The Scripture directly addresses a lot of common problems, but we have to dig to find information on depression.
This is very interesting in some ways. Were people less depressed back then and this is a new thing in human nature? Is God more concerned with our actions than our feelings? I feel as if I cannot give a sufficient answer to this question. However, let’s look at what God’s revelation does say.
The spirit of a man can endure his sickness,
But as for a broken spirit who can bear it (Prov 18:14)?
The Scripture views depression so serious, that it acknowledges it to be in many ways worse than physical illness. However, I cannot help but think of the Scripture:
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).
This seems like trite advice, but like many things in the Christian life it requires faith and the willingness to suffer. More about this in a bit.
The most serious extreme is suicide. Ironically, the Scripture is also relatively silent on this issue as well. Almost every suicide in the Bible is found between Judges to 1 Kings. However, most do not fit the prototypical suicide we see today. For example, Samson gave his life to avenge those who blasphemed the Lord.
Saul and his armor bearer killed themselves, Saul because of his wounds (and inability to prevent capture) and his armor bearer for the same reason. Because being captured back then often was coupled with the ripping out of eyes and cutting off of thumbs (Judges 1:7) on some level this is understandable. They were likely trying to prevent their own humiliation before being executed anyway. Ahithopel (the counselor to Absalom) and Zimri (an Israelite king who was being ousted in a coup) killed themselves for similar reasons.
Judas might be the only example of suicide (by hanging) that is similar to what those who are depressed may deal with. He felt overwhelming guilt (he threw back the money to the Sanhedrin) but also forsaken by God. Unable to overcome these depressing feelings and seeing no hope, he killed himself. One thing we can know for sure is if we are depressed, the last way we want to respond is like the most wicked man who has ever lived, the man who betrayed God to His face.
Perhaps the best man to emulate when profoundly depressed is Job. He lost all his wealth, health, and family. He even wished he was never born, yet he never considered suicide as an option. This is especially impressive of Job because he did not have much of a view of an afterlife. He didn’t fear hell, because the wicked would join him in death too according to him (Job 3:17). Nor, at that point of his speech, did he dwell too much on the reality of heaven. Instead, he asserted if he was never born but died as a miscarriage, “I would have slept then, I would have been at rest” (Job 3:13).
It is in some sense strange that Job wouldn’t just commit suicide if he in his own mind faced no punishment for doing so. However, as we learn in that book, Job does not have a carrot and stick mentality. He did not offer praise and worship to God simply because God gave him material and emotional blessings. He was obedient to God out of a true devotion for Him.
This reminds us of Asaph who says:
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…as for me, the nearness of God is my good (Ps 73:26, 28).
So, unlike some of us, a desire for heaven or fear of hell perhaps did not factor into Job’s thinking. Instead, he desired obedience to God no matter how much or little he was blessed. By not committing suicide, it appears that he considered suicide a sin and even still was blameless and obedient before God.
Why should we have this mindset? Because Christ gave His life for us, we are no longer to live for our own desires. We are willing to lay down our lives for Him and that means we will be obedient, even when experiencing hardship.
However, that does not mean we want to experience hardship. When Paul was extremely depressed over horrible men that we calling him a liar, thief, and false apostle he prayed to God:
[T]here was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:7-10).
This is the hardest thing to learn. We have to learn to be content with any circumstance, including the bad ones, as God “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11) and “works all things for good” (Rom 8:28). However, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name,” (Ezek 36:22). So, if God is glorified in our depression, then let us be content with it, for He is glorified when we prevail and God’s promise in Phil 4:13 is proved true.
[E]ven if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed…[S]anctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong (1 Peter 3:14, 15, 17).
God uses our troubles in our marriages, work, families, and more as a means in which His name be glorified and to be a road sign to others point them to Him! Truly, He works all things for good.
So, place you faith in the Lord, prevail against Satan and his temptations to sin and by doing so give glory to God.
Lastly, meditate on Paul’s admonishments in Phil 4. Suffering in prison, he “learned to be content in all circumstances” (Phil 4:11). How? First, go to God in prayer and be patient. He promises to answer our prayers concerning this and He will not prove to be a liar:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7).
Lastly, in the meantime focus on God-glorifying thoughts keeping every though captive in Christ Jesus:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (Phil 4:8).
Don’t wallow in self pity. Reflect on the things that you have to be grateful for, hope in the Lord for deliverance, and remember that those who mourn will be comforted (Matt 5:4). God might put you through mourning now so you can be a comfort to someone else in the future. He might be doing this purely to glorify His name in some unknown way.
Truly, “the secret things belong to God” (Deut 29:29). However, whatever His secret is, we know that “the Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds” (Ps 145:17). That is even true when He ordains your depression. Take that to heart and give glory to God.