What Does the Bible say about Depression? Is it wrong for a Christian to be depressed?

You’re not less of a Christian or a person if you struggle with anxiety, depression, or any mental illness. If you’re struggling, please reach out to someone—your pastor, your best friend, whomever—and please seek help (your doctor or a mental health professional can help you determine the best steps). It’s okay to seek professional help. There’s been a stigma on this topic in Christian circles, and we need to know that it’s normal and okay to need help.

The message of this article is that God is in the middle of your anxiety, depression, and struggle, relentlessly fighting for you to believe that you are enough, loved, cared for, and protected. He’s fighting for you to know that He’s got you and that He doesn’t think any less of you. Our fight is not to get forgiven, get free, or be made new. The fight is to believe those things are already true. And in the midst of our struggle, the fight isn’t to become enough, earn love, or get God’s attention; instead, God’s fighting for you to realize the truth of who you are and who He is to you in those moments.

That’s why it’s so important to realize our identity in Christ, because when we do we can properly understand that we are not the problem. Sadly, many Christians believe that they are the problem and that, in order to break free from depression or any sin, they have to look within and figure out what’s wrong with them. But we all have negative feelings and thoughts, and we need to know that the source of those feelings, thoughts, and temptations is not us. They come from this broken world, the Enemy, and the power of sin.

You’re not alone in this struggle. In the Bible, Hannah experienced bitterness of soul over infertility and a broken domestic situation. Elijah felt so beaten down that he asked God to take his life. In Psalms, David repeatedly asked his own soul why it was so downcast. Even Jesus expressed that His soul was overwhelmed with sorrow, even to the point of death.

Although there are some great Bible passages on what to do when anxiety and thoughts strike, the thing that has helped me most in times of anxiety, depression, or some other mental struggle is knowing that God is not passive. He’s active. He’s fighting. He’s working for you and me. God is not far off; He’s in it with us. His voice, presence, and protection are greater than any evil in this world (1 John 4:4). Know this: God will never get tired of sustaining you or comforting you or weeping with you or loving you. It is His ultimate desire to love you.

Throughout different seasons of my life, I’ve struggled with negative thinking, depression, and anxiety. What I keep coming back to is truth— the truth about Christ in me and who He has made me to be, the truth about His affection and care for me, and the truth that my life matters and that I have value and purpose in Him.

It’s helpful if we look at lies surrounding mental illness in order to get a clearer view of the truth of what God is doing and what He thinks of us.

Lies vs. Truths

The first lie is that true believers don’t struggle with depression, anxiety, worry, hurt, or any other mental health issue. The truth is that these things are unavoidable, and because we live in a broken world, we will all experience them. No struggle diminishes God’s opinion of you or your status as a believer. We are saved by grace—not by whether or not we struggle—and we’re kept by grace, not by our perfect emotions or behavior. If true believers didn’t struggle, there wouldn’t be any need for the countless verses that encourage us not to worry, fear, or be anxious. Jesus told us that we would face trouble of all kinds, but our hope is in the fact that no matter what we face, Christ has overcome the world ( John 16:33).

The second lie is that believers “just need more faith.” As we discussed earlier, faith is a gift from God. You’ve got all the faith you need. You lack nothing. God never promises us perfect emotions or circumstances. The Bible doesn’t guarantee us perfect health and emotions if we just believe better or harder or more. The truth is that a mental illness is not your fault. God isn’t blaming you.

As a friend of mine says, it’s okay to have Jesus and a therapist. You’re complete in Christ. So ditch the lie that says you’re the problem. Paul told Timothy to take some wine for his stomach ailments (1 Timothy 5:23), not to “have more faith.” You are enough.

The next lie is subtle and tricky. It claims that if you read the Bible more and pray more, then you’ll feel better. People can say this with good intentions, but it’s not the real answer. Our hope isn’t in reading or praying; our hope is in Christ. Although these things are helpful and can be powerful tools to help renew our minds and bring healing, it may also be good to see a counselor and/or take medication.

As a pastor, I believe the truth of Scripture can set us free and bring so much healing and peace in our lives. But God uses all sorts of things to bring healing to us. We wouldn’t tell someone who had a broken leg to just pray more or read their Bible; they need a medical doctor. Sometimes, a person who struggles with depression or anxiety has a chemical imbalance or a biological issue that needs to be addressed.

The next lie has already been touched on, but it bears repeating because many of us still believe it. The lie is that your struggle is punishment from God. The truth is, God is good. Period. And He’s good to you. He is not punishing you. There’s no punishment left (Romans 8:1). The cross was enough for you. It worked. God is for you.

If you believe this lie because you think it’s due to a “sin” in your life, you need to realize that God is not relating to us based on our sin or performance. God relates to us based on the cross and resurrection. He’s taken your sins away. He’ll never turn His back on you or ditch you. Your sins don’t surprise God. He saw all your sins and has chosen to love and be with you forever.

The last lie we will look at says that if you were more spiritually mature, you wouldn’t struggle.” The truth is that your struggle is never because you’re not enough or because God doesn’t love you. Christian maturity is not about becoming strong and independent. No, true Christian maturity is about realizing how weak and dependent you are. It’s about growing more dependent upon God, not less.

We never grow out of our need of God’s grace. We only grow deeper into our need of it. If we really are complete, lacking nothing and with everything we need for life and godliness, then our struggle is not because we are not mature. The Bible says we have an enemy, we have the power of sin at work, and we have this fallen world that is throwing all kinds of things at us.

Perhaps that’s what we need to know the most: there’s an enemy at work in this world. He can’t touch us (1 John 5:18), but he loves to tempt us and distract us. There’s also this parasite called sin crouching at our door (Genesis 4:7). It feeds us thoughts and lies about God and who we are. And then there’s the flesh. The flesh isn’t the old you; the old you was crucified and buried. You’re only one you, the new creation. The flesh is a term for all those old thoughts and beliefs and ways we used to find fulfillment.

It’s important to recognize that we have an enemy. And the enemy is not us. We are on God’s side in this equation. Our fight is not against some “evil part of us.” You are not depression, you are not sin, and you are not your thoughts. You’re a child of God who wrestles with these things.

I asked my friend John Lynch why depression, anxiety, and mental struggles happen. He said, “For some, the struggle is temporary. For others, irregular. For some, the struggle never goes away. For some, it seems to have ended, then returns. For many it is chemical or biological. For some, the result of chronic pain. For some, because of grief or loss. For some, the result of ongoing personal wounding. For some, the result of sexual abuse. For many, it is the result of bad theology. For some, sleep disorders. For some, postpartum complications. For some, the result of unforgiveness. For some, the result of some tension in life. For many, there is absolutely no apparent basis. It just happens.”

In light of that, I hope you realize that you are not a project to be fixed. You are a person to be loved. You are safe. You don’t need to hide. You are not the exception. You are not alone in this struggle. I need you as much as you need me. That’s why I’m urging you, whether you struggle or not, to be in community and to get help. Many of us aren’t prepared to love others well, and that’s okay. We’re learning. And we can teach each other how to love better.

God Is Good to You

God’s not playing some game with you. As I said earlier, many theologies basically say God is playing good cop/bad cop with us. We think God is throwing pain our way and then coming to us and comforting us. Nope. God is good to us. Does He allow the pain? Yes. But is He the source of our pain? No. He doesn’t cause it. God’s not playing with us. He’s not far off, asking us to figure this out all on our own. And He hasn’t moved on to someone else. His entire schedule has your name written on it. You’re His full-time job.

God doesn’t ask us to get past it or get over it. Never. He’s inviting us to trust Him with every problem and struggle that comes our way. Even when we are faithless, God remains faithful. All of His promises are held up by His faithfulness and commitment and dedication to you; not by your faithfulness, commitment, or dedication to Him.

Suicide is not the unforgivable sin, nor is suicide the sin that leads to death. The sin leading to death (the unforgivable sin) is the rejection of the gospel and the rejection of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (1 John 5:16). That is why John says we should not pray for it because our prayer cannot turn someone to God (1 John 5:17). Only the Holy Spirit can do that. Further, the entire letter of 1 John is dedicated to contrasting those who are saved and those who are not.

To say that God sends a believer to hell because they made the choice to kill themselves totally misses the heart of God. Nowhere in Scripture does it say suicide is an unforgivable sin or that suicide is different from any other sin. Our forgiveness is not rooted in how little or small our sins are; our forgiveness is based on the shed blood of Jesus. There is no such thing as big sins and small sins, just sins. And Jesus took them all away.

So if you’ve lost someone to suicide, please see and know the heart of your Father. He is good, all the time. We need to start seeing God as good and stop seeing Him through the lens of our shame and the religious teaching we grew up with.

A Way Forward

As many of us know, depression can feel like a heavy fog. Anxiety can paralyze you or make you feel like everything is about to blow up in your face. Whether you struggle with anxiety or depression or neither, we all face seasons of sadness and emotional turmoil. In my own life, this is true. Counseling and talking to friends and being in community are all valuable, and there are also some truths that I love to lean on in seasons when I feel anxious or sad.

Jesus says we don’t have to be anxious because He’s got us. He is the beginning and the end. He’s seen everything that has happened and will happen to you. Your sin and anxious thoughts and everything that has happened in your life have not caught Him by surprise. He wants us to share with Him what is causing us to worry, doubt, fear, and be sad. Think of it like this: We’re carrying our burdens around in a bag. God is asking us to give Him the things that weigh us down, and as we take the items (our worries) out of our bag and give them to Him, we are “casting our cares” on Him. We can cast our cares on God because He really does care for us (1 Peter 5:7). And He promises to be our peace. God is inviting us to humbly trust in His care for us by asking for our cares. He’s in you, and He deeply cares for you.

I sometimes think I annoy my wife with my constant needs. But again and again, she loves me and cares for me and reminds me that she is never burdened by, bothered by, or tired of my going to her. She loves to care for me. She loves to love me. How much more does God love to care and love us in our times of need? God promises us that the Spirit inside us will bring to remembrance all that Jesus has taught us ( John 14:26). So we can be confident that in the midst of our mess, God is working in us.

One last thing. I’ve been trying to wake up each morning and give thanks. It’s simple. But sometimes I don’t want to do it. But it’s helped me—a lot. Studies show that gratitude improves mental health, and people who practice it are often happier.50 Knowing that God is for me and that He forgives me, loves me, will never forsake me, and has given me everything I need for life and godliness, gives me a lot of reasons to be thankful.

Take a moment and give God thanks for all He’s done for you.

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