Depression is an enemy that many of us seem to be
battling these days. But you know what? We don't have
to let depression sap us of our energy, make us wallow
in self-pity, deprive us of hope and happiness, and
send us into a downward spiral of misery, out of which
it seems impossible to climb. Just because nothing
seems to be going our way doesn't mean that God has
neglected us. Just because life seems pointless, doesn't
mean that it is. God is Life, and therefore, life
is always meaningful.
Let's take a poignant diversion for a moment to J.
K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
The movie came out last month and is a blockbuster
hit. So, regardless of opinions about the books and
movies, it's important for us to look at the messages
being sent. The messages about depression, insanity,
and happiness are powerful. Depression is like the
"dementors:" it deprives us of joy, of the
will to live. Dementors are hooded, black-robed creatures
that glide eerily through the air and "feed"
on human happiness (83-85, 237). The dementors (who
used to serve the Dark Lord before he lost his powers
trying to kill Harry Potter) currently guard the Azkaban
prison and drive the inmates insane. The word "dementor"
is closely related to dementia, which means "insanity."
When the dementors get near, they "suck out"
all the happiness from people and leave them with
their "worst" memories (187). When they
administer the "kiss," they don't kill a
person; they "suck out his soul" (247).
The charm that protects one from dementors is called
the "Patronus Charm." An individual creates
a Patronus (related to the word "patron,"
or protective figure) by "concentrating"
on a very strong, solid, happy "memory."
That concentration on a happy moment creates a barrier,
a protection from the dementors (237).
Let's delve a little deeper into this idea of the
dementors and the Patronus Charm. If we allow happiness
to be sucked out from our lives, we are left with
depression. Harry learns how to drive away insanity,
depression, and fear with happiness; so can we. In
order to do so, our happiness has to be true, real,
and strong. When Harry was first learning how to protect
himself from dementors, he did not choose happy enough
moments (237-242). But when he understood happiness,
he proved that happiness is more powerful than dementors.
What might be the dementors in our lives? What tries
to suck out our happiness and leave us feeling deflated?
Loneliness; self-pity; self-criticism; things never
going our way; everything bad happening to us all
at once; not feeling appreciated by family, friends,
teachers, bosses, peers; the feeling that we're worthless,
that there's nothing in life for which we want to
live; being sick too much; having no money; being
degraded, teased, or attacked by others; lack of energy,
Often these feelings come disguised as our own or
others' thoughts about us. Because they are disguised
as such, we tend to believe them. What's so powerful
about the concept of the dementors is that dementors
are an outside thing. They are not our own thinking;
rather, they attack our thoughts. So, let's reason
- Our feelings of self-pity, loneliness, loss of
self-worth, etc. are like dementors -- invaders
trying to suck out happiness.
- These feelings are not our own thoughts.
- Therefore, these feelings are not a part of our
individuality, character, being.
- As a result, we can separate ourselves from these
- Drive them away with genuine happiness.
It may seem too simple to say, "Be happy,"
but happiness is the ultimate protection from depression.
It's very difficult to feel depressed when we're jumping
for joy, celebrating good times, whistling an upbeat
tune, or just smiling.
So, how do we honestly feel and experience genuine
We start by understanding that happiness is not a
commodity or a human feeling to be traded, gained,
or lost. Happiness is a God-given quality that we
all have access to at all times, every moment of every
day. Joy is our right. Jesus said, "
joy no man taketh from you" (John 16:22).
That's an amazingly powerful truth. No one, no dementor,
no situation can deprive us of our God-given joy.
Often it's tempting to blame our depression on someone
else. But that doesn't solve the problem; it only
makes it worse. We need to see depression for what
it is -- an impersonal attack on our joy. Depression
is often mired in self -- we are absorbed in everything
wrong that is happening to us rather than being absorbed
in everything good God is doing for us. We need to
get ourselves out of the way. Seeing depression as
an impersonal attack on our happiness makes it easier
to destroy. We can then demonstrate Jesus' affirmation
and remain joyful -- regardless of the situation.
Joy is not pasting a fake smile on our faces, pretending
to be happy when we're torn up inside, or ignoring
problems and letting them fester. Joy is the calm,
clear, solid understanding that God is our life, energy,
and substance. Joy allows us to have a sense of humor,
to be able to see the good in life, to keep going
Real joy is like light -- it dispels the darkness,
reveals the truth, and gives life. There's a fun story
about a little bear and a light beam.