1. If I say, "I'm oppressed and depressed ..."
David describes his depressed condition in Psalm 42:
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? ... All your waves and billows have gone over me. I will say to God my Rock, why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? (Verses 5,7,9).
Also, Jesus in Gethsemane said,
My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me. (Matt. 26:38).
Peter in his first epistle writes: Now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved [in heaviness] by various trials (I Pet. 1:6).
Many people, Christians and non-Christians, have experienced depression and conquered it. This was true long before the psychology sciences came on the scene. Over and above all research on the subject, the Bible has the most satisfying answers. Let's look at the main sources of depression and the redemptive ways it can be overcome to Christ.
2. Overcoming Depression
Depression originates from many different sources. It can be caused by the conscious loss of a family relationship, a bitter disappointment, or a hopeless prospect for the future. Because of this sense of hopelessness, a depressed person will often talk negatively about one's life and emotions.
An excellent book addressing the subject of depression is Telling Yourself the Truth, by William Bachus. He states that one who is depressed tends to devalue life along three lines:
- One's own self.
- One's present situations, and
- One's Future.
The depressed person accepts misbeliefs into his thoughts by negative self-talk. An example of the three types of self-talk could be called the depressive triad:
- Person devalues himself: "Boy, I sure am dumb and thick-headed.
- Person devalues his situation: "Lately life has been a drag: nothing is worth doing.
- Person devalues his prospects for the future: "I'll never be anything! Life is hopeless."
This depressive tirade was evident in a young businessman who came to my office for counseling. He had left one job expecting to be involved in a better one. After the changes he realized the job he had given up provided security for his family and future. The better paying one, in another city, did not have these guarantees. Now he wondered if he had made a mistake, thinking, "I've uprooted my family and I'm not sure this is a good idea." His hopes were not high, so I shared with him this triad concerning his own life.
We looked closely at some Scriptures relating to his own personal value in the sight of God. He was redeemed by the blood of Christ; and God had not forgotten him.
We talked about his circumstances in view of Rom. 8:37: "Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." And Proverbs 3:6, "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path." In the light of these Scriptures he could, without a single mind, move on with faith in the Lord. He could trust God either to change his situation or keep him going toward his goals. We talked about his future and the fears he felt.
We considered Psalm 23:6: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."
Jesus is Lord not only of our yesterdays, but of all our todays and tomorrows, and also this very present moment. As we prayed together, the Lord gave him inner release and peace. He left my office hopeful that there was a way through.
It is "the truth that sets us free."
3. Conviction of Sin
Another aspect of depression is linked to the conviction of sin. In the life of the believer conviction of sin may create the same feelings that David expressed in Psalm 32:3-5:
when I kept silence, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me…I said, I will confess the iniquity of my sin.
It is very clear that when David sinned, the heavy hand of the Lord's conviction was upon him.
As long as we defend or cover up our sin, the Holy Spirit cannot give us His peace and freedom. Instead the burden of guilt becomes a heavy yoke that weighs upon one's conscience. Christ's yoke or burden, on the other hand, "is easy and light." (Matthew 11:28-30). If temptation and condemnation can make someone feel heavy, then certainly the conviction of obvious sin can make someone depressed. But when sin is confessed and forgiven, we can feel as David did when he expressed his joy of God's forgiveness in Psalm 32:7 "You surround me with the songs of deliverance."
We must not, however, endorse any teaching that infers that when saving grace comes through Jesus, that then the Law of God is done away with. No! The apostle Paul said, "By the law is the knowledge of sin." The law is like a mirror. Even though a mirror can't clean us up we do not destroy all our mirrors. Neither do we intend to do away with the Ten Commandments. When we are unclean in our lives and hearts the law as meant to convict us. True conviction includes inner unrest, unhappiness, and often times, depression. Then it is that "the Law is a school master to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24).
4. Overcoming Temptation
At this point it's important to differentiate between temptation and sin. God's word tells us that they differ. It is important that we learn how to understand and how to handle our daily temptations.
As an example, someone interrupts you in the midst of wanting to get an important job done. This person is indifferent to the fact that the job needs your attention. You feel angry and upset! You may seek to get rid of your reaction by confessing these feelings as wrong. After confessing it, you may find that your depressing emotions still hang on, only now they're reinforced by a sense of guilt and failure.
5. What is the Biblical Answer?
You have been tempted! You must understand that the temptations and the inner feelings are not sins in themselves. You need to look to God and follow your Master, Jesus, who when He was severely tempted by the Devil, defeated this evil enemy by declaring the Word of God. "It is written!!"
There are Christians who are often tempted and depressed because they have not understood a simple Bible truth. A remarkable way to deal with any temptation is to talk frankly and honestly to the Lord, "Lord, I felt this anger, this sexual attraction, this jealous feeling toward this person. Lord, I release this all to you, I do not consent to these temptations. I yield to your grace and to your righteousness. Fill me now, Jesus, with your Holy Spirit's love and freedom. I thank you! Amen!
There are several reasons why you can gain freedom by this type of openness toward God:
- You're not pushing these feelings into your sub-conscious mind; rather you're releasing them to the Lord.
- You've made a conscious moral decision to line up with righteousness, not with sin.
- All the glory goes to the Lord. This is the victory you receive by faith! You begin to realize you are joined to Christ and His death. "Dead to sin and alive to God." You are able to walk in newness of life by trusting the Lord Jesus.
Peter knew something about suffering a defeat by severe temptation when he denied the Lord before He was crucified. The Lord restored his soul. Peter tells us this simple secret:
You are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved (you have been in heaviness) by various trials" (I Peter 1:5-6).
Watch and Pray lest you enter not into temptation (Matthew 26:41).