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Do Christians Get Depressed?

Sonya C. Triggs

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           What does the Bible say about depression?  Is it okay to be a Christian and still get depressed?  And what exactly is depression, anyway?

            First, what exactly is depression?  WebMD defines it as ‘A clinical mood disorder associated with low mood or loss of interest and other symptoms that prevent a person from leading a normal life.’  Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary has an even more eye-opening definition: ‘a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies’.  And if that doesn’t make it clear, I don’t know what does!

            So, do Christians get depressed?  The short answer to that is – Yes.  The Bible is filled with a lot of people who got depressed!  The prophet Elijah experienced his own depression very shortly after experiencing a major victory with God.  Elijah held a competition – himself against 450 prophets of Baal! – to prove the might of God. After a lot of storm and drama, God proved Himself to be the Only True God and Elijah experienced a major personal victory.  The queen at the time -Jezebel - was very unhappy about this and threatened Elijah’s life.  Elijah became frightened and ran for his life.  After coming to the end of his (physical) rope (in the wilderness), he stopped and started to feel very badly for himself.  1 Kings 19:4 says Elijah, ‘….begged for his life, that he might die.  And he said, It is enough, O LORD, take away my life.  For I am no better than my fathers.’ (MKJV).  Elijah was definitely depressed (the entire story can be read in 1 Kings 19:1-18).

               Even one of Israelite’s Great Deliverers, Joshua the Son of Nun, experienced a down time.  Joshua had led the Israelites to a resounding victory against Jericho.  The Israelites then went to war against Ai and experienced a bitter defeat.  Joshua 7:6-7 says ‘And Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust on their heads.  And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord God, why have You at all brought this people over Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us?  And, oh that we had been content and lived on the other side of Jordan!’ (MKJV).  Joshua was a very unhappy man.

            What I find most interesting about these situations, however, is how God responded to Elijah and Joshua.  God sent an angel to minister to Elijah after he’d stopped in the wilderness, who provided him with food encouraged him to eat and drink.  Elijah then took a 40-day journey to Mt. Horeb where God Himself spoke to him.  God asked Elijah ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ (1 Kings 19:9 MKJV) and Elijah has this pity party where he tells God how he had been zealous for Him and Elijah was now the only prophet left and how they were trying to kill him!   God gave Elijah instructions to carry out and then promptly informed him, ‘Yet I have left seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed to Baal...’(1 Kings 19:18 MKJV).  In other words, that Elijah had no business being depressed because he was not, in fact, the only prophet of God left.  He also got the opportunity to speak to God one-on-one, as God passed by him and spoke to him in a still, small voice. 

            God had a different response for Joshua.  Joshua 7:10 says, ‘And the LORD said to Joshua, Get up!  Why do you lie on your face this way?’ (MKJV).  God explained to Joshua that the Israelites had been defeated because they had sinned against Him.  But that now, it was time to Get Up!, fix the problem and return to their warfare against the people of Ai.

            What is reassuring about both of these situations is not only the fact that God heard Elijah’s and Joshua’s cries to Him, but that He responded.  He met them right where they were and gave them hope and instructions for how to carry on.  He didn’t leave them in the middle of their hopelessness – He took control and gave them a renewed sense of purpose and direction.

            So, do Christians get depressed?  Sure – but they don’t usually stay depressed.  One thing is for certain – Christians will encounter many situations which will challenge their optimism.  Jesus himself promised us ‘ …In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer.’ (John 16:33 (MKJV).  And why should we be of good cheer?  Because Jesus also reminded us that ‘I have overcome the world’.  In other words, there is no need for us to remain down or out (or even surprised by the frequency of our troubles), because Jesus has already solved any problems we will encounter.  Yes, God does hear your cry when you are depressed, and will comfort and minister to you (as well as give you guidance), but, ultimately, our victory happened right there on Calvary when Jesus died on the cross for us.  We can rest assured knowing that we will eventually come to a place where all trials and tribulations will be over, all tears will be wiped away and we will have eternal rest and peace with our Father.  So that’s why we must recapture our joy when we're down and make a serious effort to remain in good spirits at all other times.

            So what should you do if you find yourself in the throes of depression?  Paul lays it out for us in Philippians 4:4-13.  First, he tells us to let God know about our  worries - through prayer and supplication.  To make our requests known to God – with our thanks (for hearing, for responding, for whatever we can think of!).  And then he promises us that peace will be ours.  And to maintain that peace, he tells us to think on good things!  Good things only.  He says ‘….whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report, if [there be] any praise, think on these things.’ (KJV - emphasis mine)

            This doesn’t mean you have to adopt a Pollyana view of the world – that nothing bad is going on or that you don’t have a good reason to be down.  Instead, it means that you CHOOSE  to maintain a positive attitude, knowing that God has it all under control.  It means that you CHOOSE to let God deal with it instead of wrestling around with it in your own mind.  And, finally it means you CHOOSE to believe God instead of all the rotten things that are going on around you.  Paul last of all reminds us that we can do all things because Jesus strengthens us.  So, it’s not a matter of relying on your own strength, but on the strength of the Almighty. 

            And He will never let you down.

            So, don’t worry if you get depressed (occasionally) -  just try your best not to stay depressed.  Remember that God hears your prayers (and will respond) and that His peace will keep you through it all – if you let Him.  So think good thoughts, turn your cares over to Him and choose to believe in God’s word instead of the world.

            You will be blessed!


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