Depression is not a disease. While there are some organic malfunctions that may trigger feelings of depression, many symptoms and maladies defined as depression (whether short-lived or chronic) are the consequences of unbiblical habits and/or sinful reactions to circumstances and other people. Depression that stems from unbiblical living can be overcome as you deal biblically with your sins and purposefully live in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord.
I am now a man of despair, rejected, abandoned, shut up in this iron cage from which there is no escape.
Self-denial destroys the very root and foundation of sorrow.
The counter-intuitive truth that the depressed person needs to hear isn’t “you’re really a wonderful person,” but rather, “you’re more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe.” When he bemoans that he’s “such a failure,” we should agree with him, at least on one level. We should all agree that we’re all failures to the point that the perfect Son of God had to die before we would be able to have fellowship with Him… In a nutshell, we have to intentionally consider Jesus, especially during those dark hours we’re tempted to think only of ourselves. And although every one of us needs a daily dose of Gospel-recapitulation, those of us who feels the blows of Giant Despair need it even more.
In some ways, depression is a slow, painful death of desire, the heart-sickness that comes from repeatedly having hope deferred (Prov. 13:12). Hope that sustains the heart when pursuing a treasured desire has faded (or disappeared) in the depressed. What, then, do you treasure? What do you think would bring you happiness? Who or what are you worshiping? What would give your life meaning? Whose life do you covet? The joyous truth is that perhaps this painful depression is the Lord’s way of revealing false gods to you… Bathing our soul in the Gospel message will powerfully transform the locus of our treasure. Rather than cherishing success or self-approval, we can learn to cherish the Lord because He’s lavished such love upon the undeserving (1 John 4:7-10). All-satisfying treasure is found in this Gospel message.
The depressed don’t simply need to feel better. They need a Redeemer who says, “Take heart, my son, my daughter; what you really need has been supplied. Life no longer need be about your goodness, success, righteousness, or failure. I’ve given you something infinitely more valuable than good feelings: your sins are forgiven.”
This is the freeing truth you can learn through your depression: You weren’t created to love and worship anything more than you love and worship God; and when you do, you’ll feel bad. God has made you to feel pain when you’ve got other treasures that you’ve placed above Him. He wants you to treasure Him.
I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be better, it appears to me.
Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is to say farewell now once and for ever to your past. Realize that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back at your sins again. Say: “It is finished; it is covered by the Blood of Christ.” That is your first step. Take that and finish with yourself and all this talk about goodness, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you. What you need is not to make resolutions to live a better life, to start fasting and sweating and praying. No! You just begin to say: “I rest my faith on Him alone who died for my transgressions to atone.”
The Scriptures…do grant clearly by their teaching that it is possible for a Christian to be depressed. Not that they justify this, but they do recognize the fact.
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, question yourself. You must say to your soul: “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, and 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.”
The ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief. For if it were not for unbelief even the devil could do nothing. It is because we listen to the devil instead of listening to God that we go down before him and fall before his attacks. That is why this psalmist keeps on saying to himself: “Hope thou in God for I shall yet praise Him…” He reminds himself of God. Why? Because he was depressed and had forgotten God, so that his faith and his unbelief in God and in God’s power, and in his relationship to God, were not what they ought to be. We can indeed sum it all up by saying that the final and ultimate cause is just sheer unbelief.
A depressed Christian is a contradiction in terms, and he is a very poor recommendation for the gospel… Nothing is more important, therefore, than that we should be delivered from a condition which gives other people, looking at us, the impression that to be a Christian means to be unhappy, to be sad, to be morbid, and that the Christian is one who “scorns delights and lives laborious days.”
The root of both psychological and spiritual sickness is preoccupation with self. Ironically, the believer who is consumed with his own problems – even his own spiritual problems – to the exclusion of concern for other believers, suffers from a destructive self-centeredness that not only is the cause of, but is the supreme barrier to the solution of, his own problems. Usually such selfishness isolates him from the other believers, who if they were intimately involved in fellowship with him, would be regularly praying for his spiritual welfare.
Living day in and day out with guilt over sin that has not been properly confessed and forsaken expends a certain amount of emotional energy; it saps your emotional strength and causes you to become emotionally exhausted (i.e., depressed).
When you feel depressed, it helps to actively change your environment. Go and do something different. Martin Luther conquered his depression by going outside to work in his garden. Surprisingly enough, one of the best ways to handle depression is to go to work immediately on the task you least enjoy. (The chances are your depression is caused by guilt feelings arising out of neglect of those tasks.)
I find myself frequently depressed – perhaps more so than any other person here. And I find no better cure for that depression than to trust in the Lord with all my heart, and seek to realize afresh the power of the peace-speaking blood of Jesus, and His infinite love in dying upon the cross to put away all my transgressions.
This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry; the cloud is black before it breaks, and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy. Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist, heralding the nearer coming of my Lord’s richer benison. So have far better men found it. The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use. Immersion in suffering has preceded the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Fasting gives an appetite for the banquet. The Lord is revealed in the backside of the desert, while his servant keepeth the sheep and waits in solitary awe. The wilderness is the way to Canaan. The low valley leads to the towering mountain. Defeat prepares for victory.
Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.
The iron bolt…mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in a gloomy prison.
Before any great achievement, some measure of depression is very usual.
I know, perhaps as well as anyone, what depression means, and what it is to feel myself sinking lower and lower. Yet at the worst, when I reach the lowest depths, I have an inward peace which no pain or depression can in the least disturb. Trusting in Jesus Christ my Savior, there is still a blessed quietness in the deep caverns of my soul, though upon the surface, a rough tempest may be raging, and there may be little apparent calm.
Poor human nature cannot bear such strains as heavenly triumphs bring to it; there must come a reaction. Excess of joy or excitement must be paid for by subsequent depressions. While the trial lasts, the strength is equal to the emergency; but when it is over, natural weakness claims the right to show itself.
I note that some whom I greatly love and esteem, who are, in my judgment, among the very choicest of God’s people, nevertheless, travel most of the way to heaven by night.
No sin is necessarily connected with sorrow of heart, for Jesus Christ our Lord once said, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.” There was no sin in Him, and consequently none in His deep depression.
The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back.
My experience with depressed people is that when they have suffered from long periods of depression and begin to talk about suicide, we had better pay attention.
There are various kinds of depression, to be sure, and some are the result of complex physical and psychological disorders. But there are times when we are spiritually depressed for no good reason. There are times when the best thing to do with our feelings is to challenge them: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God” (Ps. 42:11).
I am suicidal again. I have no energy or reason to fight. I am numb and tried all the things I know how to try. I know that I won’t be able to function like this much longer. There is no one to talk to. I’m suffocating. I can think the best thoughts all day and still feel like this. No one knows how badly I want to die. My thoughts are obsessive and won’t stop. They keep saying, “I want to die.”
The basic steps of a biblical approach to helping them… First, you understand the experience of depression. Second, you make tentative distinctions between physical and spiritual symptoms. Third, this distinction will allow you to focus on heart issues. In doing this, you will point the person to Christ as her hope in suffering, you will encourage her in her faith, and you will guide her in her battle with sin. This focus on heart issues may actually relieve the depression. Fourth, if the pain of depression is excessive, consider using medical treatments to possibly ease the pain.
Don’t assume that you understand what someone means by “depression.” Don’t fill in the meaning from your own experience, which may or may not be similar. Instead, listen. Allow the depressed person to fill the word depression with the meaning it has for him or her. When you do listen, you will hear pain, fear, hopelessness, dread of the future, terror, silent screams, and emptiness that threatens to destroy.
Possible physical and spiritual symptoms in depression: Physical – insomnia or hypersomnia, significant weight changes, feeling or being restless or slowed down, fatigue, loss of energy, problems concentrating, sense of alienation from things once deemed beautiful and pleasant, feeling sad, blue, down in the dumps. Spiritual – shame, guilt, fear thanklessness, unforgiving spirit, hopelessness, unbelief, anger.
The church must move toward the depressed person and mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15), pray for God’s deliverance (2 Cor. 1:9-11), and search for encouraging words that can bless and give hope.