What happens when a Christian is depressed? Could it be that he has made something that needs to be corrected? Is being depressed sin against God? When a Christian is depressed, are we just to say that “you should pray…”?
Maybe we also need to look at this in an open mind. Not that I am saying that Christians should never be depressed. We need to ask the questions that needs answers.
I have gathered information from several articles found in the internet. Hopefully, this will help. I placed them here to also help me.
First, what is depression?
Helpguide.org says “We all go through ups and downs in our mood. Sadness is a normal reaction to life’s struggles, setbacks, and disappointments. Many people use the word “depression” to explain these kinds of feelings, but depression is much more than just sadness.
Some people describe depression as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom. However, some depressed people don’t feel sad at all—they may feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic, or men in particular may even feel angry, aggressive, and restless.
Whatever the symptoms, depression is different from normal sadness in that it engulfs your day-to-day life, interfering with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and have fun. The feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness are intense and unrelenting, with little, if any, relief.
If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from clinical depression.
• you can’t sleep or you sleep too much
• you can’t concentrate or find that previously easy tasks are now difficult
• you feel hopeless and helpless
• you can’t control your negative thoughts, no matter how much you try
• you have lost your appetite or you can’t stop eating
• you are much more irritable, short-tempered, or aggressive than usual
• you’re consuming more alcohol than normal or engaging in other reckless behavior
• you have thoughts that life is not worth living (Seek help immediately if this is the case)
Signs and symptoms of depression
Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common signs and symptoms. It’s important to remember that these symptoms can be part of life’s normal lows. But the more symptoms you have, the stronger they are, and the longer they’ve lasted—the more likely it is that you’re dealing with depression. When these symptoms are overwhelming and disabling, that’s when it’s time to seek help.
Common signs and symptoms of depression
• Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
• Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
• Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
• Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
• Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
• Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
• Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
• Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
• Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
• Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
Depression and suicide
Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. The deep despair and hopelessness that goes along with depression can make suicide feel like the only way to escape the pain. Thoughts of death or suicide are a serious symptom of depression, so take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously. It’s not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide: it’s a cry for help.
Warning signs of suicide include:
• Talking about killing or harming one’s self
• Expressing strong feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
• An unusual preoccupation with death or dying
• Acting recklessly, as if they have a death wish (e.g. speeding through red lights)
• Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
• Getting affairs in order (giving away prized possessions, tying up loose ends)
• Saying things like “Everyone would be better off without me” or “I want out”
• A sudden switch from being extremely depressed to acting calm and happy
The cause of your depression helps determine the treatment
Understanding the underlying cause of your depression may help you overcome the problem. For example, if you are depressed because of a dead end job, the best treatment might be finding a more satisfying career, not taking an antidepressant. If you are new to an area and feeling lonely and sad, finding new friends at work or through a hobby will probably give you more of a mood boost than going to therapy. In such cases, the depression is remedied by changing the situation.”
Discouragement vs. Depression
Exactly what is discouragement? And how does it relate to what we call “depression”? “Discouragement” might be defined in the following way. Discouragement is a temporary feeling of disappointment or disheartenment, resulting from a disadvantageous turn of events — either physical, material, social, emotional, or spiritual. Note the emphasis upon “temporary.” If one does not address the source of his discouragement, and come to grips with it, his distress may evolve into “depression.”
By way of contrast, “depression” may be defined as a protracted period of despondency that greatly curtails, or even destroys, one’s ability to function as a healthy and happy person. If depression is not properly and urgently addressed by the Christian, with the solutions to one’s problems being sought in the Word of God (whenever possible), the tragic situation can result in spiritual stagnation, overt apostasy from the faith, and sometimes, even suicide.
The Bible contains a number of examples of people who lapsed into the state of spiritual terror that may aptly be described as “depression.” Let us briefly reflect upon a few of these cases.
1. Saul, of Old Testament fame, was a man who started brilliantly as Israel’s first king. He was robust and courageous and hence had the admiration of his subjects. Eventually, though, he imbibed the spirit of disobedience, and so was informed by God’s prophet that the kingdom would ultimately be torn from his grasp. We are told that “the Spirit of Jehovah departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Jehovah troubled [terrified, ASVfn] him” (1 Samuel 16:14). The latter expression simply means that God allowed Saul to reap the mental consequences of his rebellious disposition. The king was given to fits of prolonged depression wherein he repeatedly attempted to kill David (cf. 18:9ff). Finally, he took his own life!
2. Judas is another example of a man so immersed in depression as a consequence of his betrayal of the Son of God that he committed suicide (Matthew 27:3-5).
More on the positive side, consider these cases:
1. Job’s religious motives were challenged by Satan, and the hateful Deceiver was allowed to inflict the patriarch. Job lost his children, his wealth, and his health, and still he courageously refrained his lips from sinning (Job 1:13-2:10). When, however, his three friends arrived and sat down, mourning for seven days [thus treating him as one already dead!], it was more than the great patriarch could stand, and he lapsed into a state of deep depression. He wished that he had been born dead, or that he might have died at birth (Job 3). Happily, though, eventually he was able to climb out of his distress and, after repentance, was restored to the Lord’s favor.
2. Similarly, the noble Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, because he was so ill-treated by evil Israel, gave way to the pangs of depression and cursed the very day of his birth (Jeremiah 20:14ff). But he too was able to overcome that depth of grief.
Causes and Cures
In order to deal with discouragement and/or depression, one must first be able to correctly diagnose the source of his problem. Second, he must be aware of the options available for the remedial solution to his problem, or if there is no immediate solution, he must concentrate his attention upon that Source of strength that will allow him to accept the situation as it is, and even to grow thereby. As noted earlier, the causes of depression may be classified under various headings. Let us give our attention to several of these.
Let me observe initially, however, that this article is not intended to deal with possible physiological causes of some forms of depression, e.g., neurological or chemical imbalance maladies. Our aim here is to address those categories of depression that have spiritual bases, and thus can be remedied with applications from the Scriptures. And these are far more numerous than many are willing to admit. Unfortunately, many people today are looking for the quick-fix, “pill” solution.
1. Physical — Let us suppose a man is involved in a terrible car accident and he becomes paralyzed from the neck down. How shall he handle this misfortune? First, he may need to come face-to-face with the fact that he simply cannot change the situation. Second, he could become a self-pitying, depressed recluse and finally waste away. On the other hand, he might summon the courage to be a balanced, productive person, who even by his handicap is able to marvelously glorify God! There are numerous examples in this latter category who have influenced thousands by their courage and determination.
How should one react if he discovers he has a most serious, possibly fatal, illness? He may, with firm determination, attempt to fight the illness, and perhaps he will win. If he sees that the battle is being lost, he must realistically acknowledge that death eventually claims us all. It is the price we pay for humanity’s involvement in sin (Romans 5:12). But anger, frustration, and depression (though perhaps initially natural) will not remedy the situation. The believer must fortify his spirit with the fact that those who die “in the Lord” are exceedingly blessed (Revelation 14:13), and they will enter a state that is “very far better” (Philippians 1:23).
2. Material — How should one respond who has suffered a severe financial blow? If the treasury of his heart (cf. Matthew 6:21) has been filled with materialism, he may not be able to handle the losses. When the stock market crashed in 1929, some were so crushed they committed suicide! One who trusts in God for all things might (after a brief emotional adjustment) be constrained to say with Paul, “we brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out; but having food and covering we shall therewith be content” (1 Timothy 6:7-8). Of course it would not be sinful to vigorously work for the restoration of that which was obtained honorably; hard work is the eraser of “hard luck.” Too, it is possible that one may have to face the fact that he simply will not always be able to live at the high standard to which many have become accustomed. God has never promised economic luxury to His people; only daily sustenance. In any case, depression has never solved a financial woe!
3. Social — Many a poor soul has descended into the depths of depression when forsaken by a dear friend. Unrequited love has been the undoing of some. How does a young bride-to-be deal with the heartache of being forsaken by her fiancÅ½ just hours before the wedding ceremony? Of course she will be deeply hurt, but she must recognize several things.
o There is One who will never forsake the Christian (cf. Psalm 118:8; 2 Timothy 4:16-17).
o The providence of God may be at work; the Lord may have someone better in mind for His young saint.
o In spite of this tragedy, in due time it certainly is possible that this person could live a wonderfully happy and fruitful life — even though single.
The point is this: one must never give in to depression; the human spirit must fight back.
4. Emotional — How does one cope with the tragic death of a spouse, or a child? Surely such a heart-breaking blow must be almost more than one can bear. True, but these things are a part of the world in which we live, and they will continue to occur whether we learn to deal with them or not! In such dark hours of adversity the child of God may reflect upon several things. First, if the loved one was in a state of innocence (e.g., a child) or was faithful to the Lord, we must not sorrow in the way those without hope do (1 Thessalonians 4:13ff). There is recognition and association beyond death (cf. Genesis 25:8; 2 Samuel 12:23; Matthew 8:11; 17:3ff; Luke 16:9,19ff). Second, even if the deceased died outside of Christ, depression will not bring back that loved one! This is a hard fact that must be faced. Moreover, we can be comforted by the fact that God is aware of our grief (Psalm 56:8; 103:13; 2 Kings 20:5) and He is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), who is able to help us bear the burden (Psalm 55:22). Finally, all of our heartaches will be removed in heaven (Revelation 21:4). We must thus take courage and bear up!
5. Spiritual — Much of our discouragement/depression is the consequence of our guilt, resulting from sinful conduct or the neglect of spiritual responsibility. This was the problem of Saul and Judas mentioned earlier. Some charge that preachers are always trying to make people feel guilty. The fact is, it is the responsibility of God’s preaching servants to proclaim the truth — in a loving manner, yes; but forcefully nonetheless. If that burdens some with guilt, so be it. There is a way to take care of that — repent of sin!
The psalmist described pointedly the grief that can attend the guilty conscience. Listen to him:
“Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah; for I am withered away: O Jehovah, heal me; for my bones are troubled. My soul also is sore troubled? I am weary with my groaning; every night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. My eyes waste away because of my grief” (Psalm 6:2-7).
The weary soul who is laboring under the intolerable weight of a guilty conscience has a way out. He can repent of his evil (which demands undoing that wrong, as much as humanly possible) and solicit Jehovah’s forgiveness.
The person who is not a Christian may submit to the Lord’s saving plan and receive remission of sins (Acts 2:38), being assured that his evil has been blotted out (Acts 3:19,) and hence remembered no more by the Creator (Hebrews 8:12). The unfaithful child of God may repent and pray, and thus have the same assurance. It is true that the consequences of sin may extract a severe price for years to come [an adulterous relationship may have to be severed; imprisonment may be required for a crime committed], but with God’s help, such a life need not be enslaved by overwhelming depression.
If one is to learn how to conquer, or at least control, depression, there are certain attitudes he must learn to identify and avoid — attitudes that have a tendency to nurture the moods in which depression can flourish. Let me mention a few of these matters in brief.
1. Too many of us are, to a degree, self-centered. We are constantly wondering why someone did not speak to us, or we are aggravated because our needs are not being addressed by the church. The truth is, if many would get busy with the needs of others, they would not have the time for preoccupation with personal problems. Remember this, even from the cross the Savior was thinking of others!
2. What we constantly think about, we tend to become (cf. Proverbs 23:7; Mark 7:21-23). Those who focus almost continuously upon the negative — how bad I feel, how hard I have it, woe is me! — tend to dredge themselves deeper into depression. We must learn to concentrate upon more positive things, to count our blessings. Pleasant thoughts and words are “sweet to the soul and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
3. A preoccupation with the trivial along with a corresponding lack of spiritual activity, can create a void in one’s life that allows depression to move in. An idle mind and life truly are the devil’s workshop.
4. Sometimes those who are depressed have a tendency to seek out the companionship of others with similar problems. These persons thus feed upon one another’s distresses, and actually end up destroying each other. When you are troubled, associate with those who can build you up.
5. Do not be intimidated by the opinions of your critics. You can never live up to the expectations of some people, and you will be under a constant strain if you try. Simply attempt to please God and be aware of the fact He understands your frailties and He will lovingly bear with you as you grow.
6. Do not expect instant, magical solutions to your problems. God is not going to perform miracles and make your life on earth a present “heaven.” By following the instructions of the Scriptures, be patient and work to solve your difficulties.
7. Finally, one must leave the unsolvable to God. Trust Him no matter what. Learn to be content no matter how dire your conditions are (Philippians 4:11-13). Recognize the fact that tranquility of mind does not depend upon the external, but upon the internal.
For his own wellbeing, and to enhance his service to others, the Christian must learn to control his stress. The life of trust is not one of continual fretfulness. With a serene confidence, therefore, let us show the world the true joy of Christianity.
The road to depression recovery
Just as the symptoms and causes of depression are different in different people, so are the ways to feel better. What works for one person might not work for another, and no one treatment is appropriate in all cases. If you recognize the signs of depression in yourself or a loved one, take some time to explore the many treatment options. In most cases, the best approach involves a combination of social support, lifestyle changes, emotional skills building, and professional help.
• Ask for help and support
• Make healthy lifestyle changes
• Build emotional skills
• Seek professional help