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Depression article
Three Questions
Is Depression a Mental Illness?
Can Psychology Be Trusted?
Is the Depression Physical?
What Does the Bible Say?
Focus
The Three Questions Explained
The Root of Pride

Three Questions

Before we start, there are three questions I want you to think about as you read this. Since you will be the only one to hear your answers, please be very honest and answer them according to what is really true in your heart rather than what you know should be the answer that those around you would expect you to say.

The first question is, “Do you really believe that God is all-powerful and can do absolutely anything He chooses to do?”

The second question is, “Do you really believe that God is all-knowing and is aware of every little detail of our situation, our feelings, our past, present and future?”

The third question is, “Do you really believe that God is all-loving and loves you as you are right now, without you having to change one little thing, and that because of this love, He will always do what is for your ultimate best?”

As you read the remainder of this article, you will see how these three questions come into play in the lives of Christians and how an understanding of them can help to pull you out of the depression you may be in.


Is Depression a Mental Illness?

The first thing we need to deal with is the entire concept of depression as a mental illness.

As we look through the Bible, we see Jesus encountering people who were physically ill with leprosy, blindness, deafness, bleeding disorders and so forth. He cast out demons that caused people distress. However, in reading through all the miracles Jesus and the apostles performed, there is an obvious lack of Jesus even encountering, let alone healing, even one person who was mentally ill. With present day statistics of 1 in 5 Americans being mentally ill, this would indicate that on the day Jesus fed the 5000 (which was only the count for men and didn't include the women and children who were there), He should have met at least 1000 people who were mentally ill. It seems inconsistent with His nature that He would not have healed at least one person who was considered mentally ill.

Because of this, it leads us to conclude one of three things. Either Jesus didn't care about mentally ill people (which we do not accept because He is God and God is love embodied), or God saw no reason to include the healing of a mentally ill person in the Bible (which again, is inconsistent with Romans 15:4 which tells us: "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." also 2 Peter 1:3), or that God doesn't see people as mentally ill. I believe logically that the final option is what is true according to God's word.


Can Psychology Be Trusted?

I think probably what I'm going to say next might not be something you want to hear, but it is what my study of God's word and psychology has led me to. Over the past century, psychology has increasingly become part of our vocabulary. However, one look at the roots of it shows that the men who are considered "founders" and who are backing the most widely accepted tenets of it are basing their beliefs on doing all they can to explain behavior and treat behavioral problems without having to acknowledge that God exists. Indeed, most of them were blatantly anti-Christian in their beliefs, some of them even resorting to the occult for answers. (For more on this, see our article Psychology: A Faulty Foundation .)

Because of this, I don't believe that psychology holds the answers for anyone, especially those who are Christians. Instead, it is my firm belief that the Bible does indeed hold all the wisdom (God's wisdom) we need to deal with such issues as “mental illness”. I would suppose that some who are reading this have been told that their depression is a physical condition. I do not believe this. Sometimes (rarely) depression can be organic in its root, but if it is, the basic problem that is causing it is what should be treated and not the depression, which is only a symptom. For instance, if a person's thyroid is malfunctioning and a symptom of that is depression, then treating the depression is not what is called for. Treating the thyroid malfunction is. The same thing is true with depression of any kind. The underlying cause is what should be treated and not the depression itself. Depression is merely a symptom of another problem.

Also, I am aware that many doctors say that depression is organic in cause because it is caused by low seratonin levels. There is no basis for this line of thinking because as studies progress they are finding that the converse is true: low seratonin levels do not CAUSE depression but depression CAUSES the seratonin level to be low. If we deal with the root cause of the depression, the seratonin levels will go back to normal on their own.


Is the Depression Physical?

The first step in dealing with depression is to ascertain whether it truly is physical in nature or mental. Here are some basic steps to take that can sometimes help to alleviate depression. Take a look at your sleeping habits. Are you getting adequate sleep? Lack of sleep often makes our problems look much bigger than they are. Also make certain you are getting some amount of regular exercise and you are eating right. These can be major contributors to a weakened emotional state, which can open the door for depression. If you are a woman, examine the timing of your bouts of depression to see if they coincide with your period and could be hormonally connected.

If you go to a medical doctor, remind him that he is to be looking for any physical cause to your depression (such as thyroid problems, diabetes, etc.) and not a mental cause since he is not trained in that area. Too often medical doctors who are swamped with patients make snap decisions about depression. It is much easier to take 2 minutes with a patient and diagnose them as depressed, give them an antidepressant, and move on to the next patient than it is to actually talk to the patient to find out if there could really be a physical cause behind it. If the doctor cannot give you a medical reason (other that just “you are depressed”), you should not let them prescribe an antidepressant for you. Antidepressants are addictive and cause a lot of withdrawal problems.


What Does the Bible Say?

So, once we have eliminated a physical cause and have seen that mental illness is not a valid condition, we can turn to what the Bible has to say about depression. Over the past three years that OAM has been active online, we've encountered many people struggling with depression. Many of them have sought out secular psychological help or medications but have not at all been satisfied by the results. This turned us back to the Bible to examine what God has to say about depression, its cause and the path to healing prescribed by the Great Physician.

As we look at the biblical reasons people were depressed, we can also see God's method of dealing with it.

The first place in the Bible we see depression was in Cain (Gen. 4:6-7). His depression was caused by guilt at not doing what he knew to be right. David was depressed because of his sin of adultery and murder (Ps. 32:3-4). Tamar, the daughter of David, was depressed when her half brother Amnon raped her (2 Sam. 13:20). Elijah was depressed after his encounter with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 19:1-18). The faithful of Israel were depressed because of their long captivity in Babylon (Is. 40).

There are other places, but for the sake of time, I will not go into them. In my study of this subject, I have found some basic causes for depression.

One is unconfessed sin in our lives. While it is true that all of our sins, past, present and future, were forgiven when Jesus died on the cross, God still asks us to confess our sins (own up to our shortcomings, agree with Him that we have sinned against Him). This is not for us to receive more salvation, or even maintain our salvation, but it is to clear the air, as it were, between God and us. God already knows that we have sinned; we aren't telling Him something He doesn't already know. But He knows that for us to feel right with Him again it requires us to stand up and take responsibility for our sinful behavior. The sin may be something as obvious as David's sin of adultery and murder or it may be as subtle as Cain's desire to choose his own way over what he knew was God's way. We must be willing to look at our own behavior through the eyes of God's word (and not psychological thought) and admit when our behavior is not all that God commands us to be.

Another reason for depression is found in Elijah's case. I think anyone would agree with me when I say that Elijah's victory over the prophets of Baal is one of the most incredible stories in the entire Bible. There was no doubt whatsoever that the only true God was with him on Mount Carmel. Yet it is immediately after this tremendous victory that we find him praying to die. This depression had two major causes: the aftermath of a great spiritual victory and physical fatigue and hunger.

But in all the cases of depression in the Bible, there is one common thread that weaves them all together. In each case the person focused more on the situations around them than on God's presence with them.

When we contrast these cases of depression with Paul's accounts in the New Testament, we see a dramatic contrast. In 2 Cor. 4:16 we read, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." And it is in the next couple of verses that Paul gives us the key as to how he accomplished this. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."


Focus

Depression is often a matter of focus. Bad situations are going to be all around us at various times through our lives. James tells us to "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds...." (James 1:2) We are guaranteed that we will face trials and testing during our lives, but we don't have to react to them as the world does.

When Peter was walking on the water in Matthew 14, he was fine until he "saw the wind". In other words, he took his eyes off of Jesus and started to look at the situation around him and into himself. Depression comes when we are in a bad situation of some kind, caused either by our own selves or by others, it really doesn't matter, and we look inside of ourselves for the answers to the stress. We feel depressed because we are not in control of the situation around us and we feel helpless to change it.


The Three Questions Explained

The three questions I asked you at the beginning are the heart of the matter when it comes to depression. The first was, “Do you believe God is all-powerful?” When we really believe this in our hearts (not just knowing it's true, but actually BELIEVING it), we become confident that God is in control of absolutely everything that happens to us... even the bad things in life.

The second question was, “Do you believe God is all-knowing?” This gives us the confidence that nothing happens to us without God knowing about it. God knows our feelings, our hurts, our wants, our needs. He knows us better than we even know ourselves. He knows the past, the present and the future. He can see the path ahead of us in a way that we cannot. He knows what things we will need to have in our character for the future. He knows what skills we will need for our future. And He always knows what is going to be for our ultimate best.

The third question is probably the most difficult for most people to answer yes honestly. In this day and age love is defined in so many ways that when I ask, "Do you believe that God loves you perfectly, 100%, as you are now, and that because of that love, He will ALWAYS do what is for your ultimate best?" this kind of love can be difficult for most people to understand. With love being so transitory, this type of love and commitment to love can be frightening and unknown.

But when we begin to tie the three of these foundational beliefs together, we see that they provide us with what we need to begin to fight against depression in our lives. Let's go back to some of the basic feelings of depression: We get depressed because we are in a hopeless situation that apparently has no way out. If we are feeling this way, though, how can we really be believing that God is in control of everything that happens to us? We get depressed because we feel that nobody knows what we are going through. If we are feeling this way, how can we really be believing that God is all knowing and knows everything happening to us and every feeling we have? We get depressed because we feel nobody cares about us. If we are feeling this way, how can we really be believing that God loves us completely? We get depressed because we feel like what is happening to us isn't good. If we are feeling this way, how can we really be believing that God ALWAYS works things out for our ultimate best?


The Root of Pride

Often, depression is rooted in pride. I know that sounds really strange, and it definitely is opposite to what the secular community teaches, but it fits very much with the Bible. We get depressed because we think we deserve better than what we are getting. However, in reading the Bible we see that mankind deserves nothing except death for rebelling against our creator. When we think more highly of ourselves, that we deserve to be healed, we deserve to be happy, we deserve to have no problems, that is when we get depressed. On the other hand, if we consider ourselves to deserve nothing, then we can see all that happens to us as a gift from God. I know this letter is turning into a book so I won't go into this more in detail. If you would like to read an article I've done on self-esteem, it explains this concept more in depth.

Take some time to go back now and look at the three questions I gave you again. See if these are things that you said you believe only because you know you SHOULD believe them and in your mind you know they are true, or are they really heart beliefs, something you are confident of to the point of believing even when your feelings say otherwise?

As you can see, depression does not lie in our situation or circumstances, but in whether or not we believe that God is who He is and will take care of us as He has promised. Will we choose to trust His goodness? Or will we choose to look inside of ourselves for the answers? Will we choose to trust His love for us? Or will we choose to believe our feelings? What is it that will keep us from the love of God? Nothing can - except what you allow. His love for us is the answer to beating depression, that incredible, matchless love of our wonderful Savior.

 

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39

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