Is It OK To Be Christian and Depressed?

Is it OK to be Christian and depressed?

I went to the doctor recently to be seen about an issue that I’ve been having. I won’t go into detail, as it makes me feel old, but at 40 it’s become my new reality. As I sat on the examination table, shifting left and right in a futile attempt to keep the medical table paper from sticking to my legs, the nurse began asking me a series of questions that really got me thinking. In the last week, have you felt depressed or anxious? I thought about it for a moment, and then answered “yes.” In the last week, have you had trouble concentrating? Well, yes. In the last week, have you felt overwhelmed by simple tasks? Come to think of it… yes.

These are routine questions that I’ve heard before, and I can’t imagine I’m the first to respond this way, but as a Christian I felt a little embarrassed to be admitting that I struggle sometimes. It made me think, “Am I doing something wrong?” Is it OK for me to be a Christian and feel depressed from time-to-time? So, I sat down with my Bible and looked for some answers directly from God’s word. And, to save you the suspense of waiting until the end for the answer, I’ll give it to you right now. Yes, it’s OK to love God and feel depressed sometimes, and here’s why.

There Is Evil in the World

John 10:10 tells us that, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The Bible also explains that ever since the fall of man, every thought in mans’ heart has been evil. Of course God wants us to live happy and abundant lives, and through His redemptive work we can certainly have that, but while we call this Earth our home we will be surrounded by evil. The evils of the world are hard enough on most non-believers, but as our hearts grow nearer to God, the compassion that we have toward those trapped in human trafficking, children in abusive situations, the hunger that plagues so many, and every other unimaginable evil begins to increase. No wonder we find our hearts troubled from time-to-time. But the good news is that the troubles of the world are no match for our wonder working God. As John 16:33 states, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” God prepares a table for us in the midst of our enemies, so that we may have peace while evil knocks at the door. That’s great news! We know that we can have peace despite the evil that seems to dominate our daily news cycles, but what happens when the everyday struggles of life begin to creep up on us, unexpectedly?

Things Happen Beyond Our Control

Evil is one thing, but there are circumstances that we experience in life that can’t be avoided, and leave us feeling anxious, depressed, or downright heartbroken. People that we love die, we lose jobs, marriages fall apart, kids rebel, and friends betray us. It happens to everyone, but in the moment, it feels like it’s only ever happened to us. It’s hard to not let these life-changing events impact how we feel. What do we do when it seems like the circumstances of our lives are totally beyond our control?

The good news is that we have a God who understands all that we’re going through. Our God became flesh and dwelt among us, so that He could experience our struggles, and in the end, overcome them. As John 1:14 reminds us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In those times of extreme hopelessness, while we carry the burden of things we cannot control, God gives us permission to place all of that weight on Him. As He says in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God wants you to lean on Him, and He will give you strength and comfort in your time of need. He promises a peace that surpasses all understanding. But, what if it’s not evil or unforeseen circumstances that’s impacting our lives? Don’t we sometimes bring these things upon ourselves?  

We Make Mistakes

We’ve seen how the wickedness of this world and the hardships of life can impact our state of mind, but what happens when we’re the ones who mess up? As we already know, when Adam and Eve made the decision to take a bite of that apple, the world that God created was upended and fell into a state of chaos. Sin entered the story, and no one born since has been able to avoid it. Simply put, we make mistakes. The Bible says in Romans, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Big or small, it’s all sin and it all falls short when compared to the holiness of our righteous God. Even when we repent and turn from that sin, the fact that we directly disobeyed a command from our loving father can leave us feeling depressed and unworthy.

A great example of this from the Bible is David’s affair with Bathsheba. It involved murder, infidelity, lies, and it was all orchestrated and carried out by the King of Israel. In other words, David brought it upon himself, and soon the shame and guilt of the whole affair began to wreak havoc on his life. In response, he cries out in Psalm 51:1-2, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” And in response, God did just that, and He will do that for you, as well. Our God is a God of love and mercy, and the work of Christ on the cross assures us that when we seek forgiveness for our transgressions, “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) When Jesus spoke the words “It is finished” on the cross, your sins were cast as far as the east is from the west, and your redemption was complete. This doesn’t give us permission to continue in our sin, but instead should lead us to true repentance and a life of hope.

But We Have This Hope

Evil, life’s circumstances, and our own sin can all leave us feeling depressed, heartbroken, and at times, ineffective for the Kingdom of God. But we have this hope, and His name is Jesus. He is God incarnate, and His death and resurrection give us the ultimate hope for the future. Hebrews 12:2 says, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Our future is secure and knowing that Jesus died for us and is preparing a place for us to spend eternity with Him should fill us with amazing joy.

The reality is, that although it’s OK to be impacted by the things of this world, God doesn’t want us to stay in this place. Ultimately, because we’ve put our faith in Christ, we’re not of this world. Our place is with Him, and with Him we can have peace, and joy, and an abundant life. And, if we trust Him with our struggles, He will surely give us those things. As Psalm 40:1-2 states, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” The struggles will surely come, but when we are continually connected to the One who heals the brokenhearted, we have nothing to worry about.

The Bible even goes so far as to say that we can rejoice in our sufferings because of what it produces in us. The verse earlier said that Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before him.” In Romans 5:3-4, we read, “but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” While God would never punish us or challenge us with struggles, He has given us His spirit for those times to produce perseverance, character and ultimately hope in us. It is His spirit in us that gives us the strength we need to endure the hard times. In 2 Corinthians, Paul pleads with the Lord to take away the thorn in his side, and His response is, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Where we see only weakness, God sees an opportunity to use us for His kingdom. And that leads to our last point.

Through Our Struggles, We Can Be a Comfort to Others

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he starts out by saying, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Our stories put us in a unique position to help others. Someone within your reach may be struggling with something that you yourself have been through. If God has brought you to the other side, and you’ve been refined by the fire, God wants you to use the strength that He’s given you to positively impact someone else. We’re called upon to love one another, and love looks like lifting someone up when they’re lost, depressed, and hopeless. If you’ve travelled their path before, be a comfort to them, and show them how God brought you through that trial and set your feet on solid ground.

Some may preach that once you accept Christ into your heart, all things will go well for you. That’s just not true, according to the scriptures. God even tells us that we will struggle in this world, but He promises to come along side us and give us the strength and courage to face life’s trials. Whether it’s the evil that surrounds us, tragedy that’s beyond our control, or something that we’ve brought upon ourselves, it’s OK to feel depressed from time-to-time. But remember that God doesn’t want us to stay in that place. He wants our struggles to refine us, to build perseverance and character in us, and to give us hope. He is our hope. And although we may struggle for a season, that hope will restore to you joy and happiness, and give you an abundant life. As Paul tells us in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” God is faithful, and one day when we’ve rejoiced through the ups and downs of life, we’ll see Jesus face-to-face, and he’ll wipe away every tear.

If you’re currently struggling with something, here are some steps you can take

  • Acknowledge the problem

    None of us wants to admit that we are struggling. It’s just human nature, but it can keep us from getting the help that we need. Know that you’re not alone, and that we’ve all been through difficult times. There is no shame in admitting that you don’t have it all under control. Be real with yourself, and those around you.

  • Pray, and ask God for help

  • Sometimes when you’re totally helpless, and the burden seems too great to carry, you just need to cry out to God. Even when you don’t know what to say, just saying the name of Jesus can help to lessen the load. He promises to shoulder our burden in Matthew 11, when He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” When you don’t know where to start, start with prayer.

  • Read scripture

  • God’s word is how He speaks to us. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, and you don’t know where to turn, the answer that your seeking is in the word of God. As we’ve seen, He wants to replace our fear, hurt, and hopelessness with joy, happiness, and an abundant life. His scripture is meant to comfort us, and so when you start to feel yourself slipping into a dark place, open the word and read the promises of God, which are never failing.

  • Talk with a trusted friend, family member, pastor, or counselor

  • Sometimes we need the perspective of another person. As we just saw, we can comfort others with what we’ve learned in our struggles, so it only stands to reason that maybe someone else has been through what you’re currently struggling with. This isn’t meant to replace prayer and scripture reading but can be done in unison with those two things. Sometimes God puts people in our lives at the just the right time, to help us though a season of need.

  • Make a doctor’s appointment

  • If you feel that your depression is clinical, and you may need medication or medical treatment, then reach out to your doctor and make an appointment. There is no shame in needing to take this step. If you had a broken arm, or persistent pain that wouldn’t go away, you would go and consult a medical professional. God created your doctor, just like He created you, and He gave them a brilliant mind for medicine to help people in need.

  • Seek emergency care

  • I want to be very clear about this step. If you feel that your condition is an emergency, and you are having thoughts of harming yourself, then make this your first step and do it immediately. Again, there is no shame in feeling this way. Stop everything that you’re doing, and head to the emergency room. You can also call or text the national suicide & crisis lifeline at 988 and speak with someone who can help you. They’re available 24/7. Get yourself well, and then continue your recovery with the things that we already outlined.  

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