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Christians and depression. They almost seem like an oxymoron when mentioned together. I mean, as a Christian, how can I be depressed? Isn’t it a sin to be depressed? God doesn’t make mistakes, right? We learn that as a child in Sunday school.
What about well-meaning Christian friends who advise that you just need to “give it to God” or walk closer with God or, even, that your depression must be due to a sin in your life?
Let me tell you, dear friend, that yes, you can be a Christian and be depressed and no, it is not a sin. There are several key figures in the Bible who, at least at times, struggled with depression. There are quite a few illustrations of christians and depression in the Bible. Let’s take a look at two of them.
David is quite the biblical celebrity. He was the eighth and youngest son of Jesse from the kingly tribe of Judah. He was also a direct descendant of Ruth the Moabite. David began his life as a shepherd in Bethlehem. One day, the prophet Samuel called him out of the field and anointed him without the knowledge of the current king, Saul. David, his life and his story are told in many of the books of the Bible including Samuel, 1 Chronicles and most notably, perhaps, Book of Psalms. David says in Psalm 42:11 “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
We know that David experienced loneliness, grief over sin and that he felt particularly depressed after the death of his sons. I think, it’s safe to say that most of us have experienced sadness and maybe even depression during times of grief and loneliness. David’s transparency and honesty about how he was feeling gives hope that even as King and a man after God’s own heart, depression is real and that he, and we, can overcome it.
Elijah was discouraged, weary, and afraid. After his great bold and courageous victories over the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18), this mighty man of God feared and ran for his life, far away from the threats of Jezebel. And there in the desert, he sat down and prayed, defeated and worn: “I have had enough Lord, he said. Take my life, I am not better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:4 Elijah seemed to have given up all hope and just wanted to die.
For more examples of Bible figures who faced depression, see this article from Crosswalk.com
My Story – Christians and Depression
Have you ever felt that way? Sadly, I have. Since I was a teenager, Ihave struggled with depression on and off. After the death of my mother in 1999, I was prescribed an antidepressant from my family doctor. For sixteen years, I took that daily “happy mommy pill”, as I called it. There were still times that I felt depressed, though. At some points, I had even considered how much better off my family would be without me. Those in my circle of friends and family who didn’t understand depression or have never experienced it, offered advice “just be happy” they said “being happy is a choice”. “You have to pray about it” or “give it to God”, they opined.
During these periods of depression, I withdrew from friends and family. I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. I felt worthless, overwhelmingly sad. I cried – a lot. I cried out to God, too, asking him why I had to go through this. Sometimes, my depression resulted in sin.
My faith never waivered during these times, though. I still loved the Lord with all of my heart. I still attended church and prayed daily, but yet, I was depressed. After losing my health insurance in 2015, my doctor prescribed a cheaper, generic antidepressant. The side affects were pretty awful including nausea, restless leg syndrome and wild mood swings. I made a decision, without consulting my doctor (I strongly recommend that you do not do as I did) and stopped taking the antidepressant completely. Then, instead of side effects, I had withdrawal symptoms. After sixteen years of being medicated for depression, my body was rebelling. For nearly a month, the withdrawal caused sleep problems, nausea, headaches, shakiness, dizziness, violent mood swings, anger – out of nowhere. It was truly one of the worst months of my life. My boyfriend,at the time (now husband) stood by me, helped me through and let me talk, and scream when I needed to. Eventually, the symptoms subsided and I entered my new normal. I’ve not been on any medication for depression since then. Occasionally, I do feel depressed and more often, anxious, but I’m better able to manage it on my own.
I still have ups and downs with depression since my colon cancer recurred late last year and this year has been filled with Dr. appointments, chemo, side effects, surgery, pneumonia and now more chemo. I am back to taking a light anti-depressant to get me through, but no doubt, it is God who is walking beside me.
When I am feeling down, I share it with my husband and we pray about it and over it. I read my Bible and write scripture in my journal. One of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:6 “do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” or Psalm 34:17-18 ESV “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
Depression will always be a part of me. It is how I am wired. How God created me. But it no longer defines me. I am defined by God as His creation and his daughter. Depression, I believe, comes from Satan and I know that my God is bigger than depression.
Christians and depression. Not an oxymoron, but a reality and it’s ok. The Bible shows us many examples of christians and depression. God led them out of it and he can lead me out of it, too.He can walk with you through it, too, my friend.
For more resources on Christian depression, consider these recommended books:
I’m Not Supposed to Feel Like This: A Christian Approach to Coping with Depression and Anxiety by Chris Williams, Paul Richards, Ingrid Whitton
Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression by Zack Eswine
Because of Him,
For the link between clutter and depression, see this previous post.
Tuesday 19th of January 2021
I just read this and the the blog on clutter. These fit me completely. I have fought depression my whole life. I am now 64 and it still is overwhelming. I never thot about depression and messiness to be associated. My house is a mess, I try but can never seem to get anything done because there is so much. I have noone...no family, siblings...noone, just me and that doesn't help. I have taken antidepressants since I was a young teen. Had started Paxil a few years ago and it was working, but I retired last December and it seems to be closing in on me. I started talking to a therapist online, but so far nothing is helping. I am such a loner I never want to leave the house and even tho I try to get out and do things, in the end I'm still alone and depressed. I don't think there is a win with this battle. I would love to be one of those people that look at life happy and excited. ... just can't seem to see that. I have been blessed in so many ways, but now at this time of my life I feel like I'm in a battle for my life...who will win....idk anymore. It's a daily fight...God is good all the time I know that. I'm trying so hard to be happy and see good and to just feel deep inside the slightest tinge of hope/happiness. I guess we'll see. Thank you for the blog.
Thursday 21st of January 2021
Hi, Denise - thank you for being so open and vulvnerable. I would talk to a Christian therapist, if you can and there are many other meds they can try. Something will work. Most, importantly, get on your knees, everyday and give it to God. Read the Psalms and see how often God rescued David from the pits. There is hope is Jesus! Please reach out soon and let me know how you are doing. I will pray for you!
Friday 3rd of April 2020
I am writing a devotional especially for Christians who are depressed or were depressed. You are right, Christians and depression is not an oxymoron. I am so glad you are doing better.
I agree with you that this is how you are wired. But I disagree that God made you that way. I know you don't believe that either because of what you say about depression coming from satan. I knew what you meant but you might want to correct or further explain that statement. I say that with only the best of intention because I, too, have had to correct a some of my statements in my book as well. Also, love what you said about organizing. I have a whole section in my book about the importance of reducing clutter if you have issues with depression. There is actually sound research behind the link. Anyway, great job and God bless.
Saturday 4th of April 2020
Thank you for writing, Rebecca. Depression is real and has affected so many since biblical times. Have a beautiful and blessed day.
Monday 14th of October 2019
Thank you so much for sharing this article and your personal experience with depression. I am a Christian too, and have experienced clinical depression. It was no fun, and a very difficult time, especially since I was usually an upbeat person. My depression was brought on by a trauma. I took meds off and on for about 10 years, along with seeing a very wise Christian psychiatrist. God’s Word says, when you are His child He promises to never leave you, or turn His back on you. He also promises to hear His children when they pray. We will experience bad in this world, as it is a fallen world. Christians are not immune to problems, struggles or depression. Other Christians need to be careful not to judge, but to love as Christ calls us to do.
Tuesday 15th of October 2019
You are very welcome. Depression is real and affects so many - Christian or not. I pray that God continues to draw you close to Him and that you continue to bask in what He says about you. Have a beautiful and blessed day and thanks for stopping by!
Monday 14th of October 2019
Thank you so very much. I'm also exactly in the same boat although my dad died in 1994 and I only went on meds 15 years later after some horrible experiences with my daughters. I also try and look at depression from a scriptural and spiritual outlook and David is one of the people I look to. I am back on my meds having done the same as you last year. Buf now am facing a divorce as my husband could not stand by me. However God's reassurance and his strength has been amazing. Thanks for this article UT was something I needed.
Monday 14th of October 2019
Thank you for sharing your story, Estelle. My first husband left me, as well (I have that story shared on another post). Hang in there, sister. God is our refuge and strength. I didn't see it at the time, but God was closing one door to open an even better one. I'm praying for you!