Despite the strengths and victories Christians receive from Jesus Christ, many times – as we minister to people at a prayer line – some tell us quietly (wrongly feeling ashamed and not wanting anyone else to know) that they are suffering from depression.
Depression is an interesting word, meaning to be lowered in spirit, dejected, weakened, pressed down, despondent, lowered activity, having feelings of low value, sadness and pessimism, carrying delusions of inadequacy and hopelessness. It comes from Latin words meaning ‘pressed down.’
Anyone could be so afflicted
Yes, as mentioned above, we Christians have great strength and resources in Christ. But we must all be aware that even we could get hit by depression at some point, especially if overworked, tired, going through difficulty, disappointment or illness.
But if it happens, it’s not something to be ashamed of and feel we must be quiet about. That someone will accuse us of having lost our faith. If they do, that’s their problem, not ours! What we must learn to do is to recognise symptoms and how to deal with this problem.
Depression – this ‘pressing down’ – is a ‘following on from’ word. Depression can follow on from some upset or stress that happened to the person being affected.
Depending on which translation you use, you’ll find depression used quite a few times in scripture. For example Prov. 12:25, ‘Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression.’ Anxiety – that’s means anything that causes heaviness of heart.
It’s interesting how the Bible knew all about many illnesses and God had answers before prescription tablets! Actually there are a number of examples in scripture that indicate people were struck by depression. For example, depression can hit…
Following exhausting hard work, including ministry
Samson – that incredibly mighty man of God was exhausted after killing 1000 of Israel’s enemies single-handedly (even though he moved in the amazing power of God’s Spirit and strength) – and cried out to God: ‘Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of these pagan people?’ (Judges 15:14-19).
The strongest man in the world was obviously depressed but God had an answer…he ‘caused water to gush out of a hollow in the ground … and Samson drank and was revived as he drank.’ Revived indicates that he was refreshed anew…’came alive.’ The Good News Bible puts it this way: ‘began to feel much better.’
God always has an answer to every problem, including sickness weariness and heaviness of heart (depression).
Elijah, that amazing prophet, who held back rain for almost four years and called fire down from heaven destroying false prophets, became crushed in spirit – depressed – after his incredible victory over satanic forces.
1 Kgs 19:3-4 (Mge) tells us that ‘When Elijah saw how things were, he ran for dear life’ from the evil Queen Jezebel who now threatened him for having caused this victory over her evil rule.
Again, God had an answer. Just a gentle whisper of his comforting voice and a good heaven supplied meal fixed him up (1 Kgs 19:12ff)! Elijah found himself strengthened, recommissioned by God and sent out immediately on a new assignment.
Even a little R&R in God’s presence is enough to get us refreshed and going again! Spending time with the Lord, reading the Bible (our heavenly food!) and talking to God will help refresh us and we’ll be able to move ahead into whatever the Holy Spirit has for us next.
Following dark times and all kinds of attacks
David, the ‘man after God’s own heart,’ was no exception. Dark times fall on all of us every now and then, no matter who we are or how close to God we may be! In fact, when you carefully read David’s writings in Psalms and elsewhere, you get the impression that he suffered quite a bit from depression.
But David always ‘picked himself up, shook himself down and started all over again’ as he turned to God and drew strength and refreshing from him. For example, 2 Sam. 22: 29-30,’O Lord, you are my light: yes, Lord, you light up my darkness. In your strength I can crush an army.’
It’ll be the same for us if times of depression come. We can echo David’s strategy by truthfully admitting we have problems but then exclaiming, ‘But ah God.’ See Psalm 10:14 for example; ‘But you, O God, do see trouble and grief…’
These are good ‘Buts’ And no matter how dark the hour, our God will never let us down.
Following heavy decisions and responsibilities
Jesus too had his moments!
Think about the awful agony he went through in the garden struggling with the knowledge of the torture he would soon be suffering. (Mark 14:33-34): ‘He began to be filled with horror and deep distress. He told (his disciples), “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.”‘
The Message Bible puts it like this: ‘He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony.’ The wording means a deep distress of mind. But Jesus knew how to draw answers and supernatural overcoming strength from his God! ‘Abba, Father, everything is possible for you…I want your will, not mine’ (v36).
Strengthened within Jesus moved afresh in ministry, miraculously restoring the severed ear of one of his opponents (Luke 22:51).
Following disappointments and troubles
Hey, being disappointed, especially being heartbroken, over what someone did or said can hurt big time!
But, again, God has an answer: ‘The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit’ (Psa. 34: 17-18).
Depression is a real nasty!
Like Satan it endeavours to sneak up on us, catch us unawares and rob us of joy. If we hang on to feelings of depression, they’ll flatten us – ‘de press’ – for days, weeks, months or longer.
They can lead to emotional and mental illness and cloud our thinking for a long time! We’ll go round the clock dwelling on even trivial matters. It’s really a rotten thing.
Yet God always has answers…we ought to turn to him right away and get his help. See Pro. 3:5-6 encourages us to trust in the Lord with all our heart for everything. Verse 8 promises renewed health, nourishment and vitality. GNB says: ‘If you do, it will be like good medicine, healing your wounds and easing your pains.’
The good news
Revelation 21: 4 is comforting! ‘God will remove all your sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.’
That’s not just a promise to be outworked in eternity…it can be ours here and now! But remember…it all depends on us calling out to God, just like Jesus and other biblical examples did!
And, by the way, if we need some professional medical care, there’s nothing wrong with that providing we look to the Lord first and trust him fully! And as we grow in Christ we can learn to trust him to free us from everything that goes wrong and tries to destroy us.
Calling out to him is simply a matter of intelligent prayer.