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.