3 Characteristics of Depression in the Bible

I saw someone share a post on social media the other day that countered the saying, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” It explained that, sometimes, we are given more than we can handle because it is in those moments that we are to lean on God for strength to get through our circumstances.

There are many circumstances that are crippling, suffocating, and paralyzing, that render us incapable of making it through on our own. What happens when these situations come into our lives? How can we get through these seasons of overwhelming fear, doubt, and depression? Perhaps you already know the stories of Job, Naomi, David, and Elijah, but I hope today’s post and exploration of depression in the Bible is a reminder to you that you are never alone in your struggles.

Without further ado, we’ll dive into three aspects of depression as addressed in the Bible and explore how we can recognize, understand, and find helpful solutions in seasons of depression.

1) A Bitter Feeling, A Miserable Existence

“I’m nothing. I don’t matter.”

Maybe you’ve said these words to yourself at some point in your life – lies that the enemy of our soul tries to make us believe when we’re vulnerable. Both of these statements and every iteration are complete lies straight from the devil, but it’s easy to convince yourself of them.

“I’m nothing,” I once thought, but then God reminded me I’m not.

Did I die for nothing?

No, He didn’t. He died for me. He died for you, and He cares for you more than you could ever fathom. You are not “nothing.” But sometimes, the feeling of depression and misery is overwhelming, temporarily keeping you from believing the truth.

We may even come to hate ourselves and hate our lives. Job’s monologues implied that he suffered from such misery:

“My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.”
Job 10:1 KJV

Naomi, after losing her husband and her sons, asked to be called “Mara,” which means “bitter” (see Ruth 1:20). We know that David experienced much emotional imbalance stemming from the traumas he faced and mistakes he made in his life:

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel…But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.”
Psalms 22:1-3, 6 KJV

David constantly went from lamenting his situation to praising the Lord to feeling abandoned by God to declaring his trust in Him. Many who suffer from depression struggle with this kind of emotional imbalance. They seem to be up and down. Fine one day and at rock bottom the next. Living life on an emotional roller coaster breeds more misery and exhaustion. When we rely on our feelings to determine what judgments to make about our lives and ourselves, we’ll be prone to emotional instability and dissatisfaction with life.

2) Isolation and Silence

“I just want to be alone, to go somewhere no one knows me, and live alone with my thoughts.”

Maybe you’ve had this thought before. There are certainly benefits to having alone time, and when we go through difficult times, we need moments to sort out our thoughts and be with God. But too much isolation and silence can also prevent us from processing grief or difficult situations in a healthy way and keep up from moving forward. Nevertheless, we see isolation and silence as symptoms depression or grief in the Bible as well. When Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life, he left his servant at Beer-Sheba and traveled alone into the wilderness (see 1 Kings 19:1-4). Job went silent for seven days after losing his family:

“So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.”
Job 2:13 KJV

Being unable to speak is a sign of deep emotional stress, and isolating yourself with your thoughts in this time can be even more dangerous. If we don’t allow ourselves to seek after God in these moments, then we may become lost in thoughts of hopelessness and, even worse, suicide.

3) Wishing for Death

“God, I can’t do this anymore. Just take me.”

Maybe this thought has crossed your mind as well. To many, death seems like the only way to no longer feel the pain of loss or the emotional stress of financial struggles, family turmoil, or physical illness. I’ll admit I had this thought once when I was sick with undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes and felt purely miserable, like I was dying. And I had this thought again when faced with the possibility of having no income and no medical insurance. The stress and fear were overwhelming. In a moment of emotional and mental exhaustion, I just didn’t want to feel like that anymore. For me, the thought of asking God to take my life and get it over with was a fleeting one, but for many, this thought is a constant mindset as depression weighs heavily on their souls.

In biblical times, certain accounts show people who also experienced these feelings or wishing for death. We read in Job that he wished he had not even been born:

“Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived…Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?”
Job 3:3, 11 KJV
“Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off! Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.”
Job 6:8-10 KJV

Elijah also wished God would take his life:

“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.”
1 Kings 19:4 KJV

As Carlton Coon wrote in his book Light in a Dark Place: Encountering Depression, Elijah “was not having a blue day” (Coon 37). Wishing for death and isolating oneself are signs that someone is suffering from depression. This person doesn’t see a way out. They don’t see any value in their life anymore. They feel less than. They feel worthless.

But Jesus is the Path through dark times.

Each of these people – Job, Naomi, Elijah, and David – continued to live for God even when they experienced hardship and suffered from symptoms of depression. Though there were times when David felt alone, he continued to seek God. Though Job wished for death and lamented in his grief, he maintained reverence for God: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter upon the earth” (Job 19:25 KJV). From reading about the emotional struggles of important biblical figures, we can understand that these mental battles are not unique to our time. If they could overcome and survive bouts of depression, so can we. It is the same merciful God who spoke to and comforted them who will speak to and comfort you and me today.

In every mental or emotional struggle you may face, don’t stop talking to God, and don’t stop listening for His voice.

No matter what, we cannot discount the importance of making prayer and Bible studying our daily lifestyle because it is in those dark times that we will need to rely on our walk with God all the more.

Navigating a Season of Depression

Depression.

We’ve all been there. Whether we’ve lost a loved one or suffered another kind of loss or setback, most of us know what it is like to struggle with feelings of depression. But depression affects us all differently and to varying degrees.

I’ve been reading Rev. Carlton Coon’s book Light in a Dark Place: Encountering Depression, and I wanted to share some important points with you from Encountering Depression that may help you or someone you love learn how to navigate depression.

1. There is significance in variety.

As I stated in the intro of this post, depression affects us all to different degrees. Reverend Coon references everything from mild seasons of depression or grief to Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), which we used to call clinical depression (Coon 21). Below are some examples of the common ways depression affects people:

  • Increased isolation
  • Disinterest in normal activities
  • No appetite
  • Brain fog
  • Increased tiredness
  • Decreased sense of self-worth
  • Anger
  • Suicidal thoughts

There are many more ways depression can affect a person’s mood or lifestyle, but the variance in how we experience depression is significant. We in the community of people who want to increase awareness of mental health issues and help others understand them may forget that there are people out there who still dismiss mental illness and believe depression to be a figment of the imagination. Those who have experienced depression or have a loved one or friend who has know otherwise.

No two people are exactly alike in every conceivable way, and depression’s different effects on us are proof of that. You may become angry and lash out at others when suffering from depression, but someone else might feel intensely sad or simply numb. These different experiences further prove that mental health and mental health issues need to be discussed all the more so that everyone can recognize whether they or someone they know is experiencing a serious mental health problem and find healthy solutions to get through it. The differences in how depression affects everyone who suffers from it do not take away from the seriousness of this disease but instead show that no person’s experience with depression should be dismissed or belittled.

2. There is healing in simplicity.

Just as there is variety in how depression grips each person who experiences it, there is also variety in how a person should respond to and navigate this difficult season. In Encountering Depression, Reverend Coon emphasizes balance and simplicity. If a person is emotionally balanced, then depression is less likely to overwhelm them (Coon 62). Too much on one’s plate is often a recipe for becoming overwhelmed, which is why simplifying one’s routine may prove beneficial. As Coon states, dealing with too much “leads to exhaustion, which is a fertile field in which depression often takes root” (Coon 82).

Consider the following tips for simplifying your routine and engaging in activities that may help you navigate depression:

  • Remove yourself from non-essential projects and activities.
  • Get yourself outside and go for nature walks.
  • Take a break from social media.
  • Set a simple daily routine.
  • Take time to rest.

There is a reason we need rest so much. As imperfect humans, our minds and bodies can only take so much before we become weary. An overloaded mind and body often results in burnout and feeds depression. We must take time regularly to unplug, get outside, remove ourselves from activities that may be weighing us down, and give ourselves time to breathe, pray, and repeat.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.“

Matthew 11:28 KJV

Just breathe. Just pray. Rest. Read the Word. And repeat the process.

And we know that getting through a season of depression is a p r o c e s s. But it is doable by learning how to understand what we’re experiencing and why, finding healthy ways to get through it, and finding rest and strength in God’s presence.

“To God, who divided dark from light, the darkness and light are both essential to His creation. Endure the darkness – in time the dawn will come.”

Reverend Carlton Coon, Light in a Dark Place: Encountering Depression

Reference:

Coon Sr., Carlton L. Light in a Dark Place: Encountering Depression. 2019.

How to Overcome Self-Condemnation: Appealing to the Mercy of God

A man seeks God's forgiveness in prayer.

Sometimes when you make a mistake, the hardest part of forgiveness is forgiving yourself. If you’re like me, you might tend to beat yourself up for mistakes you’ve made, mulling over them at night and asking yourself how you could be so stupid. Self-condemnation completely hinders the process of forgiveness.

When we make a mistake, we must ask God for his mercy and strive to resist temptation and live according to His Word, but sometimes our own thoughts can make it much harder to feel forgiven when we imprison ourselves in our own guilt. What we forget in those moments is how much God truly loves us. In order for us to move forward with peace and in confidence, knowing that He has forgiven us, we must recognize His love for us and that His mercy has no end.

Two examples in His Word show us what it means to appeal to God’s mercy.

When Lot and his family escaped Sodom and Gomorrah, he asked God to save a nearby city so that they might flee to it and be saved.

“Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.”

Genesis 19:19-22 (KJV)

One of the first things Lot said to God was a reminder that God had granted Lot grace and that He had “magnified [His] mercy” by saving Lot’s life. When Abraham went to God to try to convince Him not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he appealed to God’s justice, asking if God would destroy the “righteous with the wicked” (see Genesis 18:23). Abraham did not succeed in his intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah, but Lot succeeded in his intercession for Zoar by appealing first to the grace and mercy of God when he was in danger and needed to be saved.

In the New Testament, Jesus told a parable of humility and mercy when comparing the Pharisee to the publican.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican…. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Luke 18:10-11, 13 (KJV)

In this parable, the publican acknowledged his sinfulness and asked that God would show him mercy. He showed humility and an understanding of his own faults and need for a Savior.

These examples remind us to appeal to God’s mercy when we are facing difficulties and when we need forgiveness. Lot appealed to God’s mercy when he needed salvation from circumstances. The publican appealed to God’s mercy when he needed salvation from sin. Neither Lot nor the publican were perfect men, but in Lot’s case and in the parable of the publican, both men were sincere in their appeals, and God showed them His mercy. When we make a mistake and ask for forgiveness, we’re stating that we cannot make it on our own. Our appeal to God’s mercy becomes a declaration that we need Him.

Messing up again and again is human nature. God knows this. Of course, our human nature is not an excuse to sin, but rather it is a reminder that we need Him in order to resist temptation and receive forgiveness.

God is just and faithful to forgive of us our sins as His Word says in 1 John 1:9.

What these accounts remind me of is how much He wants to forgive us. Our God longs for us to surrender to Him and serve Him in righteousness and sincerity, and when we do, then He will forgive us of our sins. We need not walk in guilt and self-condemnation because He already paid the price for our sins and freed us from guilt and shame.

We can overcome guilt and self-condemnation by appealing to God’s mercy, by recognizing our flaws and inadequacies, and by understanding that it is only through the grace, love, and mercy of our Savior that we move forward and walk in confidence with Him. Self-condemnation will keep us from accepting His forgiveness, but the self-realization of our weaknesses and His great love for us keeps us under His blood and walking in newness of life.

*****

Post Schedule Announcement:

Lots of things are coming up as my schedule will be getting busier over the upcoming weeks, so posts will be on Fridays only until further notice.

I’ve seen there are some newer readers and subscribers to Breathe Pray Repeat, so I also want to say “welcome,” and I pray these posts bless you and encourage you to get closer to God as you seek Him more and study His Word.

If you have any post or Bible study requests, don’t hesitate to comment below or send me a message and let me know! God Bless!

2 Reminders For When You’re Dealing with Stress or Imposter Syndrome

Matthew 19:26 in the King James Bible.
Matthew 19:26 reminds us that all things are possible with God!

Do you ever feel as though you’re the camel carrying the basket of straw about to burst and that the straw that will break your back is only moments away?

I am not enough.

You might say this silently to yourself or to God in prayer as you wearily reflect on all the things you have to do and your limited abilities.

I can’t do this.

It’s true.

You are not enough…on your own. You can’t do this alone.

When I’m struggling with imposter syndrome, worrying people may realize how inadequate I am, or when the stress of life weighs me down, here are 2 reminders that give me strength to carry on:

1. Everything I do I must do for Jesus to the best of my ability.

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”

Colossians 3:23-24 (KJV)

Imposter syndrome causes a person to feel like a fraud, doubting his or her own abilities or accomplishments. I’ve struggled with this often, but each time I do, God reminds me that it doesn’t matter what others may think of what I can or can’t do or of what I have or have not accomplished. What matters is that no matter what I do, I must do it wholeheartedly for His glory.

Whether it’s your work or ministry, as long as you keep your focus on God and direct your efforts and attention toward Him, then you will be able to overcome feelings of doubt and inadequacy.

2. All things are possible with God.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Philippians 4:13 (KJV)

When you have a heavier load than usual, it can seem impossible to get everything done. On our own, we cannot fulfill each of our duties and maintain peace of mind, but with God, we can do all things because He is our strength.

Sometimes, life presents us with seemingly impossible tasks. But God has equipped us with all we need to do all He’s called us to do.

God has given us everything we need to live in this world according to His Word—Himself.

When we become worried about failure or inadequacies, we must put our focus on Him.

Redirecting our focus to Jesus reminds us what this is all for and why we’re here. It’s for Him. We work, go to school, and survive in this world to support the Kingdom and become stronger members of the Kingdom. He gave each of us unique abilities and placed us in specific locations to serve Him and His Kingdom.

We are enough to our God!

When we serve God and give ourselves and abilities to Him, He makes up the difference in our lives. We may have the weight of the world on our shoulders, but He’s got the whole wide world in His hands.

3 Scriptures to Speak Over Anxiety

Anxiety

What will the future hold?

That’s a question we often ask ourselves when life seems more uncertain than usual.

Bills pile up. We’re saving for trips, home maintenance, or a new home or car. We’ve got work and school responsibilities, or we’re in need of a job or financial blessing. It seems we often waste our days away in nervous expectancy for what won’t or could happen. But that’s not what God wants for us.

Anxiety can absolutely consume our thoughts and affect our physical health. I sometimes get more stressed just thinking about stress, and then I try to put away all those things causing me anxiety, which causes me more stress because I know they’re still out there.

For those who struggle with anxiety, overcoming our worries often involves a process of reminding ourselves throughout each day that God knows what we’re going through and has a plan for us. He is our Provider and Comfort.

If you’re battling anxiety, here are 3 passages of scripture to study and speak over your fears so that the Lord can calm the troubled thoughts within your busy mind and speak peace over the storm in your life:

(8) I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
(9) Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
(10) Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.
~Psalms 32:8-10 (KJV)

(3) Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
(4) Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:
~Isaiah 26:3-4 (KJV)

(6) Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
(7) And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:6-7 (KJV)

Our God has a plan for each of us. He is faithful, and He never fails.

No matter what you’re facing, rest assured that He is right there with you.

He will guide you.

He will keep you.

He will give you peace.

Prioritizing the Kingdom

So, I have this need. A time-sensitive need. It’s one of those needs that you try not to worry about too much, but as the days go by and nothing changes, you start to worry a lot.

“God,” I say, “I have this need. Now, You know I have this need, and I know You know that, so if You could maybe speed up Your need-fulfilling machine and meet this need ASAP, that would take a load off my mind. We’re dealing with a time-sensitive issue here, and the funny thing about time is that it’s always running out. Right, God? God? Is this thing on?”

I scratch my head and wring my hands and ramble on and on until all I can think about for the next hour and day and week is that one need that keeps coming closer to its deadline.

And then I read Matthew chapter 6, and I realize God is speaking to me:

(30) “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
(31) Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(32) (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
(33) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

From these verses, God reminds me, and us, that we need not allow worry over our needs to consume our thoughts. Sometimes, we prioritize our cares on earth over Kingdom concerns too much.

What should we do?

We should seek first the Kingdom of God and trust that God will meet our needs. My Apostolic Study Bible explains it as actively pursuing the Kingdom while passively expecting the meeting of our needs.

Indeed, Matthew 6 says it perfectly as well. If God takes care of His creation, then how much more will He care for His children? For He knows our needs. And so we should not busy ourselves with overloaded concern for our own selves. Rather, we should busy ourselves with His Kingdom.

Prioritizing trust in Him breeds more trust in Him and the assurance that God will take care of us no matter what life throws our way.

I may still have a need, as do we all, but I also have the promise that my Savior who knows my need is working on my behalf and will come through for me at precisely the right moment.

If we are faithful to Him, then He will provide for all our needs in this life, for the righteous are not forsaken.

The Things That Matter

People say a lot of things. Things that hurt. Things that are true. Things that hurt because they’re true. But people also say a lot of things to minimize you, denigrate you, vilify you.

Kids can be cruel, and adults can be mean, and the things they say to put us down shouldn’t matter to us. But sometimes, we let those things that don’t matter at all matter a little too much until they eat away at our confidence, our strength, our joy, our ability to get out of bed every morning and live a purposeful life for our Creator.

It’s hard to forget the things they say. And sometimes, it’s hard to remember the things that matter.

These are the things they say:

You’re not smart enough for that job. Don’t bother applying to work at that place. Aren’t you too young to preach a sermon? You don’t dress very well. Your clothes are ugly. You’re not very pretty. There’s no way you’re that old. You’re way too short. You’re so tall, you look like a clumsy tree. You don’t have enough money. You didn’t go to a very good school. God will never use you. You’re not a very good person, and you’ve done terrible things. You can’t sing. You’re not a very good musician. You’re too skinny. You’re too fat. You’re too loud. It’s really annoying. You’re too quiet. It’s a little snobbish. You’ll never really amount to anything. Your family problems don’t matter. Your dreams don’t matter. Your thoughts don’t matter. You don’t matter.

These are the things God says:

But you matter to Me. I care about your thoughts. Lay your burdens down at My feet. There’s rest for you in My Presence. I can give you all you need. I saw you on the Cross when I died just for you. I knew all you’d have to go through, and I made you for this exact moment in time. You’re not too quiet or too loud for Me. I hear every prayer you whisper at night. I see you struggle and fight and fall and cry. I’ll be the Strength you need to stand taller than your mountain, the Arms to carry you when you’re too weak to climb. You don’t need the world’s fame or fortune to impress Me. Your song is beautiful. You can do all things when you give it all to Me.

I gave everything so that you could have everything in Me. Joy for every morning. Strength through every struggle. Comfort in every night. Eternal life. I love to hear your voice calling My Name. I long for you to be in Heaven with Me so you can see Me face-to-face, so you can see the face of the One Who came and died for you, Who gave you life. I’ve covered all your mistakes with My blood. You see, you’re more than a servant to Me. You’re my child. And you were worth it all. Every nail, every thorn, all the jeers, all the hate, all the scorn. And if you could only see how much I love you, then you’d know all the things in life that don’t matter and all the things that do.

These are the things that matter:

Your life. Your dreams. Your work for Jesus. Your walk with Him. The salvation of your friends. That time you sang that worship song, all loud and strong, and you thought no one was listening, but God heard every word, and it gave Him joy. That time you cried all night, got up the next morning, and went to work, and got to church later, and even though no one knew what you were going through, you praised God unashamedly. The smiles on your family’s faces when you’re together after time away. The time you spend reading the Word, seeking some direction, seeking Him more. When you tell God, over and over again, that you don’t understand, that you don’t know why bad things are happening, that you’re tired, that you’re sad, but you keep serving Him and giving Him praise because you remember. You remember that no matter what happens, you understand all the things that matter after all.

That the things they say and the negative things you think about yourself

are all the things that don’t matter.

And that Jesus, your family, your church, and you

are all the things that do.