For Christians struggling with depression, it’s often difficult to navigate their mental health challenges in the context of faith. Mental illness is not a new concept and has existed throughout history. In fact, there are multiple examples of these disorders in the Bible, including some of the most highly regarded people of that time. The Bible provides hope for Christians managing depression, and these examples can help reshape current views on mental health in the church.
Defining Depression in Biblical Times
It’s no secret that society today has a greater understanding of mental illness than those in the Bible. In those times, depression was often referred to as sorrow, grief, despair, or anguish. The people who lived in Biblical times didn’t have the scientific knowledge to define experiences or label these emotions in the same way that people do now. However, there is still ample evidence that people in the Bible exhibited the same emotions that those with a depressive disorder do, and this wasn’t used against them, especially not by God.
Examples of Depression in the Bible
For many people, the first person who comes to mind when they think about people in the Bible who were depressed is David. He is notorious for the rapid mood swings in his writings captured in Psalms. One moment he is praising God for His goodness, and the next he is deep in despair.
“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” Psalm 32:3-4 (ESV)
Jonah exhibited similar symptoms when God told him that Ninevah would be spared despite their evil deeds.
“And he prayed to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’” Jonah 4:2-3 (ESV)
Jeremiah also struggled with these feelings when he was being persecuted.
“Cursed be the day on which I was born!… Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?” Jeremiah 20:14, 18 (ESV)
Feeling hopeless is a common emotion for the people of the Bible. They faced persecution, physical pain, and had their whole lives turned upside down in an instant. Symptoms of depression are a natural response to these life events, and God continued to bless and use people who struggled.
Hope for Depression in the Bible
Many well-meaning people in the church will label mental illness as something that can be resolved through faith alone. While this may be the case for some, it’s more common that these disorders require professional treatment. However, the Bible does provide hope for people who are managing mental health or substance use issues.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (ESV)
What makes these verses so powerful is that there is both an acknowledgment of the challenges people face in life and future hope. Even Jesus struggled, but God was always there as a source of comfort. Because of what Jesus did in dying on the cross, Christians have access to this same comfort during hard times.
Managing Depression and Addiction
Depression often co-occurs with substance use disorders, and this can make managing the two more challenging. At Celebrate Hope, our team is skilled in treating people with dual diagnoses. We utilize evidence-based practices and emphasize community within our center, so our residents receive the best care possible. Faith can be a powerful tool in the recovery process which is why we built our treatment model on the foundation of the hope we have in Jesus. If you are looking for a place to heal from your addiction that shares your faith in God, contact our team today to learn more about our treatment program.