Can One Be a Christian and Still Suffer Depression?

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Can One Be a Christian and Still Suffer Depression?

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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.

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" 

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.

The book of Proverbs has much to say on depression and worry and offers useful guidance (see Proverbs 12:25; Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:13; Proverbs 18:14). In Luke 12:22-31, 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). 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).

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). 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).

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).

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; Luke 12:32; Romans 8:18-39 and Revelation 21:1-7.

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 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).

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 Breaking Free blog.

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  • irini_limaj
    You are so right about all of it. I am not depressed but I have anxiety. I tend to freak out quickly just by thinking about stuff like when the kids go out with their daddy and since I don't think he is very careful I freak out. I start doing a lot of housework just to keep my mind off it but not before I have said a prayer. I would be a controlling nut job if I did not teach myself to let go so that I don't feed my anxiety to them but I have to pray often and after I do it I feel so much more relaxed. I too have come to the conclusion that coffee is horrible for me cause that would just make my heart racy and difficult to control the whole panicky mode. Once a doctor gave me some pills so that I could sleep better cause in fact since the kids are little I have many sleepless nights and then I feel much worse but I stopped cause they were just making me sweat and tremble. So now I pray, I feel so much better if I have a feeling that God is there listening and I also have Jeremiah 29:11 framed and I can read it the moment I get off the bed. It give me so much comfort.
  • KARS

    Good article.
    I will add something to this. I am a recovered depressed person. During my depressive state and my journey with God our Father I began to examine just what it was I was doing with my life.
    Diet is one important examination to look into. How,what,and when are you eating? When one replaces wholesome foods with caffine fixes this will cause insomnia and racing thoughts that just won't quit. This because a serious chemistry imbalance of the body. Folks we need our sleep. For without sleep we go nuts.

    Once the damage to the mind is done, it can't be fixed. However, a daily walk with God our Father will bring one out of the serious depression one was caught in. The guilt and other things happening will be lifted off your shoulders for you will learn how to cast your burdens upon the Lord. Also keep a paper journal around for the bad days. By prayer and releasing the woes; God will help you to heal a little at a time. Your life will now be devoted to our Father because we come to the realization that there is no other way to go on.

    By excepting our Savior's hand (so to speak)we have a daily walk in the scriptures of healing, peace of mind, and comfort. True love that we will learn to give to others and help them along.

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