Handling Depression Biblically – Part 1 + LINKUP

 

Handling Depression Biblically - Part 1 - Depression, if you’ve ever suffered with it, you know it can be a dark, discouraging place to be. At its worst, it’s been called the “dark night of the soul.”Depression, if you’ve ever suffered with it, you know it can be a dark, discouraging place to be. At its worst, it’s been called the “dark night of the soul.”

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” Previously we covered how to handle anger in God honoring ways. You can click the link to read those posts.

Today we’ll begin talking about depression and how to handle it biblically. In future posts, we’ll also cover:

Guilt
Fear & Worry
Trials & Suffering

 

Handling Depression Biblically – Part 1

 

No one is immune to feelings of depression. Pastors and many great men and women of God have struggled with depression and discouragement. So can housewives, executives, doctors, lawyers, salesmen, writers and Bible teachers.

For some it’s a mild feeling of sadness for others it can feel debilitating.

People in the Bible suffered from what many would call depression today, including Elijah, David, Jonah, Jeremiah, and Cain.

 

What Is Depression?

 

Before we talk more about depression, we need to define it. Most of us probably believe we know what it is, but we may find that there’s a wide range of definitions.

 

The Medical Definition

 

The medical world would define depression based on the DSM-5, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition.

According to the DSM-5 a person is depressed if, “Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure (excluding symptoms that are clearly attributable to another medical condition).

  1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad, empty, hopeless) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful). (Note: In children and adolescents, can be irritable mood.)
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation.)
  3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day. (Note: In children, consider failure to make expected weight gain.)
  4. Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
  5. Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  7. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick).
  8. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others).
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

Notice that the criteria are based on thinking and behavior, not changes in the body, and that the descriptions are subjective not objective.

According to Web MD,

There is no blood test, X-ray, or other laboratory test that can be used to diagnose major depression. However, your doctor may run blood tests to help detect any other medical problems that have symptoms similar to those of depression.

[Diagnosis is] based on self-described thinking and feelings and/or the observations of others.

I don’t note those facts to make light of the reality and intensity of the feelings, only so we can talk about depression in biblical terms.

Clinical depression means that a physician has used his clinical skills based on the complaints of the patient and his own observation.

The most common medical explanation for depression is chemical imbalance. Through the years different chemicals have been mentioned. The one considered the primary culprit has changed numerous times over the last 30 years or so. But while this is widely accepted, even medical journals say it’s a theory and not a fact.

According to Web MD some common triggers or causes of major depression include: 

  • Loss of a loved one through death, divorce, or separation
  • Social isolation or feelings of being deprived
  • Major life changes — moving, graduation, job change, retirement
  • Personal conflicts in relationships, either with a significant other or a superior
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse

The writer at Web MD went on to say, “But while depression can be triggered by various stressful life events, not everyone becomes depressed under those circumstances.” He added that it depends on coping skills, personal make-up, and social support networks.

 

The Cultural Definition

 

The cultural definition is based on feelings, as well. People will say they feel depressed, discouraged, sad or blue. If you ask a depressed person why he or she can’t do certain things, it’s because they don’t feel like it.

There can be many reasons for our feelings: lack of sleep, a bad cold, even eating pizza the night before. Other serious medical conditions can cause feelings of depression, too.

A failure to handle the events and responsibilities of life in a biblical way can also cause feelings of depression. And sometimes, there is no known cause. It’s simply a result of living life in sin cursed bodies in a sin cursed world.

But in our culture today, we expect to feel good … all the time. We consider happiness our highest good and we’ll do almost anything to feel happy. Yet, no matter how spiritual or how successful we are, we won’t always feel good this side of heaven.

Besides expecting to feel good and be happy, many in our world today believe if a person doesn’t feel good, he or she can be expected to respond to life badly. It’s somehow understandable or excusable.

The truth is, you can feel well and still respond poorly and you can feel poorly and still respond well (1 Cor. 10.13).

But there is a third way to look at and define depression. We’ll just touch on it today and focus on it in greater detail over the next couple of weeks.

 

A Biblical Understanding of Depression

 

Probably most of us have experienced times of discouragement and/or depression. And, while both of them involve many of the same strong negative feelings, from a biblical counseling perspective, I would view discouragement differently from depression.

While experiencing those feelings, a discouraged person keeps going, keeps handling life. Whereas a depressed person shuts down. They stop functioning in some or all areas of life.

So, I would define depression this way, “a debilitating mood, feeling or attitude of hopelessness which becomes a person’s reason for not handling the most important issues of life.”

How we define and understand depression is critical to our responses, our goals regarding it, and how we view God in the midst of it. Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to look at the various goals we can and should have.

We’re, also, going to look at various people in the Bible who struggled with feelings of depression and the hope the Bible offers to those who are discouraged or depressed.

I hope you’ll be here each week (post goes live at 5 PM MST on Sundays).

Blessings,
Donna


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16 thoughts on “Handling Depression Biblically – Part 1 + LINKUP

    • Yes, that’s so true, Crystal. We do need to learn to think biblically, don’t we? So glad you were here today! Have a great week.

  1. Hi Donna! Thanks for sharing these things today. I learned a lot about depression! I’ve had times of hopelessness myself, and am so thankful that God takes us as we are and embraces us when all seems lost. Happy to be your neighbor at Coffee For Your Heart!!

    • Yes, I’m so thankful He takes us where we are and give us His hope when things seem hopeless. I’m so glad you were my neighbor, Amy!

  2. You’ve taken such a thorough approach to introducing and explaining depression, Donna. I really appreciate this and am learning so much from your painstaking approach to this subject. I can’t wait to read more about your thoughts on the biblical figures who struggled with depression. Great series, my friend!

  3. Donna,

    I have to say when I saw the title the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I went into defensive mode. Since I am part of a ministry that supports people who have a loved one with mental health challenges I have listened to crushing words spoken from a biblical standpoint. I have heard pray more, read your Bible more, be stricter, don’t tolerate it, push more. etc.

    You did a fantastic job at presenting depression. I am going to forward this on to our group.

    Thank you for tackling a subject we need to not ignore in our churches and circles.

    Blessings,

    Maree

  4. Thanks for sharing this series with us at the Literacy Musing Mondays Linkup. I’ve suffered from depression at different times in my life. It can be so disparaging not being able to get out of the “funk” no matter what you do!

    I wrote about the positive side to experiencing depression about 2 years ago – http://www.brandiraae.com/is-there-a-positive-side-to-experiencing-depression/#more-522 – Depression can be the perfect time to humble oneself before God and wait on Him!

    Blessings!

    • Brandi, I read and thoroughly enjoyed your post, Is There a Positive Side to Experiencing Depression?” It fits perfectly with today’s new post on “Handling Depression – Part 2.” I’m going to take the liberty of adding the link to that post, as well. Thanks for being here and for hosting each week!

  5. This is such a difficult and sensitive topic. I have had tendencies toward depression for as long as I can remember, and your definition is the most accurate I’ve ever come across.
    Thank you for your gracious and beautiful article. Looking forward to reading part 2!
    and thank you for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts & Home blog hop this past week.

    • I’m so grateful that you found the post helpful. Thanks for hosting and I look forward to hearing from you again as I continue this topic.

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