What Does the Bible Say About Depression?
God created humans in His image. He granted us a wide range of emotions to experience, including depression. That will leave many Christians asking, what does the bible say about depression?
Though I am writing this article as a professional counselor and it is intended to help you sort through your feelings and what the bible says about depression, it is not a replacement for therapy or medical help. If you are experiencing depression, please contact me or seek the help of another professional. We are not intended to walk through this journey alone, and in his love God has given us many tools to fight depression.
Ask any therapist, Christian or non-Christian, to explain the wide array of emotions clients experience and they would refer to the “feelings wheel.” This chart helps clients to identify and verbalize feelings during a counseling session.
Our modern-day lifestyles are so busy we don’t have time to identify or feel our emotions. Most of us do this just to survive day-to-day. But when we sweep our emotions under the proverbial rug it can lead to outbursts of anger that feel uncontrollable and we can become inflexible about everyday things. Unfelt emotions can eventually lead to depression. We can use this feelings wheel to help us pause and identify our feelings so they don’t end up in a tangled mess.
On the other hand, if we have no control over our feelings and just let them run rampant, we can hurt ourselves and those around us and be left confused about how we really feel. Ignoring and denying God-given emotions can eventually lead to destructiveness toward ourselves, depression, and lack of motivation.
C.S. Lewis puts it, “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Depression is real. It is a lingering feeling of melancholy, sadness, loss of interest, misery, emotional numbness, and hopelessness. Depression can be felt by any human, but for some of us, we may wonder if depression is a sin or a sign of a lack of faith. And so it’s important for us to ask the question, what does the Bible say about depression?
Although the word depression isn’t used in the Bible, people in both the Old and New Testaments describe feelings associated with depression. Proverbs 12:25 gives a similar description of depression with the Hebrew word, “yaš-ḥen-nāh“ which means to “weigh it down” or to “make it stoop.” If you’ve ever experienced depression, you understand what it’s like to feel weighed down and stooping by the pressure of your emotions.
Let’s explore depression from a Biblical perspective and answer your questions about depression through grace and love. ut
Depression is Not a Sin
Feelings associated with depression are not a result of sin in our lives. Neither is a diagnosis of Major Depression a punishment for our life choices. Depression is simply a reality that can affect people from all walks of life. Depression can be caused by chemicals in the body, but can also come from events too overwhelming for us to endure, like the loss of a loved one, loss of income, a traumatic event, or a difficult diagnosis.
In the Bible depression and hopelessness are felt by King David, as well as gospel leaders like Paul who spent many years in prison.
The Psalmist, King David writes, “I am bent over and racked with pain. All-day long I walk around filled with grief. A raging fever burns within me, and my health is broken. I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart. You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh. My heart beats wildly, my strength fails, and I am going blind. For I am waiting for you, O Lord. You must answer for me, O Lord my God. Do not abandon me, O Lord. Do not stand at a distance, my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my savior.” Psalm 38:6-10 and 21-22
In Psalm 69:1-3 David cries out: “Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me.”
Paul, the greatest apostle of all time, experienced depression too. In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul writes “We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.”
As you can see when we set out to ask the question, what does the bible say about depression, the answer we get is quite a lot. That’s because depression is a common human emotion. The enemy wants us to feel alone in our depression, but we are not.
God Strengthens and Cares For His People
God wants to have a loving relationship with everyone. He wants us to rely on Him during difficult times. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
When we feel so overwhelmed by depression and fearful that it may never subside, we can remember God’s word in Isaiah 41:10, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
God is described in different ways, but during times of depression and sadness, He can be our comforter. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, the Bible says, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.”
Depression can knock on anyone’s door. But we can cry out to God when it feels too painful to endure. Psalm 34:17-18 proclaims, “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
Jesus Knows What We’re Going Through
When we examine the question, what does the bible say about depression, we find that Jesus himself experienced this emotion, and he knows what we’re going through. There is no greater comfort than this.
Scripture is clear that Jesus felt deep sorrow. He understood rejection, loneliness, and being misunderstood. In Matthew 26:36-38, the Bible says, “Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” Jesus took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Jesus is God in the flesh. He humbled himself and came to earth as a human. He experienced life with all its emotional burdens. Because of that, he understands why we need to lean on His strength for support during difficult times. Hebrews 4:15-16 explains, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
Jesus died on the cross to take the world’s suffering away. Worry and anxiety can be real in our lives, but relief can come when we commit to pray, practice gratitude, and rely on God for our self-worth. Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
God Can Help Us Fight Negative Thoughts
When we read through these Bible verses about depression, we learn valuable answers to the questions, what does the Bible say about depression? One of the powerful lessons we learn from the Bible is how God can help us fight our negative thoughts with His word, which has a powerful effect on our emotions.
Thoughts have a lot to do with how we feel. Changing negative thought patterns can make a significant difference in our ability to overcome depression and anxiety. In Romans 12:2 Paul encourages God’s people, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Staying connected with God’s word daily will allow us to renew our thoughts and feelings. Thoughts can make or break the outcome of a day, week, or month. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”
There is Hope for Our Future
God doesn’t make mistakes. He created each of us for a distinct purpose. We might be struggling in extreme sadness, but God has delivered his people from the depths of sorrow. He will deliver us and the reassurance for that promise is in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
When King David was depressed, he wrote Psalm 30:11 “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my mourning clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.”
Dancing is fun but might feel impossible if we are dealing with Major Depression. With God, all things are possible. As King David did, let’s allow God to turn our mourning into joyful dancing. What we are going through is very hard. It is possible to find some healing for our hurting souls through daily spiritual disciplines like prayer, gratitude, journaling, nutrition, and exercise.
Honor God in All We Do
Studies show that a healthy lifestyle helps to relieve depression and anxiety. We at Gospel Centered Health want to encourage people to follow Christ-centered healthy habits. What does the bible say about depression, a lot as we learned. But we also know that God gave us physical bodies and how we care for them can affect our emotions.
We believe these daily disciplines can fight against depression and anxiety. Below are a few tips we know will help you or someone you know who is struggling with depression.
- Plan healthy meals and write down what you eat. Nutrition can significantly help decrease symptoms of depression. Several analyses have shown the correlation between nutrition and depression. One specific report noted in the Psychiatric Research Journal concludes that western dietary patterns show an increase in depression.
When we honor God by fueling our bodies with vegetables, fruits, and lean meat like fish, we better protect ourselves from depression. Our bodies were created to eat unprocessed foods with vibrant colors like tomatoes, spinach, and bright orange carrots. Our bodies need the proper fuel to function at their best. Daily fast food, pots of coffee, and easy microwave foods leave our bodies feeling sluggish and unsatisfied.
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- Sleep between 7-9 hours each night. Let’s set our lives on a pattern of predictable sleep, allowing our bodies to anticipate a rhythm of morning and night, regularly. Let’s stop sleeping next to our devices or falling asleep to the TV. It helps when we allow our eyes to experience low lighting at night at least 1-hour before bedtime. Too much sleep can also be unhealthy, so let’s drag ourselves out of bed and move our bodies every day. As noted by WebMD, sleep deprivation can be a symptom of depression. Let’s do our best to create healthy sleep patterns for our lives.
- Exercise at least 4 times per week for 60 minutes. Walking is a safe and effective way to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Walking outdoors with sunshine and fresh air is even better. Many studies and doctors will recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise, three to five days per week. No matter what type of exercise we choose to do, consistent exercise will help us fight against sadness and a depressed mood.
For more Healthy Habits that can help relieve depression, check out our 90 Day Healthy Habits Journal that can help you track our personal daily consistency on self-care disciplines.
Life is messy and confusing sometimes. We all get off track. Depression is a reality of life. Many of us deal with it at various times in our lives. God wants to meet us in the darkest places. Let’s allow Him to nurture us back to dancing.