Lesson 1: Introduction

Question 1

Welcome to Setting Captives Free and to this course specifically designed to help you with depression. I'm thankful that you are here.
Depression has often been described as a heavy, dark cloud. This cloud seems to descend all around us, choking us and blinding us like smoke. Sometimes the blackness is so thick it seems palpable. Maybe we cry in secret, hiding our struggle from others or sometimes we sob openly and inconsolably, causing distress to our friends and family. Sometimes we wish we could cry, but instead we just feel a heaviness in our spirit that drags us down.
I recently read about an event called New England's Dark Day, and I thought it sounded just like my experience with depression; maybe you can relate:
New England's Dark Day refers to an event that occurred on May 19, 1780, when an unusual darkening of the day sky was observed over the New England states and parts of Canada. The primary cause of the event is believed to have been a combination of smoke from forest fires, a thick fog, and cloud cover. The darkness was so complete that candles were required from noon on. It did not disperse until the middle of the next night.
Wow, that sounded just like my entire past life. "Unusual darkening", "smoke and thick fog", "cloud cover", and "complete darkness." I'll share more of my story throughout this course, and I'd like to hear your story too, but New England's Dark Day is a good description of what I lived through for many years.
The darkness we endure in depression can lead to isolation, as we simply lose interest in interacting with other people and so we withdraw from society and end up alone and lonely. "You have taken from me friend and neighbor--darkness is my closest friend. (Psalm 88:18 NIV). This is a common experience for those of us who have lived with depression.
As you've thought about depression, have you ever thought, What I wouldn't give for a little light, a little hope, something to wake me up, burn away the dark cloud, clear my head of this fog and remove the numbness and deadness in my heart!?
Have you ever felt this way? Am I describing your experience when I describe mine?
Joce, a mentor with Setting Captives Free, has recorded some thoughts for you:
If so, I have some very good news for you. Good news that can not only burn the dark cloud away but also shine light into your very soul, give you genuine hope and joy and absolutely fill your heart with love. It can revive and expand your heart and give you the understanding that you are fully awake and fully alive.
This good news to which I'm referring is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and God has been using it to heal hearts and change lives for thousands of years.
Notice what happens in the good news:
Colossians 1:13-14 NIV  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, (14)  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Consider some things that Colossians 1:13-14 teaches us. First, the gospel is a rescue, specifically a rescue from darkness. Secondly, notice that it is a powerful rescue because in the gospel we are rescued from the power of darkness. Finally, it is a rescue through forgiveness. God says, For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (Hebrews 8:12 NIV). We will discuss this in more detail as we proceed through this course.
Now perhaps you already know the gospel, and you are feeling tempted to just walk away about now because you don't think the gospel can help you in your depression. But I want you to hang in here with me because in this course our objective is to learn how to apply the gospel, specifically to this area of depression that many of us have had to deal with for as far back as we can remember. For when we apply the gospel we find the solution that puts an end to looking for any other solution. It's that good. It's that powerful.
Let's make this practical:
Let's say, for example, you have been experiencing depression for quite some time. Success is not when the overwhelming thoughts and feelings you are experiencing are completely erased while taking this course, rather success is when you, today, receive the gospel of Jesus Christ in His Word, and when you, today, apply the gospel of Jesus Christ in some way. If, today, you are studying God's Word, looking for the message of good news, receiving the gospel; and if, today, you are applying the gospel, that is, dying to your flesh with its desire to dwell on despair, then you are having a successful day. That's what this course is going to encourage you to do. And if you are doing these two things, and you do them daily, eventually depression, in God’s timing and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9) will lift off your shoulders and joy and gladness in Christ will become more of your experience. Because the focus is to be on receiving the gospel daily and applying the gospel daily, we are going to ask you two accountability questions every day. The questions will simply be, 1) "Have you received the gospel of Jesus Christ today in your study of God's Word?" And, 2) "Have you applied the gospel of Jesus Christ in your life today?"
As we progress on in this course we will begin looking at this heart-transforming, life-saving good news in some real depth. But for now, I want to hear from you as to what brings you to Setting Captives Free.

Question 1. Please share with us what brings you here to Setting Captives Free, and specifically to this course on depression.

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Harris writes,"There has always been a heaviness in my chest that isolates me and causes me to avoid initiatives. It has been there since I was a child. I am 50 years old now, and I believe in Christ. Yet the heaviness is there, sometimes heavier and sometimes lighter."
Carnell writes, I have always felt a sense of loneliness. I guess it was the devil having a stronghold on me, but I never felt I could express my feelings too. I am seeking freedom from this and want to experience and develop that precious, intimate relational light of Jesus!"