There are many types of depression. While the Bible doesn’t address each kind of depression, we see many instances of the faithful struggling with sadness and bouts of depression. Three times in the Psalms David asks himself the same question: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” The Apostle Paul describes his immense emotion distress as being “pressed” or “weighed down”.
Jesus addressed those who were pressed down: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NLT)
What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder. From a clinical perspective it is marked by sadness, inactivity, difficulty thinking and concentrating with changes in appetite and sleep accompanied by feelings of dejection, hopelessness, and sometimes thoughts of suicide. It is a mental health condition that effects the whole person: body, soul, and spirit. Many people who experience depression feel hopeless.
Although there are different types of depression the most common symptoms include feelings of sadness, depression, irritability, or empty mood. These symptoms of depression can range significantly. While some are manageable others can have a debilitating effect. If left undealt with, these symptoms can disrupt your life, affect your daily activity, sleep, eating, and thinking.
Does sin lead to depression?
As a Christian, sometimes the question can run through your mind: “Am I depressed because of sin?” When your heart grieves over a loss, your body chemistry changes, or a trauma has occurred. These are all instances beyond your control and are not a result of sin, but these circumstances can lead to feeling depressed, sad, and hopeless. But they are not a result of sin.
Sometimes depression can be a result of sin. If you are experiencing the consequences of your sin but don’t attempt to change. You don’t take the necessary steps to find healing. Or you hold anger, revenge or bitterness in you heart. All of these undealt with sins can lead to depression.
While it is important to understand the cause of your depression, the source is not always sin. Whatever the cause or your depression there is help and hope available. Doctors and counselors are evidence of God’s grace and compassion.
The role of medication
For many Christians, treating depression with medication can seem like a lack of faith. Just like you would take medication to help other parts of your body—medication to prevent a heart attack, medication to lower your blood pressure, or chemotherapy for cancer—medication for depression can help to treat your brain.
Our brains contain chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. If we didn’t have these transmitters, we couldn’t think or feel. These messengers play a role in our happiness, sadness, worry, anxiety, anger, cognitive ability, sleep, memory, thinking, and even facial expression. Low levels of these neurotransmitters are often found in people who struggle with depression. Medication can help your body when it is weak, such as when you struggle with depression. This can often be caused by abnormalities in your brain chemicals. Medication may be just what you need to help where you are weak.
The role of emotions
Your emotions play a significant role in depression. Many times, it is not being taught how to properly express your emotions. These repressed toxic emotions can lead to a breakdown in your relationships and contribute to depression.
There are four toxic emotions that need to be addressed: anger, fear, guilt, and stress. Throughout the Bible you find God’s instruction to get rid of emotions like anger and bitterness. This does not mean that you ignore them or express them in an inappropriate way. If you want to find release from these toxic emotions, then find a trusted and safe person to talk to. As you work through this process, you will find God’s grace to help you process these feelings.
“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.” (Psalm 142:1–2)
Ministering to those struggling with depression
If you are helping someone struggling with depression, there are a few things to keep in mind. Depression is often a relapsing condition. It comes and goes over time. There are numerous causes for depression. It is important to understand how to minister to the whole person.
In order to move forward, it is important for those struggling to fully embrace the hope that can only be found in God. He alone can help them walk through this time of despair.
Every person has three inner needs: to be loved, to have meaning and significance, and to feel accepted. Only God can meet these deepest needs of our heart.
“Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death, But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead…On him we have set our hope that he will continue deliver us.” (2 Corinthians 1:9–10)