Depression is a widespread global problem. Let us learn from four Bible characters some important tips on dealing with depression.
I have a long queue of questions from my readers regarding happiness and how to be happy. One theme that keeps on coming is depression. Worded differently and with different background stories but the point is the same – many readers want to get over depression and be happy again but they don´t know how.
Other people have asked for: how to deal with depression, how to get over depression, how to fight depression
My main concern is this depression. No matter how hard I try to get over it, I can’t get past this part. I want to move on with my life and get over someone who doesn´t love me back. Can you help me understand this? Why am I so depressed? I know what the bible says but somehow I just cannot absorb the meaning into my heart.
How do you reclaim the happiness you once had while going through depression? It’s a cycle of I’m just getting by to I want it to stop. How do you get out of this loop and reclaim the happiness you once had before the depression came along and stole your joy? ~ Dian
My biggest question about happiness is maintaining it – I might be very happy one moment, and the next, for no determinable reason, I’m miserable. How do I keep my head in the happy space? ~ Quaz
What causes and triggers depression is a complex mix of social, psychological and biological factors. And because the roots are complex, treating depression is also a complex task.
Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. From that number, most are women.
Despite the huge number of people suffering from depression, many of them are unable to seek medical help either due to the lack of resources/limited well-trained health providers in their area or the shame that seeking medication would entail because it´s like admitting that they have mental illness.
Depression is a mental illness. How would you feel admitting to your community that you have a mental illness?
And yet depression is a serious illness. It can ruin not only your health but your entire life!
My Share of Depression
My first bout with depression happened when I was 15, a senior in high school. Back then I didn´t even know what depression was nor did I hear about it.
My family lived like Nomads, we moved almost every year. That meant changing school every school year for the kids. Although I didn´t like it, I kind of adapt to it and had no problem adjusting to a new school for the most part.
But that school year was important, my last year before uni. I worked hard in my studies and was very driven to graduate with honors. But in that new school, they wouldn´t admit me to the first section.
During that era, students were grouped according to performance. The first section was for the brightest students while the last section for the slowest. Only the students in the first section could get honors.
Despite my impressive report card, I wasn´t accepted to the first section. I was sent to the second section. It meant the end for my goals to me. Their reason was, honors for the graduating students were calculated from third year to fourth year. Thus accepting me to the first section would mess their pre-determined list of honor students. Lame, right? (Maybe not!)
I and my younger siblings had moved to the new town ahead of our parents. They stayed behind for a couple of months due to some unfinished business. I had no one to talk to about my predicament and I also had four younger siblings to parent for in the absence of my parents. I became extremely sad and unmotivated to study. I didn´t go to school for weeks. After I sent my siblings to school, I`d sleep the day away.
One afternoon, a calm voice woke me up from my sleep. It said, “Would you ruin your life just because you won´t graduate with honors? Which is better, to graduate without honors or to not graduate at all?”
The realization snapped me out of my depression. Although still sad, I gathered myself up and decided to continue living.
And that was the start. The start of my many more bouts with depression in the years to come.
Depression in the Bible
Did you know that several Bible characters also suffered from depression?
I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
~ Psalm 42:9-11
We know him as the wisest king. He trusted God and he was blessed immensely. God said no one would ever be like Solomon. But at some point in his life, Solomon became depressed.
If you read Ecclesiastes 9:1-5, A Common Destiny for All, Solomon sounded hopeless. He believed that the same destiny awaits both the righteous and the wicked – death.
But it´s not true. Jesus promises us in John 6:38-40, that we will have a further reward. That reward will be eternal life. Solomon only arrived to that (hopeless) conclusion due to his depression.
As we can see from Solomon, a wise person, a person who trusts God, can still suffer from depression! If wise, trusting people suffer from depression, what`s our chance of being happy again after dealing with depression?
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
~ 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
The key to Paul´s fight with depression is his faith that God would heal him. Thrice did he plead to God to take the thorn away. Paul also looked at the bright side of his thorn. He believed that difficulties in life helped strengthen his faith. He also suggests that his thorn helped him to handle his pride.
What´s really interesting about Paul`s unique situation is he had healed a man who was lame from birth (Acts 14:8-10). The man believed and he was healed. And yet while Paul was able to testify about God through healing, his own thorn was yet to be healed.
3. King Saul + Samuel
King Saul’s sin caused God to reject him as king. As a result, Samuel became depressed. (1 Samuel 15:26-29 and 1 Samuel 15:35) And King Saul himself also got depressed.
Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him. ~ 1 Samuel 16:23
As we can see from Saul, separation from God can cause our depression. Our sins can cause depression. Also, as in the case of Samuel, wrong choices and bad decisions of others can cause our depression.
Notice how King Saul used music to relieve his depression.
So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” ~ 1 Kings 19:2-4
During this time Elijah was at the center of the glorious defeat of the prophets of Baal. Queen Jezebel, the wife of the wicked King Ahab, was after Elijah to persecute him. Elijah became depressed and ran away.
Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.”
He looked around, and there by his head was
some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water.
He ate and drank and then lay down again.
The angel of the Lord came back a second time
and touched him and said, “Get up and eat,
for the journey is too much for you.”
So he got up and ate and drank.
Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days
and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
There he went into a cave and spent the night.
~ 1 Kings 19:5-9
Just like anyone who suffers from depression, Elijah succumbed to excessive sleep. But an angel woke him up, encouraged him to eat, got him moving again and gave him a goal.
If we continue reading to 1 Kings 19:11-13, while in a cave at mount Horeb the Lord told him to “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” There he witnessed that God can do great things. Elijah was reminded that God is above all power on earth.
By looking at the ways our four Bible characters dealt and fought with depression, we can conclude that depression happens even to wise, righteous and faithful people. Also, despite our characters` unwavering faith in God, their suffering didn´t immediately disappear even if they prayed for it to go away many times.
Faith may not entirely protect us from depression, but we can trust in God´s purpose for our suffering.
No matter the reason of our depression – our separation from God, other people´s wrong choices that negatively affect us, or a test of faith – we can use depression as a tool to bring glory to God. How? By continuing to do His will and witnessing to others not despite but in spite of our weakness and suffering.
Even the Bible gets practical when it comes to dealing with depression. We need to eat and drink (healthily), we need to walk and exercise, and we need to set a goal and focus on achieving it.
Recent scientific studies have discovered that even a 15 minute walk in the morning can set positive mood throughout the day + it boosts our energy to accomplish things for the day.
We can also learn from King Saul. When he was depressed, he listened to music and he felt better. What is it that you like doing and that makes you feel good? Find something you can do that can be therapeutic. For me, it´s writing poems and painting.
Now the problem with depression is you know what you have to do, and you want to do it, but you aren´t motivated to do anything at all. If ever, you only move to get by. But friends, it´s in times like this that you need to review all the great things that God has done to your life.
Like Elijah, you need to remember that “God can do great things by no visible means”. Ask God to give you the motivation to keep going and to move forward.
God loves you. He understands your suffering. In His time He will cure your depression.
Note: If you are using drugs, or if you consider using drugs to help relieve your sadness, read Anatomy of an Epidemic, to make an informed decision.
Disclosure: Sources of Bible Texts – Sabbath School Lesson Study