I know. It’s a strange question, but think about it. Is depression ever a good thing?
Notice I didn’t ask whether you want to be depressed. Of course you don’t want to be depressed. No one wants to be have an unbreakable, gloomy mindset all the time.
But there is a sense in which as Christians we are called to be depressed. Now before you make charges of heresy, let me explain.
Christians: Called To A Light DepressionI’m using the word depression very loosely. There are different kinds of depression. There is the deep kind of depression that you don't want to get stuck in. But there is also a lighter kind of depression that is a daily part of the Christian life.
Take a look at this passage from Ecclesiastes 7:2-3:
It is better to go to a house of mourningAlso, in Matthew 5:3-4, Jesus says:
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when a face is sad a heart may be happy.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.As Christians, we are not supposed to be the happiest people on the planet. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied”. And why did Paul say that? Because, for the most part, the Christian life isn't an endless stream of fun. It’s hard work, and at times, it’s depressing.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
If as Christians we are not mildly depressed at times, there is probably something wrong with us. If you can look around at a world teeming with sin—if you can watch unbelievers march straight into hell without being a little depressed, there is probably something wrong with your heart.
Jesus says in Luke 6:25, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep”. Let me ask you a question: Do you want to mourn now and laugh for all eternity? Or would you rather laugh now and mourn as the wrath of God falls upon you for all eternity?
So we see then that there is a kind of depression—a light depression, an unselfish depression—that should be part of our daily lives as Christians.
A Deeper Kind Of Depression: Avoidable And UnavoidableHowever, there is also a deeper kind of depression—a kind of depression that should not be a normal part of the Christian life. This is a kind of depression where you experience feelings that you cannot put into words—and if you could put them into words, you would be extremely hesitant to share them.
One of the ways you can fall into a deep depression is because of sin in your life. If you are consistently lazy, undisciplined, or prideful—deep depression is probably going to come. And in a sense, this could be considered a good form of depression because it serves as a warning. It acts as an alert and urges you to re-examine your life.
Another way you can fall into deep depression is because of sickness from the hand of God. In 1 Corinthians 11:30 Paul explains to the Corinthians that there are many among them who are “weak and sick,” because they failed to examine themselves before taking communion. Being sick or weak, of course, tends to make anyone more prone to deep depression.
Both of these categories—sin in your life, or sickness from the hand of God—can lead to deep depression. But it is a deep depression that is avoidable.
If you live a holy, disciplined life—if you examine yourself properly before taking communion and other such things—then you will never fall into a deep depression, right? You can just avoid deep depression altogether if you live a godly life, right?
Just look at Job. I’m sure Job lived a very disciplined life. He was blameless. But look where that got him.
So this means that there is another way to fall into deep depression. You can fall into deep depression because of a tragedy or trial. Rigid discipline and a blameless life will not protect you from the normal, deep, human emotions that come when you face extreme suffering.
There is one last way that you can fall into a deep depression—because of chronic pain or some chemical imbalance in your body. Just because we are Christians does not mean we do not have to deal with living in a fallen body. (As a side note, this is the only type of depression that can be cured solely through medication.)
Both of these last two categories—tragedies and trials, and also chronic pain—are similar because they lead to deep depression that is unavoidable. Simply living a disciplined, upright life will not prevent this kind of depression. For that reason, if you ever experience deep depression, you want it to be the unavoidable kind so that you can firmly declare as Job did that your depression is not the result of blatant sin in your life.
How To Deal With Avoidable DepressionBut what if you aren’t Job? What if you end up experiencing avoidable depression?
The first thing you must do is repent. Look at Peter’s example. He denied Christ, which led him into a state of depression. Then he repented for his betrayal and looked to Jesus for hope (for more info on Peter and his depression see A Biography Of The Apostle Peter).
Nebuchadnezzar is also a good example. He was King over the Babylonian empire, and he boasted of all that he had conquered. He refused to recognize that God is the one who rules over all, and so God made Nebuchadnezzar like a wild beast for seven years. This is what Nebuchadnezzar said at the end of those seven years in Daniel 4:34-35:
But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever;Nebuchadnezzar's depression during those seven years must have been immense, but in the end he repented for both his pride and unbelief. He fixed his gaze on God, and he recognized that God really is King—that God really does rule over all.
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?
Notice that both Peter and Nebuchadnezzar repented of the sin that led them into depression. There’s no point in trying to get out of avoidable depression without addressing the reason why you fell into that depression in the first place. If you don’t do so, you might end up like Judas Iscariot.
The bottom line is this: If you fell into depression because of your pride, repent of your pride. If you fell into depression because of a lack of discipline, make a plan to become more disciplined. Whatever the sin was that caused you to fall into depression, you must kill it—you must mortify it by the power of the Spirit, always looking to Christ as your motivation.
After you have done that, there is no guarantee your depression will disappear. But with your blatant sin out of the way, you will be able to address your depression more directly. In other words, you will be able to handle your depression just like someone who is going through unavoidable depression.
How To Deal With Unavoidable DepressionThis brings us to the next question: How can you persevere through unavoidable depression?
This can be done if you keep your eyes on God. Though the pain may be unbearable—and the emotions too deep for words, you can have hope if you continue trusting God. If you can cry out as Job did, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him"—then you will not lose all hope (Job 13:15).
Habakkuk is another good example of how to persevere through unavoidable depression. Habakkuk knew that judgment from the Chaldeans was about to come upon his people. In the face of this reality, Habakkuk was deeply troubled. He didn't understand, and he boldly questioned God. Yet even when he realized that the judgment to come was going to happen whether he wanted it to or not, he was able to cry out, "Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation" (Habakkuk 3:18).
Jesus Christ: The Ultimate Example Of How To Deal With DepressionThe ultimate example we have to look to in persevering through deep depression is Jesus Himself. Was there ever a man who entered a deeper depression?
Think of Christ. There He is, sweating drops of blood in the garden. He is arrested, betrayed with a kiss.
Can you see Him now—being crucified? And then, can you see Him in the midst of His suffering, asking His Father to forgive those who crucified Him?
See Him now on the cross. In His final moments, He cries out, “My God, My God! Why have you forsaken Me?” Yet in the midst of His questioning, He does not lose sight of the holiness of His Father. If you look in Psalm 22, where the words “My God, My God! Why have you forsaken Me?” are prophesied—those words are followed shortly after with these: “Yet You are holy!”
That’s the key to persevering through deep depression. You must always stay grounded in the holiness of God. You might question God. You might ask “why” a thousand times. Yet in the midst of such questioning you must continue to recognize that God is holy and that you are nothing in comparison. You must recognize that even if you don’t get answers to your questions, it is still God who is in control—and even though you do not understand, you will still trust Him.
You also must be prepared to battle depression for an indefinite period of time. Paul cried out three times for the thorn in his flesh to be removed. God’s response to Him was this: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I can assure you that whatever depression you experience—however great it may be—it does not compare to what happened on the cross—for it was there that Christ bore the wrath of God: the fierce, burning, anger that should have justly fell upon every believer for all eternity.
Therefore, look to Christ in your depression. He is your example. For in the midst of His suffering, He remained sinless! Hebrews 12:3 says, “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
In closing, the Apostle Paul writes this in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17:
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.