This is a guest post written by Jason O’Connell for the official blog of the Mental Health Awareness Project. The views and opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of those involved with the Mental Health Awareness Project. We are publishing this guest post in hopes that you may find it helpful or informative.
The Bible is God’s Word. God knows everything about us. So we should expect the Bible to help us with everyday problems. A big problem many face today is depression. What does the Bible say about depression? And how can it help us deal with it?
There are many verses in the Bible where we can tell that the person speaking is going through deep emotional pain. When Jacob thought his beloved son Joseph had died, the Bible says: “All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. ‘No’, Jacob said, ‘I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave’.” The Bible tells of a woman called Hannah who longed to have a child. It seemed she was barren. This caused her great pain. “Her husband would say to her, ‘Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?’”
The Book of Job and the Book of Psalms include many expressions of deep dark despair. Job began to hate himself. Depression is like anger turned in on our self. We start to accuse ourselves. “Job cursed the day of his birth”. He said: “I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest, but only turmoil. My life ebbs away. Days of suffering grip me. Night pierces my bones. My gnawing pains never rest. I am reduced to dust and ashes. My spirit is broken, my days are cut short, the grave awaits me”.
The writer of Psalm 88 says: “I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am like one without strength. I am set apart with the dead. I am confined and cannot escape. My eyes are dim with grief. From my youth I have suffered and been close to death. I am in despair. Darkness is my closest friend”.
When we hear words like these we may think they are too extreme. But for a depressed person they are all too real. Depression is an extreme condition, a severe life-threatening illness. People with depression will often express themselves in the very words we just read from the Bible. If you are listening tonight, and you feel as bad as the man Job or the writer of Psalm 88, we encourage you to take heart, to look for comfort in the God of the Bible. Even though this psalmist felt at the lowest of the low, he also looks to God and says: “Lord, you are the One who saves me”.
The Bible teaches again and again how much God loves his people and does not forsake them. When the Israelites were in slavery in Egypt, God told them: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people. I have heard them crying out and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them”.
There are many verses in the Bible where God speaks directly to the depressed and comforts them, just like a father would put his arms around his child and hug him close, reassure him of his love, reassure him that he will always be there. In Psalm 34 it says: “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”. God told the prophet Isaiah: “I live in a high and holy place but also with the one who is lowly in spirit. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts”.
When Jesus spoke about the reasons he had come to earth, he said: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release”. God told Joshua: “I will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”. And the apostle Paul said: “Nothing can separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus”.
In the Gospels, it tells us of the time when Jesus and his disciples were in a boat going across the sea of Galilee. There was a violent storm. Huge waves were rising and coming towards the boat. The disciples were terrified. It seemed they were all going to drown. Where was Jesus? He was asleep in the stern of the boat. The disciples woke him up and they wondered if he was concerned for their safety. Jesus simply rebuked the wind and the waves – “Hush! Be calm!” – and straight away the storm was gone.
Everything in the Bible teaches us something that we can benefit from. This account of Jesus calming the storm tells us to go to him in all the storms of life, knowing that the boat can never sink if he is in it. If life is like a journey in a boat on a rough, stormy sea, and waves of depression are coming over us, never forget that we are not alone. If God is in the boat, the boat is guaranteed to reach its destination safely. God did not bring you or me to this point in our lives only to leave us now. Remember what he said to Joshua? “I will never leave you”. So let us be of good courage and say: “God is my helper. I can get through this. I can overcome. I can see tomorrow. I can get to the other side, I can get to the other shore”.
The great Irish missionary Amy Carmichael wrote these words: “Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow, thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea, what matter beating wind and tossing billow, if only we are in the boat with thee?”