What does the Bible say about depression? How can a Christian overcome depression? And what biblical methods and modern methods should be used when a Christian is dealing with depression?
Here are 3 pointers to help Christians overcome depression.
Acknowledge You Actually Are Depressed
When it comes to depression, there can be a lot of shame for Christians. Many Christians have been taught that to be a good Christ follower means you are happy and kind all the time no matter what. If you don’t smile, you must not be doing well with the Lord, or so the false narrative often goes in many churches.
In response to the shame and guilt Christians often feel about depression, many try to solve this problem through denying they actually are depressed. They not only deny that they are depressed to other Christians, they also try to deny these feelings of unhappiness to themselves too.
The first step, therefore, for Christians to overcome depression is to actually acknowledge it. Christians must realize that it is not a sin to be depressed. We can sin in our depression. We can turn our backs on God because of our depression. Actions like that would certainly be sinful. But feeling depressed is not a sin itself. If we don’t acknowledge our true feelings of depression when they are present, we will not be able to rightly ask Jesus to meet us where we are at.
In Mark 2:16-17 for example, Jesus made it clear to us all that the solution to our problems is never denial. We have to be honest with Christ:
And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
While this Bible verse does not directly say anything about depression, the principle Jesus is talking about does apply. If we do not admit our need for Jesus, we will not be able to have our needs met by Jesus.
Christians Must Determine If the Depression Is Spiritual, Circumstantial, or Biological
Depression is a very broad description. There are many types of depression. I think the best way to categorize depression is by its cause. All types of depression might feel the same, but there can be very different causes to those feelings.
In my view, I believe there are basically three main causes to most feelings of depression: spiritual, circumstantial, and biological. A depression linked to the spiritual side of our lives might be present because something is wrong with our personal walk with God, we might feel guilty for a sin we committed, or perhaps we are even going through a season of spiritual warfare. For example, when you read Psalm 32:1-5, you can see how sin can cause us depression and thus God’s grace is the solution we need:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
While our connection with God is the true source of joy, being connected to God by the grace of Jesus does not mean you will never experience any type of depression. Another source of depression can be events and circumstances in our lives.
When you are sad about something that you should be sad about, this means your heart is working properly. If your child dies, for example, a deep depression would be very appropriate. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, a feeling of depression is natural. Even in the midst of trials likes these, however, we can still have joy in the Lord.
When you can identity a certain circumstantial cause as the source of your depression, you can then invite Jesus into this situation. God may not make your external circumstance better, although he may; what he will always do is walk with you through every trial of life:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
To overcome depression that is related to an event or certain situation, you must pray about this. Even if God does not answer your prayer the you wanted, he will bring a supernatural peace into your heart through his presence. God is always the true solution to depression.
Lastly, depression can also be caused by biological imbalances in our bodies. Depression as a physical disorder is a topic of study that the church needs to do more work in. I think the church often gets scared away from talking about mental health and depression based in the body because they feel like this undercuts the spiritual solutions to depression which are only found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is why I believe we have to rightly assess the true source of our depression. If you start taking anti-depressants because you are guilty about your sin, this is not what you need. If you take a medication to avoid circumstantial issues in your life that you need to work through, this is not good. But if you have done the soul work with God, you’ve worked through the hard parts of your life, and you still struggle with seemingly unexplainable depression, you could be in need of medication.
I went to seminary and not medical school, so I’m not a doctor and this is a topic you should research with your health provider. But my belief is that a biological problem should be addressed with a biological solution. Christians become uneasy, again, because they feel the use of an anti-depressant is a lack of relying on God’s power. A use of medication could mean this, but it certainly doesn’t always mean this.
When we use chemo therapy to address cancer in the body, Christians don’t feel this is a lack of faith in God. So if our brains have biological deficiency and our bodies are not working correctly, why would we tell someone using medication for this need is a lack of faith?
This is why rightly assessing the cause of the depression is so important. Rather than seeing medication as a lack of faith in God, we should see it as a blessing from God when used properly. My view of God’s sovereignty is that God is literally in control of everything, including the development of mental health medication. If you use this medication in the ways that God wants you to use it, you can use it in faith rather than as an expression of a lack of faith.
Mental health medication is not “the” answer and it shouldn’t be used for everyone; but it is also a tool that can be used for the glory of God when it assists someone to live and act in a way that is glorifying to God.
Find Your Joy in Christ Even When Dealing with Depression
So how can a Christian overcome depression? While there are many biological, practical, and spiritual things a Christian can do to address depression, the real cure is not the absence of depression but the presence of the Lord.
I wish I could tell you that if you follow certain steps you will be forever cured of depression while you live your life on earth. I can’t say that though. No matter what you try, no matter how perfect your brain chemistry, and no matter how mature you become in the Lord, some of us will struggle with depression in a greater way than others. Sometimes depression doesn’t go away no matter what you try.
While I believe depression will usually get better when you address it, we have to also stay realistic. So what should a Christian do when no matter what they do, the depression won’t lift? They should do what they are always called to do – seek the Lord. Whether you are the happiest person who has ever lived or you are deeply depressed, you are to seek Christ. Use your happiness to seek Christ. Use your depression to seek Christ. Being with Christ is always the answer no matter who you are. As Psalm 23:4 states:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
David, like us all, had to walk through the valleys. The cure was not the absence of valleys just as the cure for us isn’t the absence of depression. With Christ we can be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).
You can’t always escape depression as a Christian, but you can always overcome it through the powerful presence of God.
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