Some people think that if we are really trusting in God we ought to always feel emotionally good. Some even go so far as to say that it’s a sin to be depressed. Are they right about that?
No, they are not. Absolutely not. These people make a completely inaccurate connection between emotional feelings and ones spiritual standing in life. That is a disjointed connection. The dots just won’t connect.
The truth is that you can be very low emotionally and still be strong spiritually. I used to think that it was a sin to be depressed emotionally until I studied the subject in the Bible and saw what the Scripture has to say about the matter. I found that there were many great saints of God who were depressed. The Bible in no way indicates that it was a sin. Depression is a sense of heaviness in the soul. Emotions reside in the soul, as do our thoughts.
Depression can be caused by a lot of things. There can be physiological reasons for depression. It could be because of a hormonal imbalance. It could be because of some sort of imbalance in the chemicals in the brain. The National Institute of Mental Health has affirmed that depression is a real illness and “is not a sign of a person’s weakness or a character flaw.”
There also are circumstantial reasons why people can be depressed. If you’ve lost a loved one through death or suffered another type of great loss, depression would be a normal reaction to that kind of thing. It was Holocaust survivor and author,Vicktor Frankl who wrote, “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”
There are many different reasons why people would be depressed. Anxiety in our emotions is a normal part of the human experience. Sometimes people ask me, “Is it right or wrong for me to be depressed about this or that”? I usually respond to them by saying, “I’d rather not cast my answer in terms of right and wrong, but I’ll simply say this – its human, it’s natural that you would feel that way.”
The oldest book of the Bible describes a depressed man. Consider the biblical character, Job, when he was going through his great trials. Here’s what the Scripture says about his situation in Job 23:1-9:
His hand (God’s hand) is heavy despite my groaning. Oh that I knew where I might find him, I’d come to his seat and present my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I’d learn the words that he’d answer and perceive what he’s say to me. Would he contend with me by the greatness of his power? No surely he’d pay attention to me. There the upright would reason with him and I would be delivered forever from my judge. Behold I go forward, but he’s not there. And backward, but I cannot perceive him. When he acts on the left hand I cannot behold him. He turns on the right and I cannot see him.
Again and again in the book of Job, he expressed his negative emotions. He said things like “I wish I’d never been born” and “life makes no sense”. These nine verses in Job 23 are a very articulate and strong declaration of his emotional depression but listen to what he says in verse 10: “But he knows the way that I take and when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” There’s his declaration of faith. He was honest about his feelings but was also clear about his faith in God.
Don’t be judgmental of other people who are emotionally depressed, and don’t judge yourself for it if you go through it either. The idea that it’s a sin to be emotionally depressed is wrong. It is a part of the human experience. We choose what we do with the emotional reactions that we have in life and, make no mistake about it, we can have joy (which is different from happiness) in the midst of depression. If you believe that it’s a sin anytime you experience depression, you’ll set yourself up for self condemnation. On the other hand, if you allow Faith to carry you through it, you can know joy in every situation of life, even in the midst of your depression.