Depression is a rather taboo topic among Christians. After all, Christians shouldn’t struggle with darkness when backed by all the hope and joy of knowing God, right?
If I’ve learned anything about myself as an adult, it’s that I feel everything deeply and this leads to highs and lows. I used to believe when I felt good that the high would last forever. Life was all worked out, everything was better now, and I’d never again descend into that ridiculous, suffocating darkness. Somehow I believed the same thing about the darkness–it was forever–nothing would ever change or get better, my life was a mess and there was nothing I could do about it. The end.
Nothing Lasts Forever
Eventually though, I caught onto the pattern, the ebb and flow of these all or nothing feelings. I started to understand that life is a mess of good days and feelings mingled with hard times and broken hearts. Outside of eternity, we are trapped in time and the changes time inevitably brings.
C.S. Lewis says it better in The Screwtape Letters:
“Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation? Humans are amphibians–half spirit and half animal. . . . As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation–the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty.”
Simply understanding that the darkest days would not last forever was a game changer for me. I was able to ride out the emotion without feeling totally hopeless. I learned to acknowledge that life ebbs and flows and however bleak things may look today, they will surely change tomorrow or soon after. I learned not to lose heart–and that made all difference.
But this wasn’t enough. It helped knowing the hard times would pass but I still felt guilty for even having such dark feelings. Surely as a Christian I should handle life better and never allow myself to get so down in the first place.
It’s Okay to Struggle
Here, the Psalms helped tremendously. One Psalm is filled with praise and glory and the next the Psalmist decries all the heartache and hopelessness surrounding him. King David, a man who clearly loved the Lord and sought to walk with God did not hesitate to show fluctuating emotions.
Ronald Horton in Mood Tides states:
“An imperturbable evenness of spirits is not laid down as a norm in Scripture. Personal gains are occasions for thankful rejoicing. Personal losses are promptings to soul-searching and spiritual attentiveness. They are occasions for God to show His character in bringing something good from them and in the process mature our character as well. How else might we come to know beauty from ashes, honey in the rock, streams in the desert, a door of hope in the valley of Achor, lives revitalized and refined?”
Some of the lowest times in my life have led to the deepest reflection and strongest growth. Both struggle and blessing help my faith, but admittedly, I am more inclined to seek out God and his truth when my heart is hurting than when all is going well and I’m feeling self-sufficient. I’m learning to use the times when I struggle as opportunities to think, reflect, and grow rather than sulk.
Do What’s Right
Though it may not be wrong to feel down, it is wrong to sulk, complain, and otherwise behave in a way that doesn’t bring honor to Christ. However we may feel it’s essential we continue to do what’s right. You can acknowledge that you don’t feel happy or joyful while still doing what is right and good.
Trust that doing the right thing is always the right thing even if your feelings don’t line up with your current behavior. Acknowledging and riding out feelings doesn’t give us a free pass to behave unkindly or to spread gloom and discouragement like confetti. Our actions must be in line with our faith even when our feelings are miles away from joy and comfort. We must always choose to do what’s right regardless of how we feel (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
I hope this is a help to you if ever you find yourself struggling with darkness or depression. You are not alone, Christian or otherwise, trust me on that. If you would like to reach out, feel free to get in touch in the comments section below.
6 thoughts on “Faith & Depression”
Hey kari, what do you think about a person with depression having a relationship? Would that be potentially more risky/harmful to the person, given that the person is already quite emotionally unstable, and now has something that might make me feel more highs and lows or more insecure? thank you!
I have been wanting to read this, I have had that cold/crud going around and I wanted to have a clear mind when I read this. As always, your writing is accurate and true. What first inspired me to follow your blog is still evident today. Depression, among Christians, is a tricky thing. WE are human, and we experience all the emotions and feelings everyone else feels. Yes, we have our relationship with Christ, who, is our all in all, but, depression can hit Christians and does, more than people will admit. I spoke on this subject a year ago to a women’s retreat and I was amazed at the response. I have suffered terrible depression in my life. I have been admonished by sisters in the Lord that I was not in touch enough with the Lord. I was told that if I read more, or prayed more or served more I wouldn’t be in depression. The truth is, depression hits us all and only through our relationship with Christ can we get to the point where we can live like you have described above. Recognizing that even in the darkness we have a Light who can get us through. Sorry for the long rambling response. Thank you for this post. Most excellent… have missed your words. Hope you are well. ❤
As Christians, I think we’ve long overlooked or denied the fact that there’s often a medical cause for depression and that it might require medical treatment. We sympathize with the person who has a visible or clearly physical problem whether it be cancer or a broken bone, but we look down on the person with mental health issues because we assume that they are lacking spiritually. Instead of encouraging them to seek help, we make them feel as if they are somehow at fault. How sad!
Definitely. I think especially as woman, as much as we don’t like to admit it, all the crazy hormones we go through make a big impact on our mental and physical health as well. Just because someone is struggling doesn’t mean we’re right to assume they’re sinning or lacking faith. Of course the spiritual side needs to be addressed too but that rarely covers everything ❤
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Thank you for writing this! I could have written it, as I’ve had the same thoughts and struggles, but you have a way with words I do not possess 🙂 I always enjoy reading your musings.
Thank you, Hannah 🙂 You’ve always been such an encouragement to me in my writing ❤