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  • Rick LoPresti

The depression of selfishness

There is the depression that is also called clinical depression which is diagnosed by medical professionals, and there is the depression that could also be called discouragement. Depression has many causes and symptoms, but one that is sometimes overlooked is selfishness. This may seem contrary to some people who think depression is caused by a lack of "self-worth". They think the way out of depression is to boost your feelings about yourself. Sometimes depression is caused by thinking too much about yourself. When we become self-centered, we think everything is about us. When reality clashes with this, we get depressed. Too much focus on self leads to negativity. Although this is a spiritual and emotional problem, the symptoms also are manifested in the natural. The brains of negative people look differently in a scan than those of positive people.

While the Bible does not teach us to expect a fantasy life where every circumstance in this world is pleasant, it does show us that faith in God can help us overcome what does come. There are many examples in the Bible of people becoming depressed when they became self-centered. King Saul started out "small in his own eyes (1Sam 15:17)," but he became totally selfish. He lost his joy, his relationship with God, his relationship with his son, his place in the kingdom, and maybe his soul. In comparison, his successor David said he would be base in his own sight in his worship to God (2Sam 6:22). He had great joy although he endured great difficulty. He had all the things Saul lost.

David's son Solomon was a gook king who loved God at first and had great prosperity. He became selfish in his old age and backslid. He wrote a depressing book called Ecclesiastes about the emptiness of his life. In 12 chapters he mentioned himself 229 times, 72 times in chapter 2 alone. Although Job went through a severe trial, he became focused on himself and was miserable. The word I appears 323 times in this book, my 277 times, me 249 times, mine 51 times, and myself 12 times for a total of 912. Not all of these references are Job speaking of himself, but most of them are.

Judas was a disciple of the most selfless man who ever did or ever will live - Jesus Christ. Yet even he became selfish. He though about how to enrich himself financially at the expense of his great opportunity to be an apostle. He was the 12 disciples' treasurer, and he stole from the account (Jn 12:6, Jn 13:29). He betrayed the Lord for some money (Zech 11:12-13, Mt 26:15, Mt 27:3-10). He committed suicide - the ultimate selfish act of hopeless depression. Acts 1:25 says that when he died he "went to his own place."

Judas' Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered more unjustly than anyone; but He did not suffer from a selfishness-induced depression. How did He do it? He focused on the Father and His mission, not His humanity. He said, "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him thata sent me (Jn 6:38)." He did not seek attention for Himself, but He sought to glorify the Father (Jn 7:18). He pleased and honored the Father (Jn 8:29 & 49). He sought not his own glory (Jn 8:50). Yet He was completely secure in who He was, even when His disciples all "scattered, every man to his own" and left Him alone in His time of great need, because He knew He was not alone (Jn 16:32).

When we get the focus off of ourselves, we get the focus off of our issues and onto those of others (1Cor 10:24-33, 1Cor 11:21, 1Cor 13:5). We follow the example of our Savior (Phil 2:4 & 21).

We fulfill the love of God (Gal 6:2, Jam 2:8, 1Jn 3:16). We find the inner joy by looking outward toward God and others. We find that God takes care of us when we serve Him and others according to His will. The early church found this out through financial giving (Acts 4:32-37). Ananias and his wife Sapphira tried to pretend to give all of an amount while still being selfish, and they died (Acts 5:1-10).

All sin can be broadly lumped into 2 categories - lust and pride (1Jn 2:15-16). Lust and pride are both nothing more than selfishness. Lust says, "I want to satisfy myself at your expense." Pride says, "I am better than you." When we keep the 2 greatest commandments by loving God and loving others (Deut 6:4-5, Lev 19:18, Mk 12:29-31), we are also loving ourselves in a Biblical, healthy, balanced way. Our focus gets off of our issues, and we get the joy of the Lord, which is our strength (Neh 8:10).

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