September 28, 2018
Lily* is a bubbly thirteen year old. She is the life of the party and is always that friend who everyone runs to when they have problems. She’s just that bright and joyful.
But she’s hiding a secret. She has bouts of extreme sadness, where she would find it hard to get up in the morning and would cry herself to sleep. She feels ashamed and guilty because she has been leading a good life and feels like there is no valid reason for what she is feeling. But the more she hides it, the more the burden overwhelms her.
Raf* is a smart, intense seventeen-year-old. He dreams of becoming a famous writer someday. He was aiming to get into a program that would get him an opportunity to be mentored by some of the best writers in the nation.
Despite his good grades and respectable portfolio, he did not pass. Feeling worthless and pressured, he would get disappointed whenever he would wake up in the morning, still breathing. Recently, he’s been thinking of taking his own life, to end the pain he is feeling.
Can you relate to Lily* or Raf*?
Maybe you’ve been a Christian for a while now, and yet you still have these moments, and you’re asking, “Can a Christian get depressed?”
It’s not just in your mind. Your emotions are not out of whack. You’re not crazy. You have a need that requires an answer.
The most common lie about depression is that you are the only one who is going through it or that nobody understands you.
According to a February 2018 article on depression in the Philippines, we have the most number of depressed people in Southeast Asia, despite Filipinos being declared as one of the happiest people in the whole world. The Global Burden of Disease Study in 2015 showed that 3.3 million Filipinos suffer from some kind of depressive order. (Source: Reyes, Kaycee. “Is it really all in the mind?” Manila Bulletin 13 Feb 2018. Print.)
Depression can range from an emotional condition, where a person is severely sad or disappointed, or a clinical disorder, where there is a chemical imbalance in the brain and a need for medical intervention. It can also be temporary or seasonal.
This does not come as a surprise, since it is clear from Scripture that in this world, we will have tribulation (John 16:33). If you are going through depression, talk to someone who you know can help you.
You are not alone, especially if you have already been a Christian for a long time.
Job got depressed (Job 3). Moses got depressed (Numbers 11:10-15). Elijah got depressed (1 Kings 19). David got depressed (2 Samuel 18:33). Jeremiah got depressed (Jeremiah 8:18-22). There are endless accounts in the Bible of some of the greatest men of faith asking God to take away their life because the misery they are going through seemed unbearable.
Even Jesus, in the midst of his agony in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:38-39), felt the loneliness and experienced so much anguish that He sweat blood (Luke 22:44).
Maybe the reason we are so surprised when we go through depression is that we have forgotten that we live in a broken world, where there is pain and suffering—a world where we hurt each other because of our sinful nature. A world where there is an enemy that seeks to destroy our lives and our relationship with God. He wants us to feel helpless and worthless to paralyze and keep us from accomplishing God’s purpose for us.
But thank God there is good news!
In John 16:33, Jesus acknowledged that in this world we will have tribulation, but in the same breath, He said to take heart because He has overcome the world. Does this include depression? Most definitely! In fact in 1 Corinthians 15:54-58, Paul exhorts followers of Christ to be steadfast and immovable because of the victory we have in Christ’s death and resurrection.
What kind of security do we have to help us battle depression and anxiety? We have the Spirit of God. It says in Romans 8:14,15: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” This is the same Spirit in Romans 8:22-26, who is seen to groan with us through the pain and promises to help us in our weakness.
Moreover, God the loving Father promises in Psalm 68:6 to set the lonely in families (or the desolate in a homeland). Other followers of Christ will be able to help you as you go through depression. He has put us in a church community so that we will have people around us who will continue to exhort and encourage us (Hebrews 10:25).
You are not alone. God will never leave you nor forsake you. He is faithful to put you in a church community, if you allow Him to.
*It is important to note that you may still need to seek professional help when you are depressed, even after talking to family and friends for emotional support. A professional will be able to do a psychiatric assessment, so that any necessary medical prescriptions can be given.
When Job was going through depression, his three friends were not able to help him because of two things: 1) they assumed that they knew the cause of his misery; 2) they misrepresented God as a Father and assumed they knew everything about Him and how He operates. God was faithful to vindicate Job and to rebuke his friends (they were not villains; I’m pretty sure they really wanted to help). However, these are two things that we want to avoid when we are helping a friend who is going through depression.
In 1 Kings 18:1–19:18, we’ll see how Elijah fell into depression and how God helped him. The background of the story is that Israel, under the reign of King Ahab, experienced a long period of drought, and Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to show that their god answers them. When it was proven that Baal was a false god and God showed Himself to the Israelites, Elijah had all the prophets of Baal captured and killed. Moreover, God sent rain and proved Himself faithful to His people.
What Elijah did angered Queen Jezebel, so she demanded that he be killed. In fear and misery, Elijah ran and hid in the wilderness. He sunk so deeply into depression that he wanted to die.
In the next passage, God did three things to minister to Elijah:
For more practical tips on how you can help your friends going through this, please read the article on doing psychological first aid from a licensed clinical pastoral counselor, Pastor Tito Almadin.
*We have withheld their real names to protect their identities.