Christian and Depression

I am aware of several Christians who suffer from depression. Is this normal? Other Christians have also stated that it is acceptable to be depressed, as this is natural, particularly during pandemic season. However, is this reasoning acceptable? Is this, in fact, what the Bible says? Allow me to respond in accordance with what the Scriptures say, not with the world’s humanistic wisdom. Yes, I do believe Christians can experience mild depression or even clinical depression (major depressive disorder) which is already a serious condition. However, is it natural or appropriate for a believer to have such an experience? Do we now convey that this experience is truly a part of Christian life? Or is it truly possible to live a life devoid of depression? Permit me to consult some specialists first. According to Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin of Mayo Clinic, the following are signs and symptoms for a patient diagnosed with clinical depression,*

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

If you examine these things closely, you will notice that the majority of them originate from a tormented spirit, manifesting in bodily sickness. Even David encountered many of these occurrences leading to physical ailment. However, his prescription is never to immediately seek medical attention, but to seek it from the Lord Himself.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?**
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. – Psalm 43:5

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 sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Selah
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD”–
and you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Selah
Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you
while you may be found; – Psalm 32:3-6a

If you notice, his initial instinct is to seek spiritual healing from the Lord. It is acceptable if the individual is an unbeliever due to his lack of relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and ignorance of God’s Word. However, as a believer, you are not to be ignorant of what the Scriptures teach about the demonic attacks. The Psalmist and the apostle Paul both reiterated the Scripture’s value in edifying and encouraging believers.

Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers. – Psalm 1:1-3

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Tim. 3:16-17

The Bible constantly reminds believers to overcome the negative spirit in them by heeding God’s Word. The apostle Paul again says,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Phil. 4:8-9

Depression is a reality since we are in a broken world with demonic spirits who always plant negative thoughts in our mind as believers. But rest assured that we can counter such spiritual attacks by building up our faith through God’s Word and deepening our relationship with Jesus Christ. When King Saul discovered that the people lauded David’s success more than he did, he began to have negative views about himself, which resulted in poor self-esteem. And as we all know, this created an opening for a tormenting spirit to spiritually attack him. This had such an effect on his thoughts that he came way to close to killing David with a spear as the latter was playing his harp for him (see 1 Sam. 18:6-12). All of these things occurred as a result of King Saul’s disobedience of God’s commands (see 1 Sam. 15:1-11) Indeed, Asaph came dangerously close to self-pity when he attempted to compare himself to the rich unbelievers. He regained his confidence in the Lord after focusing on his relationship with Him, at which point he obtained a full understanding of the predicament of the people with whom he is envious.

Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed your children.
When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny. – Psalm 73:1-2, 15-17

As a result, we can also assert that there are some things that a believer disregards despite God’s unambiguous instruction. The Lord has previously advised us to place our trust and faith in Him regardless of our loss, failure, faults, challenges, or troubles. As the Psalmist declares,

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. – Psalm 42:11

Do not get me wrong. I still completely understand the psychiatrist and psychologist’s job, particularly for folks who have actual clinical disorders that are already affecting their physical brain. I would quickly add that there are instances when a psychiatric illness is completely valid. This is where a Christian psychologist, Christian psychiatrist, or Christian counselor must learn to distinguish and discern spiritual from psychological issues. But as a devout Christian who places a high premium on God’s Word, I am convinced that the only way out of depression for a believer is for them to return to embracing God’s promises and assurance, which no human words or worldly wisdom can match with the assistance of godly people who can stand with them in faith and prayer. My hope and prayer is that we, as believers, will always grow in our study of the Word and our relationship with God as we become attentive to the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives.

Notes:

* https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/clinical-depression/faq-20057770Clinical

** This is also like saying, “Why are you ‘depress,’ O my soul?” The Hebrew word picture for “downcast” conveys a hole excavated in the ground to trap someone or something, to fall or sink into a pit that it’s hard for one to get out.

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