A couple of days ago, I shared this tweet:
Good people get depressed.
Godly people get depressed.
Depression isn’t sin.
It’s a state.
Sometimes it’s circumstantial.
Sometimes it’s spiritual.
Sometimes it’s chemical.
Treat it holistically.
Talk to your doctor.
And never, ever let go of hope!
— Pastor Brandon Cox (@brandonacox) December 15, 2019
And as you can see, it received a lot of reaction.
A couple of weeks ago, I read a tweet from another believer who said, “You don’t need a therapist, you need Jesus.” Her tweet also received a lot of affirmation.
Obviously, we have some confusion in the body, and I strongly and passionately stand on the side of the depressed.
Because I’ve been one. I am one.
A decade ago, I went to see my doctor and she diagnosed me with depression and anxiety and started treating me for it, checking in with me every six months. I also see a Christian therapist who has helped me unlock a lot of doors inside my soul.
As I study the scriptures, I’ve come to believe that discouragement can be sin – when we choose to give into fear and self-pity rather than believing in God’s promises and faithfulness.
But depression is not a sin. It’s a state. It’s a condition.
Depression can be situational, brought on by circumstances. It can be spiritual, resulting from unforgiveness, unconfessed sin, or demonic oppression. It can be chemical, resulting from something unhealthy in the brain. It can be physical, fueled by poor health or other conditions. And it can be mental and emotional, the result of trauma or heredity.
This much I know – depression itself is not sin.
In fact, when you walk through depression, you’re in good company. Charles Spurgeon said this,
I know, perhaps as well as anyone, what depression means, and what it is to feel myself sinking lower and lower. Yet at the worst, when I reach the lowest depths, I have an inward peace which no pain or depression can in the least disturb. Trusting in Jesus Christ my Savior, there is still a blessed quietness in the deep caverns of my soul.
And King David wrote a song about his depression. It included these words…
My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
~ Psalm 42:3 NIV
David couldn’t eat. He couldn’t sleep. And he couldn’t stop crying. Furthermore, people questioned his faith because of his emotional state.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?…
My soul is downcast within me…
Why must I go about mourning…
My bones suffer…
~ Psalm 42:5-6, 9-10 NIV
HIs body was tired. His soul was disturbed. He was downcast. He was depressed.
The church has always struggled with the topic of mental illness. We’ve treated it as a purely spiritual problem. If you just had more faith… If you just prayed more… If you’d repent of sin… If you’d cast out the demon…
Granted, it’s possible to go the other direction – to see depression as purely physical and chemical, to take medication and ignore the need to consider any spiritual cause.
I believe rather strongly that the church absolutely must remove the stigma of depression, create safe places for people who struggle, and encourage people to address depression holistically.
Pray and have faith. Rebuke the enemy. Seek counseling. Talk to your doctor. Stay in community and don’t isolate and withdraw. Lean into Jesus. Rest in his grace. And praise him, even on your worst days.
It’s okay. You’re not alone. You’re not the first to suffer. You’re not the last. You’re not the only one by any means.
Over the next week, I’ll be writing devotionals each day on this topic and diving into some of the tools God has provided for us to fight depression. But for now, know this…
You are loved. You matter. Your life has purpose and meaning. You are gifted. And you are a gift.