Thoughts to Ponder

Be Sober Part III

In part I of this series of Thoughts to Ponder I explained using God's word why I felt that taking psychotropic drugs was dangerous spiritually. Then in part II I shared from the experts why taking these drugs was worthless and dangerous physically and mentally. In this article I want to show you the alternative via God's word and common sense.

The first thing I want to share is a quote that I used in the second article, it concerns the benefits of exercise:

One such study was done by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University. The researchers used 156 men and women age 50 or older who had been diagnosed with major depression and then randomly assigned them to an exercise only group, an antidepressant only group (they received the antidepressant Zoloft, the most prescribed antidepressant in the U.S.) or an exercise plus antidepressant group. Those in the exercise only group were to get 30 minutes of exercise three times each week. After 16 weeks when depression levels were again assessed, it was found that he exercisers had improved as much as the other two groups.

But this is not the end of the story. At ten months (six months after the first study was concluded), depression was assessed once again. The researchers were surprised to find that the group who was asked to exercise had made more improvement than either of the other groups. And not only were the patients who engaged in exercise alone gar better off emotionally at 10 months, they were far less likely to have had a relapse back into serious depression. The high relapse rates associated with antidepressants are not advertised, so you may not even be aware that it is not at all uncommon.

Why would exercise alone prove to be even better than exercise and Zoloft? The researchers admitted that they were very surprised by this unexpected finding. "It was assumed that combining exercise with medication would have, if anything and additive effect." The researchers speculated that taking the antidepressants might actually have undermined the important aspect of overcoming depression. As they put it, instead of patients thinking, "I was dedicated and worked had with the exercise program; it wasn't easy, but I beat this depression," they lost the benefit of feeling they made an important accomplishment without drugs and thought instead, "I took an antidepressant and got better." (America Fooled pages 173-174)

Another thing that exercise does for a person is that it makes you do something that isn't instantly gratifying. It is hard work and therefore you have to want to do it out of discipline. That brings me to the point of all the advise I have for someone who is depressed, has anxiety, or other mental problems. Get the focus off of yourself!

Self-esteem is sold as the cure all today, but I will tell you that it is the cause of most people's problems. They focus on themselves and when a person does that it will bring them to ruin. If you focus on yourself then you cannot focus on God. If you focus on yourself it is natural to never be satisfied.

Studies show that people who get anorexia nervosa (which also happens to be mostly girls) are self absorbed. They look at the skinny models on magazines and then look at themselves and hate what they see. They never feel that they can be skinny enough, they are never happy with their own image, yet many die because they lose too much weight.

But this isn't the only mental problem people have who spend time gazing at themselves and wanting to be someone or something that they aren't. Depression and suicide are also very common. None of us is exactly what we wish we were. Even the most beautiful woman you can find will have something about herself that she doesn't like. Men are no different, we all wish we could be just a little taller, slimmer, more handsome, more intelligent, etc... the list is as long as there are people in the world.

When we focus on self we will never be satisfied. When we focus on self, we can't help but treat people differently too. If we are the focus of our own lives then obviously others aren't the focus of our life. They won't be as important as we are to ourselves. Paul tells us this will happen in the last days:

2 Tim. 3:1-5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. [2] People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, [3] without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, [4] treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- [5] having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

Now Paul tells us not to have anything to do with such people, so how much more would he tell us not to be such people! Paul also tells us this:

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

This is not the only place in Scripture that we are told that pride is a problem. The very first sin committed was because Eve wanted to be like God:

Genesis 3:5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Elsewhere we see warnings also:

Proverbs 16:5
    The Lord detests all the proud of heart.
        Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 18:12
    Before his downfall a man's heart is proud,
        but humility comes before honor.

God has given us all what we need:

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

He has also told us what the most important thing in our lives should be:

Luke 10:27 He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

If you love your neighbor as yourself, then you will want what is best for him and your focus won't be just on yourself, but rather on the common good. These are not suggestions, these are commandments. Jesus said this is reply to being asked what the greatest commandment was not what the greatest suggestion was.

Everyday when you get up you have a choice. You can praise God for another day to serve Him, or you can curse another day of not being who you would like to be or not having what you would like to have. The choice is yours. You can choose to bring joy and comfort to someone else or to wallow in your own misery. Again let me show you what God has to say and notice that these things are all directed at other people:

Proverbs 3:27-38
    [27] Do not withhold good from those who deserve it,
        when it is in your power to act.
    [28] Do not say to your neighbor,
        "Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow"--
        when you now have it with you.

Proverbs 12:25
    An anxious heart weighs a man down,
        but a kind word cheers him up.

Proverbs 10:12
    Hatred stirs up dissension,
        but love covers over all wrongs.

Proverbs 12:18
    Reckless words pierce like a sword,
        but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 15:4
    The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life,
        but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.

Proverbs 15:30
    A cheerful look brings joy to the heart,
        and good news gives health to the bones.

Proverbs 25:11
    A word aptly spoken
        is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Do you want your life filled with joy? Then bring joy to others. When you show the love of Christ to others, not only will you make friends, but their joy will overflow to you. But if you focus on bringing joy to your own life, you will miss many blessings and remain bogged down in your own depression.

Proverbs 3:5-8
    Trust in the Lord with all your heart
        and lean not on your own understanding;
    [6] in all your ways acknowledge him,
        and he will make your paths straight.

    [7] Do not be wise in your own eyes;
        fear the Lord and shun evil.
    [8] This will bring health to your body
        and nourishment to your bones.

Read that last verse again, isn't that what we all want? Yet we give up the blessings by focusing on ourselves. Even when we go to 'the experts' for help we harm ourselves. The prevailing wisdom of man is to love yourself, to build yourself up, to encourage yourself, to reward yourself, to treat yourself, to give yourself some 'private just for me' time and on and on the list goes. The bottom line is that what man has to offer is not only worthless it is harmful to good mental health.

Jeremiah 17:5-9 This is what the Lord says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. [6] He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. [7] "But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. [8] He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." [9] The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

I hear from so many people who are like a bush in the wastelands. They can't see prosperity even when it comes to them. I am sure I will get a few nasty letters about this article too, telling me that we can't love others until we learn to love ourselves. BUNK! We are all born loving ourselves, we don't need to learn it, we need to learn to quit doing it.

I get letters from people all the time who claim to hate themselves. Most are contemplating suicide, some are just depressed. But if you get past what they say you see a much different story. It isn't that they hate themselves, they just hate something about themselves, or about their life. They hate the way they look, or they hate the fact that people don't like them, or that they don't have more money or a better job. They don't hate themselves, they love themselves and they want something better for themselves. Even those contemplating suicide aren't doing it to punish themselves they are doing it because they hope it will bring them relief and what they want. If they truly hated themselves they wouldn't want a new job so they could buy more things for themselves. If they truly hated themselves they wouldn't want more friends to like them.

Satan is good at convincing us that we need more of what is already causing us problems. What people need is Christ-esteem. They need to focus on God and others and their lives will change. They will find purpose and reward and comfort, but most refuse and just continue to look inward.

Do you want to be joyful in this life? Then follow Christ and focus on Him. Do you want to have friends? Then be a friend. Do you want to be mentally healthy? Then focus on God and others and not yourself. Give up the instant gratification and set long term goals and work towards them. Learn the fear of the Lord, which doesn't mean to be afraid of Him, but rather to revere Him and honor Him above all else including yourself.

Are you nervous or anxious? Then take it to the Lord in prayer. You have the Creator of Heaven and Earth on your side, why would you worry about things you cannot do anything about? Be content in the Lord.

Matthew 6:25-30 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? [26] Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? [27] Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
    [28] "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. [29] Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. [30] If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflects his views.

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November 2006