In the Christian community, the subject of depression provokes controversy. It should not. I wish that it did not. But it does. Can a good Christian be depressed? Many of us feel shame because we do suffer. Others never get help because they refuse to admit their struggle. Still others try to tough it out on their own, resulting in years of distress.
I am a depression sufferer myself. Obviously, this will bias my take on this. My depression cycles…sometimes better, sometimes worse. But this is an important discussion to have.
There are three main causes of depression (Comment if I leave something out):
- Physical issues. Depression often traces its roots back to physical issues. Hormone imbalances, blood or brain chemistry faults, and side-effects of illnesses can all be causes of depression. Physical causes require medical treatment.
- Life circumstances. Some seasons of life are tough. Chronic stressful situations can cause depression. Trauma can leave a lasting side effect. Transitions in career, where you live, marital status, financial ability, or becoming empty-nesters can all leave us emotionally vulnerable. Adjusting to change or removal of stress can make the depression lessen or go away. But…not always.
- Spiritual conflict. Not all but some depression has spiritual cause. Some people become depressed because of unconfessed sin. Some depression results from spiritual attack. Using biblical strategies to battle spiritual issues works miracles.
These are all legitimate causes of depression. Depressive responses to these stimuli are not weakness but can be considered normal.
Often, depression sufferers feel alone when they have many companions. It is not talked about enough but there are many of us. As there have always been.
In the Bible, many suffered from depression. Some just for a season and some seemed to have battled it their entire lives. Who? David, Elijah, and Jeremiah .. to name just a few. (For Comment: who else dealt with depression in the Bible?)
In church history, other well-known individuals famously suffered at the hands of this beast. Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis, Charles Haddon Spurgeon…
In 1866, Spurgeon told his congregation of his struggle: “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go (through).” Luther once wrote that “the content of the depressions was always the same: the loss of faith that God is good and that he is good to me.”
Christians can suffer depression. Spirit-filled Christians can experience emotional problems. It is not something to be kept secret. Too many suffer in silence, believing that something is wrong with their faith. We can encourage one another by sharing our struggles.
In my next post, I will share some things I have learned about dealing with depression. But let me say here that there is hope. If you suffer today, don’t be ashamed. You do not have to deny it. You are not a failure in your faith…or a bad Christian.