Depression is perhaps the most common emotional problem that we face today. Experts suggest as many as one out of five Americans experience severe depression some time during their lives, and depression may be the most common health problem for women. Symptoms of depression include apathy, insomnia, difficulty in concentrating, and a general loss of interest in life. Severely depressed people may become suicidal, violent, or completely withdrawn. Depression has always been a problem for mankind. Bible characters such as King Saul, Elijah the prophet, Job, and others experienced depression.
Sources of depression may be physical, psychological, or spiritual. Fatigue, chemical imbalances, and other physical problems may cause it. After his defeat of the prophets of Baal and Asherah on Mount Carmel, Elijah was physically exhausted. When Jezebel threatened his life, he fled into the wilderness and was ready to die. The angel of the Lord comforted him and strengthened him with food, telling him, “Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee” (1 Kgs. 19:7). He still felt overwhelmed and alone, however. He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kgs. 19:10). He repeated, “I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kgs. 19:14). The Lord encouraged him by letting him know that there were still seven thousand faithful, and by sending Elisha to help him.
Loss is a common psychological cause of depression. Job lost his possessions, family, health, and even his reputation. He cried, “…the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came” (3:25-26). Later he learned that God continued to control the universe: “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee” (42:2). Unfulfilled hopes and dreams, and feelings of worthlessness or helplessness brought on by stress also cause depression. These feelings often come because one has lost proper perspective. Disappointments may be opportunities in disguise—times to rearrange priorities, making them in line with God’s will. We can overcome feelings of helplessness and worthlessness by understanding that God is still in control. He demonstrated His love for us in the cross (Rm. 5:8).
Sin has spiritual consequences, which often include depression. Obeying God is the key. “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love…” (Jn. 15:10). God does not intend for us to be depressed, and is eager to forgive and comfort.
This item originally appeared at House to House/Heart to Heart (v.8 n.5 Sept./Oct. 2003)