Depression and the Believer

Recently, I was having a discussion with a friend about depression. We were sharing stories about our own experiences, and lamenting the loss of those who had succumb to that same awful pain that we’d experienced.

A lot of Christians have a hard time talking about depression. It’s never a pleasant conversation, but it is necessary.

I’ve discussed my issues with anxiety in various venues, but I haven’t really mentioned depression. I don’t know why. Maybe there is a small part of me that is afraid that mentioning it will conjure past demons that I’d rather not revisit. Maybe I’m afraid that it will come across as self pity.

Depression is something I’ve struggled with for most of my life. I never really felt like I fit in anywhere. Often, I’d resorted to silliness and cheerfulness as a means to mask the darkness. Certain events in my own life served to perpetuate the notion that I was worthless or worse, that I was dangerous. As a result, I endeavored to be as harmless as possible. This generally manifested in an attempt to be invisible. The problem with actively making oneself invisible is that it works. People have a hard time seeing you. And then they stop seeing you. It’s very lonely being invisible. But at least you can’t hurt anyone by your very existence. So it was the best solution I could come up with.

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Over time, as I tried to hide from the world, I began to resent the world for not being able to find me. I felt like a child playing hide and seek, but I perceived that the seeker stopped playing the game. It was at once a self-effacing and selfish game I was playing. “Stop looking at me!” and then… “Please notice me!”

I took things a step further and combined my depression with anxiety. It was an awful menagerie of misery and it sent me down the road of New Age philosophy which promised that if I would just meditate and “center” myself… I could achieve peace. Better yet, I could attain a state of bliss. I chased that bliss for years, moving from one lie to another. The principle of self affirmation told me that I could simply tell myself I wasn’t sad and the sadness would go away. The Law of Attraction told me that I could manifest my own happy reality on a quantum level. Eastern mysticism told me that I could be at peace if I would simply align myself with the universe, open my third eye, awaken my chakras, and assume the lotus position whilst chanting various mantras.

Guess what? None of it worked.

The deeper into the darkness of depression I spiraled, the deeper into the darkness of the occult I was driven. And the further into the occult realms I wandered, the more I found people who seemed to understand me. Granted, they were all depressed and/or suicidal, but as they say.. misery loves company.

You see… this is right where the enemy wants us. When you are in a state of despair and self loathing… he’s got you right in his crosshairs. He comes to kill and destroy, and few things are more destructive than a person without hope.

Thankfully, it was at my lowest point that I came into the light of Christ, and He pulled me out of that pit of despair. In Jesus I found life and light and hope. My life was forever changed. But, if I’m being honest… depression and anxiety still visit themselves upon me on occasion. The extent to which they affect me is greatly diminished, but they still crop up. Thank the Lord that I have a Savior to turn to and a Comforter to rely upon.

Because I experienced this terrible affliction of depression in my life, I have so much compassion for those who are still stuck in that trap. What’s even more troubling is when I meet Christian brothers and sisters who struggle with depression. I find that they tend to be very reluctant to be open about it. They fear that it could mean that they are not “good enough”. They struggle with guilt and shame which just makes their depression worse. And because they don’t want to talk about it, they compound the depression with isolation… a diabolic combination.

There are lots of reasons why people, even Christians, suffer from depression. There are bio-chemical reasons, there are situational reasons, and yes… I believe there are supernatural reasons. Depression can be and often is the result of demonic oppression.

When we encounter a brother or sister who is suffering from depression, it is important that we don’t immediately jump to conclusions. Sometimes we can easily and unintentionally become like Job’s counselors… offering over-zealously our diagnoses of the problem and suggesting a quick cure, when in reality, we aren’t always qualified to make those calls. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is just sit with our friend or loved one and hear them out, letting them tell us to the best of their ability what is troubling them and why they are sad.

The best weapon in our arsenal is always the Word. We must stay grounded always in the Word. This will help to guard ourselves from spiritual attack and will also prepare us for those times when our friends and family may need encouragement. Prayer changes things and earnestly seeking the Lord’s comfort in times of depression is always the best medicine.

But what is really on my heart tonight as I write this essay is that we must remove the false notion that Christians, if they are true believers, will never suffer depression or anxiety. Again, we mustn’t be like Job’s counselors who were quick to say “You are suffering because you’ve displeased the Lord!” This is not only presumptuous, but it drives sufferers further into isolation and out of fellowship for fear of being judged as somehow unworthy of God’s comfort and love.

Many well known Christians throughout history have revealed their battles with depression. C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon…. not to mention Biblical figures like Elijah who was depressed and contemplated suicide… all were known sufferers.

The good news is that whatever is the source of the depression, as believers we are all in the care of the Great Physician. It may be that one will suffer for a time until they are able to overcome the source. For some people, melancholy is a long battle to be waged, but if we turn to the Lord in these struggles He is faithful to apply salve to all of our wounds. He will work on us and through us until we reach restoration. He is our hope.

If you or someone you know is a believer dealing with depression, please be comforted in knowing that it is not a reflection of God’s care for you. It does not mean you are being punished for not being a “good enough” Christian. Your works cannot gain you the grace and mercy that is freely given to all those who call upon Him. Spend time in the Word and in prayer asking for the Lord to guide you and deliver you. Ask Him to give you that “peace that passes all understanding” and He will be faithful to bring you to that place in His perfect time. And do not isolate from fellowship. Try to be open about what you are feeling and experiencing and let your brothers and sisters offer you comfort and solidarity.

It is my prayer that by being open and honest about my struggles, others might be encouraged to open up about the trials they are facing. With the Lord you are never alone, and if you can stop being afraid to tell people about your depression, our loving Lord will bring people into your life who will join you in prayer and comfort.

God of All Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4