There has been a lot of discussion about depression since the apparent suicide of Robin Williams. Robin Williams was a Christian and that prompted me to write this post addressing Christians and depression.
This is from Harvard Health Publications
It’s often said that depression results from a chemical imbalance, but that figure of speech doesn’t capture how complex the disease is. Research suggests that depression doesn’t spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Rather, depression has many possible causes, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. It’s believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression.
Can a Christian Be or Become Depressed?
There were just some things we didn’t talk about in church. We don’t talk about sex and money for sure and we don’t talk about our hurts and issues because the church culture says that now that we are in Christ everything should be perfect in our lives. If it’s not, then there is something wrong with our faith. Because of that people with real issues never talk about them and never deal with them.
Because there has been a prohibition of talking about certain things or not expressing our feelings when we are hurting in certain areas like money or sex we often putting lipstick on a pig so to speak. We are masking how we hurt so we don’t get help. I use to hear some old time preachers and old time mothers talking about the church being a hospital well if you can’t talk about your sickness what kind of hospital is it? Is it only one that deals with the common cold or a stubbed toe and not drug addiction or sex addiction, or depression?
The church has a problem talking about depression because we somehow believe that Christians should not get depressed. Talking about it can be uncomfortable because many of our church leaders don’t know a lot about it so we in the church don’t talk about it.
The fact is that we do have people who are depressed and with other issues who never talk about them. The church should be a place of healing but it is often a place of cover up. When people don’t address their issues what happens is somebody eventually finds out and it becomes rumor and gossip, the leadership finds out about it and asks that they step down from leadership or leave until the problem is solved, or they just leave because they can no longer keep up the charade.
Today’s Christians are not unique in becoming depressed either. Biblical giants had problems and bad days just as we do. There are even examples of some of those giants who admitted that they were depressed and wanted to die. Moses and Elijah for example.
Moses in Numbers 11:14-15 (HCSB)14 I can’t carry all these people by myself. They are too much for me.15 If You are going to treat me like this, please kill me right now. If You are pleased with me, don’t let me see my misery ⌊anymore⌋.”
Elijah in 1 Kings 19:3-4 (HCSB) 3 Then Elijah became afraid and immediately ran for his life. When he came to Beer-sheba that belonged to Judah, he left his servant there, 4 but he went on a day’s journey into the wilderness. He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. He said, “⌊I have had⌋ enough! LORD, take my life, for I’m no better than my fathers.”
Some might say yes but that was before Jesus and His sacrifice. Well the great Apostle Paul sounded depressed in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (HCSB) 8 For we don’t want you to be unaware, brothers, of our affliction that took place in Asia: we were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life. 9 Indeed, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.
So now that we realize that God fearing Christians can become depressed where do we go from here?
Warning Signs That You are Headed for a Crash
First I want to say that I am not a psychiatrist, physiologist, social worker, or trained counselor. I am involved, along with the adult bible study group of my church in an in-depth study on dealing with stress, worry and anxiety. The study deals with depression, some of the signs that we may be headed that way and some potential remedies. In no way am I advocating that if you are depressed you try to deal with it yourself without the help of a trained professional. If you are depressed get help!!!!
Depression is usually not brought on by one thing although a tragic event can trigger it.
Sign 1 An Unrealistic Pace
We are always rushing from one thing to another one deadline after another, a long to do list and everything has to get done today. In a quote from the book my group and I are studying, the author, Pastor Perry Nobel, says he heard someone say once “If I were the devil, I would invent a device you could hold in your hands that would ensure you’d always have your schedule in front of you and give people access to you anytime they wanted”.
When we are operating at an unrealistic pace when we do that we have no intimacy in our relationship with God because they don’t spend time with Him. We are always in a hurry working for God. When somebody criticizes us or pulls our coat tail about our pace we get angry and like the author of the book we are studying say “The devil never takes a day off”. His friend responded “I’m not sure the devil is supposed to be your example.
To really know what I Father wants for us and to know what He has done for us and what He wants us to do we have to slow down and spend time with Him in His word the Bible. The Bible is where we find the promises of God. Listen to Him not our own emotions. We want control and when we decide that we are going to take control then comes the stress and anxiety. When we trust God because He is in control and when we spend time with Him we will understand that He has given us reminders that He loves us and the greatest of these reminders is Jesus who gave His life for us.
In the Ten Commandments the commandment that God spent the most time addressing was the one on rest.
Exodus 20:8-11 (HCSB)8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: 9 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates. 11 For the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.
Sign 2 Unrealistic Expectations of Others
When we are depressed we often put the blame on others and are angry at them for the way we feel.
It’s easier to blame somebody else than ourselves. They are the ones with the problem not us. That’s the way depressed people act sometimes and I can tell you that it’s true I have firsthand experience. We should stop asking God to change the other person, because He won’t in most cases, but ask Him to change us and our attitude. If we always maintain a victim mentality always blaming others we will never walk in the victory that Jesus promises.
Sign 3 An Unrealistic View on Life
If we don’t do anything differently things will not change and we will stay in our depression or state of anxiety. Depression and anxiety do happen but they don’t just pass like the season. If we think that depression is just a season and it will pass then we have a serious problem. We must go through it. But we don’t have to go through it alone we have God who said that He would never leave us or forsake us. Even when things look insurmountable.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (HCSB) Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Joshua 1:5 (HCSB) No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.
Hebrews 13:5 (HCSB) Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.
Sign 4 An Unrealistic Desire to Be Liked by Everyone
I use to have this problem. I wanted everybody to like me so I did some things and went some places that I should not have done or gone but I wanted people to like me
Well everybody is not going to like you so don’t sweat it. Everybody didn’t like Jesus and we can’t let what others think about us dominate our lives we should be seeking the approval of God and not man. Using my example I don’t even remember the names or faces of most of those people that I was concerned about them liking me. John 12:42-43 talks about people who actually believed in Jesus but were afraid to admit it.
John 12:42-43 (HCSB) 42 Nevertheless, many did believe in Him even among the rulers, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, so they would not be banned from the synagogue. 43 For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
Remember Nicodemus came to Jesus in the middle of the night and didn’t come out to the closet so to speak until after Jesus was crucified.
John 19:38-39 (HCSB) 38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus—but secretly because of his fear of the Jews—asked Pilate that he might remove Jesus’ body. Pilate gave him permission, so he came and took His body away. 39 Nicodemus (who had previously come to Him at night) also came, bringing a mixture of about 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes.
Getting off the Collision Course
If you are headed for a crash it’s probably because of a combination of two things. 1) What happened to you. There are bad things that really did happen and you are still carrying that baggage and you need to deal with it and 2) Choices you have made. We have to accept responsibility for our choices.
Shattering the Chains that Hold You Back
Denial Doesn't Help It Hurts - Rather than denying that we are depressed or anxious we should face it and address it.
Realizing That We can’t do life alone - We were not made to be alone remember in Genesis what God said about Adam?
Genesis 2:18 (HCSB) Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.”
When Jesus was facing his crucifixion and that night in the garden of Gethsemane he took Peter, James and John with Him so that he was not alone.
Matthew 26:36-37 (HCSB) 36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.
We Must Address What’s Broken on the Inside of Us - When we reach the point that we understand that our problems are often times of our own making, then we are on the way to conquering it. Many times our problems are because of things out of our control but most often they are of our own making. In those cases relief can come through repentance. God’s desire is to take us through the dark times in our lives. We should ask God to show us what was wrong inside us. For us it may be pride, greed, sexual immorality, or other things but if we ask God to show us He will and He will even show us how to make the changes that we need to make we just need to do them when He does show us.
Situations that cause stress anxiety, and depression are real and here to stay until Jesus comes back.
John 16:33 (NKJV) These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." But remember and believe these two things:
Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV) Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
If you are depressed or think that you are depressed or headed toward depression seek professional help fist but keep these things in mind.
If you have ever been depressed or are depressed now your experiences can help others who are going through that struggle right now. Please share your experiences in the comments. You will be a blessing to others.
God bless you,
This blog is for you! If you have any questions or topics you would like me to address please use the comments section or email me at email@example.com
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.