"The Christian and Depression: Making Sense Of The Reason"

 christian and depression

Have you assumed that a Christian and depression may be an unlikely pair? But, a Christian suffering with depression is no more rare or wrong than a non-Christian suffering from depression. Depression is widespread affecting millions – no matter your race or religion or social status. Are you a Christian and suffering from depression? If so, you are not alone. I was one. Even personally - since building this website, I’ve been introduced to thousands all over the world who suffer. A Christian and depression is more common than you think. It's not a sin to be depressed. It's often a result of something other than sin in our lives. Yes, sin can cause depression but so can other things.

“The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit?” (Proverbs 18:14 NLT)

You may have received advice from well meaning individuals only making things worse.

Often friends, who haven’t experienced depression, cannot truly know how to love you. Not always, but that’s often the case. Friends mean well so bear with them. They could simply be ignorant of the struggle of a Christian and depression.

So what is the answer for the Christian and depression?

Quite simply, the cause can be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. Whether you are a Christian or not – the same cause can be found in both believer or non-believer.

We will respond to the questions...

"How can a Christian overcome depression?"

First start with your physical health…

"Depression often has a physical basis. At the simplest level, we know that lack of sleep, insufficient exercise, the side effects of drugs, physical illnesses, or improper diet can all create depression. Thousands of women experience depression as part of a monthly premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and some are victimized by postpartum depression following childbirth. Other physical influences, like neurochemical malfunctioning, brain tumors, or glandular disorders, are more complicated creators of depression." - Gary R. Collins

Go see your doctor!

Then address your emotional, mental and spiritual health with a Christian counselor. Together you will come to understand what is missing in your life.

According to Dr. John Bechtle, there are eight major causes of depression.

(1) Biological factors,

(2) Learned helplessness (sense of being trapped and unable to remedy an intolerable situation),

(3) Parental rejection,

(4) Abuse,

(5) Negative thinking,

(6) Life stress,

(7) Anger,

(8) Guilt.

[Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler; Gary R. Collins]

If you do not find yourself getting better on your doctor’s advice, then add steps that focus on your emotional health.

If you are depressed, you need to talk, talk, talk, talk. This is the only way you will begin to learn why you are depressed. Speak with a qualified Christian counselor and don’t give up on your doctor. Simply add the therapy of talking things out to your doctor's recovery plan.

Speaking with a Christian counselor addresses not only the emotional but also the mental and spiritual aspects of your life. Three aspects of your life are addressed so you can see why it is so important.

For me, I look back and see how absolutely necessary it was to talk things through with someone who would not scold me for baring my soul but one who would simply listen.

Our e-course addresses all aspects I just mentioned.

"Are there any examples of depressed believers in the Bible?"

The Bible holds stories of people who loved God yet suffered from depression. Consider these people…

• Abraham (Genesis 15)

• Jonah (Jonah 4)

• Job (Book of Job)

• Elijah (1 Kings 19)

• King Saul (I Samuel 16:14-23, etc.)

Saul was Israel’s first king. ‘Saul stood a head taller than any man in Israel.' He had broad shoulders, he had a strong constitution, he was a fearsome warrior, and he was a respected king. But still he was chronically depressed. His ego overgrew and he became disobedient to God, and so was informed by God’s prophet that the kingdom would be taken away from him.

We are told that "The Spirit of the LORD had left Saul, and the LORD sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear.” (1 Samuel 16:14).

God allowed Saul to reap the mental consequences of his disobedience. The king was given to fits of prolonged depression and repeatedly attempted to kill David (cf. 18:9ff). In the end, he took his own life.

• Jeremiah (Book of Jeremiah)

• David (Psalms 6, 13, 18, 23, 25, 27, 31, 32, 34, 37-40, 42-43, 46, 51, 55, 62-63, 69, 71, 73, 77, 84, 86, 90-91, 94-95, 103-104, 107, 110, 116, 118, 121, 123-124, 130, 138, 139, 141-143, 146-147)

David was called “a man after God’s own heart” and yet suffered from depression.

I remember finding comfort in this fact during my own depression. If God loved David who struggled with depression, than I know God does love me too. Look closer at the life of David and his depression story and you will find comfort.

• Judas was also a man so deep in depression due to his betrayal of the Son of God that he committed suicide (Matthew 27:3-5).

• Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, because of the ill-treatment of evil Israel, slipped into depression and cursed the very day of his birth (Jeremiah 20:14ff). But he too was able to overcome that depth of grief.

"You are of great value to God! He cares about the struggle of a Christian and depression!"

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love.” (1 John 4:7-12 NLT)

"What is the price of five sparrows? A couple of pennies? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. He knows the number of hairs on your head! Never fear, you are far more valuable to Him than a whole flock of sparrows." (Luke 12:6-7, TLB)

God cares about you and is thinking of you constantly.

"How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly! I can't even count how many times a day your thoughts turn towards me. And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking of me!" - Psalm 139:17-18, TLB.

You are promised a marvellous future.

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11, TLB.

God created us and loves us and so knows what makes us healthy.

With God's help, keep your heart and mind focused on positive thoughts. This is a weapon in the struggle of a Christian and depression.

"And now, brothers [and sisters], as I close this letter let me say one more thing: Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about." - Philippians 4:8

"What can we learn from David’s depression story?"

IMPORTANT: I don’t suggest that David’s story could be your own. What’s important is to see how he cried out to God for help – in utter desperation – and how God heard him.

David’s cry for help:

“I am bent over and racked with pain. All day long I walk around filled with grief. I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart.” (Psalm 38:6,8 - NLT).

David, King of Israel (having slept with another man’s wife became deeply depressed until he confessed his sin). There is a chance that the struggle of a Christian and depression is due to unconfessed sin. (But, not always as some people incorrectly assume).

"When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. 5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.”-Psalm 32:3-5 NLT

David’s release from depression caused by his own guilt came from confession and seeking God's forgiveness…

"22 In panic I cried out, “I am cut off from the LORD!” But you heard my cry for mercy and answered my call for help. 23 Love the LORD, all you godly ones! For the LORD protects those who are loyal to him, but he harshly punishes the arrogant. 24 So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the LORD!- (Psalm 31:22-24 NLT)

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9 - NLT).

David's humble prayer for forgiveness…

“ 7 Purify me from my sins,[c] and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. 9 Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. 11 Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit[d] from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. 13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.- (Psalm 51: 7-13 NLT)

You can’t trust your emotions. They can be up and down. God is unfailing. Put your trust in God. This is the powerful weapon and defense of a Christian against depression.

The following verse was one I once memorized as a child. However, the timeless wisdom did not hit me one day until in the last days of my adult depression…

"5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5,6 NLT)

When you are in the pit of depression, you can’t see past it. However, now as I look back, I can see how God is now using my experience to help others. He took the muck and is making it a beautiful thing. I pray that you, my reader, will one day be able to do the same. But, for now…

"I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13 - NLT)

"What psychologists say about anger and depression."

About 90% of depression cases have to do with an unresolved anger burning within us. Being a Christian does not prevent us from being angry. Being a Christian does not prevent us from getting hurt by others. The Bible says, “In your anger do not sin.” Anger is not the sin. What we do with anger becomes a sin.

Consider the following knowledge of Dr. Paul Meier of the Meier Clinics on anger and the Christian and depression…

“Our brains run on serotonin like a car runs on gasoline… When we become bitter, our brain dumps serotonin into the blood stream and it is broken down into by-products that are lost in the urine. When this occurs, we suffer from the classical symptoms of depression: insomnia, decreased energy, decreased concentration, despair, headaches, and thoughts of suicide…. In most cases, repressed anger is the root cause…” –[Dr. Paul Meier, “Don’t Let The Jerks Get The Best of You”]

If you suffer from repressed anger...

Learning to accept that you have unresolved anger and then work to forgive and deal with that anger can take several months. The healing of the Christian and depression is not often a quick fix. Often during this time, antidepressants are necessary to bring back serotonin levels in your brain. However, this is merely a temporary relief. The root cause of anger must be properly dealt with in the struggle of a Christian and depression.

“A patient can be depressed for many years, then forgive the one who caused his repressed anger and totally recover from the depression, because his serotonin has been restored naturally and the brain is able to work correctly.” – [Dr. Paul Meier, “Don’t Let The Jerks Get The Best of You”]

You could be mad at your parents.

You could be mad at your spouse.

You could be mad at your kids.

You could be mad at your boss.

You could even be mad at God. I know I’ve been.

If you relate with these statements, there’s a good chance your depression is because of some deep anger within you. That is one possibility. It was for me. For the Christian and depression - one definite cause is anger.

Speaking with a Christian counselor will help you determine if anger is the cause of your depression. If you can eliminate the possibility of anger, your counselor will help you to investigate the other major causes of depression.

There is hope! You are worth it!

Request our e-course which more closely addresses the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of your possible causes for depression.

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Sources on the struggle of a Christian and depression:

Dr. John Bechtle /Christian Answers NetworkGilbert AZ 85299 / http://www.christiananswers.net/q-acb/acb-f001.html#3 / Wisdom on The Christian and Depression / accessed Dec 30, 2006

Collins, Gary R./Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide, revised edition (Dallas, Texas: Word, 1988), p. 107. [Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, Josh McDowell's Handbook on Counseling Youth (Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1996), chapter 5; Gary R. Collins, Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide, revised edition (Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1988).]

Jackson, Wayne/ The Christian and Depression /March 1, 2005http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/read/the_christian_and_depression / accessed Dec 30, 2006

Meier, Paul MD/ “Don’t Let The Jerks Get The Best of You”/ Nelson Books (March 1995) ISBN-10: 0785280197

New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust.