According to research done by the Mayo Clinic in 2013, nearly one in four women ages 50 to 64 are on antidepressants. 13% of the overall population is on antidepressants. Men make up roughly 5% of those using antidepressants, and there is an amazing total of 70 percent of Americans using at least one prescription drug for a wide variety of physical and emotional complications.* We live in a complex, stressful world, and are finding - with disturbing regularity - that peace of mind (and body) evades us.
We long to escape, to get away from the stresses of life, to find an oasis of calm in our dry deserts. Medication seems to provide the only answer. Thankfully, God has an over-the-counter prescription for peace that is available to anyone, anywhere. This remedy is found in Philippians:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication ,
with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
A Two-Part Prescription
I took some time last week to do an oceanside prayer retreat with God. As I studied the book of Philippians, the Lord urged me to keep reading, beyond this familiar "prayer prescription" (above) that we so often quote in Christian circles. There is a second part that we often miss.
What I noticed was that when God addresses the problems of anxiety and depression, He tells us to do more than just pray things through. You may find that prayer works until the enemy assaults you with the next discouraging thing, sometimes only moments after you emerge from your prayer closet. There are so many negative attacks, in fact, that we jokingly say we do have to "pray unceasingly" just to get through our crazy days! I believe that depression sets in so easily because people are simply overwhelmed by the demand to keep going when life seems to be falling apart. This is a well-known and yet still effective strategy of the enemy. (See Revelation 13:7).
What, then, is the solution? More vacation time? More time in nature? As David Stern wisely notes in his Jewish Commentary on the New Testament, "The object is not retreat from an evil world, but sanity in it." ** The second part of God's prescription shows us how to find our balance:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble,
whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely,
whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything
praiseworthy- meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received
and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Change Your Thinking!
To find peace means to change our thinking. To meditate on God's inscriptions in our lives, on the testimonies of what He has done. (The Passion Translation notes that the Aramaic in verse 8 literally means to focus on God's "acts of glorification.") This is more than admiring the stars or sitting at the beach. This is the stability that comes from noticing and remembering the things that demonstrate God's trustworthiness. Justice rendered in a court case. The victorious faith of a friend who survived cancer. The love a husband shows to his wife, even when she fails him. When the enemy sows hopelessness with his negative thoughts, we must choose to think about more noble things. When we don't feel like we have anything positive to say, we can still speak the Word of God, as the psalmists did, rehearsing the many miracles God has done throughout the ages.
As we fill our minds with good things, we find that negative things slowly lose their depressing power over us. We encourage ourselves, as David did, remembering that God is still on the throne. When we are too broken to fight, we lean on the faith of others to help us up. We find, as Romans 15:13 says, "peace in believing." Faith in the goodness of God saturates our thinking and permeates our whole being, bringing peace and healing.
There are identifiable medical and psychosocial benefits resulting from prayer, as science is now confirming.*** There are even longer-lasting benefits that come when we do the deeper work of changing our thinking. The renewal of the mind with the truths of God is not easy, and it is a process. But the enemy is fighting harder than ever for control of your mind and destruction of your body. Are you using the two-fold prescription God gave you for victory?
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and
peace in believing, that you may abound in hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014; all references NKJV unless stated otherwise.
*CBS News, June 20, 2013: "Study Shows 70 percent of Americans take prescription drugs;" CBSNews.com; see also the Mayo News Release at MayoClinic.org for details.
**Jewish New Testament Commentary, David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarksville, MD; 1992; p.602
***"Prayer and healing: A medical and scientific perspective on randomized controlled trials;" US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health; as printed in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 2009 Oct-Dec 51 (4): 247-253.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.