Spiritual and emotional darkness is inevitable. As we live life in an imperfect world, we are bound to experience the proverbial “dark night of the soul” from time to time. Modern Christians often seem detached from this fact of life. Most work hard to keep up appearances, believing that any form of depression is sin. However, a cursory reading of Scripture shows that even the choicest of God’s servants experience emotional down-times. On more than one occasion, the Psalmist sang, “Why am I so depressed?” (see Psalm 42:11 and 43:5).
When we’re down, it is important for us to be honest with ourselves. We must recognize our emotions for what they are, and we must deal with them appropriately. While there are many causes for depression, I’ve found that there are four primary ones. Each has an appropriate response which can help alleviate feelings of helplessness.
Some are downcast because of life struggles. Either difficult circumstances or people have weighed heavy on the heart. This was the case with the aforementioned Psalmist. His remedy was to trust in God. In both songs, he sang of his “hope in God.” He committed to continue praise. When struggles have us down, this is what we must do. We must learn to place our confidence in the Lord, and we must maintain a worshipful posture of praise. Our difficulties may require some sort of personal responsibility, but our ultimate hope should be in the Lord. A steady belief that He is good and that He is in control can give us joy in pain.
Physical maladies have a way of filling us with grief. Paul had a debilitating eye condition which caused him much anxiety (see Galatians 4:13-15 and 2 Corinthians12:7-10). He had to rely on God’s grace to give him emotional strength (see 2 Corinthians 12:8 and 10). Sometimes sickness might require a similar exercise of faith on our part.
If you fail to rest properly, you will eventually get depressed. Our bodies and minds need to slow down from time to time. They are not designed to run wide open without periodic breaks. Elijah learned this. Though he is regarded as one of the most powerful prophets in the history of Israel, he once succumbed to the darkest depths of depression. He became so down, he contemplated committing suicide (see1Kings19:1-9). His main problem was that he needed sleep and food. If you are down and out, plan some off time. Take care of yourself. Sometimes, taking a nap or a vacation is the most spiritual thing a person can do.
Though depression isn’t a sin, sin can lead to depression. When we engage in thoughts and behaviors which are ungodly, we become conflicted within. Because the Spirit of God desires good things, it fights against fallen attitudes and actions (see Galatians5:17). On some occasions, repenting of a sinful deed is the antidote for warding off depression. We do this by making confessions and commitments before the Lord (see 1 John 1:9). When we get clean of the world’s defilements, the “joy” of “salvation” can return (see Psalm 51: 12).
Dr. Patrick Latham