Are You Battling Depression?December 1, 2020 Save Article
Some of God’s greatest saints battle depression. Even the strongest Christian can struggle with it. How does the problem arise? We’ll look at that in the lives of three great prophets and see how God made specific provision for them. He will do the same for us.
As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13-14)
Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape; incline Your ear to me, and save me. Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress. (Psalm 71:2-3)
And He said to them, “Come apart by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31)
...You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4b)
Have you ever been depressed? Most of us have. John R. W. Stott, a great biblical expositor, said, “The Christian's two chief occupational hazards are depression and discouragement.” When we say “depression,” what do we mean? A psychologist once gave a simple but good definition: “Depression is a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that leads to sadness.” A person who is depressed doesn't know how to get a handle on the problems he’s dealing with. He sees no help nearby, and there doesn’t seem to be any coming on the horizon. Helplessness plus hopelessness leads to deep despondency.
If you think depression is something only a weak or immature Christian struggles with, think again. In Psalm 42, King David lamented it. Martin Luther battled it. And the great “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon, was frequently dogged by it.
Three Prophets ~ Three Amazing Prayers
Three of the greatest men in the Old Testament battled discouragement and depression. As you look at these prophets and their three surprising prayers, you’ll see how depression can affect the life of anyone, no matter how strong a believer. The “good Christian” is not immune to depression. Never think it couldn’t happen to you.
Look at this prayer of Moses. You'll be amazed.
If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness! (Numbers 11:15)
In other words, “God, if this is the way You're going to treat me, then just go ahead and kill me.” This man of God felt so wretched, so miserable, so depressed and discouraged, that he said, “O God, if You really loved me, You would kill me.” That’s a stunning prayer.
- Most of us will at one time or another walk through a valley of depression. Have you? When was it, and what was the cause?
- Does the description “feeling of hopelessness” ring a bell? Why do you think so many people today have a feeling of hopelessness?
This prayer came from one of the boldest Old Testament prophets, Elijah.
But he himself 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!” (1 Kings 19:4)
Elijah says, “I've had it! God, I've had it up to here. I'm ready to throw in the towel. Kill me, if You really love me.” This is the same man who overcame 450 prophets of Baal and called down fire from Heaven.
Three days in the belly of a great fish wasn’t enough by itself to bring Jonah to the edge, but his disappointment in God’s decision to spare the people of Nineveh was!
Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live! (Jonah 4:3)
In other words, “Stop this crazy world and let me off! I pray, kill me.”
- Do these three prayers from three great prophets surprise you? Were you aware each of them—and King David—at times struggled with depression?
- What about their prayers do you relate to best?
- These were good men who loved God—imminently successful prophets. If it could happen to them, it could happen to any of us. What is your reaction to reading what they said to God?
- How does it help you to know that the great saints of God mentioned in this study went through bouts of depression?
Look at the reasons for their despondency. Each of them had three major problems: physical, psychological, and spiritual.
There were physical reasons these men prayed this way. All three were worn to a frazzle.
Almost single-handedly, he was leading about two million Israelites from Egypt to Canaan, and they were all complaining. He pastored “First Wilderness Community Church” and was ready to submit his resignation.
Why have You afflicted Your servant…that You have laid the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom’…? I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. (Numbers 11:11-14)
Heavy burdens, too much for any one person to carry, had worn him out.
This prophet endured a “triple whammy.” He’d been through an emotional wringer with the prophets of Baal, gone without food for a long time, and just finished a 30-mile cross-country run, fleeing the murderous Queen Jezebel. Could you do that? His strength was gone when he said, “Lord, take my life from me.”
He had a whale house for a jailhouse. He spent three nights on a foam-blubber mattress. Then he preached a revival crusade in a city the size of Dallas with no hotel, car, or public address system. On top of that, a hot wind from the east blew upon him and he almost had a major sunstroke. That’s when he said, “O God, please take my life from me.”
Each of these men was physically worn out—and when you are worn out, you’re a candidate for depression. Vince Lombardi, a great coach of the Green Bay Packers, once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
- At those times when you have felt depressed, what physical circumstances preceded the onset of depression? What circumstances during your depression contributed to the duration of that depression?
- Are there practical steps you can take to intervene in advance and help to prevent or shorten times of depression?
Depression springs from many sources.
Moses had a people problem.
Folks with their needs were coming at him right and left, asking for things he couldn't provide. He was emotionally overloaded. When everyone is crying and pointing a finger saying, “It's your fault,” no wonder he said, “I’m not able to bear all this people alone.”
Depression comes when we get overloaded. Moses was drained, giving until he had no more to give. Each time you give of yourself, something goes out of you. Even the Lord Jesus, when the woman touched the hem of His garment for healing, said, “Virtue went out of Me” (Mark 5:30).
Elijah had a pity problem.
Wicked Queen Jezebel had promised she was going to separate Elijah from his head before sundown. Taking his eyes off the Lord, he drank from the intoxicating cup of self-pity. He ends his prayer with, “…for I am not better than my fathers.” Perhaps he’d gotten the idea that he was better than they and would be immune to difficulty and persecution. Sometimes we get depressed from outside persecution aimed at us or from self-pity.
Jonah had a pout problem.
God sent a mighty revival to Nineveh following Jonah’s good work. He’d prophesied judgment on Nineveh, but a revival came instead. “It displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was angry.” Why? The Ninevites were a murderous, wicked, vile group, always a threat to Israel. He was a super-patriot; he loved Israel. He wanted God to wipe Nineveh out. He was pouting and angry with God.
Often depression comes when something we love and value is threatened or taken from us. It may be a possession, it may be a loved one, it may be some hope we cherished. But when it’s threatened or taken, and we have unresolved grief, depression turns to anger. Many bitter, angry people are in a deep depression because the thing they love and hope for has been threatened or taken.
Before they asked God to end their lives, these prophets had taken their eyes off the Lord. Moses had his eyes on others; Elijah had his eyes on himself; Jonah had his eyes on circumstances. None of them had their eyes on God.
They were already in trouble physically and psychologically. Worn out, wrought up, and run down, all three were in spiritual disrepair. “Ministry” doesn’t confer immunity on us. Any exhausted Christian can get depressed.
God's servants, whether in the pew or in the pulpit, cannot break God's principles without consequences. The law of gravity works for the saved and lost alike. When you are physically and emotionally wrung out and worn out, you're a sitting duck for Satan, the master strategist who knows just when to move in and attack, bringing despondency.
Note that the three prophets were all coming off a great emotional high, a spiritual victory.
- Moses had just come through the miracles of the Exodus and the Red Sea. You'd think he’d be on the mountaintop forever. Yet he was down in the valley wanting to die.
- Elijah witnessed revival on Mt. Carmel where he called fire down from Heaven. People fell on their faces crying, “The Lord, He is God.” From the mountaintop defeating 450 prophets of Baal, Elijah descended to the valley, running from one woman!
- Jonah, after an entire city repented in sackcloth and ashes, sat moping by himself. From the showdown to the let-down, from great spiritual victory, now comes great depression.
- A person struggling with depression frequently uses words like “despair,” “hopeless,” and “overwhelmed.” Do you use them yourself? Do you know someone who does?
- What could you do to alleviate these feelings and change the circumstances?
Jesus went through exactly the same thing. Remember that the devil tempted Jesus after a great spiritual experience—His baptism when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove. Then, during 40 days in the wilderness, physically tired from fasting, the devil came to argue, misuse Scripture, and tempt our Lord.
But the devil didn't win with Jesus. He doesn't have to win with you.
Now that we’ve looked at the problem, let’s see the provision God has made for us when we find ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually depleted, on the verge—or perhaps in—a depression.
First, God didn’t say yes to Moses’ request—or Elijah’s or Jonah’s—to take their lives. What if God said yes to everything we asked Him for? Thank God He doesn’t! God doesn't always give us what we want; He gives us what we need. We’ve all prayed prayers and later thanked God for not doing as we asked. And the Holy Spirit makes intercession on our behalf for what we truly need (Romans 8:26). What a kind God we have!
- Have you ever thanked God for unanswered prayer? What prayer(s) are you grateful God didn’t say “Yes” to?
One of the Bible’s most comforting passages is Psalm 103:13-14.
As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
God knew these prophets well. Even at their worst, God knew the stuff they were made of and that they were each having a bad spell. As we watch God answer their physical, psychological, and spiritual needs, we’ll see how to begin healing from depression in our own lives or how to help someone we love.
God Provided Physically
For overburdened Moses, He sent 70 elders to help him.
“…and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear yourself alone.” (Numbers 11:17)
In other words, “Moses, you just can't do it all.” Moses claimed he was “doing something for the people.” His father-in-law, Jethro, said, “No, you’re doing it to the people—and not a very good job, at that!”
Most of us will get physically worn out doing things God never intended us to do. I really believe there’s enough time in every day to gracefully complete whatever God wants.
- Make a list of everything you're doing that is “so important.”
- Which could you eliminate?
- Which could you delegate?
- Which could you dedicate? That is, which ones could you turn loose and leave the results of in God’s hands?
Some things other people can do. Moses learned to delegate. Other things he had to eliminate. God made physical provision for Moses.
For exhausted Elijah, He sent food and rest.
God restored his strength with proper nourishment.
Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” (1 Kings 19:5)
When Elijah said, “Take my life!” God responded, “Son, here’s something good for you to eat.”
Then he looked, and there, by his head, was a cake baked on coals….
Talk about Angel Food Cake…
…and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. (1 Kings 19:6)
A big meal and then off for another nap, after which the angel came back and provided another meal for Elijah (1 Kings 19:7-8). God gave him a vacation with bread from Heaven's bakery and water from Heaven's wells. He's just resting. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is get a good night’s rest.
Do you think you're doing something for God when you're always running around, never resting? You need to rest. Knowing His disciples needed it, Jesus said,
“Come aside [apart] by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. (Mark 6:31)
Dr. Vance Havner said, “We’d better come apart, or we'll come apart.”
For Jonah, He sent coolness and shade.
So Jonah went out of the city…there he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. (Jonah 4:5-6)
Isn't that tender of the Lord? Jonah built a little retreat, and God air-conditioned it so he could sit in the shade. God knew he had a physical need.
Some who are depressed may need a vacation. Rest! King David said, “Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually…” (Psalm 71:3). Even if you can't go away, you need to get away with God. God knows you need rest.
If you are depressed, you may also need to see a doctor. Get a check-up. The answer, even though deeply spiritual, may be intensely practical.
God Provided Psychologically
For Moses, God gave a promise.
If he would look to God, God would take care of the people. After all, they were His people. He would carry that responsibility. Moses didn’t have to carry it alone.
For Elijah, God demonstrated power.
Afraid of Jezebel and her power to kill him, Elijah heard God say, “Sit up here in the mountains. I want to show you real power.” Then God caused a tornado-like wind, an earthquake, and a mighty fire to pass by. Elijah need not fear what Jezebel could do. God controls all the power. Then came a still, small voice: God’s voice.
For Jonah, God gave a new perspective.
He had to take away the shady vine for a while so Jonah could see an entire city out there. God was telling him, “Get your eyes off yourself. Lift up your eyes and look at the fields. They're white unto harvest.”
Psychologically, God gave each prophet something to take the place of that inward look.
- Tune in to God. Get alone with Him.
"By your patience, possess your souls" (Luke 21:19).
"For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: 'In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength'” (Isaiah 30:15).
- In Luke 21:19, what is the trait we need if we are to “possess our souls”? (“possess our souls” is translated as “gain our lives” or “save our lives.”)
- In Isaiah 30:15, our strength will come from what?
- The Holy One of Israel says we will be saved (safe, delivered, secure) by doing what?
Through Isaiah, God is saying, “In returning to Me and resting in Me, you will be delivered, secure, safe, and you will find your salvation.”
God Provided Spiritually
He loved His servants. He brought them back to Himself and carried them in His heart. Sometimes restoration in our physical bodies and “coming apart” with God in the psychological realm will work greatly to restore us in the spiritual realm.
Remember: depression is a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that leads to sadness. But faith responds with something different.
Faith is saying,
The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6)
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. (Hebrews 6:19)
Faith then becomes “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” (1 Peter 1:8)
If you tend toward depression, let me assure you: God loves you so much. He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). And though we deny Him, He cannot deny Himself. He remains faithful to us (2 Timothy 2:13).
Thank God, the stories of these men did not end in depression. Nor will yours if you will “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). Remember,
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
If you are a believer experiencing depression, allow me to close with a prayer for you. You can also pray this for someone you know who is experiencing depression.
Father, I pray that You will help us when we get discouraged and depressed. Help us to rest and become refreshed in Your presence. Do radical surgery on our souls and bring us back, Lord, to the simple but precious things that really count.
If you don’t know Jesus Christ, depression is not your central problem. If you could live a hundred years, be radiantly happy, then die and go to hell, what difference would it make? You need Jesus. He died for you on the cross. Jesus paid your sin debt. To be saved means that every sin is forgiven and Christ now lives in your heart to give you power and strength. You are saved when you trust Christ by faith. The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” If you’d like to be saved, I want you to pray a prayer like this right now. Just speak to Him:
“Dear God, give me the courage, the faith, to receive Christ right now. In His name, I ask it. Amen.”
If you just prayed that prayer, let us know! We want to help you live for Christ!
This Bible Study was taken from the message, "Dealing With Depression" (#1150).
Learn more about how to study the Bible with the LWF Bible Study Guide.
Learn more about this subject by reading Mastering Your Emotions by Adrian Rogers.