The Christian and Depression

Deuteronomy 32:10: In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye. 

According to statistics over 121 million people are affected by depression and that number continues to grow annually. It is the leading cause of disability around the world. Over 850,000 suicides are reported every year. I don’t know about you but to me that is a shocking number of suicides and even to know one person is that desperate for relief, breaks my heart. One of Jesus’ most famous and quoted sermons is recorded in the Bible in the book of Matthew. It begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” I have a question. “Who is more poor in spirit than the depressed?” There are certainly others ways to be poor but for the spirit to be poor, is crippling. Some of you reading may feel like in your depression “Where is God?” Beloved I assure that Father has not abandoned you or forgotten your address. He does not slumber or sleep and is aware of your pain. He also has a plan to walk you out of your Egypt.

The Body of Christ

Churches today offer little to no help when it comes to dealing with those who suffer from depression within their fellowship. Those that do come are often referred to the “professionals” in the psychiatric or psychology field where they never find freedom, but may learn new coping skills that ease the torment. I believe Jesus came to heal us not give to just give us coping skills! I am very passionate about the church taking an active role in helping those who suffer with any mental disorder, particularly those with depression. I believe depression whether it’s caused by sin, wounded-ness, physiologically or the demonic make believers ineffective in their relationship with God, other people and especially maturing in Christ. I know it is not my Fathers heart for his children to live in emotional squander while white knuckling their Christianity until his return.

For me, it’s easy to understand how someone can’t seem to “rise up out of the ashes” when it feels like the weight of the world is grinding you into ashes. That’s because I lived with depression for over 20 years and suffered from severe anxiety. Many, like myself grew up in the church and had a social life with no one being the wiser. Not all depressed people are hermits and wear pajamas day in and day out. Many are high functioning believers who are standing up on the outside and falling down on the inside. Many do not even realize that how they feel and function is related to depression.

The Soul and Depression

In many circles, Christians who suffer from depression are often criticized for a lack of faith and told that if only they would yield to the Holy Spirit, they would know “the joy of the Lord.” Or worse yet, in my own experience I dared not speak of the turmoil because of fear of having my faith challenged. This should not be! Statements like these spoken to someone struggling with depression is like handing a millstone to an already drowning person. Before I go any further I am not denying that depression can have spiritual roots. Often times guilt from having done something wrong or hurt caused to others can bring it on. The feeling of having failed to live out the will of God can give way to depression. Even a false belief system (our thoughts) will cause the soul (mind, will and emotions) to not function as designed by God and lead to depression. In such cases, meditation on scripture, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines often can “make available” to the depressed what the Bible calls “the balm of Gilead” that heals the sin-sick soul (Jeremiah 8:22). “Should these areas be looked at closely?” Absolutely, but we should never assume there is a single reason. 

The Wounded Human Spirit

However; there are also those hurts and wounds that land deeply in the human spirit that we encounter in life. Since it is impossible to walk through this world without getting hurt, many of us, are. We quickly learn to hide the scars of the wounded spirit. These “wounds” do not show up like a rash on our skin or even a sore throat. Most show up in bouts of depression, self-hatred or episodes of anger and often times lead to some form of addiction as we try to self-medicate to alleviate the pain. Many struggling Christians are labeled as weak or lacking moral fortitude and are given a “just get over it” answer to a complicated problem. Again it’s just not that simple. The church must be and become a place of acceptance that offers both hope and healing for those who struggle with a wounded spirit just as any other mental disorder.

The Body, Soul and Spirit

Finally there are those physiological problems that result from chemical imbalances that seem to throw the whole system of body, soul, and spirit into chaos. We should never feel guilty or inadequate for taking medication for depression. I have counseled people who needed to be on medication during the counseling time just so they were able to concentrate on the task of recovery. Many times I have seen people’s perspective change on things they feared, and they were also able to face and then put into practice the things recommended. I do not believe some would have been able to accomplish this without the medication. I have seen people get completely off medication as God changes them. For those who may be wondering….Yes, there are even times when individuals need to remain on anti-depressants due to significant biological or mental disorders. We must remember that healing can be instant or it can take place over months and even years. It must be also be remembered that a day is coming when we will all be healed when we meet the Lord. Our job as believers (the church) is” to love and to love well” those who struggle until that day comes. Meanwhile the church should be a place of acceptance,help and refuge.

Bill Stallings <