How to Rise above Anger and/or Depression

by Pastor Errol Hale

 

Two of the most common problems people wrestle with, especially these days, are anger and depression.  If anyone is unsure of how prevalent anger is, drive on a freeway in Southern California.  As for depression, the mental health and pharmaceutical industries have a record number of Americans convinced that they cannot cope without therapy, prescription drugs or both.

What most people do not realize is that these two share a common root cause.  Everyone of us has certain expectations in life.  We all live in a reality that is pretty consistently below our expectations.  Both anger and depression are two different ways of not coping well with the gap between our expectations and realities.  It doesn’t much matter how large the gap between our expectations and realities are, it’s how we deal with that gap that matters.

Because we do not all have the same temperaments when overwhelmed by the gap, some people blow up.  That’s anger in the first degree.  Others clam up, a different manifestation of anger or in more exaggerated cases it’s called depression.  Less angry and cheerful people are coping with the gap better than their volatile or melancholy counterparts.

While it may sound simplistic, anger and depression are caused by things not going the way I envisioned or wanted them to.  To those who feel this is too simplistic, my reply is, why complicate things?  Learn from children who tend to wear their emotions more prominently on their sleeves.  When they don’t get their way, they either throw a tantrum or pout.  These are children’s versions of anger and depression.

So, how does one deal with this difficulty in coping with the gap?  By means of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The gospel can be communicated with three Rs.

Ruined.  God is holy and commands us to be holy.  But we are not.  Our “less-than-holiness” is called sin.[1]  While sin has a number of serious side effects, the number one downside of sin is that because God is Holy He must judge sin and condemn sinners.  We are ruined by sin.

Remedy.  God is not only a just Judge who must condemn sinners, He is also a loving Father.  As a loving Father He has provided a way by which we may have our sins forgiven, and thereby escape just condemnation.  That Way is Jesus Christ, who is God in human flesh.  He is the only person ever to have lived a sinless life.  He then voluntarily offered His up life on a cross where he received the wrath of the Father due the people He came to save.  Three days later He rose from the dead, proving that He has authority over sin and death.  He is the only remedy for our sin.

Receive.  To reap the benefits of what Christ accomplished (not everyone is forgiven) each person must receive Jesus Christ as the only remedy for sin.  I receive Christ by acknowledging my personal sin and by asking God to forgive my sins based on what Christ did for me.  I receive Christ by having an earnest desire to turn from sin to follow Jesus as the Master And Commander of my life. (Is it wrong to begin the paragraph with “each person” and end with “I”?)

That is the gospel and the gospel is the answer to anger and depression.  Here is how. 

We left off either blowing up or clamming up because of the unacceptable gap between one’s expectations and one’s reality.  God’s answer is to shift one’s attention to an infinitely greater gap.  The gap between what I deserve for my sins (God’s condemnation and eternal wrath in a place the Bible calls Hell) and what I receive from Christ when I surrender my life to Christ (complete forgiveness for all sins, God’s eternal love with Him in Heaven.)

Wouldn’t you agree that the gap between Heaven and Hell is greater than the multitude of little gaps between what I want and what I often get instead?  The fact is, since Heaven is eternal bliss and Hell is eternal torment, the gap between the two is infinite and therefore infinitely greater than the “gaps” in my life that either anger or depress me.

The remedy for anger and depression is looking at and rejoicing in the one infinite gap instead of being undone by the numerous lesser gaps in life. 

Of course this remedy will do nothing to help the one who is not forgiven.  For that one, the disappointments in this life will not be able to be compared with the disappointment of being lost—especially when forgiveness was available, but rejected.  The first step, therefore, in dealing with anger and/or depression is to receive Christ.  If you are aware of your sin, that God must judge sin, but that Jesus Christ lived and died to secure forgiveness for your sin, then cry out to God for mercy.  Ask God to forgive your sins because of what Jesus Christ did for you.  Commit your life to following Jesus Christ as the Master of your life.

Please understand that receiving Christ will not eliminate the gaps that would anger or depress us.  Life is filled with these gaps.  What receiving Christ does, in addition to the most important element of saving our souls from perdition, is grant us perspective that life is bearable because we are forgiven.  Make no mistake; forgiven people often struggle with the gaps in life.  Even forgiven people must learn to turn our attention away from the gaps and be amazed by the gap created by God’s grace in forgiving us.

 

[1] One need not be notoriously evil to be a sinner deserving of God’s judgment.  One only needs to be less than perfect.  The standard by which God judges sinners is not how I stack up against other people, or how my good deeds compare to my bad deeds.  The standard is the perfect holiness of God Himself, and compared to Him, “There is none righteous, no not one.” Romans 3:10