Some have imagined that depression is always the result of some sin, of a moral weakness. Although sin can cause depression, it is not true that sin is behind all bouts of depression.
The Bible describes the struggles of people who suffered with depression—including David, Elijah and Job—even though they were faithful servants of God. These men did not suffer primarily because they were sinners. They suffered because they were human and were susceptible to severe pressures.
Job became depressed after suffering many personal losses—first his material possessions, then all his children. Then he was devastated by a grievous physical affliction: He broke out in painful boils.
Elijah grew depressed when he was rebuked while he was anticipating a moment of triumph. His lofty hopes were crushed; he became sick at heart.
The depressions of David, as related in some of the Psalms, stem from any of several probable causes.
These men recovered and went on with their lives, serving God.
No one should condemn someone because he is depressed. The sufferer often already feels self-revulsion. He blames himself and perhaps thinks he has sinned. He may submit himself to torturous recriminations and dredge up all the evil he has done in his life, real or imagined. Because of their high standards, Christians can especially be vulnerable to this thinking.
Passing judgment on someone who is already depressed will only add to his sorrow. When Elijah became fearful and depressed, he fled from his God-given responsibilities. Yet God didn’t berate Elijah. He spoke to him in a “still small voice” and encouraged him (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×).
Anyone who is depressed needs encouragement. “A friend owes kindness to one in despair …” (Job 6:14 Job 6:14To him that is afflicted pity should be showed from his friend; but he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
American King James Version×, New American Bible). Don’t forget that the family of a depressed person needs support and encouragement too. GN