Can a Christian Be Depressed?

Christian background - Desperation

Dear Christian Counselor:


Can a Christian be both depressed and victorious? I have struggled with mild depression most of my adult life, enough that it’s hard to stay on task, and a disagreement can ruin a day or two. I certainly don’t feel victorious but I do continue to pursue the things of God with Bible study, prayer and fellowship. Am I sinning when I am depressed? Doesn’t it show signs of unbelief?


Praying for Strength and Relief

Dear Praying:


Every year millions of people struggle with various forms of depression. Recently, we learned that Mother Theresa considered herself to be a “saint of darkness” due to seasons of depression. Scripture shows us that even biblical characters experienced this mood disorder. Elijah, the prophet, felt so defeated that he wanted to die. Psalm 88 describes a deep depression in which the author asked if God had rejected him. Paul mentions an ache that will not leave him. Depression is real, and it happens to Christians.


Depression can happen for a variety of reasons. It can be biological, or it may occur following life changes. It can happen after childbirth or because there are years of undealt-with emotions in a person’s life. We live in a fallen world, and it affects us all differently. Sometimes, that means depression.


Depression becomes a spiritual issue when it leads us to ask questions like, “Has God forgotten me?” or “Am I truly a believer?” Christians work very hard to ‘just pray better’ or ‘memorize more verses’ to make depression go away. Christians tend to feel guilty and withdraw from others, compounding depression’s difficulties since we need the presence of caring people in our healing process.


Most people can see growth through depression with the help of counseling and the support of community. Sometimes medicine can help. A good counselor will encourage you to explore causes of depression. They will also give you space to wrestle honestly with the spiritual aspects of your mood. In God’s mysterious providence, our problems often thrust us into increased dependence on God. He is, after all, a Man acquainted with sorrows (Is. 53:3).



Biblical Counselors on Depression (CCEF podcast)
Is Depression a Sin? (Focus on the Family)

Compassion Fatigue

BurnoutDear Christian Counselor:


Working in ministry is tough and the hours and responsibilities are many. How do I set boundaries, yet still be loving and truly motivated for the cause of Christ and not for the notice of people?


– Pouring Out and Pooped


Dear Pooped:


I’m not sure there should really be a difference between working in Christian ministry and working in any other vocation; we are all called to love and serve wherever we are.  But as someone who has done both, I can testify that there really is a difference.  Part of the difference involves the demands we place on ourselves and the rest comes from others’ expectations of those in the helping professions.


We teach people what to expect by the way we respond to them.  Do you jump out of bed at midnight to comfort the grieving family you barely know on the other end of the phone?  Or do you pray for them and contact their closest friends to do the comforting?   I have a phrase I say often to myself, and I will give it to you, too: “They have a Savior, and it’s not me.”  The guiding rule of Christ is love for God and man, so the question is not how can I protect myself, but how can I love God and others well?   I know that I cannot do that when I am frazzled, exhausted and frustrated.


For me, the key is to look into the face of Christ and know that I am following the path that HE has laid out for me, not the path I have crafted for myself or that others have tried to construct for me.  When I know that I am OK with God, then I can say yes or no to others in greater freedom – even when they may be disappointed with my response.

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On Seeking Help

CounselingDear Christian Counselor:


I’m always trying to reconcile what the Bible says about giving our cares to God and trusting in Him versus seeking professional help from secular counselors. My concern is, if we’re turning to fallible man for answers on anxiety and depression, we’re not trusting completely in God.  If He wanted that “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) removed from our side, He’d remove it.  But if prayers go unanswered for so long, when is it time to say “enough” and seek professional help?


– Jewels

Dear Jewels,


Would you say the same thing about medical care?  If God wanted to instantly heal a person’s diabetes, He could certainly do that.  But we observe that He often heals it through medicine.  Perhaps that is so we don’t grow proud or complacent; perhaps it connects us better to others in community; perhaps we need the ongoing process to stay dependent on the Lord.  Talking to a counselor represents less intervention than your average doctor visit.  However, you used the word “secular,” so I want to make sure you know that there are plenty of educated, licensed Christian counselors around, combining the best of both worlds.  In my view, Christian counseling is just discipleship on steroids.  Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. (Prov. 19:20)


One of the things a counselor might suggest is that you visit a psychiatrist for an evaluation and possibly for medication.  You get to decide whether that’s something you want to do or not.  I have seen many cases where anxiety and depression can be alleviated without medication, carriage wheelsbut I have also known others where medication has been an amazing blessing.  Once our brains have been stewed in the chemicals of sadness and fear for a while, it can be like a cart which is stuck in the sand.  Just turning the wheels isn’t enough to get it out.  Sometimes medication gives you the jump-start you need to change direction. 


Anxiety and depression tend to be self-focused conditions.  Jewels are made to shine outward.  I would encourage you to seek help and comfort in your struggle so that you can *sparkle* for God’s Kingdom.


Please see our Resources page for some suggested reading material on anxiety and depression.  Here’s another article you might find helpful: Fear Not: Command or Comfort?

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