Can a Christian be Depressed?
Depression is defined as a persistent sad mood or loss of pleasure in normal activities. Normal ups and downs are a common part of life. For some, however, feelings of sadness and hopelessness can become crippling or prolonged, making normal day-to-day functioning a struggle.
Early on after becoming a believer, I experienced a season of depression. In hindsight, experiencing this depression was a tipping point God used to wake me up, inviting me into a recovery process which has transformed my relationship with Him and others.
Though this time of depression, I often felt hopeless and sad, withdrew, had consistent thoughts of guilt and shame, and had trouble functioning. I also had a distorted belief that “Jesus + my visible success + approval of certain others = I’m okay”. Trying to live with this formula was not God’s design and weighed me down. I also had not worked through my past, both hurt and harms I had done. I had not forgiven significant people in my life but glossed over the pain. I also was prideful as to own my part and ask for forgiveness from other.
Over time, this approach to life did not work, and it affected me emotionally and spiritually and I experienced depression. I also kept thinking there might be a “magic bullet” to not feel this way. Was I reading and memorizing enough Scripture? Sharing gospel enough? Serving enough? Was there some area of sin? Was I headed in the wrong direction in life? More exercise? Did I need to see a doctor?
I struggled with admitting I had depression, feeling it was something a believer would never struggle with if they were doing things “the right way.” Thankfully, God brought me to a place of admitting this with a community of friends and beginning a journey of healing.
Depression didn’t enter my life overnight and it wasn’t healed overnight. God has used a variety of means of grace over time including:
- Friends who allowed me to be real and admit without judgment or trying to fix me
- Renewing my mind from the lies about a distorted image of God, believing I needed to add to what Christ has done through my performance, and looking for my greatest joys apart from Christ
- Healing from the past through forgiveness and amends
- Taking care of health and sleep, and getting medical input
Now, I can thank God for this depression, as it has led me to greater intimacy with Him, and a greater freedom to live authentically and to love others.
If you are experiencing depression, know that God loves you and there is hope. He wants you to bring your heartache to him and to give you his peace. Below are some steps to start with:
- Be courageous to be honest with a friend about your struggle. Honestly admitting your need begins the journey of healing.
- Meditate on God’s word to renew your mind and remind yourself of what is true. Romans 8:31-39; Psalm 103:2-4; Lamentations 3:20-26; Zephaniah 3:17.
- Consider areas that might be contributing to your struggle: circumstances, emotional or relational pain, health issues, or spiritual illness (such as sin in our life, believing lies, idolatry, etc.). What are some steps you can take?
- If you are having suicidal thoughts and have a plan to take your life, please seek medical help immediately by calling 911. Your life is precious.