Hello, friends! Welcome to this Bible study lesson on “Dealing With Depression.” Whether you’re out of work, having health problems or wondering how you’re going to make it through family or financial problems, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged. Sometimes the weight of everyday cares and disappointments and the nagging feeling of hopelessness and lack of fulfillment can trigger the blues and even depression. What does the Bible say about how to deal with discouragement and deeper negative feelings of depression?
Lesson: Dealing With Depression
The Bible shows that humanity has suffered from discouragement and depression since the beginning. Depression can affect all people, small and great. Many Bible heroes, such as David, Moses, Job and Elijah, dealt with it. What can we learn from their examples and biblical principles?
Consider the Old Testament prophet Elijah.
Elijah had a close relationship with God and was used powerfully by Him. Many people witnessed the greatness of God through the prophet.
Elijah encouraged many people. He helped a widow and her son who were down-and-out and had only enough food for one more meal. Elijah told the widow that God would provide, and He did. Later, when her son died, Elijah asked God to bring him back to life, and God did. This widow’s hope was restored through Elijah.
Elijah did many other amazing works by the power of God, but the Bible shows that even great men of God can get tripped up by the trials and challenges of living God’s way in a world under the sway of Satan. The story of Elijah’s descent into depression is a classic.
Not only was Elijah hated and threatened with death by the evil Queen Jezebel, he also felt his work had been in vain and that no one else was supporting God. He felt totally alone, vulnerable and hopeless. Being human like you and me, all this started to get to him.
Elijah got overwhelmed and wanted to quit. No one knew Elijah was depressed. But God did.
God approached Elijah, and Elijah told God that he had been doing his best, but it was all for nothing. Elijah told God he was tired and just wanted to quit and die!
God then did something surprising. First He put on a display of His power. But immediately afterward, He comforted Elijah by talking with him in a gentle whisper. God also quietly told Elijah that He had more work for him to do and let him know he wasn’t alone. God showed Elijah He was more than just a mighty God of power. He was also a compassionate God that cared. Elijah’s hope was restored (1 Kings 19:1-18).
What Does the Bible Say About Depression?
Perhaps you are tired too. Does it seem like you’re doing your best, only to have one crisis after another come upon you? Do you feel like the world is crashing in on you, and there’s nothing you can do about it? Do you want to just give up?
God’s Word has plenty to say about discouragement and depression and how to deal with both.
We should also recognize that more severe forms of depression can lead to or be caused by certain physical and psychological disorders. We would encourage anyone suffering from severe depression to seek the guidance of a trained counselor or mental health professional in addition to applying the biblical tools discussed in this study.
Let’s look at some relevant scriptures so we can learn what we can do to help overcome depression and its negative effects.
What is a root cause of depression?
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.
Proverbs 18:14 (New Living Translation)
The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear it if the spirit is crushed?
Job 7:6, 11
“My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope…
“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”
We become depressed when we lose hope. When we see no end in sight to our problems, thoughts of just giving up will surface.
Who takes advantage of this moment of weakness?
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
2 Corinthians 2:7, 11
So that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow…
Lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Satan and his demons want you and me to fail. They want us to give up. So when we are discouraged, Satan will make sure he broadcasts his evil thoughts and ways toward us. We must guard our thoughts, or our minds will pick up on his wavelength, and we will become even more discouraged (1 Peter 5:6-9)
Where is the first place you should go when you are depressed?
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Our human nature doesn’t want us to acknowledge we need help, but God tells us to go to Him when we are discouraged. Even though Satan tries to broadcast his evil thoughts to us, God can protect us and give us an amazing and powerful peace of mind. Just as God strengthened Elijah’s hope, He can strengthen ours as well (Psalm 31:24).
Where else should you turn when you are discouraged?
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Proverbs 27:10 (New Living Translation)
Never abandon a friend—either yours or your father’s. Then in your time of need, you won’t have to ask your relatives for assistance. It is better to go to a neighbor than to a relative who lives far away.
Turning inward is not the way to deal with depression. We need to be with our friends so they can encourage and help us. As we read earlier, Satan is compared to a roaring lion. A lion attacks one that is weak and separated from the herd. Being with friends and family will build us up, protect us and help us stay strong.
What else does the Bible say you can do to help overcome depression?
A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Joyfulness and cheerfulness are a type of medicine for our minds and bodies. It’s good for us to smile and laugh! So when we are discouraged, we need to do something that cheers us up. Helping others also brings us a “merry heart.”
Meditating on good things is also healthy for our minds, because it helps replace Satan’s negative broadcasts with good thoughts. The Psalms remind us that meditating on God’s law brings great peace (Psalm 119:97, 165).
How can a perfect God relate to the discouragement we experience as humans?
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
Jesus Christ gave up His spirit glory to live and die as a human. He experienced the same emotions and turmoil you and I face. He can definitely relate when we are depressed. The night before Jesus was crucified, He was overwhelmed with what was about to happen to Him. He pleaded with the Father for another way. The Father comforted Him by sending an angel to strengthen Him (Matthew 26:38-44; Luke 22:41-44).
When depression is caused by our past mistakes, what does God promise to do?
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah [a transliterated Hebrew word used as a poetic refrain] I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Psalm 51:1-3, 7-10
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me…
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
A guilty conscience can lead one into deep depression. God tells us to confess our sin to Him, and He will forgive us. True repentance includes turning from sin, which means we must try not to commit the sin again. Even though God will forgive the sin, we still may have to deal with the consequences of our mistakes. But again, God will be there to help us (Isaiah 41:10).
If you are presently overwhelmed because of financial, health or other serious situations, what does God want you to do?
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!
God wants us to tell Him our needs, yet at the same time be thankful for the good things we do have (recall Philippians 4:6-7). God expects us to do what we can to help our situation while also patiently waiting on Him to help us. God promises He will never forsake those who obey Him (Hebrews 13:5-6).
Finally, what does God want your mind-set to be when you are in a difficult trial?
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
1 Peter 5:10
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
God wants us to think positively when we are in a trial. Hard times can make us better. Instead of dwelling on the negative, we should look for the good that will come from the trial. God promises that He will not allow us to be in a situation we can’t handle if we obey Him. And although trials may last a while, He encourages us to be content and patient, knowing He will see us through this difficult time. Jesus said that when we put God first, we have no need to worry (Matthew 6:25-34).
God doesn’t want you to be depressed. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, pray to God and ask Him for peace of mind. Do what is in your power to help your situation, then trust in and wait on God to do the rest. Take time this week to help others, and spend more time with your friends. Do something that will bring a smile to your face, and meditate on good things.
With continuous application of the principles in this lesson, together with medical treatment if necessary, you’ll discover that your heavy yoke of depression will be lighter!