What A Depressed Christian Can Do
Guest Post by Dennis Gundersen
I’ve often heard it asserted that there’s no way a Christian should ever be depressed, and that if you are, it’s a sinful state of mind and you need to repent. Is this true? Or is it just one of many conditions of life we experience, and in which we can live and walk to the glory of God?
Funny, I never hear anyone ask, “How can you be a happy Christian in this world, and not be in sin? In a wicked, troubled world like this – I mean, how could you be right to be content and happy?” Of course we don’t ask that. So why do we ask it – or worse, just assert it to be so – about depression?
It seems to me we haven’t taken seriously the many conditions the Scriptures show godly men and women going through. They are described as everything from “cast down” to “crushed”; distressed, grieved, lowly, broken-hearted, mourning and sorrowful, undone and “Woe is me!” – it sounds like an experience of some sort of depression is pretty common among people who know the Lord.
Depression’s causes are likewise numerous: deferred hopes and ambitions; situations that never get better; heart-crushing problems that turn into lengthy trials that just won’t ever go away; severe mental or physical strains that tax our humanity and health, robbing us of sleep and sapping our strength. But sometimes, we can just get depressed because God is at work in our lives, humbling us and sanctifying us.
None of us wants to stay depressed. How do you pull out? The longer a time of depression goes on, the more earnest we become to find a way out, and sometimes that earnestness turns into a desperation that goes looking in the wrong places. Some turn to isolation; some turn to bed; some turn to alcohol or drugs; some turn to people instead of isolation (too many people); some turn to sex; some turn away from God. Some turn to God.
How will you, in a time of depression, make the correct turn? Here are a few proposals that I know have helped others. Not a comprehensive to-do list, because I know that the last thing you feel capable of when depressed is something to do. You yearn more to be delivered or rescued! I’ve found that, on the track of these ideas, the Lord has rescued many.
- Resist the Temptation to be Annoyed or Angry at God
Because the key is Him – turning to Him. If you’re embittered at Him, letting anger get a foothold in your heart because you’re depressed, you’re not going to turn to Him. So you won’t find the powerful Deliverer you need. Calm yourself with the realization, “My anger at Him does not solve anything; it alienates me from Him and keeps me from trusting the One who can help me.” If you do get angry with Him, you always take it back in repentance later anyway, right? So what’s the point? Know that, while I don’t understand at all now what He is doing, a big step one is to not turn bitterly away from the God that I must cling to for help at this time.
2. Believe That God’s Plan of Suffering to Make You Christ-like is a Good Thing
When suffering stuns us, pause and face that biblically evident fact again: God’s plan is to make me like Christ, and that will include suffering, just as it did in His life. You and I have no conception of how much suffering it takes to transform us to only be even a little like Christ.
3. Don’t Settle for Any Single Answer
Depression begs and screams for an answer. The depressed heart yearns for something to solve the problem. And that makes you susceptible to hastily grasp an answer and settle too easily, thinking “That’s it! This is why I’m down.” Be patient. Go ahead and grab it – but keep looking. Take each idea that seems to be The Answer prayerfully before the Lord and ask for wisdom, to see if it’s really as helpful as it sounds. For instance, a change of diet or exercise may make a difference – but you also may need to address that strained relationship you haven’t made efforts to reconcile. Or, maybe you have taken those steps, but ignored some sin in your life that you know in your heart is to blame. The point is, our quest to find one specific cause might not help; it may be several features of life simultaneously.
4. If You Need Household Help, Humble Yourself and Call Out for It
Too many homeschool moms simply bear too much of the load themselves at home while other family members aren’t taking part in the work. Make sure your child training includes having your children learn to serve others, taking on a fair share of the work load. Identify chores or tasks that would take a load off you and get children to do them; even graciously ask your husband if there are areas he would take on for you, if that’s a possibility.
5. Find New Ways to Serve
This may sound like the contradiction of the previous point, but the remedies to depression can be both remarkable and unexpected. Being overwhelmed with too much to do can be part of the cause (draining you) but likewise, being too wrapped up in your own world and not serving others can also be part of the cause (leaving us dissatisfied with life that seems empty). One of the best benefits of being freed up from some household tasks (by having others do more of a part) is, it can free you up to minister to others in fresh and satisfying ways. Maybe delivering meals to that elderly family; making time to be mentored by that older woman (or being a mentor); or participating in some church ministry team.
6. Wallow in the Word — Nourish, Don’t Just Read or Study
We sometimes find ourselves in a spiritually weak or low condition because we have tended to limit our diet of the Word too much; and we often focus only on the points we like or prefer. We overdose on certain truths in the Word while others are totally neglected.
When you’re down, you definitely don’t just need short devotions – that is, little Bible snippets (often verses out of context). But you may not need intensive, in-depth Bible study either! You’re just not mentally up to that. Here is something you do need: every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Try soaking in long portions of Scripture. Find everything you possibly can for your faith to grasp onto; to find it, I suggest you devour the Word in great volume. Read long sections without studying them – just hose yourself down in the Word. You’ll find truths, perspectives, insights, and help you have ignored for a long time.
7. Get Outside!
This won’t be for everybody (there are people who don’t enjoy the great outdoors much … Ok, I don’t understand those people). You may like it more than you think, if you get out into it. You don’t need to walk a trail, explore a cave or get on a surfboard – just find a pretty nearby park, maybe even a spot on your own property, to sit outside and rest. Enjoy God’s gifts. Charles Spurgeon said “Next to our need for the Word of God is a need to feel a blast of cold air in your face off the lake.”
This is so different than the shallowness of “I need a vacation!” No – you don’t need a long break. You need regular breaks.
There’s a lot more to be said on this subject than this brief post can provide. Seek help from the body of Christ – your church. There are sure to be others there who have been through depression, and God comforts each of us in our afflictions, 2 Corinthians 1 says, “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Dennis Gundersen is president & owner of Grace & Truth Books, a publisher of 75 Christian titles including many reprints of children’s books from past centuries. He is author of two books: Your Child’s Profession of Faith and Courtship & Dating: So What’s the Difference?, and served as pastor of two Tulsa churches from 1984-2009. Dennis is a frequently sought-after speaker for church conferences, men’s retreats, and homeschool conventions. He and his wife Naomi have been married for 40 years and have four adult sons.