Depression, a mood disorder that causes perpetual feelings of sadness and indifference, is a term you might often encounter these days. It affects tens of millions of people worldwide, but only a few receive treatment, mostly because of the stigma attached to mental illness. When left untreated, it could do more harm to the person who suffers from it and might only contribute to higher medical expenses. Not to mention, it will only increase the risks of self-harm and suicide.
Despite what research tells us, there are some people who believe that depression is more of a spiritual battle than a physical one, and that it can only be conquered through faith. These people tend to rely solely on prayers and the word of God for healing. There are also others with a widely different interpretation of it. Some assume mental illness is caused by demonic possession and, thus, requires exorcism.
People who consider themselves religious might find that their communities have shaped the way they see mental illness. Though there is nothing wrong with letting religion motivate one’s view on mental health, certain interpretations are dangerous for the people who silently suffer from it.
The exact word “depression” is not found in the Bible. Much less is it quoted as a word from God or Christ during his brief sojourn with his disciples. But there are ample instances where the Bible talks about depression and its various manifestations.
So,what does the Bible say about depression?
In Joshua 1:8-9, God exhorts his people to be strong and courageous, not to be terrified or discouraged because He will be with them wherever they will be.
In Isaiah 60:1-2, people are reminded about the darkness that covers the earth. They are advised to rise and shine for the coming of the light.
In Ephesians 6:12-18, people are told that struggle is against the powers of this dark world and the forces of evil, and they are admonished to put on the armor of God.
If the words of the Bible seem vague, it is because at that time, the word ‘depression’ has not been invented nor introduced into the human dictionary yet. But depression has been understood by the ancients and they felt the need to ask for divine intervention to cure the malady. Already then, people felt that it was a kind of mental illness that stemmed from many causes and that God alone could help them with their depression.
Today, mental illness and anxiety can be driven by a lot more pressures: from family members, the environment, the economy, crimes, jobs, and the changing climate. All these, when combined, can drive people out of their wits.
Mental disorders can harm one’s health in many ways. It can deprive you of normal sleep and digestion. Your mind can be muddled with worries that healthy thoughts are blocked out and you become unproductive. Depression can drive you away from God, which can only drive you further into despair and isolation.
Now, how should Christians deal with depression?
Let correct reason prevail and set your thinking straight. With anxiety comes confusion. A chaotic mind cannot think straight. It can no longer distinguish what is real from what is unreal, nor truth from falsehood. The greatest power you can have is to be well-informed. Read about mental illness. Understand what mental illness is and how important it is to raise awareness on the matter. Scour Christian books on depression and anxiety if you find any. Help yourself understand that indifference towards mental illness brings more harm to those who suffer from such disorders.
Talk to God about each worry that comes to your head, and ask Him to handle it according to His will. Trust Him in everything that you do in your life, so that you can see the good that comes out of every situation. Rely on Him to guide you as you navigate each worrisome step that comes your way.
Thinking about past failures and mistakes will only worsen one’s anxieties. Such attitude will also invite more stressful thoughts about the future. Thus, for the moment, one must live in the present, forget the past and not think of the future. Do not even think about conjuring plans for it. God wants you to live in the present, and you have to trust Him to guide you as you trod your daily path.
Rid yourself of negative thoughts. God has given you the power to choose whether to think positively or negatively. You can ask God to strengthen your will to retain positive thoughts in your mind.
This starts with having simple, achievable and realistic goals. Complicated goals can only obscure and mess your priorities. They can only further add to your anxieties. Complex goals are more difficult to attain, cluttered as they are with various activities. Pray that you will have the wisdom to rid yourself of the clutter and identify the changes that you will make as these will reflect the values that God wants us to have.
These are but a few powerful techniques that can help you overcome your anxieties. If you keep on listening to God’s voice instead of your own worries and anxieties, you will discover that soon His presence will permeate your life and you will experience the peace that has long been denied by your fears and anxieties.
For quite a long time, society has viewed mental illness as an abomination, which is why so many people go to certain lengths to hide their pain. Dealing with depression as a Christian might be tough especially if your religious congregation does so little to address the issue. But if no one else is doing something about it, make the first move. Learn how your faith and spirituality can empower you to recover and help your community be more accepting of those who suffer from mental disorders.