Depression and Spiritual Maturity

Depression and anxiety are on the rise in the United States. The pandemic and resulting restrictions on personal interactions have only worsened this, creating a different sort of epidemic. And God’s children aren’t unaffected.

I appreciate my pastor’s willingness to tackle what has been a controversial issue in the past. I grew up hearing that if you were depressed, you needed to get right with God.

Then I had my second child and postpartum depression slammed me. Rather than lifting, it deepened and when my son was six, I finally got a diagnosis for clinical depression.

However, because of the stigma attached to this disorder, it took another year before I allowed my doctor to prescribe medication that finally subdued the beast.

On the subject of depression, I can speak from experience. Having tried five different treatment paths—from lifestyle changes to naturopathic treatments and counseling—I understand the mind of a depressed person.

And I know that Satan attacks us. He calls us weak and useless. And when the depression is untreated, we believe him.

But he’s a liar.

We can be spiritually mature AND suffer from depression.

These examples from scripture prove it.

Job

God commends Job.

And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

Job 1:8

Then the worst happens. Job loses his family and his livelihood. Even his wife rails against him, and then his health is taken away.

But in all this, Job didn’t sin. But he did feel despair. Who wouldn’t after suffering all that?
He wishes he had never been born (Job 3:11). Feeling worthless and as if life is pointless is one of the symptoms of major depression.

My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.

Job 10:1

But God never turns away from Job. In the end, he requires Job’s friends to seek Job’s intercession and blesses Job with double the wealth he had before the test.

Job’s example amazes and humbles me. I want to be more like him when I struggle with depression.

Elijah

The prophet Elijah has a fascinating journey. In 1 Kings, we see him confronting King Ahab and standing strong for right. His incredible prayer life brings a drought to Israel.

One of the most famous stories is in I Kings 18, when he faces off with the prophets of Baal. For a refresher, read 1 Kings 18:17-40.

It’s the greatest spiritual victory in Elijah’s ministry. Afterward, he petitions God to end the drought, and God answers.

Life is good. All should be well.

Enter Jezebel.

The truth is that when we have a great spiritual victory, Satan attacks us. He doesn’t want us to stay on the mountaintop. He wants us to doubt God and falter so our testimony doesn’t draw people to Jesus, truth, and salvation.

Elijah plummeted into depression. He wanted to die (I Kings 19:4). Wishing for death and contemplating suicide are huge indicators of depression.

God’s answer to Elijah’s exhausted mental state was rest, physical care and eventually sending him a companion to shoulder the great work of ministering to Israel.

This story reminds me that it’s okay to take a break from work when I’m emotionally and mentally depleted, but it’s never the right time to quit. God will send angels to minister to me, sometimes in the form of Christian brothers and sisters.

My hope is that I can be the hands and heart he uses to help others through the deep mire of depression.

Naomi

As the lone female example in the sermon, I related strongly to this woman’s story. I’m a middle-aged woman. I have two sons. My greatest recent joy is becoming a grandmother.

Naomi’s life made her bitter. She left her homeland and lived among her enemies. While she was there, her husband died. Her sons married women from the idolatrous land of Moab instead of upstanding Jewish girls. Then, they died, too.

Naomi went out full but came back empty (Ruth 1:21). This emptiness is a neon sign of serious depression.

Again, God ministered to Naomi through the hands of people. Her daughter-in-law Ruth wouldn’t let her make the arduous journey back to Bethlehem alone. The woman worked hard to keep them fed.


…Thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him.

Ruth 4:15


Eventually, Boaz stepped in as the kinsman redeemer, and Naomi’s joy returned with interest when she held her grandson. God had filled her up again, blessed her beyond expectation.

Circumstances can overwhelm us, but we must remember that with God fighting our battles, we can never lose.

In the sermon on this subject, our pastor mentioned more examples. Check out Jeremiah (Jer. 20:14,18), David (Psalm 42:5-6), Jonah (Jonah 4:1,3) and even Jesus Christ (Heb. 4:12; Mark 8:12;14:34; Luke 22:44) for more insight on how depression affects even the most stalwart of God’s children—prophets, kings and even his only Son.

Have you been plagued with the idea a depressed person is spiritually immature? How can we support people with mental health struggles in our congregations?

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