Another symptom that often accompanies depression is the feeling of extreme lethargy ("exhaustion" and "listlessness" are other descriptive words). When this happens you feel like doing nothing. Coupled with the feelings of sadness you long for a warm, dark place to curl up and sleep for a few days.
Do you often feel drained like that? One could argue that depression causes the lethargy, but the same argument works the other way. The feelings of depression may simply mean you have not been sleeping as you ought. One solution may be as simple as finding that missing shut-eye (see another part of this series on insomnia). But that is not simple for many people.
It is good to ask yourself if it is possible to remain joyful and glorify God even when you are tired. For a believer that is a great step toward living out God’s purpose for suffering Christians:
These [trials] have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:7
Because I am not qualified to make medical diagnoses, I often say, “I think you need to see a doctor about that.” But as long as you can’t get in to see a physician for at least a few minutes, let’s bring in some more questions.
Are you avoiding anything or anyone? Think hard. Unpleasant tasks put off can soon become large, haunting tasks. When you think something will be unpleasant, it is easy to convince yourself that you should avoid that activity at any cost. This may be something as complex as the need to confront a spouse or child for a horrible sin or it may be something as simple as cleaning the bathroom, paying the bills or writing an overdue paper (or blog article). In either case your heart seeks a way to duck responsibility and drowsiness is a readily-available escape. Proverbs outlines the symptoms of sloth, the sin few dare admit:
A lazy man does not roast his prey, but the precious possession of a man is diligence. Proverbs 12:27
Laziness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle man will suffer hunger. Proverbs 19:15
The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside; I will be killed in the streets!” Proverbs 22:13
I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. Proverbs 24:30-34
It is humbling to consider that your depression may just be the result of laziness, but there is hope in that confession. It classes you with those for whom Christ died: sinners. We have a proven cure for sinners.
Another question is related to the first: Could there be some other sin in your life that you are refusing to acknowledge? Listen to David’s testimony about a time in his life when he refused to turn from secret sin:
When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Psalm 32:3-4
You may already know of a sin you are harboring, but even if nothing comes readily to mind you are not excused. The sons of Adam like to forget what makes the conscience sting. Humbly ask a close friend or your spouse to list some areas of your life that might fit this category. Promise not to get angry and mean it.
Look at this difficult moment in your life as an opportunity to live out a very good plan. Whether your fatigue is the result of a physical condition, personal sin or a combination of the two, you have a responsibility to respond in a way that glorifies God. Don’t waste this hard time.
Ten articles in this series: