In recent years, many have spoken more openly about depression. The Bible has been speaking openly about depression for thousands of years. In Psalm 42:1-43:5 the Sons of Korah ask the recurring question: “Why, my soul, are you downcast (depressed)?” His experience includes being downcast/depressed, disturbed/in turmoil (42:5,11, 43:5), frequent weeping implying sleeplessness and loss of appetite (42:3) , physical pain (42:10), and feeling forgotten (42:9) and rejected (43:2) by God. Other examples include Heman the Ezrahite who says to God: “You have put me in the lowest pit, the darkest depths…the darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88:6,18). Elijah came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life (1 Kings 19:4). Job reaches a point where he says: “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?…Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?” (Job 3:11,16). If you’re battling depression it can be helpful to know you’re not alone. Many of God’s people through the centuries and today face this struggle.
The Bible offers deep resources for those battling depression and those seeking to support them. In each of the above examples those suffering were still able to call out to God despite the darkness of their experience. Even when we feel forgotten by God or distant from him, if we’re Christians we have his Spirit who helps us to pray and intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27).
The recurring question in Psalm 42:1-43:5 “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” is followed by a recurring self-exhortation: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” This models the importance of examining ourselves, and speaking the truth of God’s word to ourselves. One of the symptoms of depression is that thoughts become more negative, less rational. We focus on the bad, and filter out the good things God has done for us or in us. In Spiritual Depression, Martyn Lloyd Jones asks: Have you realised that most of your unhappiness is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? The good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection gives Christians words of certain hope to speak to ourselves in every struggle.
Some resources relating to depression:What is it like to suffer depression? (Resources to help you understand what others are going through, or assist you in knowing you are not alone) Describing the indescribable – a poem (info about poem here ) hivemindedness.com/kindsofblue (collection of short, original comics, young Australians chronicle their experiences with depression). Karen Pang – From Playschool to Faith (Karen discusses her experience with depression and bipolar at approx 17:00 to 24:00 of this interview) Battles Christians Face DVD (includes an interview where Roger Carswell shares his battle with depression). Practical help and hope for depressed (online articles, books): Hope for the Depressed (online article by Ed Welch, including practical strategies for change) Christians Get Depressed too (concise, readable, practical book by David Murray) I was living a lie, pretending everything was OK (RD shares how Ed Welch’s book, ‘Depression: A Stubborn Darkness’ was a practical help in his struggle) Various books on depression from a Christian perspective (with thoughts by David Murray) Supporting a depressed person (online articles): Caring for the depressed: Support (David Murray, see also Sympathy ) Five_tips_for_caring_for_someone_with_depression (illustrated) Tips for supporting someone with postpartum (postnatal) depression Dos_and_don’ts_when_dealing_with_the_downcast (Mark Baddeley) What causes or influences depression?
Some Christians have argued that depression virtually always has spiritual causes, others that it virtually always has physical causes. Neither extreme is helpful. In some cases, depression may have primarily spiritual influences in others primarily physical influences. Humans are both physical and spiritual beings, so it is important to consider both influences. Ed Welch says: “certain physical conditions, such as exhaustion, sleep deprivation, hypothyroidism, Vitamin B12 deficiency, exposure to certain medication side-effects, or inherited physical tendencies can make us more prone to depression.” (JBC, Spring 2000, 39). In the clip below, David Powlison addresses the question: “Do you believe that there is a biological basis for depression which may endure, despite the fact that heart issues have been successfully addressed through biblical counseling? If so, is there a place for long-term use of medication?”