Can Christians suffer from depression?
The answer is YES! I believe that everyone experiences depression to some degree at some time in their lives. And there are probably millions of people who live with a low level of sadness and heaviness day in and day out.
The Bible tells us in John 10:10 that the enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy but Jesus came to give us abundant life. So our enemy, the devil, doesn't want us to have joy. And the joy of the Lord is our strength! (See Nehemiah 8:10.)
I had to fight my own battle.
I know what it's like to be depressed. For many years I was unstable emotionally because of abuse that I experienced during most of my childhood. It caused me to be negative, critical, and easily discouraged. I used to believe that it was better not to expect anything good to happen to me because if nothing good happened, I wouldn't be disappointed. But I was still miserable and had no peace.
Thankfully, I came to a point where I couldn't stand to live that way anymore, and I really began to seek God asking Him to change me – no matter what it took for Him to do it. This started a long and difficult journey to freedom. But it was worth the hardship! Now I enjoy freedom in Christ so much that I do whatever it takes to maintain it.
While many people are in the midst of depression and need to take the same journey to freedom that I did, there are also many who are being tempted to become depressed but aren't in "the pit" yet.
Understanding how depression starts is the key to avoiding it.
Depression begins with disappointment. When disappointment festers in our soul, it leads to discouragement. Then, when discouragement grows, we become depressed. There are various degrees of depression. Many people function with a mild form of it and are able to hide the loneliness, sadness and emptiness they feel.
If depression progresses from this point, people become despondent and lose hope. At this point, they don't want to do anything and will isolate themselves. Remaining this way leads to despair, and total despair and hopelessness is the deepest form of depression.
It's vitally important for us to resist depression at its onset! The quicker you get a handle on it, the less it will affect you. But the deeper a problem gets rooted in your soul, the harder it is to get rid of it.
If you find yourself struggling with a bad mood, anger, bitterness, being easily offended or touchy, you need to examine yourself and determine what's behind it. Your real life is based on your inner life – your thoughts and attitudes. So start by taking an inventory of your thought life. What's really going on inside you? What are you thinking about? What attitudes are in your heart? How are you feeling about what's going on around you?
The bottom line is, your happiness and peace are based on how you are on the inside.
It's really possible to live free from depression.
We have to take responsibility for what we're thinking about and the attitudes of our hearts. When we come to God and "come clean" about what's wrong in our inner life, God will answer with mercy, love and grace. And this is what changes us. This is where we find peace and relief.
God wants to give us His mercy and show us how to live so we can have joy. The Bible gives us instructions about how to live, and the peace of God within us also gives us direction. We need to do what gives us peace on the inside, and not what our emotions tell us to do. One reason people get into trouble is they become lazy and passive and don't do what they know they need to do.
Nobody wants to do what they should do all the time. I know how this feels. Honestly, I don't always feel like teaching at my conferences! But the result of not making right choices and using self-discipline is regretful wishing: "I wish my house was clean. I wish I wasn't in debt. I wish my marriage was better. I wish I wasn't overweight…"
Sometimes we just have to make ourselves clean the house or not go shopping or exercise instead of eat ice cream or (you fill in the blank). And when we do, we experience the satisfaction and joy of doing God's will. Living with freedom from depression and having peace and the joy of the Lord is having a life worth living!