Thursday, May 26, 2011

Toward a Biblical Perspective on Depression: Introduction

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have personally battled depression in my own life (see How the Lord Shepherded Me Through My Wife's Battle With Ovarian Cancer). In fact, I struggled with this issue throughout my childhood and into my adult years until I finally found victory in Christ.

But I have not only had personal experience with depression, I have also had a substantial amount of pastoral experience dealing with other people who battle depression as well. In fact, in my experience as a pastor over the past twenty years or so, I believe I have seen a growing number of people who struggle with depression, or at least who are willing to admit that they struggle with it.

This personal and pastoral experience has repeatedly led me to the Scriptures to seek answers for my own struggles as well as to help others who shared a similar struggle. As I prayerfully studied Scripture seeking such answers, the Lord has not only brought great healing and joy to my own heart, but He has also graciously used me to help many others as well. However, until recently I never tried to collect my thoughts on the matter in order to present them in a unified way. But that changed when I was asked to spend some time teaching on the subject of depression at Immanuel this past year. What follows is essentially my teaching notes on the subject of depression from a Biblical point of view.

Although it is beyond the scope of my study, or the time that I have to deal with the subject matter, to get into all that the Bible might have to say about this important issue, I would at least like to offer a broad and basic overview. I shall do so in four stages. First, I will briefly discuss seven case studies from Scripture, from which we may draw some lessons about some of the possible causes and cures for depression. Second, I will briefly examine a number of passages that deal specifically with depression. Third, I will then examine a number of key texts dealing with trials in the Christian life (of which depression is but one example). Fourth, I will finish by examining some passages that teach about joy in the Christian life.

An Important Caveat

I want to make it clear that I am not a trained therapist or medical doctor. This means that I am not qualified to speak authoritatively about medical concerns that surround the issue of depression, such as certain physical conditions or chemical imbalances in the brain. So, although I will share what the Bible has to say about physical symptoms that may lead to or stem from depression, I will do so as a pastor-teacher and not as a trained psychologist, psychiatrist, or licensed counselor. This also means that the focus of my presentation will be to deal with depression primarily as a spiritual and emotional matter, although when the Bible addresses physical symptoms I will present this data as well, knowing that the Bible speaks as our inerrant and infallible source of authoritative truth on whatever matters it addresses.

I hope the readers of this blog will find this series helpful, especially those who may themselves struggle with depression.

Soli Deo gloria!

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