By Vivian Bricker, Crosswalk.com
There are many erroneous beliefs surrounding depression in the modern day. Sadly, even among Christian circles, there is much false information that is spoken concerning this mood disorder. I struggle with depression, and I have many Christian friends who have also struggled or are currently struggling with this disorder. Due to the stigmas surrounding depression, I have endured many hurtful words and negative remarks.
In this article, I want to educate others concerning the truths of depression.
Depression isn't a Spiritual Problem
The most common remark I’ve heard about depression is that it is a “spiritual problem.” Rather than viewing it as a mood disorder, many individuals, particularly Christians, view depression as a “spiritual problem” or a “sin problem." The truth is that depression is not a spiritual problem or a sin problem. Rather, it is a mood disorder that can be helped by medicine and other self-care activities. It should be noted, however, that depression is not something that is easily “fixed” or “cured.” I have personally been on depression medicine for a period of time, and I did not see any improvement in my symptoms. While antidepressants can help many people, antidepressants do not work for everyone.
If you are personally struggling with depression, know that it is not your fault. Depression is not a sin, nor is it something you caused. For some people, a traumatic event can cause depression, while others may develop depression because of a chemical imbalance in their brain. Moreover, many individuals develop depression seasonally or during a specific time of the year. There are many different causes of depression, but it is wrong to say that depression is a sin or that it is a spiritual problem.
Many of us have great relationships with Christ and still struggle with depression. While we can pray for God to take away our depression, it does not always work out that way. Instead of divinely taking us out of the problem, God promises to stay right there beside us throughout our struggle. Psalm 23:4 tells us, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
God is never far from each of us.
Don’t Tell Us to Just “Pray More”
Another truth about depression is that it is not something that can simply be fixed by praying more. Many of us who struggle with depression are praying daily and consistently. It is not a matter of praying more that means God will divinely heal us. We are to pray, but God does not always answer with “yes.” He could answer with “no” or “not right now.” From my personal experience, I know that God has done great things through my constant struggle with depression. I have been able to help others feel less alone in their struggle and educate those who do not have depression on the truths of the disorder.
As a person who struggles with depression, it is not helpful to tell us to “pray more.” This type of statement automatically makes us feel demonized and put out. Not to mention the fact that it makes us feel like an inferior Christian when other believers insinuate we lack a healthy prayer life. As Christians, we need to be understanding toward others and seek to understand them rather than make them feel bad about themselves. In everything, we need to treat others the way we want to be treated (Luke 6:31). This means we need to be kind, caring, and supportive to the other people in our lives, especially those struggling with depression.
Don’t Tell Us to Find More Joy in the Lord
I find my joy in the Lord, and as a Christian, I am confident you find joy in the Lord too. Finding our joy in the Lord is a great thing, but it is never right to tell a person struggling with depression to find more joy in the Lord. When someone makes a statement like this to a person struggling with depression, it automatically sends the message that the person struggling with depression has a poor relationship with God or that they are not trying “hard enough” in their struggle. The truth is that those of us who struggle with depression do find joy in the Lord, but we still struggle with depression.
Having joy in the Lord does not mean you will not have depression. I think many people believe this erroneous fact because they are blending joy with happiness. The truth is that joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness is based on emotions or outside situations, whereas joy is the lasting knowledge, peace, and love of knowing Jesus as your Savior and Lord. As one can see, one can have joy without having happiness at the same time. Happiness depends on what is happening around us, while joy is the resting knowledge of knowing Jesus.
Therefore, those of us who struggle with depression do have joy in the Lord, so don’t tell us to find more joy in the Lord. It is an unhelpful statement that once again belittles those struggling with depression. Personally, I have been told more times than I can count to “find more joy in the Lord.” It made me question my own relationship with Christ, and it even caused me to question my salvation because I was constantly being told that if I were a true Christian, I wouldn’t be struggling with depression. It made me feel like I was not a Christian because I was struggling with this dark cloud of depression over my head all the time while everyone around me appeared to be overjoyed.
In other words, all of the Christians around me were happy. From my limited perspective, it made me become fully convinced in my mind that I was a weak Christian or not even a Christian at all because I did not have the happiness that the other Christians did. Surrounding believers were living out what they called “the dream.” In contrast, I was struggling to find my grounding after the death of my mother while battling anorexia, anxiety, and depression.
All people need to understand and be knowledgeable about depression because depression is on the rise in the modern day. Depression is a serious mood disorder that needs proper treatment of therapy, self-care, a good support system, and medicine. It is incorrect to say depression is a “spiritual problem” or a “sin problem” because it simply is not true. If you are struggling with depression, know that you are not alone. I am right there with you as well as millions of other Christians across the globe. Depression is more common than you may think, and nothing about depression makes you a “lesser” Christian, nor does it mean you are not saved. Christ is right there beside us in our dark shadows, and He promises never to leave us (Psalm 23; Hebrews 13:5).
If you do not personally struggle with depression, I hope this article has educated you on the truths of depression and what it is not. Those of us who struggle with depression do not need unhelpful comments, nor do we need hurtful words that can cause us to doubt ourselves or our relationship with God. As a Christian who does not struggle with depression, take the incentive to help others and be there for them when they need your help. Don’t try to immediately come up with solutions, but rather just listen and be supportive. Depression is a hard journey that may never get better, yet you can walk alongside your friends and be the hands and feet of Jesus to them in their struggle with depression.
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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.