Depression, God, and you. Yes, depression may have a physical cause or it may be rooted in a spiritual issue.
When depression has a legitimate physical cause, it’s best addressed and controlled through the advancements of medical science. Diabetes, hypothyroidism, and other glandular problems may be directly connected to the depression a person feels. I will let the medical doctors give help for those medical issues originating in bodily sicknesses that affect the emotions.
Spiritual Depression: A Slippery Slope
Unlike depression with a physical cause, spiritual depression is rooted in some spiritual issue(s). This post focuses on spiritual depression, a slippery slope with four very distinct levels moving emotionally and spiritually downward.
The person who starts his slide can move downward through these four levels very quickly, depending on his beliefs and maturity in Christ and the Word and his habituated patterns of thought.
The good news is that a person can stop his downward slide at any level and move back up to the top out of depression if he will bring God and His Word to bear on his thought patterns. When he applies Biblical truth to his thoughts, beliefs, and actions, he will see his emotions change.
Level 1: Disappointment
Disappointment is the ﬁrst level of depression. It is not sin to be disappointed. We are all disappointed at times for various reasons. Disappointment comes when a person doesnʼt get something he really wanted or thinks he deserved.
Maybe he didnʼt get the pay raise or the recognition he expected. Maybe he is disappointed by the gift he received, expecting something better. Maybe the baby wasnʼt the desired gender, or there was no baby at all after many years of marriage.
On and on, disappointments come with hopes and dreams dashed. There is also disappointment when a person gets something he didnʼt want or deserve.
Maybe it was a layoff or an unexpected loss of a job, or a breakdown of a relationship. Physical problems, life-threatening illnesses, or loss of loved ones are disappointments too. We experience grief and sadness over a loss, and confusion over unfulﬁlled expectations.
Christ Himself faced many of disappointments, yet He never sinned. He continued to place Himself in the hands of a sovereign, loving God, just as each of us must. We must know God who has a purpose for every disappointment. Disappointment must be seen as HIS Appointment for us. Trust in HIM, that He has never made a mistake in what He allows in our lives, and He never will.
How our heart responds to these disappointments determines the direction we go, either reaching up to God or down the slippery slope of depression.
Level 2: Discontentment
When a person fails to deal with situations at the disappointment level, he slips downward to the discontentment level of depression.
He wonʼt be satisﬁed without getting what he expected, what he thought he deserved. He wonʼt ﬁnd contentment in a condition or circumstance he believed he did not deserve. Disappointment has slipped into discontentment, and discontentment is sin.
It is dissatisfaction with what God is doing in his life at that moment, a self-righteousness that says he knows better than God, or a self-pity that sees himself as the undeserving victim of unfair circumstances. This leads to anger and bitterness toward God and others.
A person can learn to live with disappointment and ﬁnd contentment, but only as he sees God as bigger than the disappointment. God has a far greater, sovereign purpose for the
disappointment in his life than he is able to see at the moment. Paul said that contentment, even amid negative situations, is something that every believer can learn.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13, ESV
He also instructed Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1Timothy 6:6). The inverse is also true, that ungodly thoughts and attitudes with discontent is great loss.
Level 3: Despair
When we slip from disappointment to discontentment, despair is the next descending emotion down that slippery slope of depression. The Greek word means “no way out, no way through.”
Despair believes there is “no way out” of the discontentment over disappointing circumstances. The discontented person is dissatisﬁed and believes there is “no way through” to reach contentment or a better circumstance. This is where many give up on responsibilities and check out of life, thinking it will never be better.
Of course the person in despair is deceived by his own desires.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:14-15, ESV
He believes a lie that “there is no way out.” He is blinded by disappointment and wonʼt be content
until he gets the result he wants. He is stubbornly seeking his own way and not Godʼs way out. The Bible says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The despairing person will ﬁnd no way out until his will, his wants and desires are submitted to Godʼs desires for him. When he continues looking for a way to escape the pain by trusting only his own understanding, he will never ﬁnd the right (Godʼs) escape route.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5, ESV
Confront the Lie!
Someone must be there for him to confront the lie he is believing and to show him the truth and the way of escape. He must be reconnected to a faithful God who has indeed provided a way to escape and who will help him bear the disappointment and not break under it.
He needs to experience and practice the truth of and trust in the Lord with all his heart, and to let this faithful, loving and sovereign God direct his path out of the disappointing circumstance in his life.
As the person in despair is lovingly and gently guided to see the lie his heart has believed, he must be encouraged with hope. A wise brother must help him to see and then walk with him through the application of Biblical truth that will replace the lie. This brother must counsel him to develop his trust in God and eventually to see Godʼs sovereign purposes every time for all of lifeʼs disappointments.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28-29, ESV
Level 4: Destruction
If the person in despair continues to be convinced the lie is true for him, he slides further downward to the fourth level to the destructive level of depression. He ﬁnds himself at the bottom both emotionally and spiritually.
The desperately destructive person could act in a way out that would damage his employment, ﬁnances, or even his own life or the life of another. This purposeless, despair-driven direction ultimately damages his spiritual and emotional life even more.
Until the person looks upward to realize that the God who loves him is still with him and wants to help him, the person may seek foolish, destructive ways out of his low spiritual and emotional circumstance. He needs a mature Christian to walk through this difﬁcult but hopeful time with him.