Have you ever woken up on some mornings feeling powerless and helpless? Perhaps you just had a fight with your loved one or friend, your efforts at school or work reap unpromising results, or you have so much work on your plate you don’t even know where to begin. Or maybe nothing happened, but you can’t shake off those feelings for some reason.
I know exactly how it feels. There are days when I wake up feeling this way, and I stay in bed wishing I could sleep my woes away.
Sometimes, such feelings go on for days or even weeks, and end up determining my state of mind. A meal with friends or a day of productive work might make me feel better, but only temporarily. When I’m engrossed in work, I lose sight of those feelings. But when left to my thoughts, I quickly revert to a state of helplessness and despair.
I thank God for good friends who have counseled and encouraged me in such moments. One of them also recommended the book, When the Darkness Will Not Lift, by John Piper, which addresses the feelings of depression and suggests steps to take when they arise. Here are four steps I’ve found helpful to take when feeling helpless:
Step 1: Confess your inability to rejoice.
We are commanded to rejoice (Philippians 4:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Romans 12:12), and joy is one component of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). But the fact remains that we cannot force ourselves to feel happy. Sometimes, we just can’t look up and rejoice in God’s kindness and patience.
And here’s a comforting fact: God doesn’t demand that we must always be happy when we come to him. The book of Psalms records many instances where the Psalmist cries out in despair for deliverance from God from his state of depression and helplessness. Just like the Psalmist, we can cry out to God. We can go to God and confess our inability to rejoice. We can ask God to forgive us for our gloomy faith. We can still fall on bended knee and cry out for repentance for our tired, sad hearts that just cannot delight in the loveliness of God.
Step 2: Thank God for the small things.
Even in our depressive states, we can give thanks for the smallest things we have managed to do every day. I thank God that I have been able to wake up, get out of bed, brush my teeth, wash my face, and take a shower.
On days that I actually have my breakfast, I thank God even more. Following this step has helped me focus on God’s goodness instead of dwelling on my helplessness. He is a good Father. He is faithful.
Step 3: Ask God to restore your joy.
After we have confessed our inability to rejoice, we can ask God to restore our joy. After all, if He has commanded us to rejoice, it means He wants us to have joy, and therefore He will surely restore it. This joy transcends trials or difficult circumstances, for it is the joy of knowing and being known by Him, and the assurance that we are saved and deeply loved.
We may not have an immediate feeling of gladness, but we can rest in the knowledge that He will restore our joy in His time. God can definitely cause our unbelief to fall away and open our eyes to finally see and rejoice in His fullness and complete goodness.
Step 4: Ask God for energy to do what you have to do today.
Most of us do not have the luxury of staying in bed for the whole day—regardless of how we may feel. Things still need to be done. Laundry needs to be washed, homework needs to be completed, and reports need to be written. Even if we feel like it, we don’t have time to mope.
If your feelings tell you that staying in bed is the best thing to do today, preach to your feelings and convince them why they’re wrong. We shouldn’t ignore our feelings, but neither should we let them dictate our lives. We glorify God when we act out the gospel, even if it means acting contrary to our feelings.
Sometimes, our mood may not pick up despite all the above. But we still have work to be done. And so what is left here—go and do the work for the rest of today. God will deliver in His time.
These four steps have empowered me and helped me get up on days I feel incapable of getting out of bed. As we follow these steps, may God lead us to the true and living gospel of Christ which is mighty to save, has the power to heal, restore, and lift us out of despair and into hope.