The Root Cause
Depression is a pervasive net of darkness. It spirals out of control, feeding on itself, choking out hope and joy. It was not part of God’s intended plan for the human emotion. Weariness and hopelessness came through the Fall. In the garden Satan aimed ultimately at two things, stealing the glory of God and undermining our eternal good. Satan hopes your depression will devour (1 Pet. 5:8) you and your hope in God.
But God has other plans for it, plans for your good and His glory as we will see in the coming posts.
But unfortunately, to the wearied person, the church is often too silent on addressing the causes for depression or on the other hand too outspoken.
On the one hand, some view depression as something entirely chemical. It’s a physical issue that can only be treated by a psychologist and medication. And while not degrading the reality that it very well might be caused by a neurological and chemical foundation, it can too often be separated entirely from the spiritual reality of the person.
On the other hand though, we find the exact opposite. Your depression is not a chemical imbalance, it is instead a spiritual imbalance. If you just had enough faith your depression would dissipate and happiness would be freely yours. And while this very well may be a reason for depression, being distant from God (and a means God might use to draw you to Himself), nonetheless resting solely here does not account for real physical reasons one might be depressed.
Both extremes are of little help to the person who is actually depressed. To overmedicate without spiritual diagnosis fails to cure the depression, and on the other hand to simply say “If you just had enough faith you would be healed” presents a major problem. It’s simply not biblical. It instead perpetuates the lies at the center of the prosperity gospel.
So where do we go for help? If you’re depressed today might I suggest we begin by diagnosing the possible cause(s) of our depression as a starting place.
Reasons for Weariness
First, might not your depression come from seeking joy and happiness in the wrong places? What happens to the human mind when the joy we were created to have through our relationship with God is sought elsewhere? What happens when we instead look for our ultimate happiness in things that can only disappoint like human relationships, or financial security, or physical beauty? When those things are where we seek our happiness, then as soon as they crumble depression sets in. God has designed you to seek your eternal joy in Him and you will be wearied until that is your reality.
Second, might not your depression come from a misplaced identity? What happens when who we are, our very identity, rests upon our goodness and our accomplishments? What happens then when we continually disappoint ourselves and are distraught over poor choices and situations where we fail? When our identity rests in ourselves, and not in Christ, who has lived perfectly in our place, then we will always be disappointed.
Third, might not your depression come from unbelief or forgetfulness? What if your melancholy is because you were created to know God and you don’t? There’s a part of you that is broken, incomplete, missing. Or if you know the Lord but you live in a pattern of forgetfulness, not knowing Him on a daily basis through Scripture reading and prayer. When the love and grace of God for you personally is forgotten, or not even known, joy can flee and depression can set in.
Lastly, might not your depression come from physical chemistry? Certainly this is a reality for many. And certainly this is a valid reason not to be swept under the rug in the name of simply having more faith. But might I contend that the only truly foundational help even for you is a deep, vibrant, intimate relationship with the Lord who wants your best? Medication can be a great help, but even greater is the love of God.
A Prayer for the Depressed
We will look next at some redemptive purposes God might have for your depression, but I want to conclude with a Psalm for the depressed, a promise of hope for you today.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust. (Psalm 40:1-4)
Friend, God intends your depression ultimately for your good and His glory. Cling to Him by faith today and he will draw you out of the miry bog, he will set your feet on a rock, and indeed I pray he will put a new song in your mouth.
In the midst of your darkness this hour, make the Lord your trust.