How should a believer deal with depression?
Howard Coles, Coleford, England
How should a believer deal with depression?
Depression is a common mental disorder; one source estimates that it disrupts the lives of up to 15% of those living in the Western world at some time or another in their lives.
The reasons for depression are too complex to attribute to any single cause. Among the varied causes are: biological factors, helplessness, rejection by others, abuse, negativism, stress, anger, sin and the subsequent guilt. Depression may have a physical basis, it is known that lack of sleep, and the side effects of drugs or physical illnesses can be causes. There is also some evidence that depression may sometimes have a genetic basis. The word depression is often used today to describe a wide variety of conditions from deep disappointment to the far more serious black depression that can drive a person to suicide.
It is not the intention here to go into medical causes or remedies for depression; these require the skill of modern medical practitioners and help must always be sought where there is no overt spiritual or emotional cause. The purpose of this brief answer is to look at some Bible references which may be of help in situations where sin or the pressure of other external circumstances have been the cause and where those who suffered these circumstances were carried through them by the Lord.
Confess sins and experience the blessedness of forgiveness
David, having committed adultery and murder by proxy, was depressed until he confessed his sin, ‘When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer’, Ps. 32. 3, 4. Only when he confessed the sin, and received God’s forgiveness, was the depression lifted, ‘I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah’, Ps. 32. 5. ‘Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered’, Ps. 32. 1.
Hope in God
Again, David said, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee’, Ps. 42. 5, 6.
Even in the most difficult circumstances, we need to know that depression can be avoided
Paul said ‘We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; . . . For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’, 2 Cor. 4. 8-9, 16-17. It is his attitude of mind to the pressures that is evident here and this took the edge off the sense of burden and conflict.
Isaiah sought to encourage the Israelites with a word from the Lord, ‘He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength . . . But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint’, Isa. 40. 29, 31. Surely it is as we make immediate and constant approaches to the Lord for His help and intervention that the depression lifts and the needful insights are provided.
Be positive, accounting that the Lord knows how we are and things do change
‘Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, rejoice’, Phil. 4. 4; ‘My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing’, Jas. 1. 2-4.
‘In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you’, 1 Thess. 5. 18. If a sense of thankfulness for all God’s mercies can be kindled then this will lift the whole atmosphere of the situation into a positive one.
Rest in God’s Promises
David, again inspired by the Spirit, wrote, ‘Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass . . . rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him’, Ps. 37. 3-5, 7. Any willingness to rely on the Lord in the circumstances He will recognize and reward; of this we can be sure.
Finally, we can count on the Lord being there for us
The disciples were discouraged (depressed!) when the Lord Jesus told them He was to leave them, John 13. 33. But He dispels their sorrow by telling them He would:
1) be coming back for them;
2) prepare a place for them.
‘Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also’, John 14. 1-3.
By so promising He lifted their hearts and vision beyond the pressures and circumstances of this present world to the blessedness of His presence in heaven itself.