeavour to take some time to try and sit in silence and listen to God. Don’t worry if this is difficult to do – I always have a few dozen things going on in my head at the same time and have trouble switching it off. Sometimes on days when I have so much going on in my mind, that I just tell God. “Sorry Lord, there I go again. I don’t know why I can’t switch it off. Please help me to focus on what You have to say.” Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but at least I can try and I’ve left a channel open for God to reach me.

Occasionally God speaks to me, or puts ideas or thoughts into my mind, but on most days, I don’t hear anything from Him. I figure that the more I try and listen to Him, the more easily I’ll recognise His voice and His guidance.

2. Seek Counselling

In the past, if we’ve experienced harmful or negative relationships, particularly in our childhood homes, or if we’re currently in a difficult marriage or have friends or family that cause us stress and anxiety, we should seek counselling to try and work through the issues.

I’ve known several people who grew up in an unloving or harmful home environment, and as adults several struggled with developing healthy relationships. If we’ve grown up with unhealthy attitudes and behaviours towards others, we may not be able to clearly see them in ourselves.

It may take years for a trained counsellor or psychologist to help us break through and perceive how our thinking proce sses and our behaviours need to change, because in our mind they’re perfectly normal – that’s how we were taught to think and behave.

Without this insight, we are unlikely to change, and the more we continue with our unhealthy and even harmful behaviours, the more ingrained they will become.

Counselling can help us to put things into their proper perspectives and can enable us to learn appropriate and healthier behaviours in our adult relationships, and particularly with our spouse and our children.

In any marriage that is troubled or where poor communication is an ongoing issue, both parties should seek counselling to improve their relationship.

There may be some local support groups we can attend where we can share our problems, eg Al-Anon if we’re from a home with an alcoholic. Sometimes just knowing that there are other people who struggle with depression or who understand what we’re going through, can help us to recognise that we don’t have to do it on our own, and that our responses and behaviours are normal, and we aren’t weird or unfixable.

One of the worst things about depression is that many people think they have to manage it on their own, perhaps because some see depression as a weakness and are afraid of being judged and looked down upon. From what I understand, this response is more common in men than it is with women, often because men have been taught to ‘tough it out,’ or not to talk about their feelings.

3. Focus on Facts – Not Feelings

Feelings can be wrong, but true facts cannot. If we find we’re looking for the negative too often in our life, it can mislead our thoughts into feeling that things are hopeless or that nothing is good, and may lead us down the slippery slope into depression.

I remember going through a period like that many years ago, and one day I realised that I was losing my enjoyment and enthusiasm for life. There was nothing seriously wrong, but I had allowed my thoughts to become pessimistic which led to feeling negative.

I didn’t like feeling that way, and so I made a conscious decision to focus on what was good and to try to let go of the negative.

Some people allow pessimism to control their lives, and whenever I’ve encountered someone like that, they’ve usually been a misery to be around.

If we’re too critical of ourselves, we may allow ourselves to feel useless and that we have limited skills and abilities, or that we aren’t very clever. Perhaps we compare ourselves to others, or are always too negative about our efforts, particularly when we make mistakes. Maybe we are highly critical of ourselves when things don’t go right or even blame ourselves for other people’s mistakes. Perhaps we exaggerate the size of our mistakes and blow them all out of proportion. This is one way that we focus on our feelings and not the facts.

The fact is that yes, we all make mistakes, even those people who seem to have it all together. Yes, we may not be the cleverest person in the world nor have any wonderful talents, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn. At my age (53) I’m still learning. When I look back over the past thirty years, I can see how much I’ve grown, not just as a Christian but in my talents and interpersonal skills. I’ve accepted that there are some things at which I’m never going to be particularly good, eg sports, book-keeping or growing geraniums, but I can improve if that’s something that I really desire, though I’m realistic enough to know I’m never going to run a marathon. We don’t have to aim to be the very best at something. We can learn new skills or develop old talents and lear n to be content with our development.

How do we focus on facts and not feelings? Grab a pen and a pad and make three columns. On the left-hand side, write down all of the things about which we’re feeling negative. Then in the middle column, write down as many positive things we can about the item on the left, and then in the right-hand column, note down how we may be able to fix it if we need to (see the table at the top of the right-hand column.)

When we focus on our feelings instead of the facts, situations can often appear ‘unfixable,’ or just too hard to deal with.

Writing it down helps to clarify the circumstances and can cement the facts, rather than the feelings, in our minds. This may provide us with ways to overcome the problem, or simply to improve the situation, or reduce our feelings of negativity. Perhaps it can enable us to change our mind-set which had been focussed on the negative emotions, so that we can perceive and concentrate more on the good and positive things instead.

4. Look After Ourselves

(a) Keeping Busy

Keeping ourselves busy, both physically and mentally is an important part of keeping healthy, and helping to turn away depression. I’m not suggesting that ‘busyness’ for the sake of being busy is the aim, rather that our purpose is to work at developing our body, mind and spirit.

(b) Improving Our Relationship with God and With Others

If we are developing our under-standing of God, and endeavouring to maintain a good relationship with Him, that is also good for us spiritually and can improve our emotional well-being.

Let’s not be content with the status quo – if we actively seek to develop our understanding of God, of others and of ourselves, we can more fully develop as Christians – endeavouring to act as brothers and sisters who love as Jesus would have us love.

(c)  Improve Our Knowledge and Understanding of the Bible

We can develop our minds and spirits with regular Bible study or other Christian learning activities. There are many good websites where we can obtain free, daily Christian devotions, or even do online Christian courses.

Even at my age, I am more mindful than ever that I cannot be content to think that I know all of the answers. The day that I start thinking that, is the moment that my growth halts. Show me a Christian who thinks they know it all, and I’ll show you a shrivelled up, hard-hearted, stunted human being who is useless to God, to others and to themself.

(d) Looking After Our Health

In the busyness of our lives, particularly when working, raising children and giving of our time and efforts to the church, the community and/or charities, it can be challenging to find the time or the energy to develop our own minds, spirits and bodies.

If we are to continue working well for God and to sustain our relationships and our well-being, we should make an effort to maintain our overall health, or eventually we’ll run out of energy, physically, spiritually and/or mentally. If we work ourselves too hard, it’s actually possible to wear ourselves out and sometimes, we may not ever be able to return fully to our previous energy and health levels.

I understand that it will be difficult, if not impossible for those who suffer from poor health to be physically active or to maintain a healthy body. It’s important though that we take the proper medications, to regularly rest and eat well, and if at all possible, to attend occasional social activities.

(e)  Keeping Up Our Social Skills

From my own experience, I know that it can be easy for us to lose our social skills if we rarely leave the home, and have little social interaction, it can encourage depression to take hold more easily.

For those suffering depression, especially anxiety and panic attacks, it can be difficult to overcome our reluctance to leave the home and face people. The fear starts taking over, our heart begins to palpitate, and we may even feel physically ill.

Perhaps we can set a goal in the beginning, to get out of the house just once a month to attend a Bible study or social group. Once a month, say for one hour, that’s just one hour in 744 hours. Then we can aim for two hours in the next month if possible, and so on.

Remember it’s not a competition – we don’t have to push ourselves too hard, but we should push ourselves at least a little.

(f)  The Little Things That Make Us Feel Good

When we’re even mildly depressed, we can start getting slack with our appearance and our home environment. Sometimes it all just seems too hard and takes too much of our energy.

When we start going down that path, it can become more and more difficult to keep it under control, and it can contribute to a deepening of our depression, particularly if our home environment begins to look (and smell) like a pigsty.

  • Keep up the good hygiene – bathe regularly, wash our hair and keep it trimmed;
  • Wash our clothes, iron them and repair if necessary;
  • Do the dishes every day and put them away. It’s awful to have to get up every morning when we’re already feeling down, to be faced with a sink full of dirty, yucky dishes;
  • Make the bed every morning and change the sheets regularly. It may all seem too much, unless we break it down into how long it actually takes us. Thirty-seven seconds in our day to make the bed, really doesn’t seem so hard;
  • Keep our appointments with our counsellor or mental health worker;
  • And so on

While these things seem obvious, they can sometimes be one of the first areas where we lose our focus. The more we let it go, the harder it will seem to even want to bother. Before we know it, we can be living in a such a messy and dirty environment that the task to fix it will just seem too overwhelming. We should get to it before it gets out of control.

Conclusion

This article developed into a much larger and wordier piece than I’d anticipated, but there are so many areas that contribute to our well-being which can discourage depression that it seemed appropriate to include as many as possible. I’m sure there are many other things we can do in our efforts to reduce our vulnerability to depression, but hopefully we’ve covered some of the more important ones.

We must remain mindful that God desires for us to be healthy in our bodies, minds and spirits, and to have a healthy and balanced self-image. There are behaviours and thought processes that are unhealthy for us to indulge, and which we should avoid.

I hope you will be encouraged to start these techniques in your life and your every day living, and to actively look at ways that will derail depression before it begins to take a hold, while at the same time ensuring that your first priority is your relationship with God above all others things.

  1. Find Things to Enjoy

Each of us can make conscious choices to undertake activities or change behaviours which result in a boost of the good chemicals in our brains which encourage us to feel more positive, and can reduce our depression. It’s exciting to think that we can actually make a literal difference in our own brain chemicals.

(a) The Little Things:

The happiest people I’ve known are not those who seek after possessions, power or position, but those who find enjoyment and joy in the small things. It may be as simple as taking the time to enjoy a sunset, the smell of rain, or a tasty dish of sausages and mash!

When we allow ourselves to wallow in a pity party, when we focus on the negative things in our life or what we haven’t achieved or what we don’t have, we’ve usually forgotten to enjoy the simple things. It often takes a conscious and sometimes daily effort to change our approach.

One of the things we discussed in an earlier issue of SPAG Magazine was a ‘Happiness Journal,’ were we daily write down some of the good things we experienced during the course of our day. If we can begin this habit, of pausing to enjoy something, and making a note of it at the end of our day, it can begin to alter in the chemicals in our brain which make us feel more positive – apparently it’s been scientifically proven.

(b)  Practicing Gratitude

There’s a reason why attitude sounds like it’s part of the word gratitude – changing our attitude can once again stir up those good brain chemicals. While this is linked to the previous section about enjoying the little things, this takes it up a notch or two.

We can use the Happiness Journal to write down something for which we are grateful every day. For some of us it’s easier to harp on about things that are going wrong, particularly if we’re depressed, but focussing our mind each day on at least one thing for which we are grateful, can help to knock depression onto its butt, or maybe help to derail it before it takes hold.

A neuro-psychologist by the name of Donald Hebb believes that groups of neurons in our brains that trigger during our life experiences, actually fuse or wire together if the experiences are similar. If we complain a lot and more often focus on the negative things in our life, those neurons that fire when we complain also fuse together.  The more we complain, the more easily those neurons are triggered until eventually they begin to fire much more easily than neurons that result from positive experiences.

That means that we teach our own brains to become wired to being negative and critical.

The opposite is also true – the more we focus on being grateful and endeavour to find joy in our life, the more easily our brains will trigger our positive and happier thought processes.

If we’re struggling to find things because we’re feeling down, it can be challenging to look past such difficulties, but there are almost always things for which we can feel grateful, eg a child or grandchildren, a partner, music, our eyesight, the use of our hands, a talent, our favourite food etc.

In time it becomes a little easier each day to write one thing, and sometimes we may want to write down even more. We can use our journal any way we want – there are no hard and fast rules – it’s ours to use to help us on our journey.

Then in a year, we may like to go back to those early entries to remind us of all of the things for which we are grateful during that period.

(c)  Setting Goals

Another way to boost those good brain chemicals is to achieve a goal. Whether it’s something small or large, we can set ourselves a goal and work out how we’re going to achieve it. There’s no point in setting ourselves a goal in which we’re likely to fail – no, sorry, you’re probably never going to be an astronaut. Set a realistic goal, and break it down into steps. Here’s an example – goal: to get healthier – aim to walk 5,000 steps in a day.

Step 1: buy an inexpensive pedometer;

Step 2: for one week, walk 1,000 steps;

Step 3: for week two, walk 2,000 steps;

Step 4: find a nice park to walk to and aim for 3,000 steps every day for one week; and so on.

… Step 6: walk 5,000 steps!

If we’re prone to being tough on ourselves or being far too competitive and want to push ourselves too hard, remember the aim here is to reach a goal. We’re not actually required to punish ourselves if we don’t achieve that day’s or that week’s goal. There’s no need to beat ourselves up, because that’s going to mess with those lovely, happy-feeling chemicals going on in our brain.

If we don’t achieve that day’s goal, that’s fine – we can continue the following day. That’s hard for those of us who are competitive – to let go of our need to over-achieve. We must remember what the aim here is: to get healthier – it’s not about killing ourselves and over-extending or possibly even harming ourselves. We’ll feel pretty foolish if we tear a tendon in the first week because we pushed ourselves too much!

Once we’ve achieved that goal, we can celebrate with a silly dance; reward ourselves with a night out at the movies; or do whatever appeals to us. After that, we can choose to continue our 5,000 steps each day (if we have the time and enthusiasm) then set ourselves a new and different goal, eg read all of the Psalms in one month; learn how to paint; take up archery; or save up enough money to buy a new camera.

We should start planning for our next goal just prior to completing our last one and we’ll be ready to go when the time arrives.

While small aims are great, we should also encourage ourselves to set big ones as well.

If we’re feeling uninspired, we can go online and read about the goals other people have set themselves, or think about those little dreams we’ve had over the years.

When I was eighteen I undertook a ceramics course, and I enjoyed it so much that I promised myself that I would do it again. It wasn’t until thirty-four years later that I was able to finally achieve that goal!

While there may be limitations to achieving all of the goals we had when we were younger, whether due to limited finances or physical restrictions, I’m sure there are still many things that we can achieve, even when we’re well past retirement age.

(d) Hugs, Friends and Puppies

While that may sound like a strange title, having friends, giving and receiving hugs and owning pets, particularly dogs, can boost the good chemicals in our brains as well.

Culturally, at least in Australia, we don’t seem to get anywhere near as many hugs as we need, particularly adults. While men may feel uncomfortable with that thought, we human beings are made to be hugged. I’m not suggesting that we rush out and grab hold of complete strangers or start hugging everyone in our workplace – that’s unlikely to be well received!

If we feel uncomfortable with hugs, perhaps it’s about time we should overcome our hang-ups, otherwise if possible, we could get a dog and be prepared to give and receive lots of doggy love. Cats can be good too, though they may not always be in the mood for a hug when we need it.

(e)  Remembering Our Achievements

Another brain booster is reminiscing about things in our past that we’ve done particularly well, or were commended for. While I’m not suggesting that we focus all of our time thinking about the past or wishing things were as good now, indulging in a little spot of day-dreaming every now and then, remembering those achievements, is good for us.

It’s not supposed to be about pride, but more about reminding ourselves that we’ve done some pretty good stuff, and that we still have the capacity and the time to achieve more.

(f)  Releasing Endorphins

Most of us have probably heard that eating chocolate or laughing can release endorphins (more chemicals) which make us feel good. While it may seem almost fake if we have to force ourselves to smile or to laugh, oddly enough, it really can work. Just by stretching our lips into a smile for ten or twenty seconds, can start stirring up the endorphins. The more we smile and laugh, the more our endorphins kick in. Throw on a comedy or a classic TV series we used to enjoy, and even when the jokes are old, it can still make us feel good.

We can add more to the list of things which may boost our endorphins including smelling vanilla or lavender, eating spicy foods, or just stretching our bodies. Perhaps stretching soon after we arise in the morning might just be a good way to boost our mood, and to start our day well.

A good dose of laughter each day, or just smiling and getting those smiling muscles moving, really can make us feel good.

(g) Eating Well

In the rush, rush , rush of our busy lives, it can be easy to leave good nutrition out of the equation. If we aren’t obtaining the proper nutrients from our diet, it can certainly impact on our health and also on what is happening in our bodies and brains, which ultimately affect our moods.

It’s not my responsibility to nag you – so take the time to improve your knowledge and perhaps even your cooking skills. I’m not suggesting that you need to be an amazing cook or to get obsessed with nutrition, but to practice and improve your knowledge and skills. I’m not a great cook, but I’ve certainly improved from practice, and I’ve put together a small recipe folder with my tried and tested easy recipes that I go to time and time again.

 (h) Meditation

The majority of us find it difficult to meditate, especially in a world where we are switched on most of the time with our electronic devices making phone calls, sending text messages and tweets, keeping up on social media, watching television and so on.

While it may have been easier for our predecessors to meditate in the past because they had fewer distractions, they also had much less leisure time than us and were likely physically more tired than we are.

Meditation isn’t something that many churches seem to discuss or encourage Christians to put much effort into. Meditation is a learned technique that can take a long time to master, but it’s a God approved practice which is discussed and encouraged in the Bible:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honourable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy.” Philippians 4:8 [Voice]

“Often at night I lie in bed and remember You, meditating on Your greatness till morning smiles through my window.” Psalm 63:6 [Voice]

“And yet I can’t forget the days of old, the days I’ve heard so much about; I fix my mind on all You have done; I ponder the work of Your hands; I reach out my hands to You. All that I am aches and yearns for You, like a dry land thirsting for rain.” Psalm 143:5-6 [Voice]

“Your majesty and glorious splendour have captivated me; I will meditate on Your wonders, sing songs of Your worth.” Psalm 145:5 [Voice]

What is meditation and how do we do it? We often think of meditation as someone sitting cross-legged, eyes closed and monotonously repeating the mantra “Aum,” or something along those lines. (That isn’t Christian meditation but rather Buddhism.)

Meditation can form a part of our daily time with God, and it’s a prayer where we meditate or focus our mind on the nature of God and His works, such as Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.

We may choose to look at the wonders of His creation, or His holiness or majesty. Otherwise we may just sit quietly in His presence, trying to be open to the touch of His Holy Spirit.

To begin meditating, we must put away distractions and give ourselves sufficient time to relax and focus on God, even if it means we have to get up a little earlier each day. Find a comfortable spot in which we can sit straight, but not stiffly. There’s no need to sit cross-legged or to have any special pose. For some it’s helpful to close our eyes, while others may find it easier to concentrate with our eyes open. (If I close my eyes, I’d likely fall asleep!)

Some people like their meditation to be quite structured because it helps them to channel their thoughts, while others may be more relaxed in their approach. Some find it easier to talk out loud, but meditation for many people is usually quiet.

There are myriad books and websites that provide suggestions and techniques which encourage us in our desire to mediate on God. While eastern mysticism also suggests the use of meditation, we should avoid any cross-over between the two, particularly repetitive phrases that quickly lose their meaning.

The Psalms can be a good place in which we can find ways to praise God, or to encourage our minds to focus on His greatness, such as Psalm 145:5-9:

“Your majesty and glorious splendour have captivated me; I will meditate on Your wonders, sing songs of Your worth.

We confess – there is nothing greater than You, God, nothing mightier than Your awesome works. I will tell of Your greatness as long as I have breath.

The news of Your rich goodness is no secret – Your people love to recall it and sing songs of joy to celebrate Your righteous-ness.

The Eternal is gracious. He shows mercy to His people. For Him anger does not come easily, but faithful love does – and it is rich and abundant.

But the Eternal’s goodness is not exclusive—it is offered freely to all. His mercy extends to all His creation.” [Voice]

We don’t need to chant but simply to focus on an aspect of God and to try and brush aside the random thoughts that flit through our minds. It will be challenging at first because we’re so used to letting our minds race around with no focussed control.

If this is something that we desire to pursue more deeply, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us to develop the necessary skills and to quieten our thoughts, and with time and practice it will become easier.

  1. Find God’s Purpose for Us

God gives each of us gifts which we should be deliberately working at developing. Those who’ve grown up in unhealthy environments as children, may have come to believe that they’re not a worthwhile person, or that they have no gifts or talents.

Some people miss out on opportunities to develop their talents as they’re growing up, and others may not even be aware that they have any. Some of us come to believe that the little talent that we have isn’t worth anything, or isn’t as good as those of other people, but that isn’t true.

We seem to honour people whose talents are more in the frontline of the church such as the pastor or the worship team, sometimes forgetting the many unseen or forgotten workers whose talents keep a church operating such as: cleaners, gardeners, teachers, IT people, church accountant, secretary, treasurer, organisers, deacons, missions co-ordinator and so on. There are many people whose work outside of the church are also important: RE teachers, prayer warriors, Bible study leaders, missionaries, and many more.

Nobody came into those positions without putting in effort to develop their talents in some way. We have a responsibility to seek out areas in our lives and our skills where God can use us, and as time passes, we may find opportunities to develop further talents.

Conclusion

This article developed into a much larger and wordier piece than I’d anticipated, but there are so many areas that contribute to our well-being which can discourage depression that it seemed appropriate to include as many as possible. I’m sure there are many other things we can do in our efforts to reduce our vulnerability to depression, but hopefully we’ve covered some of the more important ones.

We must remain mindful that God desires for us to be healthy in our bodies, minds and spirits, and to have a healthy and balanced self-image. There are behaviours and thought processes that are unhealthy for us to indulge, and which we should avoid.

I hope you will be encouraged to start these techniques in your life and your every day living, and to actively look at ways that will derail depression before it begins to take over, while at the same time ensuring that your first priority is your relationship with God above all others things. [End]

———————————

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Cat. no. (4326.0). Canberra: ABS.

Bibliography:
No author, no date, All About “Praise to God,” available http://www.allaboutprayer.org/praise-to-god.htm accessed 28/10/16
No author, no date, CBN “Overcoming Depression,” available http://www1.cbn.com/overcoming-depression, accessed 28/10/16
No author, no date, God Questions.org “What does the Bible say about depression? How can a Christian overcome depression?” available: https://gotquestions.org/depression-Christian.html, accessed 29/10/16.
Johnson, Andy J, PhD, 2016, Life Counselling Center “Understanding and Overcoming Depression” available: http://lifecounsel.org/pub_johnson_understandingDepression.html accessed 30/10/16.
No author, no date, Wikipedia “Christian Meditation” available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_meditation, accessed 01/11/16.
Hampton, Debbie, no date, The Best Brain Possible “How Happy Happens in Your Brain” available: http://www.thebestbrainpossible.com/how-happy-happens-in-your-brain/, accessed 31/10/16.
No author, no date, OpenBible.info “What Does the Bible Say About…Meditation” available: https://www.openbible.info/topics/meditation, accessed 01/11/16.
No name, no date, The Hearty Soul “How Complaining Physically Rewires Your Brain to be Anxious and Depressed,” available: http://theheartysoul.com/complaining-brain-negativity/?t=MAM&W=spirit, accessed 07/11/16.
[Voice] The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

About Us

About Us
SPAG Magazine is a free quarterly, electronic magazine suitable for all Christian adults, with a focus on singles, that means that we share at least one article per issue about Christian singles.

SPAG Magazine is a Christian magazine – that is its focus, and most of its audience is likely to be Christian. While a business or organisation wishing to promote itself in SPAG Magazine does not have to be Christian-based, our policy when it comes to advertising, articles, promotions and all other items is that any organisation or person who submits a request to sponsor or promote a business, organisation or event in SPAG Magazine or submits an article, photo or anything else for consideration, does so on the understanding and agreement that neither their business, their products, their article or any type of promotion will conflict with our Bible-based Christian ethics and personal convictions nor shall it cause offence to Christians or their beliefs. Any person or organisation that submits an item or promotion for consideration, does so on the understanding and agreement that their item and/or promotion and all images and wording contained therein, are not owned by nor copyrighted to another person or organisation.

Please note that overall advertising and promotion will be limited to less than 25% of the magazine which may also impact upon the number of promotions which can be included in a particular issue.

Who are the team behind SPAG Magazine?
There is a small but dedicated team of volunteers behind this publication:

Vicki Nunn

TwoDifferentColumns SMBadWriting
Vicki Nunn: Editor, Journalist, Layout Planner and Graphic Designer
Vicki puts in many hours to SPAG Magazine. She researches and writes various articles; sources other items and articles; finds and creates images; and then finally puts all of the magazine together and makes it available online. Vicki also maintains the website and the Facebook page, and presently pays the outstanding costs to keep the magazine going, with some support from generous donors (thank you.)
Vicki was involved in a number of different ministries over the years, including Kid’s Club, Sunday School and Youth Group. She was a volunteer radio presenter on Fresh FM 91.9 in Gladstone for over eleven years, and contributed a couple of regular connected weekly newspaper columns (see images on left.)
In 1998, she began a social friendship ministry for single Christian adults which she co-ordinated for fifteen years.
In 2005, Vicki gained a “dishonourable mention” in the annual international Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. The aim for contestants is to write a deliberately bad introduction to a novel. Vicki’s award was for her entry in the children’s literature section, an achievement of which she is understandably proud (see image on left.)
Vicki also began foster care in 2008, and during her six years as a foster carer, around 28 children were placed in her care, several for longer-time placements, including one child for almost five years.
Having lived away from her place of birth for more than 20 years, Vicki returned to Central Queensland in 2016 and is enjoying the opportunity of reconnecting with family and friends.
In her spare time, Vicki loves sci-fi movies, playing with her pets, and writing, and is hoping to begin work on the third book in a series of Christian novels set in the early 1900s in England. She’s hoping to have the first two books ready for publication some day soon when she finds sufficient funds to do so.
Vicki’s also creates graphic designs and particularly enjoys creating quirky images. These are available on a range of products available through different online stores. Here’s the link to her webpage which includes links to the three stores: www.missterrywoman.com
Assistant Editor and Journalist: Cath Chegwidden
Cath is a talented author and artist, and has joined the team as both Assistant Editor and Journalist. She encourages you to dare to dream. She’s been quietly producing creative works since her childhood but it was during her 25 year teaching career that her talent truly blossomed after she surrendered to Jesus Christ in 1987.
Medical retirement from teaching occurred when she was diagnosed with brain health challenges. Recognising that her career was at an end, she believed a fulfilled future was as well, but God had other plans.
Despite her health issues or possibly because of them, along with her artistic talents, Cath was offered the commission as the Artist in Residence at the John Hunter Hospital which included working with clients in early phase dementia, as well as those recovering from brain injury and stroke.
Her research and work enabled her to write the book “The Anatomy of an Artwork: A History of Rankin Park Hospital” published by Hunter Health.
The final artwork comprised thirteen panels that used relief collage, painting and sculpture that tracked the changes on the Rankin Park site and in medical technology over the life of this remarkable hospital.
Her talent granted opportunities to create artworks, which generate peace and calm in highly stressed medical environments and to witness about her love of God during the process. She has also had the opportunity to travel and using her God-given gifts to encourage others including those in several African nations.
Cath has been blessed with opportunities to illustrate twelve books and has published many short stories and books.
She created leadlight windows at several churches and produced tapestries, altar frontals and banners, vestments, costume designs, stage sets, puppetry, ceramics and sculpture, and exhibited at the NSW Parliament House in Sydney.
Challenged by illness yet again, she’s had to limit her artistic creations to writing and illustrative works.
In 2019 she published the book “Wallsend Proud” which local historians in Newcastle, New South Wales deemed “the finest social history that they had seen.” It shared the history of the people in this suburb whose many generations lived and worked in the mines.
One of her current projects involves illustrating and researching the Book of Revelation in context of the Apostle John’s life experiences, its time context and ancient world symbolism. This is proving to be another uniquely challenging and exciting endeavour for her.
For further information and supporting images, got to this link.
Journalist: Joseph Kolapudi
Joseph Kolapudi is a journalist with Christian Today (Australia), and through the International missions’ agency, Interserve has returned to India, where he is working with Olive Technology in the role of a Business Analyst. While also reviewing project proposals for Christian ministries all over India, Joseph has agreed to be a volunteer writer for SPAG Magazine.
Born in Australia to Indian parents, Joseph has been a lover of books and writing for as long as he can remember. From a young age he enjoyed biographical stories of people who influenced the world which inspired him to turn to writing. When he became an author at 17, he realised that his ability encouraged the passion of others, and was a gift that couldn’t be ignored.
His first job as a journalist for an online publication opened his eyes to the influence that he could have on a wider audience. This eventually led to an interest in writing internationally for the academic world. Desiring to combine his experience in academic writing as well as an interest in sharing people’s stories and connecting with them, he pursued a theological degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Southern California.It was here that he realised that writing was more than a pastime and was also an art-form that could have a global influence on the way people perceived themselves, their society, and the culture around them.
He completed his master’s in International Development and Urban Studies, and began to look into combining his skills and writing experiences which led him to the US, Center for World Mission where he could help developing relationships between international organisations, missions’ agencies, social enterprises, the US government, and local initiatives.
You can read more of Joseph’s writing at Christian Today.
Following is a link to a short interview with Joseph through the Hope Unlimited Church, India: link
Ziri Dafranchi
Ziri Dafranchi
SPAG Journalist
Ziri Dafranchi is a nature lover who enjoys walks in woodlands, parks, and gardens; and who believes that a closer interaction with nature should bring people closer to the Creator by revealing more about the many qualities of the supernatural Being behind creation and nature.
 He is passionate about a united humanity and about exposing the real enemies of mankind to be spirits and not bodies.
Ziri constantly advocates a better life through a knowledge and application of the truths about life and existence which forms the crux of his first book: Life a Mystery Solved. Other writings by Ziri can be accessed via this page and also on his personal Facebook page and Google+ profiles.
Liz Gill
Elizabeth (Liz) Gill
SPAG Journalist
Segment: I Wonder as I Wander
Liz is a qualified nurse and served as an RN with New Tribes Mission in Papua New Guinea in 2017/2018 where she shared articles about her experiences and what she learned.
Now back in Australia, Liz shares her thoughts and what God is teaching her in her Christian walk through her regular articles “I Wonder as I Wander.”
Michael Hannett
SPAG Journalist
Michael joined SPAG Magazine in mid 2018 and is a keen writer, often sharing insights into what God is teaching him.
The oldest of four children, Michael attended church as he grew up. He lives in Greenport in upstate New York in the USA, and works as a float teller in a bank.
Michael says “I love the Lord and I pray that the words He gives me will help others. My aim is to serve God full-time as a Christian writer, and to have my work published.”
Sharma Taylor
Sharma Taylor
SPAG Magazine Journalist
Sharma wrote for Christian Today (Australia and New Zealand) through the Press Service International (PSI)  for six years,  from 2014- 2019. She was the 2017 Basil Sellers International Young Writers winner in the young writer program as well as the 2019 Tronson Award (International) for consistency and highly recognised broad contribution to the young writer program.
The young writer program is coordinated by PSI in conjunction with Christian Today with over 80 young writers from Australia, New Zealand and around the world.
She was a Rooftops Scholar in 2013 (from Wellington Ecumenical Chaplaincy) for using online platforms to promote the gospel.
You can read more of Sharma’s articles at Christian Today (Australia) on this link.
Chef: Kristie
Kristie provides the delicious recipes for our recipe page in the magazine and is delighted to be on-board and sharing her love of low-carb cooking in ‘Kristie’s Kitchen.’
A young mum, Kristie also works as a chef and lives and works in Central Queensland, Australia.
Counsellors: Anonymous
Our Counsellors are not named to protect their identity – I guess you could call them our super-heroes. They write responses to letters from people who seek counselling advice in our ‘Letters to Lou’ segment. If you have a personal problem, please write to ‘Lou’ at:
Our Counsellors may even occasionally share an article in the magazine.
You can read earlier letters and Lou’s responses on our website.
question-mark-lightbulb
Writers: various
We have various writers from across the world who are happy to contribute their time and talent and share their insights.
One of our regular sources for writers is Christian Today, who provide an online Christian newspaper covering relevant and up-to-date articles.
We send out a big THANK YOU to these wonderful writers who so freely provide their writings and thoughts with us to share in SPAG Magazine.
Some of our regular writing contributors are shared below – click their name for the link to their online page:
Erik Cooper (the Stone Table);
Bill Muehlenberg (CultureWatch);
Kurt Mahlburg;

Mike Frost;
Vaneetha Rendall Risner;
Jonathon Van Maren;
Phylicia Masonheimer;
Justin Campbell, (More than Don’t Have Sex);
John Wesley Reid;
Lisa Copen (Rest Ministries)