Do Christians Get Depressed? (Part 1)

What does the Bible say about depression? Is it okay to be a Christian and still get depressed? And what exactly is depression, anyway?

First, what exactly is depression? WebMD defines it as ‘A clinical mood disorder associated with low mood or loss of interest and other symptoms that prevent a person from leading a normal life.’ Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary has an even more eye-opening definition: ‘a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies’. And if that doesn’t make it clear, I don’t know what does!

So, do Christians get depressed? The short answer to that is – Yes. The Bible is filled with a lot of people who got depressed! The prophet Elijah experienced his own depression very shortly after experiencing a major victory with God. Elijah held a competition – himself against 450 prophets of Baal! – to prove the might of God. After a lot of storm and drama, God proved Himself to be the Only True God and Elijah experienced a major personal victory. The queen at the time -Jezebel - was very unhappy about this and threatened Elijah’s life. Elijah became frightened and ran for his life. After coming to the end of his (physical) rope (in the wilderness), he stopped and started to feel very badly for himself. 1 Kings 19:4 says Elijah, ‘….begged for his life, that he might die. And he said, It is enough, O LORD, take away my life. For I am no better than my fathers.’ (MKJV). Elijah was definitely depressed (the entire story can be read in 1 Kings 19:1-18).

Even one of Israelite’s Great Deliverers, Joshua the Son of Nun, experienced a down time. Joshua had led the Israelites to a resounding victory against Jericho. The Israelites then went to war against Ai and experienced a bitter defeat. Joshua 7:6-7 says ‘And Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord God, why have You at all brought this people over Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? And, oh that we had been content and lived on the other side of Jordan!’ (MKJV). Joshua was a very unhappy man.

What I find most interesting about these situations, however, is how God responded to Elijah and Joshua. God sent an angel to minister to Elijah after he’d stopped in the wilderness, who provided him with food encouraged him to eat and drink. Elijah then took a 40-day journey to Mt. Horeb where God Himself spoke to him. God asked Elijah ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ (1 Kings 19:9 MKJV) and Elijah has this pity party where he tells God how he had been zealous for Him and Elijah was now the only prophet left and how they were trying to kill him! God gave Elijah instructions to carry out and then promptly informed him, ‘Yet I have left seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed to Baal...’(1 Kings 19:18 MKJV). In other words, that Elijah had no business being depressed because he was not, in fact, the only prophet of God left. He also got the opportunity to speak to God one-on-one, as God passed by him and spoke to him in a still, small voice.

God had a different response for Joshua. Joshua 7:10 says, ‘And the LORD said to Joshua, Get up! Why do you lie on your face this way?’ (MKJV). God explained to Joshua that the Israelites had been defeated because they had sinned against Him. But that now, it was time to Get Up!, fix the problem and return to their warfare against the people of Ai.

What is reassuring about both of these situations is not only the fact that God heard Elijah’s and Joshua’s cries to Him, but that He responded. He met them right where they were and gave them hope and instructions for how to carry on. He didn’t leave them in the middle of their hopelessness – He took control and gave them a renewed sense of purpose and direction.

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BMARIE said...

It's amazing that you wrote this article in 2006, and I am just now seeing it. I am seeing it for the first time because I decided to do a search for depressed christians. I am one right now. All of the symptoms are there. I don't want to do anything. I eat more, I am not focused. I tend to start things with great enthusiasm but do not finish. I am a 27 year old african-american female and at times feel like all of my other friends are successful, and have the very things that I have been praying for. One is getting married next year, the other has a boyfriend and they are making plans for marriage in the future, she also makes $60,000 per year. I have not had as much as a date in almost 8 years, and I have a Master's degree making 13.67 per hour, and I clean offices on the side. I have served in my church, I still use my talent of singing..and I am involved. I have tithed, given, done nothing but try to do my best as a person. Over the past three years of fighting, I ahve become weary because I have not experienced the breakthrough I desire. I get tired of hearing "it's on the way", "God understands", "hold on"...I have reached a place of depression that I can't get back on my own...I think I need help. I understand I am not alone, I know that I should count my blessings and thank God for what I have (which I have done) at the same time, it doesn't remove the hurt, and confusion about my future. There are so many believers out there just like me, but we are forced to be quiet for fear that we don't have faith, we don't trust God, and so on and so forth. People would be more open if they weren't made to feel like they are useless in the Body of Christ, because they are not "strong enough". I've endured a lot of things I didn't think I could get through, but now I am at place where I don't know what to do. Everything seems to be fake. You think somthing is a blessing, and it turns out to be something else. You think this is the direction I go in to move forward, and you hit a dead end. I would love to recieve professional help from a real christian organization who understands, and can help me find my zeal for life again.

Sonya C. Triggs said...

BMarie, I totally feel your pain. I have often felt the way you do - that things are hopeless, that many of my friends were getting blessings God was not allowing me, that I was tired of 'holding on', going through my 'wilderness' experience and serving faithfully for no apparent reward.

Here is what I've learned the hard way: God takes each of us through individual trials designed to challenge what is most important to us. If it is a man, you will either have problems with your relationship or have no relationship at all. If it is money, you will experience financial difficulties or have to stand helplessly by while your friends make better money (and are less well-educated to boot!). God wants to take away those very things we think will complete us until we come to a very simple truth: no one and nothing will ever make us happy but the Lord. This does not mean you will not have good friends, a good man or family that cares about you - it means that you will not be able to depend on those friends, that man or your family to complete you or make you happy.

Here's what to do next time the darkness overtakes you: let it! You are a child of God - if things are not going right, He is probably trying to show you something. When you feel low, spend as much time as you need identifying what is making you unhappy. Is it your job? Is your family stressing you out? Is your church not a good fit? Depression is a sure sign that Something Is Wrong!!! What is yours trying to tell you?

You may also need to seek professional or spiritual help. It is okay to find a therapist or a counselor at your church. If they can help you work through what is bothering you, it will work all the better towards helping you to achieve your ultimate goal: clearing out all the things that are preventing you from being close to God.

That's the purpose of trials and tribulations, bad days, depressed attitude, bad luck, etc. Everything is a cleansing process designed to get you to a place where you see and know God is sovereign and you can get past your issues to a place of clarity, peace and communion with God.

You are Not Alone! We've all been there and will be there again. Don't look at your depression as a bad thing - think of it as an indicator that something is going wrong in your life. Your job is to find out what that is.

Let me know how it goes and I will pray for you as well.

MmWw said...

I happened to come across these postings, and feel a bit relieved knowing I'm not being sinful of wrong for feeling the way that I do, depressed. I read all that was said and it helps. I have narrowed down what makes me feel this way; my husband, my financial situation, where I live, how I live, my job and school situation. Nothing is right, nothing is fulfilling and my church doesn't even offer any spiritual fulfillment. I've prayed and prayed, fasted and fasted try to keep my peace and joy, but I feel I'm just faking it. I just need help, I want to have my zeal and drive and free spirit back. What do you suggest now? Please help anyone.

Persevere said...

I'm with all of you on this. I'm going thru storms that seem forever. Years of trials, set backs, failures, etc. I've grown wiery but I know Jesus is real and has a plan. It's so very hard to walk by faith when your world is constantly looking gloomy while others are shining in blessings. I also know that it is a weapon that our enemy uses against us to destroy everything about us. Keeping your focus on Christ can get hard.
Today on 'Focus On The Family' (an excellent radio ministry which you can access thru the web) depression was addressed. It will be continued tomorrow. Tommy Nelson, a Pastor and author, discussed his journey thru depression, and his recovery. You've got to listen to it because it addresses what we need that others don't understand. I'm sure that it will be a great help to you as it is to me. Bmarie you've described me in almost everyway in your description of yourself. But I'm older, 12 years divorced, and raised my 14 yr old alone all the while. My family is distant, and my sweet mom died unexpectedly 2 yrs ago. I have many storms that I'm in that just don't make sense and it's ongoing. I'm very tired and heavy burden. However, I keep Crawling to the cross. I can't turn back to the world, but I'm moving ever so slow forward. I've cried an ocean of tears and other Christians have been no help, lack understanding, or are the ones causing my storms. It's easy to say pray and find others to encourage. But I've learned that I have to remember what Jesus went thru, pray everytime when the storm feelings hit or just before they hit, trust God no matter what, know that His plan is best, and get around true Christ followers who have survived painful storms and can be a tremendous help to you. Also, I go thru God's word, not as much as I use to, and scripture hits my ailing heart. Phil 4: 6 -
Anyway, catch Focus On The Family Aug 18 - 19, 2008 broadcast It's a pill of counseling that will start you on the road to recovery. Hang on to hope, even if it's just a grain of mustard seed. Hang on....and the same goes for me Wait upon the Lord.....it's so hard but don't give up on Jesus. May the Lord bless you and keep you and reveal His plan for your life We are more precious to Him than we think. And pray for me
PS There's also the UNSHACKLED radio drama ministy that's great, and June Hunt's HOPE IN THE NIGHT radio ministry for hurting hearts. Try them. I'm getting into to them. They'll be an encouragement to you as well. I know it sounds crazy that I'm shouting help for the samething that you're shouting help for yet telling you how to get help while I'm still yelling. But hear me out, I'm holding on to hope that will and has kept me going though I may crawl. I prefer to crawl than to totally quit. I prefer to look to others in the same boat as I and encourage them rather than heighten their view of hopelessness. I prefer to help them make it thru despite my woes than to see them die in dispair. I may be beaten up really bad but there's Always hope. That's what I can only share with you in my storm journey, Hope...in Christ. thanks for your honesty and sharing You gave me food for thought, and hope. I'm surprised at how many others have this same battle.
May we email again with victory or greater strengthen to make it thru Prov 3: 5-6
Thank You

Anonymous said...

Bmarie,it was a please to read your contribution to the board. I am an african american man who suffered from depression as well. All of us who have depresion really are having our faiths tested. If you would like to email me please feel free to do so at goodtagosoloo@aol.com. Sometimes it pays to just talk. I went thru therapy for over a year and it worked wonders. I dont mind sharing with you or anyone else what worked and still is working for me. If you do write me please leave your name in the title. If you choose not to write its ok.....just remember that this is a time of testing. God knows your heart and when your faith gets weak just know to grab on tight because you can not let this world take your faith from you. I can tell by your words that this world will never break your faith....never

LaMOi said...

Bmarie, maybe you'd like to exchange emails? Too be honest I can totally relate!!

What a bloody relief to hear a christian come out with this... !!!

I wouldnt mind having someone to talk to about these things.. My Church, well, i just feel like they dont understand, and im just being negative.... So more and more i keep the fact that i feel pretty down and hopeless to myself... All my non christian friends seem to be doing ok, living normal lives- and I'm the christian and im always the one thats not satisfied, or always questioning... And Im the ones whos saved !!! Their not!!! So why am I seemingly more lost, more disatisfied with life??!!! I must be a great advert for christianity!!

But my emails willlorrimore@yahoo.co.uk

If your interested to talk about these things... We can pool our collective angst!

LaMOi said...

For me I can honestly say.... Its all about GOD SHOWING UP.... I not bothered about finding a wife anymore, having some great new friends... Its all about God showing up... Some encouragement! I mean God encouraged Joshua and Elijah personally....

I gave up my girlfriend in dec 07... Because she wasnt a christian... I went through some major depression. But through it all i realised that finding a woman had been an idol in my life, that God was not number 1... Since that time God has become no1 and I realise that its him i need, only he can fullfill me.....

And heres the problem,

Its all about GOD SHOWING UP.... I not bothered about finding a wife anymore, having some great new friends... Its all about God showing up... Some encouragement! I mean God encouraged Joshua and Elijah personally....

Im still waiting for God to show up, and I think this is the reason why slowly im getting more and more disillusioned and unhappy.... Because it feel like I dont want anything else, my taste for the things of this world have gone, and im just waiting now for God to show up!

..and waiting .. and waiting.....

Tams said...

LaMOi, I agree with you completely. I went through a very similar circumstance. God actually had to drag me away from my boyfriend and I went through the "fire." I'd known for some time I'd been using him as an idol. So finally God pulled the situation out of my control. I've gone through so many issues... only to realize God did that so I could make him the Lord of my life.

Sonya is so right as well.

I won't say much more. I can relate to everything everyone said on here and I agree. I too often have problems sometimes feeling depressed because the world is no longer enough. But God and I are working on that together. It will get better!

MissL said...

BMARIE, I can relate to what you are feeling. Sometimes I feel like I have no one to talk to about this situation because some people try to judge you when you say you are a christian and yet you still feel depressed. I feel like a failure sometimes because it seems like I am wasting everything God has given me. I am blessed to be married and have a college degree, but I feel sad some days because I don't know what my purpose is in life. Everyone keeps telling me to pray about it, but I'm still not comforted. It seems like everyone I know is happy and successful, while I can't even find a job. I also get depressed about all the things that are happening in the world. People just seem so angry and mean all the time.

Madnessandevotion.blogspot.com said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ladyvalledor.blogspot.com said...

I'm not prone to depression but have experienced it at times when life seemed hopeless. I have learned that there is always hope and that we have an enemy of our souls who plants hopeless thoughts within, painting a drearier picture than is for the specific purpose of depressing us and squashing our faith and hope. When you're down and out, praise the Lord. He dwells in the praises of His people. When you feel others are being blessed and you are not, thank Him (Eph. 5:20). It's hard to be depressed with a grateful heart. There is always much for which to be thankful. Finally, don't give into the thoughts that take you down under. Practice saying, "I rebuke that thought in the name of Jesus!" I've had to do that many a time. I could probably end up in tears right now if I allowed myself to think the thoughts that could bring me there: Why did my son die? Even though he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, is he really going to Heaven and not Hell? What should I have done to help him? Or, I can repeat this truth. Jesus said, "I Am the Resurrection and the Life, he who believes in Me, shall live even if he dies." We need to hold every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Satan captures our hope and our heart beginning with our mind. Whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Bennyhannah said...

Jus like many above have already said, I'm a christian an have have been through drepression and have found its something that needs to be defeated ongoingly.
after seeking help from the church, friends, christian councellors, listening to endless sermons and speakers, praying persistently ect. Finally I got a breakthrough listening to a speaker called "allen meyer" with a sermon on "fasting".
Fasting is one of the most powerful things I've come across in the bible! I highly recommend you looking into it for yourselves!
Taking away something we rely on to live everyday such as food an having to rely on god 100% will take your relationship with god to a whole new level and I can garrantee life changing!
however it isn't something to go jumping into without consulting someone who has experienced or knows about fasting as it could cause physical harm if not supervised.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that I found this blog. I am a Christian. 53 years old. Never married. I have been a Christian since I was 20. I think what has made me depressed is that I am disappointed. Disappointed in God not answering my prayers. I have done everything that Christian people tell you to do: Fasted, tithe, serve, make Jesus first in your life. I have gotten up 5 am to read the bible before work...half falling asleep but at least I tried. When I read the promises of God, "Plans to Prosper me and not to harm me", "ask anything in prayer and if you believe you will receive" and have found that asking for a husband and a fruitful acting career ( I specifically asked that I would act in films that glorify God and Jesus) that for the last 30 years I have not had not had those two specific prayers answered. Of course I have asked for spiritual wisdom and other spiritual things like the gift of healing but I have not had those blessings.

I am tired of Christians telling me its Gods timing (I am 53 years old!!!!) and that Abraham was this old and Moses that old when God blessed them...But they also lived HUNDREDS of years over the average age of todays' human life span. I am just weary and disgusted with my walk and the promises that God made that are not being fulfilled in my life. It seems that God really does not care about what we want, although Christ says to ask anything in prayer and he will do it. So it feels there is contradiction in intent. I just feel so lost and unmotivated to go to church or read my bible. Someone says that the very things you want are the very things God does not give to you...then why did Christ say to ask anything you want? So much confusion. Can someone help me. I have sacrificed my acting career where all my money went into the business and I am living in an apartment and driving a 2000 Mitsubishi. When do I get blessed? When I no longer desire to get married or want to act? I have had these desires for so long, I don't know how to turn them off. And God is not removing them from me either.