Clinical depression is a serious illness, with various physical, mental and social symptoms, which can incapacitate people. The levels of certain chemicals in the brain can contribute to the problem. Those suffering from severe or chronic depression should seek specialized counseling and medical guidance in addition to applying the biblical tools mentioned in this response.
Depression, in more everyday terminology, usually refers to periods of unusual sadness, of prolonged fear or worry, or of feeling overwhelmed by stress or distress. The immediate response is often to forget past successes, to feel hopeless, vulnerable and to want to quit. No Christian is immune.
On occasion even some of the great men in the Bible suffered from depression. After a string of miracles and a long, close relationship with God, the prophet Elijah became prey to depression when Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him.
Elijah was tired following a long period of stress, and this probably exacerbated his sense of discouragement and hopelessness. Nonetheless, God did not want him to remain in this condition. In a quiet, compassionate way, God explained to Elijah what he could not see in his irrational state—that he was not alone and that God would continue to support him in the work he had to do. Read about Elijah's recovery in 1 Kings 19:1-18 1 Kings 19:1-18 1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and with how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.
2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not your life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.
3 And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said to him, Arise and eat.
6 And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baked on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
7 And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for you.
8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.
9 And he came thither to a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, What do you here, Elijah?
10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and slain your prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand on the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice to him, and said, What do you here, Elijah?
14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and slain your prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
15 And the LORD said to him, Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when you come, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:
16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi shall you anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shall you anoint to be prophet in your room.
17 And it shall come to pass, that him that escapes the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.
18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth which has not kissed him.
American King James Version×.
The book of Proverbs has much to say on depression and worry and offers useful guidance (see Proverbs 12:25 Proverbs 12:25Heaviness in the heart of man makes it stoop: but a good word makes it glad.
American King James Version×; 13:12; 15:13; 18:14). In Luke 12:22-31 Luke 12:22-31 22 And he said to his disciples, Therefore I say to you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat; neither for the body, what you shall put on. 23 The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. 24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them: how much more are you better than the fowls? 25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? 26 If you then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take you thought for the rest? 27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say to you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith? 29 And seek not you what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, neither be you of doubtful mind. 30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knows that you have need of these things. 31 But rather seek you the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version×, Jesus Christ explained the futility of worry, a trait that often leads to depression. In verse 28 He highlighted one aspect of the problem when He referred to His disciples as “you of little faith.”
For a Christian, depression (again, the more typical variety, not the physiological malady) sometimes may be an outgrowth of lack of faith in God. It would be easier for Christians if, following water baptism and the laying on of hands for the receipt of the Holy Spirit, we could all be immediately filled with faith, love and patience. But it doesn't happen that way. Instead, God expects us to develop these characteristics through experiences and even trials, just as we learn obedience to His law.
Christians should not remain in a depressive state. As God dealt with Elijah in the Old Testament, so He deals with Christians today through Jesus Christ. By His own suffering while here on earth, Jesus learned compassion for His people (Hebrews 4:14-16 Hebrews 4:14-16 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
American King James Version×). He knows that we are weak and prone to fears, doubts and worry that can lead to depression. But He is always there to help when we are overburdened and promises to give us rest (Matthew 11:28-30 Matthew 11:28-30 28 Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke on you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
American King James Version×).
In practical terms, is there anything we can do when anxiety, worry or depression threaten to engulf us? There is, but it takes mental effort and it often means noticing potential problems before they take hold.
The apostle Paul instructs us to be “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 2 Corinthians 10:5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
American King James Version×). When a fearful thought or a worry first enters your head, pray to God and ask Him for His help to dispel it. Do not give it either time or space to implant itself in your mind. This may be easier said than done at first, but with God's help, it does begin to work.
Prayer is a vital way of drawing close to God—as is the study of Scripture. Indeed, the Bible and its promises will help us to build faith. Paul pointed out that faith comes through hearing God's Word (Romans 10:17 Romans 10:17So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
American King James Version×).
Paul also admonishes us, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8 Philippians 4:8Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
American King James Version×).
As Christians, we should be familiar with the promises God has made to us. Remember the great love the Father and Jesus Christ have shown us by providing a way by which we can be rescued from our sins. Meditating on these things can bring us comfort in times of sorrow. Read scriptures such as John 3:16-17 John 3:16-17 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
American King James Version×, Luke 12:32 Luke 12:32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
American King James Version×, Romans 8:18-39 Romans 8:18-39 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. 24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. 34 Who is he that comdemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
American King James Version×and Revelation 21:1-7 Revelation 21:1-7 1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said to me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 6 And he said to me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely. 7 He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
American King James Version×.
Try actively imagining what the coming 1,000-year reign of Christ will be like, or the New Jerusalem in the eternal age beyond. Scriptures such as Isaiah 11:6-9 Isaiah 11:6-9 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
American King James Version×, 35:1-10 and Revelation 21-22 may help here. You could even imagine yourself being there. However, we should never lose sight of present reality.
Always ask God the Father and Jesus Christ for their help. But also tap into the support of other Christians. Having someone whom you can phone, e-mail or text can be a valuable help. Maybe a friend could contact you from time to time, just to let you know you are not alone.
If you have Sabbath services in your area, go along and meet people. Get involved in something that does not add further stress or anxiety, but that improves your life. Physical activities such as jogging, walking, ballroom dancing, swimming and team sports can all help. Another huge help is to get involved in helping others. Doing so can help get our minds off of our own problems as we focus on serving others.
Do not become discouraged if you cannot overcome depression or worry all at once. As the apostle Peter wrote, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 2 Peter 3:18But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×).
Climbing out of depression can be likened to trying to climb out of a slippery pit. We can set off with good intentions and then slide back in. It's a long journey, but we must keep at it with God's help. Christians are those growing to be like Christ, and we all still have much to learn.
For more information, please visit our website http://breakingfree.ucg.org