According to recent statistics from Mental Health America, close to 20% of American adults experience a mental illness in one year, the equivalent of nearly 50 million people. A growing percentage of young people live with major depression – 15% of youth experience a depressive episode in a year.
Of particular concern is the fact that over half of adults, and 60% of youth, do not receive any mental health treatment help for depression. There is little wonder that suicidal ideation continues to increase, along with rates of substance abuse.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression is a complex illness and can affect people in a variety of ways. In order to be clinically diagnosed, symptoms need to significantly be affecting one’s life and everyday functioning. These symptoms can include a few, many or all of the occurrences below:
- Having a down or depressed mood most days
- Not experiencing pleasure in everyday activities, along with a lack of interest in previous pursuits
- A decreased appetite together with weight loss, or an unexplained increased appetite
- Difficulty falling asleep or over-sleeping occurring as a symptom on the opposite end of the scale
- An inability to sit still, caused by psychomotor agitation; alternatively, slowed speech and movements nearly every day
- Feeling tired and without energy most days
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
- A lack of concentration and ability to focus and think clearly, together with indecisiveness
- Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideas with or without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt
- Feeling hopeless
- Clinical depression requires intervention from a psychiatrist and other healthcare professionals, together with cognitive behavioral therapy from a registered counselor.
The Spiritual Components of Depression
While in no way minimizing the severity of the illness, it is important to acknowledge that depression is not simply a medical problem. It has its roots in our patterns of thought and there is certainly a spiritual component to it.
It is also by no means a new condition, and was described by Greek physicians as “melancholia” as far back as 460 B.C. In the Bible, characters like David, Job, Jonah and Elijah all experienced inner turmoil, anguish, and feelings of being crushed and hopeless.
In Jonah 4:3 NIV, Jonah was so distraught that he asked God: “Take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” In lamenting his extreme suffering, Job said, “I have no peace, no quietness, I have no rest but only turmoil” (Job 3:26 NIV).
How then, can knowing that characters in the Bible suffered in a similar way, be a help for depression? It can be reassuring to see that depression is really a “being human” condition, and that God is not surprised when we feel this way. He shows compassion and in no way judges us for feeling the way we do; and it is absolutely no indication of the strength of our faith.
In his Word, God also gives us a way through depression, and by meditating and reflecting on scripture, ideally with the guidance of a Christian counselor, we can come to understand more about our inner desires and how our thinking affects so much of our emotional and mental reality.
Here are four verses that can be meditated upon to help for depression:
Our lives are full of disappointment – not getting the job we want; not managing to achieve the happy marriage we envisioned; not being able to regularly make ends meet. It is not a sin to feel disappointed, but if we do not take our feelings to God, our negative mindset can start a downward trajectory towards depression.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28
If we want help for depression, we need to take those thoughts captive right from the get-go, and the verse above is a great truth to focus our minds on. Do we really believe that God has a purpose for our disappointments, and that he never makes mistakes with regards to what he allows to happen in our lives? If we meditate on this promise, we will be encouraged to move towards greater trust in God’s plan, regardless of how dire circumstances might be.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:12-13
The apostle Paul spoke about contentment as something that every believer can learn. This is a key insight, as very often disappointment which is not accepted can lead to discontentment. Discontentment is a sin and leads to bitterness towards God and others. Bitterness is an even quicker downward trajectory towards depression.
It can be very difficult to work through discontentment, especially if life’s circumstances are incredibly tough for an individual. God’s promises hold true though, and if Paul was able to overcome crushing disappointment, we are able to as well, through God who gives us strength.
When you are depressed, you are in a deep state of despair, which, in Greek is translated as “no way out, no way through.” The verse above can be a help for depression. When paired with the support of a biblical counselor, this verse gains even more power. The counselor will be able to gently guide a person to the point where they actively see that God has provided a way to escape through the greatest trials through the hope of the gospel.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13
For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.– John 3:16
This verse summarizes the hope we have in Christ and reminds us of how much God loves us. While it is difficult to read a verse and feel buoyed when one is in a pit of despair, the reality is that as Christians we can be full of joy, and while we may not find it a help for depression immediately, it is really at the heart of being able to forge a way upwards from a low place.
The journey out of depression takes time and applied effort, and is not easily done alone. Take heart in the fact that it can be conquered, and that scripture contains everything we need to fight the internal war against depression capturing our emotional and mental state. Proverbs 12:25 ESV says, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
More Help for Depression
Be mindful of the fact that our feelings can fool us, and the devil is always quick to get a foothold. When we are consumed by our worries and anxieties, it will not be long before depression sets in. The good news is that God’s Word contains many good words which are able to tackle the lies we are believing.
The Bible reminds us that God is good, he is for us, and he has made many good promises which he cannot do anything but keep, as he cannot go against his own pure character. By spending time in the Bible, and having it taught to us, we can find help for depression, and a heart that is full of joy again.
Yet if you need more help for your depression, don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified Christian counselor. Your counselor will offer biblical support to guide you to a more hopeful place.
“Green Leaves”, Courtesy of Sergi Dolcet Escrig, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pink Flowers”, Courtesy of Tristan Gevaux, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sunlight on Leaves”, Courtesy of Brandon Green, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Cherry Blossoms”, Courtesy of Anthony Delanoix, Unsplash.com, CC0 License