In life we all experience ups and downs. We go through peaks of exaltations, excitement, and happiness with elevated confidence, enthusiasm, and vigor. We also go through valleys of lethargy, dullness, and sorrow brought down by anxiety, fear, and lack of energy. Somewhere in between is a middle line that represents the base level of our emotions. The highs and lows of life typically don’t stray far from that middle line; our highs are not too high and our lows are not too low. Imagine that this line was to drop so that the highest highs barely reached the old point of even temper, and the lows sink one far deeper into inky depths. Many do not need to imagine this as they have lived it for themselves. Most will have witnessed this in the life of a friend or family member. We used to call it melancholy, but today depression is the preferred term. There are a lot of voices talking about it. Some peddle medicines, others offer support, while still others claim to have found the ultimate cause. However, one voice speaks with a unique tone: the ring of eternal truth with claims of a definitive understanding of this awful condition, a treatment, and even a real cure. This is the voice of the Bible the Word of God to us. It is a voice most worthy of our attention and trust. By listening to what God has to say about depression we will find hope for ourselves and our loved ones in the midst of this great struggle.
In life we all experience ups and downs. We go through peaks of exaltations, excitement, and happiness with elevated confidence, enthusiasm, and vigor. We also go through valleys of lethargy, dullness, and sorrow brought down by anxiety, fear, and lack of energy. Somewhere in between is a middle line that represents the base level of our emotions. The highs and lows of life typically don’t stray far from that middle line; our highs are not too high and our lows are not too low.
Imagine that this line was to drop so that the highest highs barely reached the old point of even temper, and the lows sink one far deeper into inky depths. Many do not need to imagine this as they have lived it for themselves. Most will have witnessed this in the life of a friend or family member.
We used to call it melancholy, but today depression is the preferred term. There are a lot of voices talking about it. Some peddle medicines, others offer support, while still others claim to have found the ultimate cause. However, one voice speaks with a unique tone: the ring of eternal truth with claims of a definitive understanding of this awful condition, a treatment, and even a real cure.
This is the voice of the Bible the Word of God to us. It is a voice most worthy of our attention and trust. By listening to what God has to say about depression we will find hope for ourselves and our loved ones in the midst of this great struggle.
The Essential Depression Bible Study
Causes of Depression
Before we go any further in this depression Bible study, let us consider some of the possible causes of depression. Some would like to make unrepentant sin the sole cause of depression. While unrepentant sin may well lead to depression as the soul is rightly prosecuted to bring about repentance, it is equally possible for an overwrought conscience to be depressed over imagined sin, or even sin already repented of and forgiven.
Depression can also result from an emotional letdown after a major victory. This was the case for the Prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19 following his defeat of the prophets of Baal. At such moments we might feel ourselves untouchable, enhancing the demoralization of depression when it arrives unexpectedly.
Here’s 1 Kings 19:1-4 for reference: “And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.”
Perhaps the leading cause of depression is trauma. It is important to remember that trauma can result from very mundane situations. A few cutting words here and there or at just the right moment can put one on the path to depression. The longer trauma goes undiagnosed and unresolved, the more likely it is to negatively affect us.
Whenever we feel depressed, Satan and his cadre of evil spirits are sure to take notice and try to push our flesh from merely a depressed mood into the deeper, darker depths of full-blown spiritual depression as outlined in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”
The enemy’s attacks must not be discounted in considering the causes of depression, or its treatment.
Sometimes the causes of depression are blatantly obvious while other times the causes are obscured. Finding the cause is very helpful in overcoming depression, but we must take care in the search lest we create trauma that was never present, or put ourselves in the role of a victim. Yes, we might have been a victim of abuse, neglect, mistreatment, or bad circumstances, but we retain the power of response. That is, we choose how to handle it.
Some of us choose not to handle those hurtful situations at all which stunted our emotional development. Some of us chose a poor way of handling the situation causing malformation in our physical development. Just as a physical injury needs to be properly treated by a skilled and knowledgeable individual, so to do our psychological injuries need to be correctly treated so our psyche can heal as well.
The first step in proper healing is not knowing who to blame, but knowing that we can take steps along a path to recovery. That path is laid out before us in Scripture by the God who knows exactly what has happened to us, precisely where it hurts, and perfectly how to help us. The Bible has a lot to say about depression and its causes for our good and God’s glory.
Depression in the Bible
Depression has as many descriptions as the souls who have suffered through it. The American Psychological Association defines it as “persistent sadness and lack of interest and enjoyment.” Others speak of a long dark night of the soul, or of struggling through a howling waste. The word depression is often used synonymously with despair which means a lack of hope. Depression can also have many symptoms both psychological and physiological. It’s known to have many causes ranging from substance abuse to emotional trauma and even stress. It can have many contributing factors as well.
Depression is a profound experience. As an experience, we must understand each person encounters it differently. This is well illustrated in the literature on depression which contains descriptions as we have noted above. Cases of depression can differ in length and severity, but in all cases, it is a terrible affliction of the soul. John Bunyan in the Pilgrim’s Progress likened despair to a giant who overcame travelers, locked them in the dungeons of Doubting Castle, and ground their bones to dust. It is an apt image for this life-crushing condition.
Psalm 88: 3-5 describes the very blackest depths of a depressed state: “For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength: Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.”
It is an experience so dreadful we would like to think it’s something only non-believers could possibly suffer. After all, how could those bound for Heaven seem to draw so nigh to Hell? Quick fixes galore are on offer replete with catchy cliché platitudes that do more to dismiss the hurting than to relieve it. Yet, God includes the topic in His hymn book.
The difficult reality is that Christians are not immune from the affliction of despair, or spiritual depression. In fact, Psalm 13, 27, 40, 42, 88, and 143, among several others, bear witness that saints do indeed walk through some shadowy valleys along their narrow way. We can easily see Moses facing this struggle. We find the prophet Elijah struggling with depression in 1 Kings 19.
We often find Jeremiah downcast, and even Paul testifies to struggling with depression in 2 Corinthians 1:8: “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:”
Jonah had a similar moment during his mission to Nineveh. Job too seems to have been depressed during his ordeal. Notable Saints from church history have also admitted to struggles with depression including Charles Spurgeon. All these figures managed to live their lives and serve God faithfully despite their afflictions.
Depression is a normal part of life in this fallen world, just like suffering from the flu. Depression is not a sign that salvation has been lost, or that faith is not true. It is nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about. Rather, it is an ordeal to be confessed and confronted with grace, truth, and love. Where depression appears, it is an invitation to draw nearer to God. Sometimes, a moment of distress can bring one closer to Him.
It is perhaps a sign that we must continue to work out our own salvation in fear and trembling like the Bible says in Philippians 2:12-13: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
Finally, the Bible informs us (in Revelation 21:4) that depression, no matter how severe, is a temporary affliction: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
There will be an ultimate end to depression along with every other illness, affliction, hardship, and disorder when believers in Christ come face-to-face with their Savior and Lord in Glory. When the soul that has known the struggle with depression arrives in the awesome presence of God, how shall they be received?
God’s Attitude Toward the Depressed
Jesus does not look down upon sufferers of depression, harshly criticizing them and demanding that they pick themselves up and get on with life. He is merciful as we can see in the following verses:
- Psalm 86:5: “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.”
- Psalm 103:8: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.”
- Psalm 145:9: “The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.”
- Lamentations 3:22-23: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”
This is most wonderfully evident in the saving work of Christ from 1 Peter 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”
Look through the stories of the Bible and you shall find example after example of God’s tender care toward the downcast. This would be more than enough to satisfy us, but there is a yet more wonderful reality at hand. For we have an intercessor who empathizes with our struggles.
As we are told in Hebrews 4:15 our Great High Priest is touched by our infirmities, and understands our feelings: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
Find Christ in Gethsemane and you will see He has fathomed the depths. We read in Psalm 22 of the great distress our Lord suffered on the cross. We read in Isaiah 53 what pains He knew, what mistreatments, and what abuse. Our Lord Jesus knows and understands our afflictions having gone through them Himself.
So, when in Isaiah 42:3 the Prophet says, “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth,” we can surely believe it. See also Matthew 12:20: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.”
The God-Man said of Himself in Matthew 11:29: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” He invites us to come to Him for rest. This includes rest from the burden of depression. This includes rest from the causes behind our depression. We can come to the Great Physician seeking care without fear of rejection or condemnation.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death. See Romans 8:1-2: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
We can go even in this very moment to speak with the God of Healing through the wonderful gift of prayer. Full relief comes in Heaven, but much relief is possible here and now by the grace of God.
Depression and Reality
Let’s pause this depression Bible study here for a brief moment to hammer home the critical point that depression is all about perception. Depression makes it seem like God is far off. Depression makes it seem like no one loves or cares for us. Depression makes it seem like we are helpless and hopeless. Depression changes appearances by affecting our perceptions, but that is really all it does. That is all depression can do.
Reality has not changed, God is still there with His people, we are still loved and cared for, and we are not at all helpless or hopeless. The truth is still true no matter how depression makes it feel. Let us put it very simply, depression always lies. It lies about you, and everyone else, and most especially, it lies about God. The lies come in torrents, they come with great force, and they come with a convincing emotional impact; but they are still only just lies.
When one is depressed, nothing seems worthwhile or interesting. It seems inactivity is the only activity to pursue. This lie keeps us in a self-perpetuating cycle in which depression leads us to feed further depression. In reality, if we begin to do something, we will find ourselves engaged with it in no time. No, we might not feel what we are used to feeling about the activity, but we will feel something.
When we feel depressed, we tend to feel drained of energy. This compounds our problems by leading us to believe we lack the basic resources to even begin confronting them. In this way, depression keeps us stuck. We resign ourselves to waiting it out because it seems like there are no other options. This is another misperception; because the truth is: we have a way out, and we have the resources necessary. How? Because God has provided both, and no one can prevent His aid from reaching us.
What God Wants for Us
Here is a sad bit of reality for us, but in some perverse way, we can come to welcome depression in our lives. We can find ourselves making it one of our identifying marks. We wallow in it as if it were our natural habitat. While it is true that some of us are melancholy in temperament and more prone to be down or blue; this is very different from depression as a way of life.
For those outside of Christ whose final end is eternal damnation (see Matthew 25:41 and Revelation 20:15 below), depression is a way of life and a natural response to their circumstances.
- Matthew 25:41: “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”
- Revelation 20:15: “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
The one and the only cure for their condition is to surrender their lives to Christ and be saved.
The Bible says we are to have peace, hope, and joy (see Romans 15:13 and Galatians 5:22 below):
- Romans 15:13: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”
- Galatians 5:22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,”
The descriptions of depressed souls in the Psalms and elsewhere are not descriptions of peace but of profound turmoil. They are not hopeful, but desperate to find hope. Depression works against these two Christian virtues, suppressing the fruits which are grown out of the abiding life of Christ in each of His disciples as it says in John 15:5: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
Yet nowhere is the incompatibility of surrender to depression and the Christian life more evident than in the area of joy. Neither is there any area where misunderstanding does more harm. You see, we are prone to confuse joy with happiness. Happiness has to do with what is happening, and so comes and goes. We are not expected to be happy all the time; that is not a Biblical doctrine. We are however expected to have joy, which is something that transcends mere happiness or positive emotion. Rather joy is a buoyant confidence.
John MacArthur defines it well:
“Christian joy is not a giddy, superficial happiness that can be devastated by illness, economic difficulties, broken relationships, or the countless other vicissitudes and disappointments of life. Instead, it flows from the deep, unshakable confidence that God is eternally in control of every aspect of life for the good of His beloved children – a confidence rooted in the knowledge of His Word. God’s character, the saving work of Christ, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, divine providence, spiritual blessings, the promise of future glory, answered prayer and Christian fellowship all cause the believer to rejoice.”
Depression surely works to rob us of joy, suppressing it as it does peace and hope. Therefore, if we are to live the Christian life we must not go quietly into the dark night of depression. We can’t be defined by depression and its anti-virtues while simultaneously claiming the virtues of Christ in us. We may find ourselves content to keep on suffering, but God is not at all content with that sorry state of affairs.
He wants us to have peace in our souls, not turmoil. He wants us to hope in Christ, not despair in ourselves. God wants us to have joy and not depression. Jesus said plainly the joy of His people was His ultimate end in all He taught (according to John 15:11, see below), and so it was in all the Apostles’ work (see 2 Corinthians 1:24 below):
- John 15:11: “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”
- 2 Corinthians 1:24: “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.”
As hard as it might be to believe, God does not want you to stay depressed. The struggle is there to overcome you, but to be overcome by Christ in you. Beyond this momentary suffering is something great and glorious for those who are in Christ as we see in Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
God’s purposes are often difficult for us to perceive, let alone understand. However, in the case of depression, one ever-present purpose is for God to draw His sons and daughters closer to Him, to pour out His grace into their lives, and through all of this to increase their faith and so their peace, hope, and joy in Him all to His glory. We see this in the plan of treatment prescribed in Scripture for depression.
According to the Scriptures: Treating and Overcoming Depression
The Bible has a treatment for depression. This is not a band-aid to cover up a wound, but a powerful treatment to help relieve and ultimately overcome the condition. In saying this we realize that in the depths of despair it seems impossible, too good to be true, but with God all things are possible. Christ lives forever enthroned, and, therefore He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him since he always lives to make intercession for them.
According to Hebrews 7:25: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
Secular psychology tries to retain thoughts and reconstruct the past. It displaces guilt, moving the key causes beyond one’s own control. While some of its methods may be helpful, there is no redemption in the end, only a more comfortable road to Hell. The Bible on the other hand places responsibility for our condition squarely upon our shoulders. Even if we were wronged by others, according to God’s Word, we still have the ability to respond rightly.
It is a harder path to walk, but it is a path of possibility. When we are responsible, we are capable. Moreover, we are not left alone as we have seen. Christ Jesus through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and of the Word, and of prayer, and of fellowship provides the double cure of grace. That single word can appear far too small and weak to handle what we are enduring, but let the reader be assured it is more than strong enough to conquer all.
It is the grace of God by which and in which we are told, according to John 16:33: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
What we must do first is take heart. That is, to take hold of our hearts. We find the Psalmist doing just this in Psalm 42:5 and Psalm 42:11:
- Psalm 42:5: “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.”
- Psalm 42:11: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
Not only does the psalmist interrogate his heart, he demands something of his heart, and makes a decisive determination. This man is going to put his trust in God, though we are told very plainly God appears far off from him. Depression does not change reality; it only obscures it. When struggling with depression we are told many lies, but we do not have to believe them. We must be like the man who has lived for many days under stormy skies, never once catching a glimpse of the sun; who still knows the sun is there shining behind the clouds.
Martyn Lloyd Jones says it well in his popular book called Spiritual Depression:
“The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, and question yourself. You must say to your soul, like the psalmist did: “Why art thou cast down-what business have you to be disquieted?” You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: “Hope thou in God” – instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.
Then, having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: “I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.” This must be done continually, moment by moment, day by day. Prayer is a great help; even “weak” prayers turn us toward reality and realign our thinking.”
Take every thought captive, and make each answer the whole truth in alignment with 2 Corinthians 10:5: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”
We do not say this will be easy. We do say that the longer one contends against depression with these and all the truths of Scripture the easier the conflict will become. Not only this, but by examining our thoughts in the light of truth we can begin to discern their origins, where they came from, and how they got here. With help of the Holy Spirit, and with much prayer we can begin to find the causes of our condition and do something about them.
Those causes, whatever they may be, are rooted deep within our hearts and our histories. They lay at the source of life, contaminating everything. Thus, it can sometimes be difficult to get to the root of the problem. However, the Bible makes an understandable command in Proverbs 4:23: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
While Jeremiah 17:9 has it right about our hearts being deceitful, Jeremiah 17:10 tells us plainly that God sees through the deception perfectly:
- Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
- Jeremiah 17:10: “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”
Jesus needed no one to tell Him what was in man, He knows it well according to John 2:25: “And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” So, we have an empathic intercessor who is perfectly knowledgeable regarding our condition. We may not know what has caused our spirit to be in turmoil, or why it is downcast; and so, we might not know how to pray or what to pray for.
The Holy Spirit who dwells in every believer enters here to intercede on our behalf, knowing precisely what we really need according to Romans 8:27: “And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
The Holy Spirit is also at work as we read and meditate on God’s Word, using it as a skilled surgeon does a scalpel. In Hebrews 4:12, the Bible reads: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
The Lord is indeed near to the broken-hearted, and ultimately depression is the result of a heart that is quite literally broken in some way. As the Bible says in Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”
As we have said, the remedy is grace and grace alone. Grace that redeems making evil situations to be for good, providing the grounds for forgiveness, and making broken hearts whole. In our weaknesses, this amazing grace is sufficient for us according to 2 Corinthians 12:8-10: “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
Against every accusation that threatens to knock us down into despair, against every blow of spiritual depression against our hearts, we plead grace in faith.
Do you feel you are unloved or unlovable? Christ has loved you with perfect love, and has proven this love on the cross. Do you feel you are worthless? Christ has found you worthy of dying for. Do you feel you are useless or incapable? Christ has prepared you for a life of good works to walk in, according to Ephesians 2:10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
We can go on in this way to answer every doubt, every bad feeling, every fear, every accusation, everything that depression might throw at us, and everything that might throw us into depression. Again, we must say it is not a quick and easy victory, we have to grapple against the lies of depression and its causes each moment of every day until we have overcome it. God has provided us with some means of grace; some help in our battles that we should avail ourselves of.
Help in the Struggle with Depression: Additional Resources to Consider
We are a unity of body and soul, and what affects one will affect the other. Getting enough sleep, exercising, and nutrition are all important in finding relief from depression. Getting out into nature, especially under sunlight is very good medicine. All of this can be difficult to accomplish while feeling depressed, but it will be worth the effort.
We cannot emphasize the virtue of prayer enough when speaking of depression. Consider 1 Peter 1:5 and Philippians 4:5-7:
- 1 Peter 1:5: “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
- Philippians 4:5-7: “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Even the simple repetition of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6 will be very helpful. Editor’s note: As you begin to incorporate this daily, focus on each phrase, then each word, to receive the fullness of the prayer.
It is often said that misery loves company, but the exact opposite is true. Misery hates company. Others see through the dark clouds that surround the depressed soul and let it know that the light still shines as brightly as ever. Company encourages and uplifts: when it is good company. Being around others helps us to focus outside of ourselves, and when we do this, depression loses so much power.
Go out and volunteer to help others and as you shine some light into their lives you shall see it shining into yours as well. There is no better place to go than to church. Psalm 77:17 from the Bible says: “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.”
God’s command in Hebrews 10:25 has no caveats for the depressed, and with good reason: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
That is given in verse 24: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:”
To be around the people of God is to be in the particular presence of God; in the midst of His instruments with which His skilled hands might work.
We should not be discouraged from going out, and especially not from going to be with God’s people for fear of saddling them with our burdens. We are all commanded to bear each other’s burdens in Galatians 6:2: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
This is part of God’s good design, we all spend time having our burdens carried, and we will all have opportunities to carry the burdens of others.
Music is a very good treatment for overcoming depression when it is filled with truth. Music has the power to penetrate into our hearts where the truth is needed. At the same time, depressing music can increase our suffering by reinforcing evil and deceptive thoughts. Keeping watch over what we feed our minds on is very important in combatting depression.
There are several books that are quite helpful on this topic and the writer has drawn directly or indirectly from all of these.
Martin Lloyd Jones’ Spiritual Depression: With all the care and skill of a trained physician Lloyd Jones diagnoses the condition of depression. He prescribes a course of treatment that has been tried and proven to help one overcome. It is a longer read and can be very challenging at times. Lloyd Jones does not pull punches and does not coddle our excuses: which is excellent.
Zack Eswine’s, Spurgeon’s Sorrow: With great empathy and deliberate care Eswine draws on the struggles of the prince of preachers Charles Spurgeon against depression to help us in our struggles. He is gentle, so gentle that some might miss his points. Nevertheless, the points are there, and they are quite good.
A Lifting up of the Downcast by William Bridge is exactly what it sounds like. Editor’s note: The title offers a reflection on Psalm 42:11. The author writes how even through discouragement because through any circumstance (like sin and temptation) Christians should not be downcast in thinking that Christ has let them go. Quite the contrary.
Richard Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed, a study of Isaiah 42:3. Editor’s note: The title offers an exposition of Matthew’s application to Jesus of the description of the Servant of the Lord and was first published in 1630.
David Seamands’ Healing for Damaged Emotions goes straight for the root of depression with simple Biblical truths in plain English. Editor’s note: This title touts a companion workbook edition that also includes suggestions for Scripture reflection, prayer exercises and journaling prompts, and group study references.
Of course, we cannot overstate the value of Biblical counseling, especially in severe and lingering cases of depression. A qualified counselor can help us to understand our thoughts and feelings, and apply the truths of God’s word in practical ways. According to Proverbs 20:5: “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.”
In all of this continue to seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness according to the command of Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
This is all about renewing our minds as commanded in Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” So anything that rightly and accurately directs our thoughts to things above is a good help.
Sometimes depression is so severe that death seems preferable to life. In a single moment of agonizing pain, a terrible tragedy can occur when a soul is deceived into believing that ending life is the best course. There are many victims in the aftermath left to grieve while dealing with betrayal, confusion, anger, doubt, abandonment, and in many cases their own depression.
We should note that Christians can find themselves in a very difficult situation here. For believers in Christ, death leads to Heaven and its blessed eternal rest from all of life’s trials and tribulations. It is natural, rational, and even Biblically-sound for the believer to look at death as a welcomed event. We are meant to long to go Home and be with our Lord, and we are given to understand that He also longs for us to be where He is. All of this can potentially add to the temptation of suicide.
Let there be no mistake, suicide is a sin. Suicide violates the prohibition against killing in Exodus 20:13: “Thou shalt not kill.” Suicide takes one’s life out of God’s hands, rejecting his sovereignty, goodness, love, and all else.
Suicide presumes to know that tomorrow will bring only more pain, but the truth is that none of us know what tomorrow will bring as the Bible says in James 4:14: “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”
This is a sin that must grieve God who highly values each life; especially those of the Saints according to Matthew 10:29-31: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
The fact that you are still here indicates that God still has some good prepared for you in this Iife. See Romans 8:28 and Matthew 7:9-11:
- Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
- Matthew 7:9-11: “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
God’s ways are higher than ours, so what seems like needless suffering to us is sure to have a good purpose. Consider the story of Joseph sold into slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and thrown into prison; only to be rescued and raised to a position in which he saved many lives including those of his family.
Consider all of Job’s sufferings which were answered by a fuller revelation of God Himself.
Consider Philippians 2:5-11: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
We might walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and it may seem we will never get out of that deep dark valley, but we soon shall come out of it and onto the heights of Zion.
Suicide is a sin, and based on Matthew 5:22, even to seriously contemplate suicide is a sin; but it does not appear that either is an unforgivable sin: though there are some who disagree: “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”
However, if murder can be forgiven, and despair can be forgiven; then it seems that suicide can also be forgiven through receipt of God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus. As we have said it only takes a single moment of weakness. At that moment, rationality is likely absent and reason falls under a tidal wave of pain. We must never condone suicide, but we must also forgive its perpetrators.
A Parting Plea
Editor’s note: Here the writer would like to reveal himself, and speak to you in a more personal manner.
I have struggled with depression for over a decade. I came very close at several points to committing suicide. For many years I was deceived into thinking I must live always under the crushing weight of despair. Yet, God was gracious to me and showed me a more excellent way, which I have done my best to share with you. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is truly able to deliver even from the very depths of suicidal depression.
I urge you, dear reader, do not delay in reaching out to God for deliverance. Do not wait to seek out the means of grace that God has provided. Do not surrender yourself to stay quietly in that dark night of the soul, but rouse yourself, take courage and continue the contest. Christ has overcome, and so in Him, we are more than conquerors. See Romans 8:37: “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
I know this may be hard to believe, but it is true for God cannot lie. We know this because of Numbers 23:19 and Hebrews 6:18:
- Numbers 23:19: “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
- Hebrews 6:18: “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:”
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