Shift your focus from what seems wrong in your life to what's right, good–even wonderful.
Posted in , Nov 23, 2014
I was at my wit's end.
For the first time in my life, I was depressed. Not just down. Not just discouraged. Depressed.
It had been coming for months, and it was to last for months to come, though eventually I did climb out of that strange, dark place. But I didn’t do it alone.
Weekly sessions with a good counselor helped. So did some overdue changes in diet and exercise, as well as an adrenal fatigue supplement and a low daily dose of an anti-depressant. I’m convinced the biggest contributor to my recovery, however, was prayer.
Sure, sure, sure. You probably expected me to say that. But seriously. God is my salvation from depression, and prayer was a daily means of grace to me.
Some days my praying was fairly unintelligible and often repetitive (along the lines of, “Lord, have mercy; please have mercy”). But even more important than all my cries for relief were my nightly prayers of thanks–after I determined never to lay my head on my pillow without recording in my journal at least three prayers of thanks.
Sometimes I gave thanks for simple things:
Abba, thank you for the hummingbird I watched just moments ago, and for the sparrow that nearly lit on my lap. Thank you for the beauty and functionality of your Creation.
Sometimes I gave thanks on special occasions:
Abba, THANK YOU! for my wife of 31 years, and this day on which we celebrate our anniversary. Thank you for all you’ve given me through her, all you’ve taught me through her, all the ways you’ve changed me through her, and all the blessings that are mine because of her, chief among them being, of course, herself.
And some were for fairly ordinary blessings:
Thank you, Lord, for all your kindness to me: for a day of health and work and time with family. Thank you that I so often get to see my children and grandchildren. Thank you that I get to sleep in comfort tonight and preach your word tomorrow.
Day by day, however, by giving thanks for just three things, I found my focus shifting from all that seemed to be “wrong” in my life to all the things that were right and good and even wonderful.
This is not to minimize the reality and seriousness of depression. It can be debilitating and even life threatening; I’m not suggesting that “cheer up” is a meaningful prescription for overcoming it (remember, my recovery included counseling, medication, diet, exercise, and more).
But praying gratefully was nonetheless key in overcoming my depression.
“Giving thanks,” wrote E. M. Bounds, “is the very life of prayer. It is its fragrance and music, its poetry and its crown.” And it is both vaccine and antidote to depression, discouragement, bitterness and resentment.
Have you tried anything like this? Is gratitude a key part of your prayer life? What does saying “thank you” do for you?
Adapted The Red Letter Prayer Life (Shiloh Run Press, April 2015)