Depression is one of those topics that a lot of people in church tend to avoid.
I can understand why: No one wants to sound calloused about a topic that is sensitive to others and in which they aren’t well trained. I sense that same tendency, which is why I’m glad that counselors like Brad Hambrick can apply their wisdom to questions like these (see here).
The Bible does deal with depression.
That doesn’t mean, however, that depression is merely spiritual. Humans are psychosomatic—body and soul—and when something affects us, it is often an intricate blend of both of those.
Sometimes, then, what a person most needs is not another verse of Scripture, but a hug. Or a nap. Or a vacation.
So what I say here applies mostly to spiritually based depressions and discouragement. Still, even for the most physiological of depressions, the spiritual element is not immaterial. There may be more of a spiritual element than we often realize. And when we are in the midst of spiritual depression, we must confront the lies that depression speaks to us.
Elijah, the great prophet of God, went through a crippling period of depression, even to the point of having suicidal thoughts (1 Kings 19:4).
Twice in 1 Kings 19, God asks Elijah why he is so despondent. And twice Elijah responds with a mixture of truth and error.
“I have been zealous for you,” Elijah says. And this is true.
“The Israelites have rejected you.” True.
“They have killed your prophets.” True again.
“And I am the only one left.” False.
Although Elijah does not know about it yet, God has 7,000 faithful people in Israel, and he’s about to raise up another prophet with twice the power Elijah had, a man named Elisha.
More than that, God is ultimately going to bring someone greater into all of this mess—Jesus—who will be the fulfillment of everything Elijah has presented in a weak shadow.
Elijah is not alone at all. But this is how despair and depression work.