February 16, 2014
I suffered from a debilitating social anxiety and depression while I was in high school/college. It was severe and I had to take medications. In my third year of college I dropped out because I just couldn’t take the stress, and the physical symptoms were too bothersome, after which a friend invited me to a Bible believing church and I became born-again.
I wasn’t healed instantly but I found peace and truth in studying the Bible. I’m 39 years old now and I can say I’m victorious over that struggle.
My concern is a teenager in the church I’m attending right now. She started sharing with me about feeling depressed. She dropped her nursing subjects recently because of lack of concentration, lack of energy and just being “down.” I try to give her advice based on what I have experienced. I also suggested counseling aside from prayer, fellowship with other Christians, confession, Bible study.
The pastors in our church went to visit her and prayed over her. But they said it’s “just a dark night of the soul and not depression.” She told me she’s more confused now and feels pressured to act normally because she doesn’t want her family worrying about her. What’s your take on Christians undergoing depression? Thank you so much for your time.
I am glad you wrote. It sounds like the pastors from your church were of little help to this precious teen who is struggling. It sounds like they used double-talk instead of demonstrating abiding Christian love. By loving her and embracing her they could have given this hurting teen a sense of belonging and some stability -- and reinforced the Savior’s love for her.
Instead, they spoke some foreboding words that made the situation worse. Everyone needs to have a sense of belonging and the teen years, especially, can be very challenging. The advice you gave her was good, and hopefully she is taking some steps to interact in the ways you suggested.
To answer your question about what my take is on Christians undergoing depression, I think there are various forms of depression. Depression can be based on fear, disappointment, overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, chronic stress, loss, and fall-out from various types of neglect and abuse. Depression can also often have physiologic and/or anatomic roots which cause the problem.
When a Christian falls into depression any number of factors can be at work. We are living in such an intense time; every day we are bombarded with news that would cause anyone to feel it is time to head for the hills and hide. And the social pressures are enormous. People who are active on social media sites sometimes find themselves attacked and abused by their ”friends” simply because they disagree with something. We live in a world that screams terror and competitiveness all at the same time.
When a true born-again Christian is prone to depression, I can see why it happens. Even though we are “new creatures” in Christ we are all a work in progress in our walk with the Lord and sometimes some of us are emotionally and spiritually stronger than others. Sometimes even a strong Christian has simply had enough of the ways of this world and desperately wants nothing more to do with it. The corruption, the lies and deceit, the back-biting, the violence and godless lifestyles can cause one to feel such a sense of grieving, even hopelessness—that the joy of the Lord is quashed and depression drifts in.
No one can say he or she has never felt some sort of depression at some point. It is how we, as believers, handle it; that is the key to being truly free in Christ. I read a great book a very long time ago titled,
Our Sufficiency in Christ by John F. Mac Arthur. It is a solid book that shows how mankind’s psychology and humanistic solutions fail because it is through Christ and Christ alone that we can overcome overwhelming feelings of separation from others and from God Himself.
Our validation comes from the assurance of Christ through what He did for us on the Cross and through our personal relationship with Him. Seeking approval from the world is guaranteed to cause confusion and often depression for some. The world is set-up to bring people down and make each individual feel like nothing they do is “good enough.” But in Christ we are free from the destructive mantras of the world.
When we are committed to Christ with a contrite heart and when self-ambition is on the backburner, when discipleship and reaching others for Christ is what truly motivates us, then depression can at least be handled and with time, even eliminated.
A major reason depression can manifest is simply because of seeing the godless world for what it is. If we are truly compassionate we cannot help but feel sadness for the rest of humanity; we know what the Bible predicts and it is tough to see the prophetic Scriptures lining up and taking the world closer to the time when all hell will break loose on this earth during the seven-year Tribulation.
I can tell you this grieves my spirit every day, but greater is He who is in me and I persevere and place my focus on reaching others for Christ while there is still time. Otherwise I would feel helpless and frustrated. It is tough to see the world heading for a collision with God. Our prayers for the salvation of others should be our ongoing endeavor.
If we truly care about others as we should, then we cannot help but feel a deep sense of sadness as we see this world falling apart. But all true believers are empowered by the Holy Spirit and it is through Him that we can go about our daily lives and be effective witnesses for the Lord. It is by letting go of control issues and truly yielding to the Holy Spirit that we can do the work we are called to do for Christ.
The best remedy for depression is focusing on Christ and the needs of others. Those who are primarily thinking about themselves will have a tough time getting to a place where depression can be handled. It is by giving that the healing comes. The focus must be removed from self and placed on Christ. And it starts with one step, then another.
We may all experience tough situations but we can surely avoid deep relentless debilitating depression by taking our heartaches and cares to Christ on a daily basis:
“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” ( 2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18).
In conclusion, Jeyln, if believers who are prone to suffer from depression would think about the heart wrenching suffering of the apostle Paul and how he was steadfastly sustained by God’s grace, I would hope that his testimony would help give a new perspective on how to deal with day to day issues. Notice in the passage below that Paul was concerned about the churches, not himself, despite his brutal and frequent beatings and protracted hardships:
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.
I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:23c-28 NIV).
In Christ Jesus we have hope which produces endurance and perseverance; that is what I would say above all to believers who suffer from depression. We have a Living Hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and we are more that conquerors through Him.
We must not allow the enemies of God to knock us down in this spiritual battle. We must be ever mindful that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). The devil knows he cannot take away the salvation of a truly redeemed believer but he can and will try relentlessly to take away a person’s ability to be a productive and effective witness for Christ.
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:13 -18).
May the Lord bless you, Jeyln, for your faithful and caring heart.
In God’s love,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3).
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” Romans 12:2).