Sometimes it can come out of nowhere. It’s like a thick blanket descending, that doesn’t want to lift. It feels like you are being pushed underwater, and you are fighting to remain above the surface. You are numb to any emotion, and it’s as if the world has gone from color to black-and white. All you want to do is run and hide until it lifts and you can breathe again.
Depression is becoming more and more prevalent today, both among believers and unbelievers. Some try and medicate it to find relief, others turn to psychology and introspection, or try and escape through entertainment, or even substance abuse. While there are complex factors that can be involved in depression, how should a Christian respond when they, or someone they know, is experiencing depression?
Many great preachers, such as Charles Spurgeon, struggled with depression, and he counts it as part of the suffering that will inevitable come to all Christians. He says,
“Knowing by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between, I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange things had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun shone right joyously did not always walk in the light.”
The great difference for the depressed believer as opposed to the unbeliever is that we have hope in our depression. We know that one day all sorrow will cease, that He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and that there will no longer be any darkness or turmoil of soul (Rev 21:4). We know that we will see Jesus face to face, and that we will be redeemed; the effects of sin being erased forever.
So how should the depressed believer live in a way that glorifies God today? I want to offer some practical tips on how to deal with depression well.
- Do the next thing. Whether it’s doing the laundry, paying your phone bill, getting out of bed and going to work, keep going. Don’t allow your feelings to get the better of you; rather, put them in their place by going about your day as normal. You may find that the darkness gets lighter as you busy yourself with work, instead of focusing on it.
- Fill your mind with truth. Get in the Word daily. Listen to it in the car, write out verses on cards and put them on your bathroom mirror, read it, whatever you have to do to keep focused on the truth. The more you know the truth, the more you will recognize the lies (Phil 4:8).
- Stay in community. The enemy wants this to make you isolated, but try to be around other people as much as possible. Tell people you trust about your struggles, and ask them to pray for you. We were made to bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2).
- Be outward focused. Take your mind off of yourself, and do something for someone else, whether it’s taking a meal to a neighbor, writing a note, calling a friend, or volunteering. It may only be one thing a week at first, but it can really help, even just to get out of the house.
Finally, look to Jesus, friend. He knows what it is to feel sorrow, even to the point of death (Mark 14:34). He is near to the broken-hearted, and He loves you so (Psalm 34:18, Isaiah 54:10). Cling to Him.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
” If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”