Depression: It is Not a Sin and Jesus Understands
I find that as I come out of a depressive episode (I am thankful that this one was not that intense or long), that the creative juices often flow with thunderous velocity for a time immediately following. Like a stream that was dammed up by a rock slide, the water that had built up on the other side turns into a rushing river once the rocks are broken away. In fact so many ideas race through my head at the same time, that I cannot possibly catch them all as they rush past me. I have started so many posts…and just left them! One such idea that I do want to touch on is the matter of depression in the Bible and that the Lord does understand…
David Murray, in his book Christians Get Depressed Too states that, “David and the other psalmists often found themselves deeply depressed for various reasons. They did not, however, apologize for what they were feeling, nor did they confess it as sin. It was a legitimate part of their relationship with God. They interacted with Him through the context of their depression.”
They interacted with God through the context of their depression. Hard to do sometimes, when the patterns of false thinking begin to swirl around in your head. False thoughts often cloud our minds blocking the light and keeping us in darkness. Thoughts like:
I am alone in this…(no you’re not.)
God does not love me… (Jesus loves you – the Bible tells me so),
I am worthless… (our value is beyond worth in Christ Jesus!),
Jesus doesn’t get what I am going through (he does),
The world would be better off without me (if you think persistent thoughts like this please seek professional help).
There are a number of examples of depression and anxiety in the Bible. Just open to the book of Psalms as David Murray says! Psalm 22 and 88 are a couple that immediately to mind. But lets look at Psalm 102 for a moment:
Hear my prayer, Lord;
let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.
How many times have I prayed this while in the midst of depression! Do not hide your face from me…He isn’t, but it sure feels like it. David goes on:
For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
In my distress I groan aloud
and am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.
If you are suffering from depression, or have in the past, I am sure that you can relate to this. I sure can. King David is, as David Murray says, interacting with God in the context of his depression. He is not apologizing for it, he just being honest with the Lord.
What about some lesser known examples? I believe that Hannah was depressed. In 1 Samuel it says of her:
“ Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.”
Hannah prayed to the Lord, in the midst of her anguish. She interacted with the Lord in the context of her anguish.
In 1 Kings we read about Elijah, that he,
“asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.”
In 2 Corinthians the Apostle Paul stated that he “despaired of life itself.”
These are just a sampling. There are many more examples throughout scripture that show people of faith interacting with God in the context of their depression or mental anguish. Continue to pray. Continue to seek God, despite how you are feeling. The hopelessness we feel in the midst of depression is not a sin, so cry out to the Lord.
If you think that Jesus doesn’t get it, if you think he doesn’t understand your distress, I get it, I have been there…but he does. Jesus gets it. Jesus lamented as he contemplated bearing the wrath of God against the sin of humanity and cried out, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”
Jesus felt extreme mental anguish, he knows.
In John 11, we read that Jesus wept. His tears were shed in response to Lazarus’ death and Mary and Martha’s grief. Jesus did not have to let Lazarus die and then raise him, he could have chosen to remove Lazarus’ sickness from afar and heal him, yet he didn’t. Jesus made himself vulnerable. He stopped for a moment in to feel the sting of death, to identify with broken people who struggled with hopelessness.
He weeps for you.
He weeps for me.
You are not alone. Continue to pray. Continue to seek God, despite how you are feeling. Interact with the Lord in the context of your depression. The hopelessness felt in the midst of depression is not a sin, so cry out to the Lord.