Depression and the Christian
Job was a man who suffered far more than most of us will ever understand. His suffering was emotional, spiritual, and physical, and each was more than he could bear alone, much less all together. He cursed the day of his birth, wished he would have been stillborn, and wished God would take his life (ch. 3). Yet for all of this, Job does not take his own life. With as desperate as he was, he still, in the end, demonstrated endurance and put his trust in God. I can only imagine how hard this must have been.
When Job’s friends came to his side, they remained silent for seven days. This probably did provide some comfort for Job. However, when they began to talk, they only hurt Job even more by their advice—advice that was based on their ignorance. They did not have a good understanding of the situation. Even so, they were adamant, convinced they were right and Job just needed to repent because he must have done something terrible. It did not work that way in Job’s case, and by the end of the book, God rebuked the friends.
Depression is real, and it’s not solved just by people telling the depressed person to “get over it.” Sometimes advice that we might try to give to one suffering depression can result in our being miserable comforters who do not have a good understanding of the situation. Some will need professional help, and this is nothing of which to be ashamed because there may well be a number of factors involved that go beyond the scope of one’s desire to think on things that are good and right (Phil 4:8). Even so, one of our great resources for dealing with depression is Scripture, for it speaks to the depressed. Read Job. Read the Psalms. You’ll get the sense of this. These were people of faith who were coming to God even through their internal misery and depressed states. They show that it is okay to tell God what we think and feel.
Trusting God is key. We must ask ourselves, can we trust God when we do not understand? Can we turn to Him when life is beyond our ability to bear? When we are feeling desperate, can we know that God cares?
Becoming a Christian does not mean that one is automatically never going to deal with depression, and just because one has been a Christian for some time does not mean that he or she will not suffer depression. Again, many factors are at play, and, brothers and sisters, we need to be compassionate and merciful toward those whom we know suffer internally. Telling one in depression to just get over it, or to suggest that one is lacking faith, are among the least helpful and most insensitive things we can say. We may assume we have answers when we do not even understand the questions. It is better just to keep our mouths closed and stand in silence. We want the person to know we are here, ready to help, ready to listen, ready to offer encouragement in the Lord. We want to help bear the burdens of brothers and sisters in Christ (Gal 6:2). What we do not want to do is act as though we have all the answers to their particular situation. And let’s be really careful: we do not become professionals and experts in medical and psychological matters because we have spent some time researching on the internet. (Note: we are truly thankful for those among us who are in the medical professions, who have spent their lives learning, understanding, and helping. We are blessed to call you brethren.)
If you are suffering depression to the point of despair, we would plead with you to seek help. Yet also understand that God has given us avenues and examples for dealing with life’s most difficult times, including internal wishes that we were no longer in this life (like Job). While we can take advantage of medical and psychological ways to help our mental states, let us never neglect ways in which God has made it possible to lighten some of this load. He is still for us, and He still hears and knows the hurting hearts of His dear saints.
“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (Jas 5:11).
“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:5-7)
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pet 5:6-7).
This world is broken, and we often suffer the effects of this brokenness. May God help us to learn to trust Him even when we think we cannot take any more. God cares, and in the end, He will make all things new.