Depression is personal to me.

My cousin died by suicide. She was depressed following her divorce. She never recovered from the rejection and grief.

As a pastor I’ve grieved with too many families whose loved one ended their life because they could find no other way to stop their internal pain.

Those who suffer from depression may feel like the least understood people on the planet.

Too often there is a stigma associated with depression in the Church.

I have to take responsibility to end that stigma.

Brock’s Story

In November of 2013, I was going about my life as a new dad and speechwriter for the leader of a political party when it hit me.

It presented innocuously enough as panic attacks. Sitting down at my computer brought sudden and paralyzing physiological discomfort. I had experienced the odd panic attack in the past, but they were periodic and easy to shake off.

These were different.

I physically couldn’t work.

Read more here.

Brenda’s Story

My friend, Brenda, gave me permission to share her story:

“As a nurse, I knew what was happening to me, but I thoroughly rejected it. I was about 25 years old. I was a Christian and depression did not happen to Christians. I felt that if I trusted God and prayed, I should be better. Well, I wasn’t. I could not allow myself to believe that it was a chemical imbalance within my body that was causing these symptoms.

I sang in the choir. I went to Bible study, but I never felt I could share with anyone. Depression is like leprosy. No one talks about. It is ignored—especially in the church circles—and the people who are in depression feel even more isolated. Often I would try to make comments about people with depression in order to sound out some of our friends, but the remarks I received in return were about people who ‘couldn’t cope, or should pray more,’ so it underscored my feeling that I was inadequate. I felt more alone and lost.

The only person I felt I could talk to was a lady who had also experienced severe depression after the death of her brother. She was quite open about it and made me feel acceptable. Finally I went to a doctor.

That is one of the reasons I am telling you this today. People who experience depression do not need to hide.

They do not need to feel unloved or unchristian. God loves you. We need to remember that we are not here on earth to see through one another, but to see one another through—through all of the things that happen in life.”

The Bible Never Shies Away From Reality

Job, Elijah, Jeremiah and David are four well know Bible characters who described their lives using terms associated with depression.

Job, the oldest book in the Bible, chronicles the mental anguish of a man who lost everything and fell into despair. “I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest; I hate my life.” (Job 3:23-26, 7:11, 15-16, NLT)

Elijah the prophet was in such despair he asks God to kill him. (1 Kings 19:4)

Jeremiah, a prophet, wishes he had never been born. (Jeremiah 15:10)

David the psalmist writes about his tears “being his food day and night” in Psalm 42 and 43.

These are not “poetic” descriptions of a spiritual condition. These are the desperate declarations of people at the end of their rope. Instead of a one-and-done antidote, the Bible starkly shows the dread that accompanies the ill.

Christians can have the greatest challenge dealing with mental illness because we believe people of faith can do anything with God’s help.

What Christians need to know about depression:

1. People facing depression can be sad, but depression is not sadness.

2. Depression is not something you can will yourself or talk yourself out of.

3. Depression is not a choice.

4. Depression is not a character defect.

5. Depression is not a spiritual disorder.

6. Depression is not an emotional dysfunction.

7. Depression is not demonic.

Can a Christian be oppressed by depressive thoughts? Yes.

Can a Christian be possessed by some demon that stimulates depression? No.

Clinical depression, postpartum depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mood disorders, chronic anxiety, are illnesses.

Depression is the only physical illness with spiritual symptoms.

History records strong Christians who experienced depression:
Martin Luther
Charles Spurgeon
John Bunyan
Abraham Lincoln
C.S. Lewis
Buzz Aldrin
Rick Warren
Mother Teresa

Mental illness does not make you weak, cowardly, faithless, hopeless, joyless.

Mental illness can fill your life with pain.

Mental illness means you’re experiencing sickness and in need of healing. Sick people use medicine, therapy, support, and faith to eventually become well again.

There is healing.

There is hope.

Each of the Bible characters and people from history mentioned above, reached out to God to find their hope and help.

If you or a loved one suffers from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or any other mental illness, it’s NOT your fault. You need help – and asking for it is a sign of strength.

Tomorrow can be better.

Joanne Goodwin‘s journey from despair to victory is authentic. She tells it like it is…and does it with humour.

Resources
“Breaking the Chains” – Dr. Grant Mullen
“You Mean I Don’t Have to Feel This Way? –  Collette Dowling

Related Posts
Sisterhood of the Semi-Colon

APPLICATION: Please leave a comment below.


I write to inspire people to be real, grow an authentic faith in Jesus, enjoy healthy relationships and discover their life purpose. If this material is helpful to you, please follow me.

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Bob Jones

Author Bob Jones

Pastor at North Pointe Community Church for 27 years. Happily married to Jocelyn for 38 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vinnie; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three gorgeous daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love being a pastor and inspiring faith in Jesus through communicating, blogging, counseling and coaching. I enjoy running, reading, writing and ball hockey. Fan of the Esks and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers

More posts by Bob Jones

Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Jocelyn Jones says:

    Everyone needs hope and to know that they matter to God and someone, no one should go unnoticed

  • bob jones says:

    Hope is, at times, more powerful and necessary than love. I think that’s why the Psalmist David speaking from his own despair, repeatedly said, “Soul, put your hope in God. I will still praise Him.” Psalm 42:5

  • Graham Swan says:

    Excellent article, Pastor Bob. I see you mentioned 2 books at the end. If you had to recommend one book only on the topic of understanding depression (both the physical and spiritual side of it), which book would that be?

  • bob jones says:

    Thanks Graham. Means a lot to me. “You Mean I Don’t Have to Feel This Way” is an excellent book. It is not written using Scriptural references but it is very helpful, insightful and hopeful. I have given this book out to a number of people.

  • Graham Swan says:

    Perfect, thank you! I’ll pick it up this week.

  • John McEwan says:

    Thankyou Bob for talking about mental illness from the pulpit, there is such a great need for understanding it & knowing how to deal with it. Having dealt with it now for over 30 years, I also must agree with Jocelyn, there must be hope, I couldn’t continue without it, and the support of others. And that support needs also to be from the body of believers, too many times in the past I have been avoided by friends because of their lact of understanding.

  • bob jones says:

    Understanding is such a significant gift we give to others. If everyone fully realized its worth more people would make the effort to understand. Thanks for commenting and for your encouragement.

  • CD Mayo says:

    This comment comes late but is still important to share. I brought two visitors to the second service on Transforming Our Mental Health and it was a pivotal week for us all to be there. The message God had you deliver on mental health was divine alignment. It was perfect that we all heard your message and I’m so grateful to have witnessed the Holy Spirit at work in each of us that morning…in the end, we all felt God at work in our hearts and I believe healing occurred because of the loving, honest and refreshing way you delivered God’s message about depression. Thank you.

  • bob jones says:

    Thank you for sharing this. God knows what we need and has superb timing in meeting our needs. Glad to know your guests experienced the work of the Holy Spirit.

  • Bob Bennett says:

    May I commend you for such an excellent article on a subject that many in the Body of Christ put a “Christian” facade over. The article provides a thorough understanding of what so many need to know.

    As someone who had severe depression for decades (even 17 years as a born again Christian), it’s good to see God lifting the stigma of depression. I, like so many, did not meet one Christian who understood what I was going through.

    Fortunately, today (18 years later) God has provided Victory Over Depression – primarily through seeing CHRIST IN ME. I see myself the way God does. My new life is Jesus in me and I choose to focus daily Jesus living in me (Galatians 2:20.)

    Life is now such a fantastic joy to grow in this relationship. It is Jesus in me living His life through me. Amen!!!!!

    Today God has led me to a ministry called Victory Over Depression. All I do is simply point people to Jesus through the Biblical truths I learned. I’m humbled God trusts me for this. I only want people to see Jesus in me. (I appreciate the prayers as God opens the door to speak to churches, ministries, groups, etc on Victory Over Depression.)

    My blog website is VictoryOverDepression.Wordpress.com

    Thank you.
    Christ in us,
    Bob Bennett

  • bob jones says:

    Hello Bob. Thank you for commenting and sharing your story. I went to your site and see you are passionate about telling the Good News of grace through Jesus. You offer hope. Keep up your important work!

  • Heather H says:

    I love this! After taking 4 years away from church, I finally realized that I needed to start again and found North Pointe. It was through talking to the psychologist I see that I realized this, and seeing this after only 2 weeks of being back was perfect timing! Knowing that I’m now attending a church who gets that depression isn’t something wrong with someone and their relationship with God is an amazing feeling! Thank you for this post!

  • bob jones says:

    God’s timing is always perfect, isn’t it? He cares for you. Thank you for letting me know how this post helped your life. I am here to serve.

  • Jacquelyn Schafer says:

    I’m so thankful that you address this openly. I’m so thankful our church isn’t living in the dark about the reality of depression. Love “… physical illness with spiritual symptoms” so true. Having suffered with depression myself its uplifting to not feel shamed by it. Thanks PB.

  • bob jones says:

    Thank you, Jacquelyn. I do get some push back from well intentioned people who don’t believe “Spirit-filled” Christians can experience depression. “Spirit-filled” Christians shouldn’t experience cancer either, but they do. The Bible is a hope dispenser. Let its words hold you close to the heart of God.

  • […] NOT demonic. (Again, as many has said it was, which only ADDS to the battle).   A quote from this article that opened my eyes:   Depression is the only physical illness with spiritual symptoms.   […]

  • Bob, Thank you for making North Pointe a safe place to discuss mental illness. Removing the stigma is an absolutely vital step in the healing process.

  • Rebecca says:

    Thank you for this very well-written article and to those who contributed their stories. It takes courage to do so and I commend you. I think the more people share their stories of their struggles with mental illness, anxiety and depression, the less stigma will be associated with it. I had two miscarriages before having my twin girls, and after those miscarriages I started to have panic attacks and anxiety that was debilitating. I sought help and normally take drugs to help my anxiety. Now, choosing to go off my medication as I am in the third trimester with my fourth child, I am suffering from anxiety but mostly depression. Brock describes it so perfectly. You live in a world where you aren’t really engaged and nothing really seems to matter. I spoke with my obstetrician yesterday and she said, “If you had an illness like diabetes while pregnant, we would treat it. Depression is an illness, so we should treat it.” Anyways, I know there is light at the end of this tunnel and that God will never leave me, so I rely on those truths. I urge anyone struggling with mental illness to talk to someone and seek help and I urge those that they talk to, to listen. Our depression and anxiety only worsens when someone is quick to judge and wonder why someone can’t just “be happy” or “snap out of it.” So, thank you again for your great blog post. I will be sharing it on my FB page.

  • Bob Jones says:

    Thank you for posting your comment and for sharing the post. You are an appreciated ally. My hope is to help initiate conversations about mental health issues and support for those affected. To end the judgment and broaden the healing.

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