“…feelings of severe despondency and dejection, typically also with feelings of inadequacy and guilt, often accompanied by lack of energy and disturbance of appetite and sleep”
– Oxford English Dictionary
For the Christian the feeling of inadequacy and guilt is often magnified because you think that a “real” Christian would not feel like that – and some of your Christian friends and family may even tell you so.
2 How not to help
Criticizing the depressed person is not helpful. They can’t just snap out of it. “Don’t be like that / Moenie so wees nie” is not helpful. The depressed person is not objective, so telling people how good their life is and how thankful they should be may not help. It may just make them feel worse – now they feel guilty as well.
3 You’re not alone
If you’re depressed you’re not alone. You are not the first Christian to feel depressed, nor will you be the last. Many men of God have suffered from depression through the ages. This includes heroes of the faith like Elijah, David and Naomi. There are even indications that Paul was depressed at times (2 Tim 4: 9-16).
But there’s hope! All of these found their way back to life and joy.
4 Causes and risk factors
Causes and risk factors for depression include:
Sin (I’m not kicking you while you’re down. Sin will have that effect – the Christian who continues in known sin should feel depressed; so let’s first eliminate that as a possible cause. Repentance helps.)
Medical (Consult your doctor and make sure there is not a medical cause. Could include chemical or hormonal imbalances for which medication and antidepressants can help.)
Unhealthy lifestyle (Get sufficient exercise, eat healthy)
Overworked / Tired (Get sufficient rest, God’s Sabbath law was instituted for our good)
Burdened (Do not put yourself under undue pressure – not every burden is yours to bear. Roll the burden onto God)
Beware the victim spirit!
Trying in own strength (Surrender to God)
Trying to please people (Avoid unhealthy approval addiction and people pleasing)
Comparing to others
After a major success. (When a stressful period ends, e.g. “Post project depression”. As with Elijah)
5 Elijah as an example
Operated under Long-standing stress (1 Kings 17: 1-7). Announces major years-long drought to King Ahab (risky!) Then God sends him to hide by a little stream, where ravens (unclean birds) bring him food. Then the stream dries up…
(1 Kings 17: 8-24) God sends him to be cared for by a widow who does not even have food for herself.
Then the widow’s son dies.
Already a humiliation to be cared for by a widow, but this widow does not even have food for herself. The miraculous provision of the food and the miraculous resurrection of the son should not blind us to how stressful this would have been. We see a glimpse in verse 20 “O LORD my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?”
The stress continues in 1 Kings 18
God sends him back to Ahab who has been organizing manhunts for Elijah all this time
Then he stands alone against 400 prophets of Asherah and 450 of Baal
A contest of whose God will answer the sacrifice with fire
Then a major success
God answers with fire
Elijah executes the prophets of Baal
The people admit that the LORD is God
God sends rain
But very often after a success or at the end of a long stressful period everything comes tumbling down.
A relatively small threat is the final straw (1 Kings 19)
Jezebel threatens him and he flees for his life
He falls into full-on depression incl
a wish to die
Loneliness; a feeling of abandonment
Ironical that he flees for his life into the wilderness, but wants to die: v4 And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!“
“The children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” He repeats this twice
The way back (1 Kings 19)
God allows him to rest
God shows his power but speaks to him in “a still small voice” Then he says again: “The children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” He repeats this even after God himself has started speaking to him, which shows that the way back from depression is not necessarily quick and easy.
God gives him new tasks
Gives him someone who will help him and eventually succeed him
Shows him is not alone after all – there are 7 000 others who have not bowed to Baal.
He ends well
Courageously confronts Ahab again (1 Kings 21)
Prophesies against another wicked king
Commands fire to consume 50 soldiers sent to arrest him (twice)
Taken to heaven alive
Appears with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt 17:3; Luke 9:30)
So we see that after going through the depths of depression there was healing for Elijah, he was again used by God and God honoured him above almost everyone else
1 Samuel 30: 1-6 Greatly distressed “But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.”
In many of his Psalms we see him moving from a gloomy, depressed state to hope as he starts to focus on God and praises Him (e.g. Psalm 69)
7 Prevention of depression
Things that can help with prevention / early intervention
Maintain a proper perspective
Healthy habits (exercise, eating etc.)
Do not carry unnecessary burdens
What do you expose yourself to?
What do you focus on?
Don’t trust your feelings
Renewing the mind
Regular Bible study; walking with God
Praise and worship
Tiredness is a risk, Satan loves to disturb your sleep, keeping you tired and on the backfoot. Sabbath law – 7 day cycle is for our wellbeing and to protect us
Do not carry unnecessary burdens. Not every burden is yours to bear. Charl – sheep not a beast of burden (Jesus: My las is lig) my burden is light Matt 11:30
Worship, worship music, song in the night (Shifts focus away from self and onto God + the faithfulness of God)
Let’s unpack some of these
God loves you and cares for you
Your enemies / the government / politicians / your boss / your family [fill in the blank]
Do not have the final say
Cannot prevent God blessing you
This is not our home!
However bad things are it is not permanent
God limits adversity – even in the case of Job
Jesus is always with you (Matt 28:20; Heb 13:5)
Even if you do not feel it
9 Knowing, not feeling
Psalm 46 describes major disaster, e.g. verse 2: “Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea”
But then Verse 10: “Be still and know that I am God ”
NOT “Be still and feel that I am God”
We need to move beyond how we feel
Habakkuk 1:2-4: O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.
Habakkuk 3: 17-19: Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills
That first part sounds terribly familiar to a South African. Isn’t this how we often feel? But we should not stay there. With Gods help we can continue to 3:17.
Ephesians 3:17-19: … that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
When you are depressed, the feeling is overwhelming, but you must break through to the facts = that God loves you and will surely provide.
10 What do you focus on?
Sometimes we do not know why we feel discouraged, depressed or sad. It is good at those times to consciously return our focus to God, put our hope in Him, draw on His strength, and anticipate the grace He will show us. – Charles Stanley
Focus on God
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
11 Praise is an antidote to depression
Joy is the constant companion of praise. If we feel depressed or discouraged, praising God will soon bring us joy. – Charles Stanley
Verse 1: As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God.
Verse 3: My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, “Where is your God?”
Verse 5: Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.
Verse 9: I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
Verse 11: Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
The turnaround from bad circumstances and depression is not always quick and easy. After expressing hope in verse 5 there is a downturn again in verse 9, but then we break through to the hopeful end in verse 11.
12 Promises to contemplate
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
Philippians 4:19: And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
You can trust God to provide – he provided bread and meat for millions in the desert (Exodus 16)
Hebrews 13:5, 8 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU.” …Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Promises of provision
Matthew 11:28-34 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 7:11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
Philippians 4:19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 5:7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
13 If prevention has failed…
Don’t hide; Don’t avoid people
Don’t be fake
Read your Bible even if you don’t want to
Study the promises of God (never leave or forsake, I am with you always…)
Praise & Worship (repeat)
Some causes are medical and medication can help. Don’t stop using medication without consulting your doctor.
Worship, worship music, song in the night (Helps because it shifts focus away from self and onto God + the faithfulness of God)