What is God’s attitude on depression? I mentioned in my last blog post that the supposedly “Christian” leader of the cult I grew up in taught that people with depression were not Christians. His foundation for this was that Christians are supposed to be “Joyful” and “Blessed”.1 (see quote in post footnotes) What He said about those people has no grounding in scripture, and many Biblical characters seemed to have struggled with depression. The Bible even says Jesus himself was a man of sorrows, so Branham was clearly wrong to label people with depression as not Christians simply because they are not always “Joyful” and “blessed”.
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”Isaiah 53:3-5 (ESV)
One of my favorite passages that speaks to God’s attitude for people who have depression is in 1 Kings 19.
“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.”1 King 19:4-8 (ESV)
Prior to the above passage, the prophet Elijah has just been threatened to be murdered in 1 day’s time. Overcome by fear he (naturally) runs for his life. Tired and overwhelmed, he quickly gives up hope in his despair and calls out to God to take his life, thinking that his life is worthless anyway. Although not everyone can empathize with Elijah running for his literal life, there is a lot I can relate to here.
Although I am not currently struggling with depression I have struggled (undiagnosed) with it in the past. I’ve declared in a desperate prayer that my life is not worth living and that all I want to do is die. If you’ve become overwhelmed with the pain of mental illness sometimes death seems like the only way out. The more we fixate on that, the more bleak our lives look and the more appealing death looks. In moments like this we need help, that’s the matter of fact. God heard Elijah’s prayer but he did not answer it the way Elijah wanted. Instead, God sent an angel not once, but twice to give him what he needed for the journey ahead of him.
God’s attitude about depression is compassion. This passage does not outright say what God’s attitude about depression is, but what we can see is His response, which shows His heart. Notice that God does not rebuke Elijah for saying he wants to die, but helps him.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”Psalm 34:18-19 (ESV)
God does not turn a blind eye to mental illness, and if you are struggling with depression or other forms of mental illness, that in itself does not mean you are not a Christian, that God is punishing you, or that your faith is weak. Our God is full of compassion and is with you in your time of suffering.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (ESV)
If you are struggling with depression, please accept the help that is available to you. Whether that means counseling, taking your medication, calling a loved one and sharing your emotions with them, calling the suicide prevention hotline (800-273-8255), or even if that just means getting up and eating like Elijah did in the passage earlier. Bring your brokenness to God and He will be with you.
If you know someone who is struggling with depression, instead of judging or wondering why they are struggling, do what Jesus would do and show compassion. Pray for them and offer them tangible help when they need it. Isn’t that what we are called to do as Christians and imitators of Christ?
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”Romans 12:15 (ESV)
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”Galatians 6:2 (ESV)
I hope you found this blog post about depression and Christianity helpful. If you have questions, or would like me to address another specific stigma surrounding mental illness, please leave me a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- God says this church of the Laodicean Age is “wretched.” That word comes from two Greek words which mean “endure” and “trial.” And it has nothing to do with the trials that come to a true Christian for God describes a Christian in trial as “blessed” and his attitude one of joy whereas this description is phrased as “wretched and miserable.” How strange. In this age of plenty, in this age of progress, in this age of abundance, how can there be trials? Well now, it is strange; but in this age of plenty and opportunity, when everyone has so much and there is so much more to be had, what with all the inventions to do our work and so many things to give us pleasure, SUDDENLY, we find mental illness taking such a toll as to alarm the nation. When everybody ought to be happy, with really nothing to be unhappy about, millions are taking sedatives at night, pep pills in the morning, rushing to doctors, entering institutions, and trying to drown out unknown fears by alcohol. AN EXPOSITION OF THE SEVEN CHURCH AGES – 9 – THE LAODICEAN CHURCH AGE
REV. WILLIAM MARRION BRANHAM