Christians sometimes have the mistaken notion that they are immune from depression, and that depression is a result of failure in their Christian walk. This may not be the true as there are many causes of depression as we have indicated above.
The Bible records many examples of depression in God’s people. David repeatedly experienced depression (Psalms 43, 69, 88, and 102). Job, Moses, and Jonah of the Old Testament all experienced depression. Elijah, following the greatest victory recorded in the scripture on Mt. Carmel, sat under a broom tree and prayed to die (I Kings 19:4).
Scripture indicates “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, . . . (Gal. 5:22).” It is God’s desire that we experience peace and joy, the opposite of depression. Phillipians 4:8 gives us a prescription for our negative thoughts. We are told to think on the things that are true, honest, lovely, excellent, virtuous and worthy of praise.
Comfort may be found in the scripture as clients are helped to realize that depression affects even the greatest of God’s heroes of faith. Faith and hope produce the opposite of hopelessness and contribute to recovery.
For clients experiencing separation from God, unforgiveness, or unrepentant sin, submission to Christ’s Lordship may produce healing and restore joy. For clients who have distorted notions of who God is, or what the Bible teaches, instruction and correction of faulty notions may increase a sense of hopefulness and healthy self esteem.
Psychological theories and research also give us insight into depression. We know that changes in brain chemistry take place in the person who is depressed. For some patients, those changes occur in response to medical disorders. In other cases, brain chemistry may be altered by stress, and thoughts of hopelessness, helplessness, and self-depreciation.
For the person whose depression is primarily caused by negative thoughts, cognitive therapy has been proven to be effective. Cognitive therapy is the application of behavioral and self management techniques to assist clients to change their thought-life which in turn affects emotions. The theory behind cognitive psychology is that emotions result from thoughts. As one changes their thoughts in conformity with a positive Biblical perspective, depression often disappears.
When depression is related to family and marital problems, marriage and family therapy may produce relief. This therapy may be directed at improving conflict resolution and communication skills, and may facilitate negotiation between family members. Some patients have unresolved conflicts going back to their family upbringing. Helping people look at the origins of their depression, bitterness, and anger may lead to forgiveness and reconciliation.
For those experiencing reactive depression due to loss, life stress, or change, emotional support and encouragement may speed recovery. “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone (1 Thes. 5:14).
– Dale Doty, Ph.D.
(Additional articles on depression.)