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Do you often feel like you’re lonely even though you’re surrounded by many people? Do you find yourself being drowned in a sea of sadness? Is melancholy your only friend? Do you often get irritated? Do you struggle to concentrate? Do you find reading the Bible an uphill task? Do you often find yourself having your affections unmoved even after doing your devotions? Do you feel like life is a drudgery? Do you suffer from amnesia? Do you feel like you’ve caught up yourself in the endless cycles of thoughts that scare you or make you anxious? If you do, I suspect you may be suffering from depression.
I am not a physician nor am an expert in this area to make a full claim. But, as far as I understand, there are two primary reasons why people get depressed. 1. Spiritual Reasons. 2. Physiological (Neurological) reasons. Not all types of depression must be tied down to spiritual reasons and similarly, not all of them should be to physiological reasons either.
Many a time, spiritual reasons such as unconfessed sin or living a hypocritical life may eventually turn into depression as our body and soul are not two separate entities but actually one. Someone has rightly put it, “We are not bodies who have souls but we are embodied souls”. In other words, what we do and think has an indelible impact on our psyche.
On the other hand, just like any physical disease, such as diabetes and hypertension, would have physiological effects on our bodies, so does depression. In the same way that we are not spiritually culpable for being diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension, we also are not necessarily responsible for the involuntary chemical imbalances in our brain. Pastor and Author David Murray writes “We need to recognise the exceeding complexity of depression and resist the temptation to propose and accept simple analyses and solutions. Just as no two hearts are identically diseased, and just as no two cancers are the same, no two depressions are the same in cause, symptoms, depth, duration, and cure. Therefore, we must avoid making our own experience the norm for others.”1
Friend, whether you’re suffering from depression because of spiritual reasons or from physiological reasons, please do not hesitate to reach out to the elders in your church and share your struggles with them. It is my hope and prayer that they would help you out through the Word of God and be with you in your journey as you seek to overcome depression.
No matter what your situation may be, I am primarily writing this article to encourage you and to point you to our Lord Jesus. I hope the following truths would really help you to meditate and to rejoice in God’s unchangeable promises.
1. Justification: The Bible is emphatic that God is absolutely, inherently and transcendentally holy. John says “God is light. In him, there is no darkness at all (1 Jn. 1:5). There isn’t a tiny speck of unholiness in him. And, he not only hates unholiness (sin) but he cannot let sin go unpunished (Ps. 5:4-6).
On the other hand, we are sinners through and through. We are not only sinners by deed, we are sinners by birth and by nature (Ps. 51:5). So, one of the divine dilemmas, as it were, in the Bible is, how can a good, just and holy God reconcile sinners to himself? (Rom. 3:26 (God is just and the justifier)) Now, the beauty of the gospel is that God sent his Son to be punished on our behalf on the cross so that whoever believes in him is saved from the wrath to come. Because Jesus bore the just and holy wrath of God that we deserve, there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1). And, not only that, because Jesus kept all the moral law that you and I couldn’t keep, again he gives us what don’t have (Rom. 5:19, Matt. 3:15). That is his righteousness. In the end, a sinner is reconciled to a holy God because of faith in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. When God looks at a believer, he doesn’t look at what he has done. He looks at him with as much fondness and affection he does with his beloved Son Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). If you trust in Jesus Christ and repent of your sins, you’re justified in God’s sight. In other words, you’re wrapped in the clothes of the unblemished righteousness of Jesus Christ. At the end of the day, our hope is in the fact we are justified by faith before God.
Honestly speaking, this doctrine gives me peace even in the midst of turbulent times in life. Every time we go to bed and close our eyes at night, there isn’t any guarantee that we will wake up the next morning, is there?. God can call us home at any moment. So, what gives us peace in the face of uncertainty? It is the fact that God welcomes us into his heavenly abode to be with him never to be separated, and to enjoy endless bliss as we gaze into the very beauty of the Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) only because of Christ’s righteousness. Oh! how hearts will be filled with gratitude when we realise all this is not because of our own merits but because of Christ’s righteousness. My Friend, no matter how depressing your situation maybe, if you believe in the Lord Jesus, rejoice in this fact that you’re justified before God!
2. Sanctification: The Bible is emphatic that our faith isn’t just a mental acknowledgement of some doctrines. Faith isn’t just a matter of answering the right theological questions and ticking in the right boxes (Matt. 7:21; Jam. 2:19). It is more than that. What happens after we believe in Jesus is that we are changed into his image slowly but surely.
The Apostle Paul writes that whoever believes in the Lord Jesus is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). In other words, a believer has been given a new heart with new desires and new delights. He doesn’t like what he used to like (sin) anymore, and he now strives to be conformed to the will of God which he used to hate (holiness/ the commandments of God). He wants to please God. He is hurt that God is hurt when he sins. He cannot let a day pass by without confessing his sin before God. He strives to keep all the commandments of God. In addition to these new desires, he fights against the corruption of his own soul, the world and the temptations of the devil. When a believer believes in Christ, he desires to please God (2 Cor. 5:9). A believer doesn’t desire a holy life to impress God but to please him.
What seems to be a daunting task becomes easier slowly but surely. With the help of the Holy Spirit, our hearts change and mellow. And we begin to trust the Lord and his commandments. My friend, are you being changed with God’s help? Do you rely on him for growth in faith and holiness? If you don’t, it can sap the joy out of you. If you’re joyless, you’re depressed. Please make sure Christ is the foundation of your joy!
3. Glorification: Again, the Bible is emphatic that those who trust in the Lord Jesus will be glorified on the last day (Rom. 8:30). Honestly speaking, I do not know all the details of what it is going to look like. But it is going to happen. On the judgement day, God’s enemies will be thrown into the eternal lake of fire and his saints will be vindicated. And, not only that, his children will be rewarded. In addition to that, God promises that we will be the co-heirs of the unsearchable and glorious inheritance along with Christ (Rom. 8:17). Didn’t Jesus say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt. 25:31)?”
All that we have endured in this world shall soon be past. Christ himself will wipe our every tear (Rev. 21:5). When God creates the new world, there will be no pain, no suffering and no depression! Take comfort in what the songwriter says
“When I fear my faith will fail,
Christ will hold me fast;
When the tempter would prevail,
He can hold me fast!
He will hold me fast…
I could never keep my hold,
He must hold me fast;
For my love is often cold,
He must hold me fast.
He'll not let my soul be lost,
Christ will hold me fast;
Bought by Him at such a cost,
He will hold me fast.
Friends, may you be encouraged by the fact that “Christ will hold you fast” even until the last moment of your life as you lean on him, rejoice in him and serve him! Amen.
1 Christians Can Depressed Too, Reformation Heritage Books, 2010.