Depression in the Bible
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, so I will be writing a few posts about depression this month, including my own story.
If I had stronger faith, if I prayed more, then I could get over this. This is the lie that haunted my soul for a long time. I was depressed and I believed it was due to my own weak faith. It’s a lie many Christians, sadly, believe. It is completely a lie.
Depression doesn’t favor the spiritually weak or the faithless. It is an illness, like the flu or cancer. It can happen to anyone-believers and non-believers, the faithful and sinners, the strong in faith or the doubters. The causes of depression vary greatly-it can be circumstantial, due to trauma, or a physiological issue with the processes of your brain and hormones. It doesn’t matter what the cause is; there is no shame in suffering from depression. We know this because many of the faithful in the Bible suffered depression. You are not alone.
King David, the man after God’s own heart, suffered from severe depression. He is the first member of the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11) who comes to mind when I think of depression in the Bible. The Psalms are sprinkled with David’s honest cries of anguish.
“My soul is greatly troubled…I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief…”
“Why are you cast down, my soul? Why are you at turmoil within me?”
Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck.I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold;I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched.My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.
David wasn’t the only Psalm writer who suffered from depression. The writer of Psalm 88 knew the struggle fully.
“For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, like one set loose among the dead like the slain that lie in the grave..”
The great prophet Elijah, was so depressed he wished for death.
“But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
1 Kings 19:4
It is not surprising that Job, who endured immense trauma from Satan, suffered from depression and longed for death too.
“Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?”
“I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes.”
“I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
“Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?:
Some of you are thinking, “Um what?” No way! Jesus is God!” When I first considered this, it rubbed me the wrong way too, but I think Scott Attebery (a teacher I trust is biblical) makes a good case for it in his article “Did Jesus Battle Depression?”
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
“That certainly sounds like someone dealing with the symptoms of depression. So why do we immediately push back at the thought that Jesus might have dealt with symptoms of depression?
Perhaps it is because we have the false notion that depression is either 1) a sin or a 2) sign of weakness. But neither is the case.
In fact, depression is not something a person chooses. Rather it is something a person must choose how to deal with. The real issue is not whether a person experiences depression, but instead, how the person reacts to depression…For this reason I am of the opinion that Christ did indeed battle depression. And more importantly, He battled it perfectly. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
If you struggle with depression, you are not alone. Even the sinless God Himself struggled with depression."
There is hope. I plan to write about biblical hope for depression in a separate post, but I want you to know now that there is hope.
If you or a loved one is struggling with depression so severely, you or they are thinking of taking their lives, PLEASE Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) at any time day or night 24/7, to talk to someone who understands. Or go online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org for more information and help.
Your life valuable, full of meaning, and worth living. As we see from scripture, some of these men of God wished desperately to escape depression through death. They did not take their lives because God values each and every one of your lives-and there is help available and hope for relief.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."