Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Toward a Biblical Perspective on Depression: Summary of Case Studies

After examining seven Scriptural case studies concerning depression, I would like to take time just to summarize some of the findings gleaned from these studies before moving on to some passages that deal more directly with the issue.

First, we have seen that depression can be the result of persistent sins such as anger and jealousy. And this can be true even in the case of hardhearted, unrepentant sinners, such as Cain was, not just in those who may struggle with a guilty conscience because of unconfessed sin. In people such as Cain, depression results from their own self-centered thinking and their resentment at not being perceived or treated as they think they should be.

Second, we have seen that depression can also be caused by a guilty conscience, as in the case of David. Indeed, there are many people that suffer from depression due to lingering guilt because they either have not yet found redemption in Christ or because they have harbored unconfessed sin in their hearts.

Third, we have seen that sin may not have any direct causal relationship to depression at all but that depression may be experienced simply because we live in a fallen world where terrible things happen, as in the case of Job. Depression may thus be experienced in the midst of great trials or as the result of terrible physical or emotional trauma. But his case also teaches that we must avoid sinning in response to depression by becoming angry or bitter toward God. Here Jeremiah serves as an example to remind us that we must continue to trust God as our loving and gracious Lord despite what sorrows we may face in this life.

Fourth, Job's case also demonstrates that depression may be experienced as the result of intense spiritual warfare as we seek to do what is right before God. Or again, as in the cases of Moses and Elijah, depression may stem from the constant strain of stress in our lives as we seek to serve God in a hostile world and in very difficult circumstances.

Fifth, we have also seen that depression may be a very valuable aid to us because God uses it in the lives of believers to teach them faith and obedience, to make them more like Christ and to glorify Himself more fully in their lives. Indeed, if we desire to be like Christ, then we should expect to suffer as He did, even to the point where we might also be characterized as men or women “of sorrows.” After all, if Jesus learned obedience through the things which he suffered (Heb. 5:8) – including struggles with depression and sorrow – then shouldn't we expect the same? And shouldn't we also be encouraged to know that, just as Jesus in this way became our sympathetic High Priest, we in this way might also be more useful in helping others who struggle with depression?

We have been called to follow Christ on the path to glory, but that path includes suffering, suffering through which we may count on the Spirit's strengthening and assuring presence. Remember Paul teaches us that “the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Rom. 8:16-17).

Perhaps, then, we must learn to think of depression in the same way that Peter says we should think of other sufferings for Christ when he writes, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Pet. 4:12-13).

We shall deal with the Bible's teaching concerning trails more fully later in this series, but stay tuned as we shall next turn our attention to passages that deal more directly with depression.

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