Depressed and still Christian?
Not surprisingly, the Mayo Clinic, Time Magazine, and many other sources report that the number of people dealing with depression has skyrocketed since the COVID-19 crisis began last year.
Recently, on his podcast, a popular preacher was discussing the question, “Can a true Christian be depressed?”
Shockingly, the pastor was not a supporter of the idea.
On the contrary, if we look to the scriptures to answer the question, the answer is a resounding YES!
First of all, we must understand that depression is caused by many different things. It is complex, varied, and often misunderstood. It can be acute and chronic, mild and show up once in a lifetime, or fall somewhere in between. Jesus understands depression and will help us through it if we are willing to seek him out.
Looking at scripture, it doesn’t take long to find that Christ followers are not always full of positive emotions. Most God-fearing people in scripture experienced difficult times. Psalm 13:2 is evidence of that as David, the writer and a man after God’s own heart, says, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? (New International Version).”
The prophet Jeremiah was another man who had a deep relationship with God. He is thought to be the author of Lamentations, and he writes in Chapter 3, Verse 17, “My soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is (English Standard Version).”
The book of Jeremiah also reminds us to put our trust in the Lord, and Jeremiah greatly demonstrated that.
Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted (knowing exactly how it feels to be human) in every respect as we are, yet without (committing any) sin (Amplified Bible).”
Therefore, even Jesus was not exempt in dealing with hard times and strong emotions. Jesus wept in the Garden of Gethsemane as a result of being forsaken on the cross due to bearing the sins of the world. The important piece, here, is that, even though Jesus wept, his strong faith and trust remained in God.
Many people see depression as a problem and something we should be ashamed of. They might even go as far as saying that true Christians cannot be depressed if they truly believe in the unconditional love God has for us, like that preacher who recently verbalized that on his podcast.
I’m here to tell you that it IS possible to have the joy of the Lord while in a state of depression. Joy is not a simple replacement of feelings of depression. Joy and depression are not mutually exclusive; they can and often do co-occur.
We can have the joy of the Lord while we’re in a place of depression because He shows His love for us in His promise to come back and fix our broken world. This gives us a strong hope of the things to come. Joy doesn’t replace depression, but renews us by giving us hope.
Before you start believing a charismatic preacher who claims that a true Christ follower cannot have depression, saturate yourself with scripture and the hope of Jesus. I challenge you to read Elijah’s exciting story in the Old Testament. He was a real person with authentic human emotions and another awesome example of finding strength in the face of discouragement.
I’ll leave you with this streak of hope, which is one of God’s promises found in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world (New American Standard Bible).”
The Rev. Amy Will is a licensed clinical pastoral counselor of Abundant Life Christian Guidance.