Maybe you find yourself a little depressed today. I understand there is clinical depression and I am not speaking of that, but rather of those who may be “down in the dumps.” You might be in the doldrums even though you are in good health, you had a meal today, and you have clothes on your back and a roof over your head. Maybe you are down because you know someone else has it a little better—or maybe a whole lot better—than you do. If so, then I have a 10-step solution for depression.
Step Number 1: Do something for someone else who has greater needs than you.
Step Number 2: Repeat step Number 1 nine more times.
Not only has God told us it is happier to give than receive, but scientific research shows the same. It is well documented that volunteering elevates mood in most people. This phenomenon has been dubbed “the helper’s high.” It has been assessed biologically in brain-imaging studies. It has also been looked at in research on endorphins.
I have never experienced the “runner’s high” but I do know about the “giver’s high.” If someone asks you what you are doing on the weekend, you can say, “Getting high!” Whoa, what? “Yes, at church, giving to the Lord and serving others!” Proverbs 11:25 says that those who refresh others are themselves refreshed.
When we take our eyes off ourselves, it puts things into perspective. As a pastor, I visit people in hospitals. I can have the sniffles and be thinking, poor me, and then go and visit someone who is critical condition. I leave just thanking God that I can walk out of the hospital.
The Bible tells us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NIV). In other words, never let selfishness or conceit become your motive in life.
Selfishness is at the root of almost all sins. Most of the quarrels and conflicts we have in life occur because self is either being threatened, challenged, or ignored. It is all about us. As James 4:1 asks, “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?” (NLT). How true is that? We all want our own way. And that is prewired in us from the earliest days. The Bible says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT). There is no getting around it: We are all naturally selfish.
Selfishness ruins so many things in life. Why did Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit? Because Satan told them, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5 NIV). They were selfish.
Think of all of the immorality in our culture today. Why do people have sex before marriage? They are selfish. They don’t want to wait to commit themselves to each other. They want the fringe benefits of marriage without the commitment that goes along with it. And why do people commit adultery after they have been married? Selfishness. They don’t care about their mate; they want to have a little fun.
Do you know someone that has a need right now? Someone you can reach out to? Someone who is hurting? If you wait to feel love for people, you will never do anything. If you wait until you feel like putting that relationship back together, it will never get put back together. Will you do it by faith? Will you do it in obedience? If you will, then you can live a joyful life. But if you run around living for self-fulfillment, then you will be miserable. If you will remember your purpose on earth is to glorify God and to love others, then you will find the personal fulfillment you always wanted. And you will find happiness as well.