What Does the Bible Say about Fighting Depression?
In Psalm 88, the writer is crying out to Yahweh as the one true God of his salvation. He realizes that he can’t trust his thoughts and emotions, but he doesn’t let go of his hope in God. Simultaneously, he mourns the loneliness of his mind and heart by admitting that he feels cut off from God, his friends, and everyone. He ends the psalm still saying that God and his closest friends have abandoned him. This is a biblical example of what depression can look like. Through Scripture, we find that there is meaning in your depression. As Christians, we have a hope that looks different from what the world has to offer. We have a reason to fight! We must abide in Christ through prayer, Scripture, and wise counsel.
Depression and anxiety
We experience various symptoms. Here are some examples:
- Loss of pleasure, enjoyment of things you would normally enjoy.
- Loss of energy or motivation. Loss of focus on task, priorities. Thinking feels heavy.
- Loss of feeling or feelings of panic, fear, uneasiness.
- Being tired all day long, but not being able to sleep at night.
- Not being able to be still and calm.
- Appetite or weight disturbance. Loss of appetite.
- Sleep disturbance = i.e. wake up at 3 and can’t get back to sleep. Or sleep on through the day.
- Loss of energy, fatigue, disinterested in doing anything.
- Inappropriate guilt. Feeling guilty were they haven’t done anything wrong. (Guilt over real issues may also lead to depression).
- Self-hatred, suicidal thoughts.
- Paranoid or delusional ideas. Thinking you have a life-threatening illness when you don’t.
- Cold or sweaty hands or feet. Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
- Shortness of breath. Heart palpitations.
- Dry mouth, nausea, muscle tension, and dizziness.
“Anxiety is when you’re facing a situation, maybe even a hypothetical situation, and you are stuck in a cycle of thoughts of all the terrible outcomes that could happen. You start fastforwarding six steps ahead of reality through ‘what ifs’ and speculations instead of truth. You become trapped in this prison of fear and worry and the goodness of the Lord and the sovreignty of the Lord are eclipsed by circumstance. And the danger is, your anxieties and fears dictate what you do or don’t do, instead of the voice of the Lord.” – Sarah Conti
- Sexual abuse.
- Death, tragedy, or loss.
- Physical injuries, concussions, etc.
- Sin and unrepentance.
- Seeking identity in other places than Christ.
There is a direct link found between the quantity of time on social media and depression. This statistic is primarily prevalent among women. Our identity is already found in Christ, but the world and its values continually fight against this truth.
Only God fully understands how your brain and heart are intricately woven together. So, we don’t have to be scared of people who develop expertise in specific disciplines, but they can’t see the whole picture. A pastor or well-meaning Christian also can’t discount the potential mental and physical causes of depression. It is likely our culture is way over-medicated, but don’t discount the role of medications being used by God right now. Don’t make that decision by yourself.
Some basics on suicidal thoughts and actions.
- Suicide occurs almost twice as often as murder. Each year, about 36,000 people in the United States die by suicide.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24 and the second leading cause for people ages 25 to 34.
- Suicide rates have increased for middle-aged and older adults. One suicide death occurs for every 4 suicide attempts.
- Women try suicide more often, but men are 4 times more likely to die from a suicide attempt.
Many people have fleeting thoughts of death. Fleeting thoughts of death are less of a problem and are much different from actively planning to commit suicide. Your risk of committing suicide is increased if you think about death and killing yourself often, or if you have made a suicide plan.
Most people who seriously consider suicide do not want to die. Rather, they see suicide as a solution to a problem and a way to end their pain. People who seriously consider suicide feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. A person who feels hopeless believes that no one can help with a particular event or problem. A person who feels helpless is immobilized and unable to take steps to solve problems. A person who feels worthless is overwhelmed with a sense of personal failure.
How do we fight this?
At the end of the day, we need an action plan. It is vital to know what anxiety and depression are and understand how they can lead to suicidal thoughts. However, we’ve got to move past mere learning into taking biblical, wise steps forward.
“Quit listening to yourself, and start talking to yourself.” – Martin Lloyd Jones
1. Combat the lies of your mind with truth from God’s Word.
You already have your identity found in Jesus! His life, death, and resurrection define who you are in the eyes of your Creator. God sees you as forgiven, redeemed.
Ephesians 1:3-14 “in Him…”
Quit listening to yourself and start speaking the words of Scripture to yourself. Quit listening to demonic lies and start preaching the Gospel to yourself. Quit listening to worldly counsel and start submitting to biblical counsel. Quit believing the darkness and start believing the truth of who Christ has declared you to be.
In the darkness, cry out to the Lord. Read the Word of the Lord and remember your identity in Christ. Pray for wisdom and strength to preserver (James 1:3-9). Stay active (Proverbs 31:13-27). Sing truth. Preach the Gospel to yourself. Tell a trusted friend what you’re thinking and seek pastoral counsel.
If you’re a Christian, this is how God loves you! He is the author of Truth. Shoot these arrows at the lies your mind is speaking back at you. God loves you and you are His son, His daughter. Fight lies of fear and anxiety with the Truth of Scripture.
“My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.”
2. Identify triggers.
Original causes like abuse, medical trauma and disease, tragedy, or hidden sin can be exacerbated by triggers that always linger nearby. Escaping reality through books, movies, or other media is a dangerous combination for anyone already struggling with depression and anxiety.
Practical steps to avoid common triggers:
- Sleep. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
- Eat well. Put the right stuff in your body, in the right portions.
- Exercise. Work hard during the day. Push your mind, and push your body.
- Serve. Love others more than yourself. Spend your energy serving the needs of others.
- Share the Gospel.
In the darkness, cry out to the Lord. Read the Word of the Lord and remember your identity in Christ. Pray for wisdom and strength to preserve (James 1:3-9). Stay active (Proverbs 31:13-27). Sing truth. Preach the Gospel to yourself. Tell a trusted friend what you’re thinking and seek pastoral counsel.
3. Rejoice in the Lord.
“Rejoice in the Lord always…” (Philippians 4:4-9)
- Fight for joy
- Be thankful
- Meditate on things that are true and good
- Praise God
- Look to the church
Don’t try to organize the situation of your life to be happy. This isn’t attainable. It’s a fleeting feeling that ends with brokenness and broken relationships all around you. Circumstances can never take away our joy in Christ! This is how Paul could rejoice in a dark Roman prison, by the light of Christ. God knows our weaknesses, and He’s giving us solid steps to fight against them. examine the things in life and salvation to be thankful for. Thanksgiving with the mouth stirs up thanksgiving in the heart.
The world won’t tell you this, but there is meaning in your depression. There is value in fighting for joy. There is a purpose in holding fast to hope so that you long for what really matters. Cry out to the only one who can satisfy your soul — Jesus. Being grateful will kick anxiety in the throat. Think of all the goodness God has given us in the Gospel. Look to Scripture, look to Jesus!
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
If depression serves to remind me daily that I’m dependent on the grace of God, then I’m good with it! The day is coming when all of this suffering will be over. God is using our suffering now to prepare for us a great glory. — Rob Conti
“My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7–10)
Remember: You are not alone.
About one-fourth of Psalms in the Bible is to minister to those afflicted with depression and despair. (Psalm 27, 31, 32, 34, 42, 88)
The author doesn’t plead for relief from the circumstances—he pleads for intimacy with Jesus! This is the point of the Psalms. This is the point of suffering, grief, pain or depression. No one else will tell you this other than Scripture. There is meaning in your depression! There is value in fighting for joy! There is a purpose in holding fast to hope—So that you may long for what really matters. Cry out in desperation to the only one who can satisfy, Jesus!
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30)
Read Ephesians 1 over and over and over. Write out what’s true about you in Jesus!
Read Romans 8 over and over and over. Write out the Hope you have in Jesus!
If you are Suicidal: Don’t keep your thoughts hidden. Talk to trusted leaders in your church immediately. Your church family is a crucial part of the safety net God has created to help us fight depression and anxiety.
This content was originally presented in a SWO19 summer breakout, “Dealing with Depression” by Rob Conti.