Please understand that clinical depression is a very real malady. However, the depressions people often feel have underlying emotional and spiritual causes. In such circumstances, the Great Physician (cf. Mark 2:17) can “heal the brokenhearted…” (Luke 4:18). Consider God’s prescription for depression.
Find some one to serve. A sure way to improve mental health is to turn our focus upon service. Is it not odd that Paul, a man imprisoned for his faith and who confesses having poured himself out in sacrifice and Service, could say, “I joy, and rejoice…” (Philippians 2:17). This flies in the face of the world’s conventional wisdom. Expending precious time and energy on someone else brings joy and happiness? That is antonymous to depression. Look for ways to encourage others, to brighten and cheer the sick, the unfaithful, or those you know in adverse circumstances. When you do, your efforts will have a double effect. You will be helping not only the struggler, but also yourself.
Find some time to meditate. Many of the people with whom I speak who are suffering from depression admit to being distant from God. They typically do not read and study the Bible regularly, nor do they consistently pray to Him. When doing both more faithfully is suggested, they often discount or dismiss the value of both in aiding their state of mind. Yet, “the proof is in the pudding.” Diligent Bible students are given promises and reassurances of God’s help and power that they see fulfilled in their daily lives. Comfort and peace are side effects of regular Bible reading. Through prayer, one gets the Sense that there is One who is listening, who sympathizes and who cares. Faithful prayer coupled with faithful living yields confidence and coping ability. Meditation works! Delight follows meditation (Psalm 119:15). Strength follows meditation (Psalm 119:27-28). Depression may be defeated by saying, with our deeds, what David wrote, “Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD” (Psalm 104:34).
Find some thing to eliminate. It may be doubt. All doubt, including self-doubt, ultimately points to a lack of faith in God. We may doubt that our circumstances will improve. We may doubt our own abilities. We may doubt God’s existence or ability to help. Such negative thinking must be reprogrammed. Remember, the Christian “can” (Philippians 4:13). It may be dread. Fear of future events, of social, economic, or emotional stress, or of interpersonal conflict all cause feelings of anxiety. Jesus says, “Don’t do this” (Matthew 6:25ff). Again, faith and trust in God is imperative. It may be disobedience to God. It is hard for one who believes in God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit to feel good about willfully continuing in a life of sin. Depression many times results [from continuing in sin, DR]. The solution is not killing the conscience, but amputating the sin problem. Guilt is a first cousin of depression, and guilt is a spiritual consequence of sinning. Failure to do what we know we should and committing what we know we should not causes all kinds of turmoil, including depression (cf. Romans 7:19-24).
Many years ago a young Midwestern lawyer suffered from such deep depression that his friends thought it best to keep all knives and razors out of his reach. He questioned his life’s calling and the prudence of even attempting to follow it through. During this time he wrote, “I am now the most miserable man living. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell. I awfully forebode I shall not.” But somehow, from somewhere, Abraham Lincoln received the encouragement he needed, and the achievements of his life thoroughly vindicated his bout with discouragement.
So far as we know, Mr. Lincoln was not a Christian. Thus, those of us locked in the dungeon beneath the castle of despair have the key to the door of depression. His name is Christ (John 14:27)!
(Editor’s Note: There is a story that Lincoln was baptized into Christ during his presidency; there is no “hard” evidence, although the circumstances certainly indicate that the story may be true.)