Depression is something with which many people battle. In fact, Healthline estimates that 16.8 million adult Americans struggle with depression every year. With so many people experiencing depression, we as Christians must understand some fundamental things about depression. We hope that if you are struggling with depression, this post will help you know that you are not alone. And if you do not have depression, we pray that this will help you continue to love those in your life who do battle depression.
- You can be a faithful Christian and battle depression
There are faithful men and women of the Bible who wrestled through all kinds of depression. You have someone like the prophet Elijah who went from the most monumental moment of His life–which was calling on God to bring fire down to prove to the people of Israel that God was the only one worthy of their worship–to then the most terrifying moment of His life running from the wrath of Queen Jezebel and asking God to take His life. The circumstances that surrounded him looked bleak, and it took him to a very dark place. But God was present with Him in the battle and brought Him to a place of hope. And then we have Job, maybe a more familiar saint who struggled. He went through one traumatic event after another and was continually stripped of his earthly comforts. Satan would've loved for Job to lose faith in God and lose all hope, but in his darkest hours, he spoke truth to his own heart. Even if he didn't feel it, he held on to what God said to be true and trustworthy. Other saints like Hannah, Naomi, David, and Jeremiah also battled through types of depression. For further study on their stories, you can delve into the Never Alone study offered through the Daily Grace Co. (https://thedailygraceco.com/products/never-alone-walking-with-god-through-depression?_pos=1&_sid=86915b3b3&_ss=r) It's important for the Christian who struggles with depression to know that you are not alone. God continues to work in and through your life.
- Depression in and of itself is not sinful, but our response to it can be sinful
Though many Christians have misjudged the struggle of depression and laid many unfair claims on those who wrestle with it, we need to understand that feeling depressed is not sinful. That said, our response to depression can be sinful. Just like anything we feel–our emotions get to the heart of what we truly believe, think, and feel, and we choose how to respond to those things. There are ways we can respond to depression that can lead us into sin. Maybe it is a lack of repentance when consumed by guilt. Maybe it is running to escape in other things like substance abuse or food or isolation. Or maybe it is coming to a place of rejecting the goodness of God. But we can fight the lies of Satan that something else can offer us freedom from depression–there is no freedom in a lack of repentance, there is no freedom in escaping to other things, there is no freedom in rejecting the goodness of God. That's bondage. So, we can fight those lies and believe that we find true freedom in Jesus Christ even while walking in depression.
- Depression doesn't look the same for everyone
Depression is multifaceted and complex. More often than not, there are multiple underlying factors for someone's depression. Maybe there were specific circumstances that led someone into depression. This could be a traumatic life event; or it could be a prolonged period of high stress where our physical, mental, and spiritual needs are not met; or it could be childhood wounds that created unhealthy thought patterns. Furthermore, it could be more physical, like a terminal diagnosis, imbalances or another bodily sickness. It could even be a genetic disposition toward depression. There's not always a clear-cut reason for one's struggle with depression, and so we should always, always approach depression with sensitivity and humility.
- There is no "quick fix" to depression
There's no promise to the end of depression in this lifetime. While we know that God does heal through prayer, depression is not a sign that someone does not pray enough or have enough faith. Furthermore, it cannot be eradicated by just picking oneself back up. And offering that kind of advice is unhelpful and discouraging. We live in a fallen world, and depression is a result of the fall. It may ebb and flow over different seasons in our lives or not. But for the Christian, there is the promise of a day when it will be no more. God's Word tells us in Revelation 21 that when Jesus comes back there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, and God will wipe every tear from our eyes. Grief, shame, guilt, and imbalances will be no more. As we wait for that day, there are ways to work through and find help and resources to comfort and encourage those who have depression. For more detailed examples, listen to episode 119 about Depression on the Daily Grace Co. podcast. (https://dailygracepodcast.com/episode/5-things-christians-should-know-about-depression-ep-119/)
- Scripture speaks to the heart of depression
The Bible speaks of a beginning we all ache for where there was no sin, shame, fear, or sorrow. But Adam and Eve rejected the truth about God in exchange for a lie–a deadly lie that would result in the fall of man and separate them from the presence of God. Their emotional, physical, and spiritual bliss turned to agony. Life outside of Eden brought pain and difficulty for every generation that followed. Those who suffer from depression can find their "why" in ramifications of the fall affecting their entire being. The effects of the fall would leave us hopeless if that were the end of the story. But it isn't. From the very beginning, God had a redemptive plan for His people to reverse the curse of sin. He would send a Savior, who would take all that was broken and distorted by sin and make it new. So, God sent His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to step into the sorrow and sin of this world, live righteously, bear the wrath of God on the cross, and defeat sin once and for all. He suffered so we might be set free from suffering. He came low to the point of death to raise us up in new life with Him.
Through salvation in Christ, we are sealed with the promise of a day when all things wrong will be made right. Our minds and bodies will be restored. We will no longer be riddled with imbalances, imperfections, or internal failings. We will no longer be misguided and deceived by our hearts and minds. We will no longer bear the weight of sorrow, trauma, anguish, or sin. Depression and every discouraging and devastating reverberation of the fall will be no more.
Christians wait for this day with hope. And even in our suffering now, we know God will hold on to us. We know He walks with us. God provides His nearness and comfort as we journey towards heaven. He collects our tears and carries our burdens. And He will never leave us. There is an end for all who battle days, seasons, or even a lifetime of depression, but that end is only promised in the eternal hope of Jesus Christ.
Any diagnosis of clinical depression must come from a medical professional who is qualified to diagnose and treat such physiological symptoms. You should never attempt to self-diagnose. If you think you may be struggling with clinical depression, please seek the help of a qualified mental health professional. We hope that this blog post encourages you regardless of the nature of your despair or depression, as God and His Word speak to every condition, physical or spiritual. We can cling to His Word even as we partake of the physical blessings of professional help and means of care that He provides to meet our specific needs.