When you do research online about depression, you will see a lot of statistics and studies showing how this has increased over the years. However, all these facts and figures will be of no help. My desire is to help us all to understand that we, as the church, must know how to minister to this growing community of people who are often treated as outcasts.
Additionally, I hope that this will be helpful to those who may find themselves among these statistics. Let me say to you first of all that you are not a statistic. You are a person whom God loves and desires to comfort and strengthen just as he does everyone who believes.
I believe depression can be linked to three major causes and I want to give them to you upfront:
- Life Imposed
Self-inflicted depression, I believe, we could identify as sin caused. Let me ask you, is sin caused illness possible according to the scripture?
For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
– 1 Corinthians 11:29-30
The cure for sin caused or self-inflicted depression is to REPENT.
Is all depression sin based? Is it a sin for a Christian to battle depression?
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes.
– Job 2:3-7
Depression can be spiritual without being sinful
However, because people can see boils, it is easier to understand the affliction but what about when someone is being consumed without a flame? With no outward signs of injury, other than words of despair, a loss of hope and constant discouragement.
Is the affliction any less real or legitimate?
What is the cure for self-inflicted depression? REPENT
But what about when an obvious sin is not the cause of depression, what is the cure for spiritual but not sin caused depression? – Life imposed depression or physical/chemical or clinical depression?
Can the two be identified?
It is no secret that we live in an overmedicated society, but it is also true that neuro-biology has revealed some very interesting facts about how the brain can be physically imprinted by life events and how a brain can be predispositioned at birth for depression or emotional disorders by physical or chemical abnormalities.
Identifying life inflicted versus physical or clinical depression:
For those who say that all people with depression or anxiety or panic disorders are in sin and God will not heal them lest they repent, you’re going to have a hard time making a case for that from scripture. Jesus healed whole towns of people, maybe even people who would later yell “crucify him”, people who never repented of anything.
Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, And not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.
– 2 Corinthians 7:6-7
The word downcast here means depression. It is interesting today how many have decided that the proper course for those who are battling both emotional and impulse-driven behaviors is just to get over it.
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
– Psalm 42:11
David had bouts of discouragement and depression as did Jeremiah, and Jonah with bitterness, Elijah with weariness.
Other great men of God have fought this battle, men like John Knox, John Bunyan, Martin Luther even CH Spurgeon had terrible battles with depression.
But there is hope in God.
Now I want to look at a portion of scripture written by a man who suffered both self-inflicted and life-imposed times of discouragement and even, I believe, times of depression
Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
– Psalm 37:1-8
David here gives us a couple of key ingredients in our first 4 verses. Verse 1 he says; do not fret because of evildoers. This tells us that even childhood traumas can be overcome and the depression that may be associated with them, do not fret because of evildoers.
How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.
– Psalm 13:1-3
Though there is no knowledge of the origin of the Psalm or the event to attached to it, we know that in life King David had experienced the pursuit of Saul to kill him, the loss of two sons and a best friend, the rape of his daughter by her half-brother, and betrayal.
David was in such deep distress he felt like even God had forsaken him.
I want to give you two things in this area to do if this is your battle and they are contained in verse 3:
Trust in the Lord and do good.
Friends, when the enemy seeks to activate your minds self-defense mechanism at inappropriate times remember this,
Never doubt in times of darkness what you were sure of in the light.
As it pertains to God, what is true when you’re having a good day is true on the bad days as well. God loves you, He is there for you, your salvation through Christ is secure, your future home is heaven.
God has a plan for your life and you have not been abandoned.
When the past comes visiting, remember what you know is true for you in Christ
David also says here, “and do good.”
One of the common symptoms of depression is isolation, not feeling like doing anything.
So, the second test before seeking medical attention would be to remember this,
Feelings are an effect, not a cause.
Actions create and control feelings not the reverse.
So before determining that the cause of depression is clinical first test by doing things that lead to blessings if those feelings can be changed.
Do not isolate yourself, seek interaction with others even if you do not feel like it and force yourself to engage in activities that provide a sense of pleasure or fulfillment.
The reality is there are things in the past that can never be changed and will never be made right and the one who inflicted will never admit it and the situation can never be reconciled. You must be open to God’s healing you without emotional restitution being made for the evil done to you.
If fighting depression ask yourself four questions:
- Is there something really wrong?
- Have I done what I can do to make myself feel better?
- Do I have a life event that that could be the cause of my depression?
- Are there things that I or others do that bring me relief?
So, friend, if your depression is self-inflicted because of sin, repent that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
If it is life imposed or physical/chemical, let’s ask God to heal you; a depressed mind and a withered hand are completely within his capabilities to heal.
And most of all friends, if you have been hurt by someone who didn’t understand why there was smoke because they saw no flame.
You’re in a safe place, we love you and want to pray for you, no matter the cause of your depression.
Medication is the last resort, but it is what some must resort to.
So, take the test and no matter the result, spiritual or physical, let’s pray to the Lord for healing!