Spiritual Depression – Part 1

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Depression needs no introduction. A discussion on depression is as common as a discussion on the weather. It could concern for a close friend or family member, or the desperate cry of an individual for hope and healing in dark circumstances. Either way, we can not avoid it.

Yet, as Christians, we must face an undeniable tension. How is it that the God who sent his son to bring us abundant life could have children who live depressing lives? Doesn’t this seem like a contradiction? Is it okay or even allow for a Christian to experience what the world classifies as depression?

The short answer is yes. But for a topic as big as depression, it would do us good to dive deeper into it.

For clarification purposes, I must recognize that the severity of depression is on a spectrum. For the more severe cases, some may need medical help and medication. For less critical situations, this may not be the case. Either way, it is essential to remember, as Psalm 19 reminds us,

The law of Yahweh is perfect, restoring the soul;
We all need a restoration that can only come from the Word of God. This restoration is what we will be seeking in this journey through the topic of depression.

Is depression in the Bible?

The first question we must answer is whether or not depression is biblical? Here is where I would like to distinguish between depression and what we will refer to as a spiritual depression. I make the distinction simply to emphasize the root of the issue. All of life’s problems are, in one way or another, spiritual issues, so it would be good to begin thinking this way. God is the creator of all human life, and there exists no depression outside of the created human being.

Spiritual depression is a prevalent condition in the scriptures. Look at the words of the prophet Isaiah,

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why are you disturbed within me? (Isaiah 42:5)

You can feel the pain of this man who carried the responsibility of speaking on behalf of God. With this great privilege came times of great anguish.

It is also very prevalent in the minds and hearts of Christians today. One study from the Pew Research Center claims that in 2017 there were 7.6 million depressed Christians.

Although the information and statistics on depression are overwhelming, my goal is not to give you any type of statistical analysis on depression. Instead, I will speak from my experience of 15 years of working with college students and young adults. If we were to expand the definition to include sadness, lack of motivation, lack of concern for the Great Commission, insecurity, and fear, I would feel comfortable claiming that almost 100% of the thousands of students I have met wrestle with this spiritual condition.

What will you get from this journey?

When one attempts to find solid ground on the topic of spiritual depression, it can often feel like trying to grab a wet bar of soap. The moment you think you have it, it slips out of your grasp. Understanding this topic is difficult because our efforts at identifying problems tend to focus on the fruits instead of the roots.

This series of articles will discuss the root causes of spiritual depression as seen in the Bible. We will do this using two steps. First, we will build a solid case for spiritual depression from the Bible. Second, we will analyze different examples and illustrations of spiritual depression in the Bible to discover other causes and principles we can use to diagnose and battle against this problem in our own lives.

Why is this topic important?

Although spiritual depression is common, it is not normal for a Christian to live in a depressed state. Notice that I did not say that it is not possible. It is possible, as we will see as we examine the Scriptures, but it would be to the Christians’s demise to remain in this state. One would be missing out on the joy, and abundant life promised to those who believe. Martin Lloyd Jones says,
In a sense, a depressed Christian is a contradiction in terms.
To grasp the root of spiritual depression, we must flee from the fast-paced, superficial approach to Christianity that is so common today. To discover the truth in this area, we must slow down and take time to examine ourselves. In our following articles, we will do just that!

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