by Vicki Nunn (1 December 2016)
“A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life. It is the tear (that results) from the injury of the oyster. The treasure of our being in this world is also produced by an injured life. If we had not been wounded, if we had not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl.”
Some Christians and churches claim that depression comes from demonic possession, or from sin, perhaps a curse, or because God is punishing us for a wrong-doing. As we discussed in the article “Can Christians Have a Mental Illness,” while on some occasions it may be the result of an ongoing sin, for most believers, depression doesn’t usually arise from these things.
We’ve looked at possible physical causes of depression as well as circumstances which may cause it. It can be the result of drug and alcohol abuse, physical injury or as part of an illness, as a side effect of certain medications, or as a consequence of physical, psychological and/or sexual abuse.
Seeking help for depression is not sinful, nor is taking anti-depressants. Getting over depression isn’t about “having more faith,” or “looking on the bright side,” or “just getting over it.” There is no pithy quote, Bible verse or inspirational saying that will snap us out of it. In fact, there are quite a number of Bible verses that speak about depression, and Bible characters who struggled with it.
Depression is not a new thing – it’s been around almost since day one!
One of the more important things we learned in that earlier article is that a good proportion of the population will experience depress-ion at some time in their life, and therefore it’s likely that many Christians will also go through it.
Being a Christian doesn’t automatically make us immune. Depression doesn’t mean that a person is lacking in spirituality or immature in their Christian walk. Do you need reassurance on that? Then hopefully this article will provide enough evidence to demonstrate that some of the strongest, most faithful believers have suffered depression – and God still loved them.
Normally in each issue of SPAG Magazine we endeavour to provide an article on one inspirational person. In conjunction with issue 7’s focus on depression and mental illness, we’re sharing a little about the lives of inspirational believers who suffered depression – from the Bible, from history and also from the present day. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I encourage you to find out more.
If you’ve ever suffered depression, it may ease your burden to know that profound Christian thinkers, passionate champions of the persecuted and down-trodden, God-inspired prophets, and those who reached great pinnacles of wisdom and strength in their Christian walk, have shared the trials and torments of depression with us.
If those with such resounding faith, profound knowledge and deep compassion can experience the same depths of sorrow, anguish, and moments of doubt; times when God seemed silent to their urgent, tortured pleas for help or for answers; then we, the more common, ordinary Christians are not alone – we aren’t wrong or broken or in need of deliverance. For some of us, it is part of the demanding journey of what it means to be a Christian.
It’s almost freeing to know that these exceptional Christians share such a bond with us. Perhaps it is those who have never known depression and those dark, tormented nights of the soul, who miss out on this distinctive experience. Perhaps we who have known depression, are the chosen ones who God deems worthy of undergoing such an ordeal. Perhaps our journey will be all the better for it.
As bizarre and unreasonable as it sounds, perhaps there’ll come a day when we’ll be able to look back and say “Thank you Lord.”
Whatever the circumstances, depression is very real, and can have a profound and long-lasting impact on us. Those who have never suffered depression cannot understand the terrible pain and suffering it causes.
Biblical Believers Who Suffered Depression
(a) Adam and Eve
While there is no Biblical evidence to confirm it, I imagine that both Adam and Eve suffered depression after they sinned and were cast out of the garden of Eden.
Having previously been so intimate with God, it must have been devastating for them to lose that close and loving relationship. No longer did they know that kindred closeness of spirit, soul and purpose. Adam and Eve knew without a doubt that they were no longer Holy – that purity of their holy relationship with God had ceased to exist.
I’ve heard hell described as the absolute and complete awareness of our aloneness and separation from God. Perhaps in a way, it was similar to how Adam and Eve felt.
Their daily lives of toil to grow food and to survive would have been a constant reminder of the repercussions of their sin, and their unending loss.
The consequences of their sin were later brought home to them, when their own son Cain killed his brother Abel.
(b) King David
There are more than three dozen examples of David’s experiences with depression which he shared in the Psalms. In Psalm 6:2-7 we read words that sound similar to what we might say when experiencing deep depression. Along with the anguish, his words seem to be touched with frustration and even anger:
“Show me grace, Eternal God. I am completely undone. Bring me back together, Eternal One. Mend my shattered bones. My soul is drowning in darkness. How long can You, the Eternal, let things go on like this?
Come back, Eternal One, and lead me to Your saving light. Rescue me because I know You are truly compassionate.
I’m alive for a reason – I can’t worship You if I’m dead. If I’m six feet under, how can I thank You?
I’m exhausted. I cannot even speak, my voice fading as sighs. Every day ends in the same place – lying in bed, covered in tears, my pillow wet with sorrow. My eyes burn, devoured with grief; they grow weak as I constantly watch for my enemies.” [Voice]
We can understand why Job would have suffered depression, after he lost all he had including his children and his wealth. While he must have grieved for his children, he was able to accept that loss was part of life – he’d come into the world with nothing, and would leave the world with nothing.
When Satan was allowed to afflict Job with a terrible illness that not only caused him awful physical pain, he also lost the affections and closeness of his wife, the comforts of his home, contact with friends and loved ones in his community, and was cast out of his home town because of his disease.
Here was a different sort of trauma to the losses he’d suffered earlier. This next step meant that he’d lost everything else including his dignity, his health, and his position within society – he was even mocked by low-life people because of how far he’d fallen from God’s grace.
Additionally, he was constantly in pain which would have affected every physical movement and would likely have plagued his sleep. Lack of sleep and relentless pain alone can cause depression, but the added losses and indignities would have piled up upon his already low spirits.
He’d lived a good life and had tried to be obedient to God. When he was suffering so terribly, he questioned God, demanding a response from Him about what he’d done to deserve such harsh treatment. Doesn’t that sound a lot like what most of us would probably do in Job’s situation?
We can almost hear the anger and perhaps even a little touch of rebuke in his voice in Job 6:8-10:
“If only my one request were answered, if only God would grant me the fulfilment of my only hope: That God would be willing to crush me, to kill me, that God would release His hand and cut me off.
[Voice] The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.