It is difficult to define depression because it manifests itself through various symptoms. Generally, depression is a state of persistent sadness in which a person loses interest in and energy to do things they once enjoyed. People can be diagnosed with clinical depression as it becomes more serious and long-lasting. Depression can be caused by chemical imbalances in the body, traumatic events, difficult life circumstances, guilt from sin, and lies from Satan. Depression tends to feed on itself both emotionally and biologically, making it difficult to escape.
Depression is a controversial issue in the Christian church. Some people claim it's a sin saying that a depressed person is not trusting in God's love and goodness or His promises of healing and freedom. Some even think depression is punishment from God. On the other side, some write depression off as purely a medical condition due to chemical imbalances in the body. Still, others fall somewhere in the middle, leaving depressed Christians in an awkward space of confusion, guilt, and isolation.
Throughout the Bible we see examples of men and women of God suffering from sadness. Both Moses and Elijah performed great miracles in God's name and yet they both expressed a desire to die rather than continue living in their difficult circumstances (Numbers 11:15; 1 Kings 19:3–5). David, often referred to as a man after God's own heart, experienced great sadness during his lifetime. In the Psalms he expressed his anguish before God, "You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?" (Psalm 56:8). Even Jesus experienced great sadness including when His dear friend Lazarus had died (John 11:35). Some were released from their suffering like Job (42:10–17) while others like Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7) continued to suffer their entire lives.
Depression is not a sin. In fact, God desires to comfort the depressed, regardless of what caused their depression. However, if a person surrenders to depression and allows it to control their actions, it can lead them to sin. When Christians are confronted with depression they first and foremost must bring it before God. This means being honest about the situation and letting God in. We let Him see our hearts, minister to our hurts, and forgive our sins. We seek Him out in His Word and through prayer. God is the true remedy for depression.
Another key aspect of overcoming depression is remaining engaged with godly community. Part of the purpose of the church is to build one another up and comfort one another in difficult times (Hebrews 10:24–25; Romans 12:15; 2 Corinthians 1:3–4). Often those who are depressed isolate themselves, but suffering in secret is not helpful. Certainly, a depressed Christian does not have to share his story with everyone he meets or attend every social event, but staying connected to a few trusted and godly friends is important. It is also important to take good care of your physical health through things like proper nutrition and exercise.
Other forms of treatment for depression are helpful in the healing process. Things like meeting with a counselor or perhaps medication have proven to be useful in managing and overcoming depression. Alone, these things only put a bandage over the wound. With God, they become tools He uses to sustain us and heal us.
For some, depression may only last for a season. For others, though the intensity of the struggle will vary, it might be lifelong. Regardless of the situation, God is able to help us through. The important thing is that those who are dealing with depression fight back and strive to live a life defined by God's joy and strength.
God is the ultimate source of our joy, which unlike happiness is not an emotion based on circumstance, but instead rooted in the presence of the Holy Spirit living inside of us. It is possible to be sad and to have joy. Christians are not intended to deny the difficult realities of living in a fallen and broken world, but we also confront those realities knowing the truth of God's ultimate victory and our hope and security in Christ. Jesus Himself said, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
King David is a great example for us to follow. Due to his sin of committing adultery with Bathsheba and killing her husband Uriah, David and Bathsheba's baby son died. David struggled with many hard emotions including the guilt from his sin and the heartbreak of losing his son. He mourned for his son as he was dying, but when he died David rose from the ground, bathed, and made love to his wife Bathsheba. Sounds kind of crazy right? Well, what David shows us is that we should continue to praise God and live the life He intends for us even in the midst of great sorrow. Depression is not a sin, but it can cause someone to not live life as God intends them to live it. Christians should not let depression define who they are, but rather let their relationship with God define how they live their lives.
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