'Christians and Depression' by Dr Bruce Watts
Christians suffer from depression... well, some do. It can be a very lonely time and even a very confused time for a Christian who gets a visit from 'the Black Dog'. Guilt can also be an unwelcome visitor in times of 'depression'.
Does the Bible have anything to say about depression and anxiety? Many of us know the Psalmist's questions, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?" (Psalm 43.5) but is there more in the Bible that the troubled Christian can meditate on for guidance and solace?
Dr. Bruce Watts offers some brief thoughts on some Biblical themes dealing with depression and anxiety (including an mp3 talk). Pease read on...
1. Being melancholy isn’t always a bad thing.
There are lessons to be learnt from mourning. A sad face can be good for the heart (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4, Psalm 42:9).
Godly sorrow is an important emotion that is right at the right time and leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10-11). We are commanded to mourn (James 4:9).
Jesus experienced sorrow (Matthew 26:38, Luke 19:41).
2. Jesus encourages us to get a godly perspective on life and what really matters.
Material things don’t really matter in the end. Don’t worry about food, clothes and material stuff in general. It all will pass away soon and desires for things shift and change; these things never satisfy and in the process we can forget to enjoy what is right there before our eyes (Ecclesiastes 6:6-9). God will look after your needs (Matthew 6:25-34). Enjoyment of your things and your life, and accepting what you have is a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 5:19).
3. Sin plays a role in depression for many people.
Unconfessed, unresolved sin eats away at our very core (Psalm 32:1-5). Jesus came to bring forgiveness and this alone deals with sin in reality. Other options include denial, using drugs/busyness/money/self-image to avoid the reality, making false rationalisations to pretend it isn’t sin or trying to compartmentalise sin to avoid thinking about it. All these things just let it eat away without true resolution. Sin is often at the root of falling away from God (Matthew 24:12).
Sometimes feelings of guilt and shame can take over and subtly bring about the unspoken belief that “I don’t deserve to be happy”. Scripture tells us that forgiveness is the free gift of God through Jesus, that it occurs through His grace and it does not depend on our efforts or feelings of being forgiven. When you turn to Jesus with repentance and trust, sins are removed as far as the east is from the west and no condemnation now remains (Psalm 103:12, Romans 8:1, Ephesians 2:1-10).
4. There can be something self-focussed about depression and anxiety.
Thankfulness is important as a part of being focussed on God, not ourselves. Scripture encourages a thankful heart (Colossians 3:15-17). Praising God is an important way to rejoice in the Lord and a natural thing for the forgiven person to do (Psalm 51). God intends us to have the interests of others in mind just as Jesus did (Philippians 2:3-11). Many depressed people withdraw from relationships or only focus on their own situation and this can be unhelpful.
5. Worrying is destructive.
Anxiety weighs you down (Psalm 12:25). It isn’t logical to worry (Matthew 6:27-29). It is the antithesis of trusting in God (Philippians 4:4-7). Peace is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). We are told to let the peace of Christ reign in our hearts like a deep consistent under- current in our emotional lives (John 14:27, Colossians 3:15).
6. We are commanded to rejoice and to not worry.
This means that joy and peace are at least partly something you choose to have and do. Circumstances may be lousy but how you respond matters too (Philippians 4: 4-7, Philippians 4:11-13). It can be tempting to wallow in depression but we are commanded over and over to rejoice. Rejoice by choice.
7. Old Testament promises of prosperity do not apply to us now.
There are many promises of deliverance, safety, health, healing and wealth in the Old Testament. They are generally in the historical context of specific promises to the nation of Israel, or to the kings of Israel such as Saul, David and Solomon. They are often given along with the obligations of a covenant relationship of the nation, or king, with God (Jeremiah 29:10-14, 1 Kings 4:29-34, Exodus 3:8).
These promises, fulfilled temporarily in an earthly context for the nation of Israel, point to a greater reality which is their fulfilment in heaven for believers. A time will come when there are no more tears or heartaches (Revelation21:4), when riches abound (Revelation 21:15-21) and when bodies are transformed (1 Corinthians 15:35-49). Meantime we will experience suffering which helps us rely on God (2 Corinthians 1:8-10). This can be a positive thing in us (Romans 5:3) and we have a hope that far outweighs our present distress (Romans 8:18).
8. God is our refuge
We are upheld by God whether we realise it or not ( Deuteronomy 33:27, Luke 12:6-7, 1 Peter 1:5). He is our refuge, the one we cry out to in times of trouble. Praying to the Lord is vital to dealing with distress (2 Samuel 22:1-4, Psalm 18, Psalm 91). Being close to God gives us the ability to relax and be strong even when circumstances are crushing in on us (Psalm 23:4-5).
9. Lie down in green pastures
Take time to walk by a quiet creek and lie down in the grass, or wherever (Psalm 23:1-3). Having some quiet time with God strengthens and refreshes the soul (Psalm 23:3, Luke 5:16). Have at least one day a week off all work (Exodus 20:8).
10. Not from the Bible but still useful….
Look after yourself : do some exercise, eat well, get enough sleep, practice relaxation techniques.
These things can make you feel worse if neglected. Alcohol has a direct depressant effect when drunk in excess so use it wisely or avoid it. Pot is just as bad… it can cause depression, loss of interest and psychosis.
Cultivate friendships, especially with positive people.
MP3 TALK BY DR BRUCE WATTS
See below to download the message "Christians and Depression". The talk was delivered to a group of Christians on 9th September 2012.
Dr. Bruce Watts is an elder at Coffs Harbour Presbyterian Church (Harbourside).
He is also a medical doctor at Baringa Private Hospital at Coffs Harbour.
See also Where is God when disaster strikes? by Dr. Bruce Watts
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|Christians and Depression.mp3||13.03 MB|