By Dr. Tom Smiley
In the Christian community, the following questions are often pondered:
- How should a Christian deal with depression?
- What does the Bible say about depression?
- Should a Christian ever be depressed?
- How can a Christian overcome depression?
Depression is a complicated, multifaceted condition. Being depressed is not inherently sinful, and depression is not always caused by sin, nor does it indicate a lack of faith. When depression strikes, the victim needs to make discovering the cause and treatment of the depression a priority.
Seeing a doctor for depression is no different than seeing a doctor for any other injury of an ongoing condition. Being depressed is not a sin any more than having a broken arm or having cancer is a sin, but one is still accountable for the response to the affliction. This includes getting the professional help that is needed.
This is what we know:
- Millions of people, including Christians, suffer from depression every day.
- Depression has a strong genetic component.
- Depression can manifest as sadness, low energy, frustration and extended misery.
- People dealing with depression may begin to feel useless and even suicidal, losing interest in things and people that they once enjoyed.
Personal choices play a role in depression. Unfortunately, it’s been said that depression is a sin, BUT it’s more accurate to say that sometimes sin leads to and feeds depression. Depression can be caused by:
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Indulging in anger or self-centeredness
- Other self-destructive behaviors
Sin always has negative consequences, and part of any therapy for depression should include an analysis of what sins could be exacerbating the situation.
Depression is driven by negative feelings, perceptions, and thoughts. Unbiblical beliefs about one’s value and ability often contribute to depression. The Bible exhorts us to take our thoughts captive (2 Cor 10:5); to concentrate on the truth of a situation instead of a faulty perception (John 8:32); and to rely on God’s Word instead our feelings (Ps 56:4). What a person thinks, feels, and chooses to believe—whether true or not—can have physical repercussions. Refusing to believe the power and love of God, and concentrating on brokenness and pain would make anyone depressed (Ps 25:4-5, 16-19).
Depression has a definite spiritual element. It can be one of Satan’s tools to take Christians out of the work of the Kingdom. Depression can effect our view of God and sap our joy. It is impossible to live a Spirit-guided life without joy (Gal 5:22; Phil 4:4). Sometimes, depression may be caused by direct demonic activity (1 Sam 16:14), but not always. How we handle depression is a highly spiritual matter. The Bible says to cast all our cares on God (1 Pet 5:7). The remedy for a “downcast soul” is to place one’s trust in the God who saves. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Ps 42:11).
In addition to all this, we know there are many different sources of depression and several types:
- Situational depression, as the name implies, is brought on by adverse situations. Generally, the depression clears with time as the situation is resolved or accepted. Situational depression is a response to the pain of living in a fallen world.
- Clinical depression is a physical condition that must be diagnosed by a physician. It may not be caused by unfortunate life circumstances, nor can the symptoms be alleviated by self will. Contrary to what some in the Christian community believe, clinical depression is not always caused by sin. Depression can sometimes be caused by a physical disorder that needs to be treated with medication and/or counseling. Of course, God is able to cure any disease or disorder. However, in some cases, clinical depression interferes with day-to-day life, including: work, school and home.
- Chronic depression is less intense than clinical depression, but can last much longer. It’s characterized by fatigue and sadness, and it can be punctuated by bouts of clinical depression. Whereas chronic depression doesn’t feel good, it doesn’t typically effect lifestyle or the ability to work. Before the fall of man, there was no sin, no shame, no fear and no depression. Depression is a result of the fall, and those who suffer from depression find that it has ramifications in all parts of human life.
Treatment for Depression can come from several fronts:
- Temporary medication to relax the body and relieve the mind
- Adjustments to the diet
- Confession of sin
- Spiritual counsel from trained and mature Christ-followers.
A Prayer for those dealing with Depression:
Dear Jesus, you are our refuge in good and in bad times. In your infinite mercy, bring peace and comfort to those of us who face days sometimes filled with pain and depression. Help us to realize that through you there is joy and the promise of lasting peace. Help us through the rough times. Walk before and beside us, so that we may walk in your footsteps and reach out to you in our journey on this earth. Help us to focus on our blessings rather than our misfortunes. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayers. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.