Depression in the Bible

By Dean Revell

It seems as if the subject of depression is a fairly recent occurrence, but there are a number of accountings of people in the Scriptures who suffered depression in various degrees and for various lengths of time.

Let us look at Moses. He grew up in Pharaoh's palace as a possible heir, knowing that he was the one chosen to free his people. Because he condemned an Egyptian to death without due process, he had to flee for his life. In Moses' mind, everything was ruined. For 40 years he lived in that hopelessness. When God caught Moses' attention, Moses asked some very good questions, but as we read Exodus 3 and 4 we see that the theme of his questions were really his past failure and a belief he was unable to fulfill God's plan — beliefs consistent with depression. God kept telling Moses, "I am sending you, I am with you, I am Creator." Note that nowhere did God tell Moses that he was worthy. And when God showed His glory to Moses, it was because He knew Moses by name, not because he was deserving.

Did Moses become healed all at once? No. After the first time Moses appeared before Pharaoh to tell him to let Israel go, Pharaoh increased the work load on Israel. Moses complained to the Lord that Pharaoh had harmed Israel even though God had already told Moses it would happen that way. In every way, God showed patience toward Moses and did not become angry unless it was necessary, and even then He retained His patience. In the end, Moses showed great confidence and healing. Moses healed as he saw that the purpose which he once believed would be his, which then was destroyed, was no problem for God to restore.

The Lord has dealt with others in much the same way. He reminds us He is the Creator and can do anything He wants (Job 42:2). He tells us He is sending us and that He will always be with us (Romans 8:37-39). He will answer our questions when there is information we need to know; He will also humor our doubts or ignore them as He sees fit to build us up (Judges 6-7).

While there are a few people who are called worthy by the Scriptures (Genesis 6:9; Job 1:8; Luke 1:5-6), I do not see any evidence that any of those people thought of themselves as such. Paul's example is very clear on this. He said all the things that you might expect of a depressed person in reference to himself, yet it is clear he was far from depressed. He was able to accomplish this because of how highly he esteemed Jesus Christ and how thankful he was for His salvation.

My suspicion is that depression is a result of improper or incomplete mourning. There is not a doubt in my mind that unfulfilled mourning can cause chemical imbalances in the human body requiring medicines to treat. Mourning comes as a result of suffering a loss. And we suffer from a loss whether we recognize the loss or not. When I moved from home, it was far enough to miss my family, yet not far enough to seem like I should mourn, at least in my mind. When I recognized that mourning, I was able to go on through it, and then to take it a step further and pre-mourn my families' eventual death.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4 NIV-1984). We all know we are going to suffer loss — the deaths of friends and family and for those we ourselves will leave behind, loss of possessions, accidents and injuries, betrayals, gossip, false judgment, and many other things. So why do we try to avoid the pain instead of preparing for it? Is not now a good time to mourn these things before they happen, so that when they do, our mourning is already done and we can have a clear mind for doing good as events require?

Note how Jacob responded to the report of Joseph's death (Genesis 37:33-35) and to the later report that Joseph was alive (Genesis 45:26-28). Note how God humored Gideon with the fleece (Judges 6:36-40). Note how David responded to Absalom's death and the well-placed rebuke that turned David around (2 Samuel 18:31-19:8). Note how many times God spoke words of encouragement to Jeremiah; and note in Jeremiah 32 how Jeremiah praised God for His power and how God turned that back on him in answer to his prayer, showing that Jeremiah understood, yet not fully. Note how many people acknowledge to God that they are unworthy in their great gratitude for what He has done.

It is very hard to be depressed about the things you are thankful for. There is a reason to be thankful for everything we suffer. If it is not so, then the Holy Spirit is not a comforter (John 14:16-17), and Jesus Christ lacks the power to save. Yet Jesus Christ died and rose again, showing His power over sin and the grave, and showing He has all resources to redeem people from sin. When we understand how lost we were in sin and the depth and breadth of His rescue, every other thing in our lives becomes small.

If you suffer from depression yourself, may you find comfort and healing in the Holy Spirit. If you have loved ones who do, may the Lord make this answer powerful in your hands so His rescue will be made known. May Jesus Christ give you peace as He has promised.

Image Credit: Eugène Pluchart; "God Appears to Moses in Burning Bush"; Saint Isaac's Cathedral, St. Petersburg

TagsChristian-Life  |  Depression  |  Hardships

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Published on 8-11-15