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
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).