Dear Dr. Hoy,
I am a 15-year-old sophomore who has been raised as a Christian, but only really got into my relationship with God about two to three years ago. My parents had a bad divorce when I was seven, and since then, my Dad has not been there as a father should.
Over the past month or two, I have really been struggling to keep going, stay optimistic about my life, and continue a steadily growing relationship with the Lord. The reality is that I have been depressed for a while now. Sometimes I just start crying out of a deep sadness. In some of the worst times, I relied on God to pull me through, and He did; and I feel closer to Him because of it. I'll be in a really high and postitive mood for about a day or so, but then the depression sets in again. I know I am not severely depressed, but I am truly unhappy with everything in my life. I can't help but think that there must be something wrong in my relationship with God, or else why wouldn't He heal me completely?
I don't have any friends that I consider trustworthy enough to talk to about anything this personal, even though I'm surrounded by aquaintances who don't understand who I truly am. I feel that this couldn't possibly be what God has planned for me. I really need help.
I am so glad you are a Christian and are holding onto to the Lord during this dark time in your life. It sounds to me like there is an underlying reason for your depression, whether it is a loss of some kind, low self-esteem, abuse, an eating disorder, or even dealing with the reality of disappointments in your life and your parents' divorce. The divorce of my own parents affected me. It was a crisis in my life but it was used by God to help me grow in my relationship with Him.
What will make the difference in your life? Maybe you could ask yourself, If my life were all of the sudden to be so much better, what would need to happen? Would you need to change something? Would others need to change something? Would God have to do something drastic to make it better? Since it is difficult to count on other people changing, start with yourself and start with God. What is it about yourself that you want to change? Your appearance? Your status? Your social life? More money?
My bet is that none of those things would bring you happiness, but a good dose of self-confidence would. I encourage you to begin to work on your self-esteem. Read The Search for Significance by Robert McGee and learn about the false beliefs you probably have which are holding you back and making you unhappy. Also try The Freedom from Depression Workbook by Les Carter and Frank Minirth, or Learning to Tell Myself the Truth by William Backus.
People are usually unhappy because they are telling themselves that they are "not good enough," "don't measure up," "worthless," "damaged goods," "failures," etc. But, that is not how God looks at us. You and I know that Jesus Christ loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives. So, no matter what the circumstances are, He can change us from the inside out and give us a new perspective on life. Take a step towards Him and learn about how He can change your thinking and perspective.
Another recommendation I have is that you begin to build your friendships. You don't trust people and thus everyone is an acquaintance. So you feel isolated and disconnected. God made you to be part of His family and to be in close fellowship with other believers. Do you have a youth group in your church where you can get involved in some small groups and begin to make some closer friends? You need to take the risk to let others know you; you are not trusting people because of your parents' divorce and your fear that others will abandon you like your dad did. Because of that, you have no one to express your feelings to and thus, you stuff them inside and you become depressed. Once you are depressed you can't feel any good emotions. So, expressing yourself to others (a couple of friends, a relative) is important so that you can break the cycle of depression.
God wants you to be happy. Here's how.
You're not alone. You can be a Christian and still struggle with depression. Read how Tia is learning to fight for joy.