Spirituality

Depression feels terrifying. Your world is dark, heavy, and painful. Physical pain, you think, would be much better; at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression seems to go to your very soul, affecting everything in its path.

Dead, but walking, is one way to describe it. You feel numb. Perhaps the worst part is that you remember when you actually felt something and the contrast between then and now makes the pain worse.

So many things about your life are difficult right now. Things you used to take for granted; a good night's sleep, having goals, looking forward to the future, now seem beyond your reach. Your relationships are also affected. 

Many people suffer from mental and spiritual depression. Doctors often offer medication in order to treat the illness. People many times hide the disease symptoms by using substances such as legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or even food.

Marriages are affected when someone in the family is depressed. Children suffer and try to adjust when either parent seems to consistently be in this condition. Sadly, the disease seems to be heredity.

The physical symptoms of depression include sadness, emptiness, withdrawal from others, irritability, emotional sensitivity, low motivation and self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, etc.

There is yet another form of this mood disorder which is spiritual in nature. Existing as a state of mind, it can come to people when God seems far away or not be listening to them.

In this state of mind, they have lost their zeal for God and the Bible. They seem to grow tired of doing good to others (Galatians 6:9, 2Thessalonians 3:13) and ready to give up under the weight of their feelings.

 

Biblical examples

There are cases in the Bible where spiritual depression seems to have occurred. King David often found himself in this state of mind and in need of God, such as when he wrote the following in Psalm 42.

5. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and moan within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the salvation of His countenance.

6. O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore I will remember You from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermons from mount Mizar.

7. Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and Your billows have gone over me (Psalm 42: 5 - 7, HBFV)

 

The depression seems too much for him to bear.

There is also the example of Elijah the prophet. God through Elijah had a monumental victory over the 450 pagan priests of Baal at Mount Carmel (1Kings 19).

All the false prophets were killed and Israel's heart turned back to worshipping the true God.

Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab, heard what happened and sent word to Elijah that she would make sure he would be dead within a day. When he heard the threat, even after the awesome miracle of Carmel, Elijah decided to run for his life! Traveling to Mount Horeb he laments to God the following.

 

“But he himself (Elijah) went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, 'It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (1Kings 19:4)

Elijah also laments that he is the only prophet of God left alive. God's "cure" was to get him busy again doing His will. He was also told that he was not the only righteous man left in Israel!

There is also the well-known case of Judas Iscariot. After betraying Jesus to those who hated him he had a dramatic change of heart. The remorse and depression he experienced was so severe that it drove him to commit the ultimate expression of self-hate - suicide.

“Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:5)


Depression is a painful experience that is typically described with images of emptiness, darkness, heaviness, and even hell itself. Anything that painful, whatever the cause, is always spiritual.

That is not to say that depression is always caused by sin, but it certainly raises spiritual questions, and it becomes an occasion for outright spiritual battle, and you can be sure that in the course of it, sin will become a snare. 

So what is the cause of depression? There are lots of factors that can cause depression in one’s life, but there at least 8 different common causes.

 

1. Physical Tiredness

Man was created body and soul. There are times that our physical bodies are just exhausted. Our bodies affect our souls, even as our souls affect the body.

This physical tiredness can be caused by multiple things. Could you be laboring in your own strength as opposed to the Lord's (Col. 1:28-29)? Maybe you are leading an imbalanced life with respect to work and sleep.

Have you neglected the weekly routine of rest on the Lord's Day? It could also just be a busy time of life that has taken a toll upon you.

If this is the case, rest your body and bless your soul. Just as one of the remedies for Elijah's depression was found in the basic provision of food and drink (1 Kings 17:1-7), so it may be a need for sleep. 

 

2. Neglect of the Means of Grace

Even as we feed our bodies, we must feed our souls. We must attend to corporate, private, and family worship. We need to sit under the Word of God preached each week.

Our affections need to be stirred in prayer and we need to feed our souls at the Lord's Table. Have we allowed ourselves to avoid the fellowship of the saints? If any of these are the case, then we are forsaking the oasis in the midst of the desert.

 

3. Trials and Suffering

Trials and suffering can lead to real spiritual depression. Maybe we have lost a job, a friend, our home, a spouse, or even a child. Persecution or betrayal has descended upon us and we are suffering the effects.

At times we suffer spiritual depression because we do not have a healthy expectation of trials and suffering coming into our lives (Philip. 1:27-30).

If that is the case, we need to remind ourselves to expect them (Matt. 10:38) and to persevere through them. This trial will end and we are not alone. Though we may feel abandoned, nothing could be farther from the truth. He is with us (Matt. 28:20).

 

4. Cares of the World

The homes we live in, the jobs we occupy, the recreations we pursue, the investments we hope in, and a myriad of other things in this world can begin to edge out our joy in the Lord (Mark 4:19).

We can be too invested in the things of this world. We would do well to remember Demas. A man who enjoyed the inner circle of the Apostle Paul's ministry (Col. 4:14; Phil. 1:24) and yet fell in love with the world (2 Tim. 4:10).

 

5. Too Much Introspection

We are all to look inward and examine our spiritual lives. We must be a student of God and ourselves. However, there is a self-examination that goes too far or too long.

A self-examination that constantly looks within and seldom looks up to God is an arrow of moroseness aimed at the Christian's heart, and it can easily spread a poison that leads to spiritual depression.

We are meant to examine ourselves periodically, but if we are always doing it, always, as it were, putting our soul on a plate and dissecting it, that is introspection.

 

6. Sin

Giving in to a particular sin or sins may be the cause of our spiritual depression. Sin clouds our view of God's glory and our pursuit of Christ.

It is not that His face is hidden from us, but it can be obscured by habitual or gripping sin in our life. If this is the case, then mortification is the call of the day.

 

7. Lukewarmness

This is similar to the reason above, but because it is often the cause of spiritual depression and is rather particular, I mention it separately.

There is a sin that consists of "going through the motions" and not being fervent in Christ and the things of Christ. It is seen in the warning that was given to the church in Laodicea (Rev. 3:15).

A lukewarm heart is playing with fire and spiritual depression can sometimes be a sign to awaken us.

 

8. God's Withdrawing a Sense of His Delight

God does not do this maliciously, but as a Father with tender care for His children. He is not abandoning us or forsaking us; He merely withdraws. And He does so for our sanctification.

He may withdraw a sense of His delight so that we might grow in our reliance upon Him, know the fruit of suffering, have our hidden sins uncovered, learn to seek Him more fully, be encouraged to look forward to the next life, see ourselves as pilgrims in this world more clearly, etc. (Job; Ps. 63:8; Rom. 5:3-5; Rom. 8:37).

There is a multitude of reasons, but we can be sure that it is always for our good and His glory (Rom. 8:28; Rom. 11:36).

 

Now that we’ve seen the common causes of depression, let’s now look at its possible spiritual cure.


In the next and final article in these series (Depression Is a Spiritual Problem: Its Causes and Cure – Part 2), I’ll be showing you 8 possible spiritual cure for depression.

 

Question: Are you going through depression right now, or have you gone through it before? Please share your experience with us by leaving a comment below.

 

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