How should Christians deal with depression in their own lives or in the lives of others?
Depression is not just a problem for those who are not saved, but in fact, Christians suffer from depression too. In 2015, an estimated 16.1 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This number represented 6.7% of all U.S. adults. The fall in the Garden has caused all of us to be broken. We’re all in need of fixing and only the Holy Spirit can make our hearts right again, so to begin with, if a person is battling depression, it could be because they have never been brought to repentance and faith in Christ. To try and work through depression without the Spirit of God is like trying to patch over a broken clay vessel that keeps leaking by holding your hands around it. One of Satan’s tools is to try to sap our joy and take away our hope, because when our hope is dried up, our purpose for life seems gone, so really, we are all broken cisterns who are in need of repair. We need constant refilling by the Spirit of God to help us endure in this life, but when we’re facing depression on top of that, it just takes the wind out of our sails and everything in life can seem pointless.
Biblical Figures with Depression
Even though the word “depression” doesn’t appear in the Bible, many of the heroes of the faith suffered from depression, and sometimes to the point of wanting to die. The Apostle Paul once wrote that “we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2nd Cor 1:8) and he felt “that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2nd Cor 1:9), and “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair” (2nd Cor 4:8). Here is the powerful Apostle Paul who admitted that he “despaired of life itself,” but he didn’t stay there. Elijah had been running for his life from the wicked Queen Jezebel, he “went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers’” (1st Kings 19:4). The patriarch Job thought “it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off” (Job 6:9), but of course that is not how God operates. And Jonah the Prophet said to God, “O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:3). The point being, you are not alone in your depression. Many of the saints of God have lived with this too, perhaps not clinical or chronic depression, but they did reach a point in their lives when they just wanted to give up.
Depression verses Clinical Depression
I think everyone gets depressed from time to time. This is a fallen world and we are in a spiritual battle with the enemy who would love nothing more than to destroy our joy and our testimony for Christ, but when depression sets in and it stays, then it may be clinical depression and not just a case of the “blues.” Clinical depression can disturb our work life, our home life, our personal life, and just about everything else we love to do. Chronic depression is a bit different because it can last for years and lead to job loss, dropping out of school, and disinterest in just about everything. A person who is suffering from fatigue, sadness, and general apathy and doesn’t recover from this could be experiencing either clinical depression or chronic depression. Whichever the case is, it must be addressed and the person should seek medical help.
Is Faith Enough
Our faith in God can sometimes pull us through and out of the dark nights of the soul, but sometimes it takes a medical doctor who can prescribe antidepressants or have patients apply other techniques that can help them battle their depression. It may be a matter of a brain chemical imbalance which means it can be treated. It is certainly not a character weakness or flaw or a sign of spiritual weakness. There are no biblical restrictions on seeking treatment for illnesses, including depression, which can lead to a loss of productivity at work, a lack of interest in life, and cause some to isolate themselves because they don’t want to bring others down. In some cases, it is too difficult to be around people that are happy when they themselves are just trying to survive the day, but we must acknowledge that there might be a physical cause, and as I said before, it could be a brain chemical imbalance that can be easily treated. It could be a result of a birth deformity or injury or even medication that’s not taken as prescribed. Alcohol and drugs are also possible causes, so even though we have faith in God, we might need to seek medical help. There should be no shame or embarrassment in seeking help. People go to the doctor every day when they’re sick or if they break a bone, so why should we stigmatize those who need medical help. It may be treatable.
The Apostle Paul said, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:3-5), so even though the psalmist felt like “My flesh and my heart may fail” he knew that “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). I hope you realize that depression is not a character defect, a sign of moral weakness, or an emotional dysfunction, so it is not sinful to seek medical help for depression because there are thousands of people who live happy, productive lives who have battled it after having received treatment. You may also consider Biblical counseling for help with depression because it takes the Spirit of God and the Word of God, just as sometimes it may take medication or treatment. Even Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matt 9:12).
Something more for you to read: Christian Depression Help
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.  (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2017, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adults.shtml