A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression.
I received a recent email asking about where my idea for LifeFilters came from. When I went through my worst depression ever, twenty years ago this month, I had to work for months through counseling to understand what kind of behaviors led me into depression.
My most serious problem stemmed from the fact that I wanted everyone to like me. I craved everyone’s approval. This translated into the concept that if I ever told someone “no” to a request, they wouldn’t like me. So, I never said “no”. I was a true “yes” man!Now, in church service, this can be, and is a serious problem. We tend to associate quantity of service with how much God loves us. If we say “no” to church service, we say “no” to God and then God might love us less. Now, this is a lie from the pits of hell. (And, remember what I always say? Ask, “What is the lie?” And, remember, Satan is the father of lies!) I learned that God desires quality of service, not quantity. I had to learn to say no to all of those “good” ideas so I could say yes to the “God” idea. Singular, not plural! God, generally speaking, has one job for us to do at a time. Not twenty two!
In order to help me learn how to make better decisions I had to somehow “filter” my thought process when it came to requests to serve in the church, or anywhere for that matter. I had to learn how to say “NO”. One day, I was watching our pool man clean out our pool pump. That particular pump filter had multiple layers of substance to filter the water coming out of the pool and going back in. The first layer was composed of large stones. The next layer had slightly small stones until each subsequent layer got smaller and smaller. The last layer was so fine, it filtered out minute particles. So, the first layer caught all of the “big” stuff. But, it allowed smaller contaminants to pass. So, the next layer caught those smaller contaminants. But, even smaller, more insidious particles could pass. It would take all of these layers, each finer than the preceding to truly produce clear, uncontaminated water.
Could I adapt this kind of “filter” to my life? And so, I developed the LifeFilter. Five questions I had to ask myself. The first question screened out the “largest” requests. If a request made if past question one, each subsequent question became more focused. And, if the request made it through all five, I could say “yes”.
I needed one card for each day as a reminder of how I should filter my thoughts. But, I needed a different scripture for each day. I came up with 30 scriptures and printed out my first set of LifeFilters. I will never forget the day Mark Sutton, my pastor at the time, asked me to do something at church. I pulled out my LifeFilter, glanced at it and responded, “If you want an answer right now, it is no. If you will give me 48 hours to prayer about it, I might say “yes”.
He was stunned! He wanted to see what was on that card I had just pulled out of my pocket. I showed it to him, and it wasn’t long after this incident he asked me to go to lunch. At that lunch he confessed he also suffered from depression. A series of very honest conversations led to Mark’s suggestion to write a book and adapt the LifeFilter for use by others suffering from depression.
The LifeFilters that accompany our book are different from my original LifeFilters. But, they served me well at the time and I still have a copy to remind me of the weaknesses of my past behavior. So, here is the response I sent to the inquiry about the five questions on my original LifeFilter.
Sorry I’m just now answering you. I’ve had a terrible two weeks with adjusting to my new diabetes diagnosis.
My original LifeFilters were designed to make me “filter” every decision through several layers to make sure I was doing what God wanted me to do and not what Bruce wanted me to do. Always in the past if I wanted to do something I was requested to do I would say yes before considering anything or anyone else. So, I designed the original cards with five questions.
I would start out after a request with the following statement, “If you will allow me 48 hours to think and pray about your request, I might say yes. But, if you want an answer now, it is no.
Then, I would go through the following questions:
1 — What would God want me to do? This is central to my thinking now. I get up every morning and ask God, “What work do you want me to do for you today? Don’t let me do what I want to do. Let me do the work you have planned for me to do today.”
2 — What would Sherry (my wife) want me to do? This is almost as important as the first question because I agreed to do many things particularly in the church without thinking about how that decision would impact our time together.
3 — What would my family want me to do? This goes beyond my wife to my familial responsibilities. At the time I went through my depression, I was also taking care of my wife and two middle school age children and my aging parents. I can’t tell you how guilty I can feel when I consider how much time I spent at the church when I should have been home for my children!
4 — What would my friends want me to do? Yes, I consider my dear and closest friends, my fellowship circle so to speak. Because many decisions I made ended up damaging friendships.
5 — What would Bruce want me to do? Finally, I consider what I want to do. This is important to put my thinking last. If the request gets an “okay” in the first four questions then it boils down to my personal gifts, talents, skill set and how God can use me in this endeavor. For instance, I have learned that there are certain situations that are very unhealthy for me. I need to avoid doing certain things because they can pull me in since I was addicted to approval.
On the flip side of my original LifeFilters, I used scriptures that are now on our current LifeFilters. These scriptures were chosen because they were my favorites and some because they were uncomfortably right!
So, there you have it. You may want to consider making your own set of LifeFilters with a series of questions or statements that apply to you. Of course, the only way you can develop your own personal plan is through professional counseling. Don’t turn your back on getting help!
If you are in the Shreveport area, remember Mark Sutton and I are holding a Conquering Depression Seminar at Brookwood Baptist Church on Saturday, November 14th from 9 to Noon and you can sign up for that seminar under the “Seminar” tab. Or, if you are interested in having us come to your church/facility and hold a seminar, let us know through the Contact tab.