How to avoid depression?

Depression, according to international standards, is “a state of sadness and bitterness that lasts more than two weeks.” In recent years it has become known as a pandemic, even if it is not an infectious disease. Doctors also call it a “psychiatric flu.” From a medical or physiological point of view, depression is conditioned by the lack or insufficient elaboration in the human body of endorphins, which are also called “happiness hormones.” The cause can be organic, when for some reason the human body is not able to produce this hormone due to organic damage or due to the lack of factors that stimulate the development of endorphins. Among the factors that stimulate the development of endorphins are: good sleep, sports, tasty food, pleasant discussions, various activities that make you enjoy yourself and relax (knitting, drawing, singing, crocheting, reading). In other words, anything can make you happy!

Stress, physical needs, problems, poor diet and other negative factors can condition the development of depression.

The question arises: should the human body be a machine whose emotional state is one hundred percent conditioned by external conditions? If so, why do statistics show that the percentage of depressive episodes is high in developed countries such as the Netherlands (by more than 30%), France (21%) and the United States (19%), and the incidence of is lower in China by only 12%? On the other hand, it is known that depression is the main cause of suicide (statistics show that suicide in 85% of cases is caused by depression) and involuntarily I ask myself again: how did the detainees in the Nazi concentration camps keep their great desire to escape and survive the hell there? What was their source of “endorphins”? Enough sleep? Adequate nutrition? Daily occupations? Or communicating with the guards? I doubt it!

So what was their source of endorphins that helped them overcome the crisis and want to survive? What’s the secret?

Ms. Loredana Ionescu, clinical psychologist, in a study shows that external factors do not condition the state of depression, which can lead to suicide. After analyzing several cases of suicide, the author draws the following conclusion:

“The required conclusion is that, in such situations and not only, the existential vacuum is installed. Most of the time, it is not so important if you have something to live with, but much more important is to have something to live for, not to lose sight of the purpose of existence. In the absence of such a purpose, the existential vacuum appears. Just as no action can exist in the absence of a purpose, neither can life be sustained in the absence of a strong motivation, whatever that may be. If we focus on what we have, we will realize that we are much richer than we imagine.” (Suicide often caused by depression)

As I mentioned at the beginning, depression is a state of sadness and bitterness that lasts for more than two weeks. In the Bible we find a case in which a person, at some point, asks people to call her “Mara” meaning “Bitterness.” It is Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law (the book of Ruth).

depresia: Rut și Naomi

She was Jewish and lived in Bethlehem of Judah (Bethlehem means “House of Bread”). And they went to Moab with their husband and their two sons. While she was there, her husband soon died, the sons married Moabite girls, and they too died. The woman found herself in a foreign country with two pagan daughters-in-law. When she learned that God had watched over Israel and given them bread, she returned to her land. She returned home in a depression she did not even hide:

So they both went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. (Ruth 1:19-22 NASB)

From Naomi’s words we understand that she was angry with God and in everything that had happened to her, she saw only God as guilty: “The Lord spoke against me, and the Almighty made me sad.” But what was her relationship with God? Among the Jews, the names given to their children by their parents were always very significant. For example, Naomi means “pleasant,” and Elimelech, her husband’s name, means “God is Lord.” Their name reflected, in a way, their parents’ relationship with God. The names that Naomi and her husband gave to their sons also reflect their attitude towards life: Mahlon means “sick” and Chilion means “weak.” When famine came to the land (and we know that God sent the famine, when the people departed from Him, to provoke them to repentance), they left the land inherited from them by God. Moreover, being in a foreign land, they were joined to the people of that land, which God forbade them to do (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). It is no coincidence that God killed Naomi’s husband as the head of the family and her two sons, who took Moabite wives.

Being depressed, what were her actions? She tried to remove the daughters-in-law, who wanted to accompany her back to the country, to be with her and help her. And what was her explanation:

 But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I were even to have a husband tonight and also give birth to sons, would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is much more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has come out against me.” (Ruth 1:11-13 NASB)

Again we see that she is focused only on her problems, for which she sees God alone as guilty. She doesn’t think about her daughters-in-law. After Orpah leaves her in tears, Naomi tells Ruth, who urged her to take her with her, to return to her people and her gods:

Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not plead with me to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you sleep, I will sleep. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do so to me, and worse, if anything but death separates me from you.” When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her about it. (Ruth 1:15-18 NASB)

We see that Naomi, who knew well that there is no God but the God of Israel, sends her daughters-in-law to their people and their gods, who, in fact, are not gods, and knowing that worship before them brings death!

What else does Naomi do, being depressed? She sold the land, which belonged to her husband, Elimelech, and which was her only source of livelihood and could be a source of income. (Ruth 4:3)

But didn’t God do anything good for her? But did the fact that God preserved her life and brought her into the land mean nothing? But the fact that God gave her two daughters-in-law, who loved her? Even though God took her two sons, Mahlon (sick) and Chilion (weak), He gave her a daughter-in-law, whom the neighbors said “makes for her (for Naomi) more than seven sons.” (Ruth 4:15)

We can conclude that the depression in Naomi arose for two reasons: on the one hand, she focused all her attention on personal problems and on all problems she saw only God as guilty and did not see all the good that God had done to her and, on the other hand, she did not think of the needs of others, especially her daughters-in-law: did her daughters-in-law need men more than salvation? By the way, Ruth, who followed Naomi, who chose the people and God of Naomi, also received salvation and a beautiful family, marrying a rich man.

From the same book “Ruth” we can learn from another character how to avoid depression when we go through problems: Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law. Her situation was no better than Naomi’s. At least Naomi returned to her people, her culture, her religion, while Ruth found herself in a foreign context, being a widow and taking care of her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth, being young, having no children from her first marriage, could have returned to her parents, her culture, and perhaps rebuilt her family life, marrying someone from her family: as her mother-in-law urged her to do. However, Ruth made a choice that many could not understand and that Naomi could not understand either:

 But Ruth said, “Do not plead with me to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you sleep, I will sleep. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do so to me, and worse, if anything but death separates me from you.” When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her about it. (Ruth 1:16-18 NASB)

What made Ruth make this decision? The love she had for her mother-in-law (Ruth 4:15). Ruth did not think of herself, she thought of how to do good to her mother-in-law. This motivated her to give up her people, her gods, a happy future with a rich or poor young man (Ruth 3:10). Then, after returning to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, and her mother-in-law selling the land, she thought about how she could get food for herself and her mother-in-law. He learned of the law that allowed the poor and strangers to gather from the reapers (Leviticus 23:22) and asked her mother-in-law’s permission to use this right: she was not ashamed. She always thought of her mother-in-law and gathered food for her. In all things she was obedient to her mother-in-law. And God blessed her and made her a blessing to her mother-in-law!

So, the care and love for her mother-in-law Naomi protected Ruth from depression and made her a blessing for her mother-in-law and for everyone. Ruth is David’s great-grandmother and one of the five women mentioned in the names of the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).

So, in order not to fall into depression, you need to keep three things in mind:

  1. Don’t pity yourself: don’t let problems paralyze you, don’t focus on them and don’t look for the culprit in those around you or in God. Think about whether you are not alone in what happened and seek to restore your relationship with God. If the crisis is not a punishment from God, then it is a test of faith: seek to prove that your faith is true and do not be deceived by the evil one to murmur against God (Job’s example).
  2. Take action: look for solutions to overcome the crisis and take action.
  3. Think about the needs of others and seek to help them: they may be in much more difficult situations than you.

Translated by Didina Vicliuc