Usually when we think of a medical problem we think in terms of something tangible; a stuffy nose, a broken arm, a heart condition, etc. But it can be very difficult to think of something as a medical problem when there is no specific body part involved and the only symptoms displayed are feelings. Depression is a serious ailment but often presents itself in a vague, can’t quite place your finger on it type of fashion.
According to the World Health Organization, “Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease”.
Do Christians get depressed? Should Christians get depressed? Is it a sin to get depressed?
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The word “tribulation” that Jesus warned “ye shall have” comes from the Greek word, “thlipsis” and means pressure. It is used as a metaphor for oppression, affliction and distress. What Jesus spoke of is in every way associated with depression.
“The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14)
Solomon in his Proverbs makes it clear. Depression or a wounded, stricken and afflicted spirit is something no one can withstand and obviously presents itself to all.
“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3).
The spirit of heaviness is a brilliant description for depression. It is a weight that easily besets us. Here again Jesus Christ is our Lord AND Savior.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Jesus Christ is a ready, willing and able solution for depression, but only if we lean not unto our own understanding and trust in the Lord with all our heart. Let go and let God and in every way acknowledge and give glory to Him.
Jesus Christ has as part of His character, “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2). Lean not unto our own understanding and trust in the Lord explicitly! But realize it is the spirit of Christ and our spirit. The physical realm is temporary. The spiritual realm is perpetual and universal.
Look how the Apostle Paul describes Jesus and what He created:
“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:15-17).
With the exception of the earth, all things described by Paul that Jesus created was of the supernatural spirit realm. Never forget, physical is temporary and spiritual is forever.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of god: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Just permanently embed this in your heart, mind, body, spirit and soul: “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit”. In The Spirit!
Back on about depression. Psalms 42 and 43 are two brief psalms with one common theme; “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” (Psalm 42:11)
The Psalmist speaks of turbulence within him but has no idea as to why. Does that sound familiar? But he has hope in God. He has full expectation that God will be and is, “the health of my countenance”.
Psalm 69 is another psalm with depression as its theme. The psalm is somewhat lengthy. Here are just the first three verses so as to get a feel for the beauty and power of the Psalmist description of depression.
“Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God” (Psalm 69:1-3)
Jesus Christ himself got so depressed when He came to pray at Gethsemane that He said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death”. Jesus’ level of sorrow and depression were so great that it could have actually killed! Maybe that’s why God sent an angel to comfort Him.
Jesus got depressed, King David got depressed, King Solomon evidently did too. Depression is not a sin and anyone can be affected by it especially Pastors and Ministers.
A report released by Duke University in 2013 showed that clergy suffer from depression at a rate of almost twice the national average. The primary reason for the depression was a “pastors’ sense of guilt about not doing enough at work”.
Each year about 6.7% of U.S adults experience major depressive disorder. Women are 70 % more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime. Non-Hispanic blacks are 40% less likely than non-Hispanic whites to experience depression during their lifetime. The average age of onset is 32 years old. Additionally, 3.3% of 13 to 18 year olds have experienced a seriously debilitating depressive disorder. Source: National Institute of Mental Health
What are some of the symptoms of depression?
– Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
– Fatigue and decreased energy
– Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
– Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
– Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
– Irritability, restlessness
– Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
– Overeating or appetite loss
– Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
– Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
– Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
The devil’s job here on earth is to kill, steal and destroy our lives. He does this through lies. Jesus said the devil, “was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44).
The devil is our adversary. And as our adversary, “the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Depression is but one of his many tools he uses against us. It’s an effective tool if 350 million people around the world suffer from it.
So what do we do? First a couple of things we must get right with ourselves. Introspection is part of repentance. We should always be in this mode guided by the light of God’s word.
“And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?” (John 1:37-38).
This is the big question; “What seek ye?” We are to be seeking Jesus Christ, His life, light and way all of the time. If you are seeking the answer to your problem first and foremost then we have a problem. Seek the Lord first and all other things will be added onto you. Seek a relationship, a loving relationship with Christ. That is what He wants. The unrighteous and the stranger he will turn a deaf ear to. But to one of His loving children he is all ears.
“I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” (Psalm 18: 1-6)
“For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me” (John 5:4-7)
“Wilt thou be made whole?” or better put, “Do you want to get well?” Think about it, depression is a spirit that wants to perpetuate itself. As the saying goes, “Misery loves company”. When someone is depressed they generally do not care about themselves. They don’t care about their personal appearance, hygiene, diet, treatments and medicines and sometimes whether or not if they even want to get better. It is a spiral down that speeds up as more time goes by.
So you have to make a conscience effort and decision about, “Wilt thou be made whole?” It is my belief and firsthand experience that the key to addressing depression is to put it number two on the priority list. Make Jesus and His word, way, life and light the priority. Think about Christ and his ways all of the time. What would he think, say or do if He was in your place and do that. Meditate and reflect on any and all things good and helpful. Avoid the negative, do not engage with evil, do not speak to hate and in all things maintain peace in your heart.
“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you”
Paul wants us to have so much joy in the Lord that he says it twice. Paul wants us to know that the Lord is nearby so do not fret or worry. Here is critical point number one. In EVERYTHING by prayer, supplication and thanksgiving make it clear to God. Tell Him! This is what God wants us to do! Go to Him! Now look what happens when you do.
“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.
Peace, that tranquility of soul which can only come through a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Serenity and gravity rolled into an anchor during any storm.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:7).
But all of this comes through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. Pray like you mean it. Let it all out. Discuss your problems. Discuss your victories. Praise Him and thank Him. Pray without ceasing! Listen to Him and for Him constantly. Be aware and discern.
Critical point number 2. Whatever we think about we head towards. Spiritually and emotional speaking whatever has our attentions has our emotions and thought process, or in other words, our soul. So think about good things, true things, things of benefit to all. Dwell, ponder and occupy yourself with the pure and virtuous. Don’t murmur, complain and hold grudges. Find the positive or think the best of any and all things or train your mind off into a more helpful place.
This brings us the third item. It isn’t a question but rather a statement.
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
We are a three part being. Our spirit and soul occupy a body, but one day our bodies will be gone while the spirit lives on. But we are not a body of one spirit!
Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you….But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:16-18, 26)
We are a spirit. We have received the Holy Spirit and it mingles with our spirit allowing us full access to Jesus Christ. With Jesus Christ as our mediator we now have full access to God. Not only are all of us a spirit being, Jesus Christ said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
The spirit brings life. The words that Jesus speaks are spirit and they are life. Anything physical is temporary. All things spiritual are forever; they are life.
Now, let’s get back to, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth”. Do not confuse religion with the Spirit of God, or church services or choir practice, bible study, volunteering at a homeless shelter, tithing, Sunday school-None of these things necessarily have anything to do with God much less the Spirit of God. Don’t misunderstand; all of the above mentioned are a natural result of our spiritual relationship with the Divine. Unfortunately too many people are caught up in the works, deeds and protocol of church and religion. They go through the motions looking, feeling and acting Godly but in fact are doing nothing but going through the motions. There is no personal contact or relationship with Christ or God. The spirit, the very heartbeat of life has no contact with the Lord.
It’s somewhat like a debt payment. The church goer feels or thinks heaven is owed to them because they have done good deeds and gone to church.
These people may believe in God but they have no trust or faith in Him. Just remember, the devil himself goes to church, he knows the Bible and he knows God and us too! But he certainly isn’t going to heaven.
God is a Spirit. Jesus is a Spirit. We have our spirit and the Holy Spirit mingled together. We are to be praying always with all prayer and supplication “in the spirit”
“As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God? It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect” (Psalm 18:30-32).
Depression is also a spirit. It has within its realm spirits to do its bidding. Some of His servants include low spirits, despair, abasement, dejection, desolation, desperation, distress, dispirited, gloom, melancholy, misery, sorrow, trouble, anger, anxiety, fear, heaviness of heart, dejection, rejection and one of the most popular little devils of Satan, lies.
If we are constantly in the Lord and He in us then all of these devils and demons must and will go. Being in the spirit, praying in the spirit and constantly thinking about good and pure things will leave no room for the devil to enter or stay.
Jesus Christ explained it this way in a parable: “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation” (Matthew 12:43-45).
When we get God, the devil gets gone. But if we do not continue in our relationship with the Lord then the house (us) becomes empty again. Even though the home is clean and swept (a good person), there is no God present. Spiritually speaking, there is no such thing as a vacuum. Either you have God or you’re getting (or already have) the devil. It doesn’t matter how “good” someone is, if they are not living and walking in the Spirit of our Lord then they are doing the same but for the devil.
In the parable the unclean spirit brings back with him “seven other spirits more wicked than himself”. What if one of seven unclean spirits was rage or drug addiction or even worse, murder?
Now to address the issue of depression head on; here is the direct benefit of receiving the Holy Spirit and in a loving relationship with the Lord: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Love, joy and peace sounds pretty good for someone who is depressed.
God works in a variety of ways but always in our best interests. If through prayer, supplications, Bible study, fellowship and Church, the dear Lord says go to the Psychiatrist by all means go! If you are thinking about professional help do not think that it is a sign of lack of faith or weakness. Just do everything from prayer, through Christ to God and all will be fine. In fact, it will be great!
“He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:7).