When I was a teenager, there was this strange belief that a Christian should never be depressed, yet I need to tell you that it is okay to be sad sometimes.
The (nonsense) teaching at my local church went something like this: God loves you so if you are depressed then that shows a lack of faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. God never promises that we will not go through troubles – he promises to go through them with us.
For some reason, this attitude seems just as common today. The idea that sadness is in any way the opposite of faith is just unhealthy and unhelpful.
Depression lingers until it is admitted.
When James 5:16 says, “confess your sins”, it is saying confess your weaknesses, admit your failings, talk about what has broken you. Opening up about what is hurting you drains it of the power it has over you.
Psalms and sadness
Want some axiom zero evidence?
- Psalms 6:6-7 says “all night long I drench my bed with tears; my tears saturate the cushion beneath me.”
- In Psalm 25:17 the psalmist begs God, “deliver me from my distress; rescue me from my suffering!”
- The whole of Psalm 38 is rather bleak. In verse 17 David sings “I am in constant pain”.
- The whole of Spalm 44 is a song about doing nothing wrong and yet being continually broken by life.
Suffering and sadness (depression) was something that the psalmists not only recognised but embraced. They knew it was okay to be sad sometimes.
They recognised that God was a God of healing. Only those who are sick and in pain need healing.
They recognised that sometimes the world falls apart; sometimes we are in pain and no one knows. But they also saw that God was still God.
Bebo Norman sings something similar today.
Reach out and connect with someone
Whatever else you do, if you are suffering from depression, do not suffer alone. Part of the road to recovery is to admit to people you trust that you are suffering.
It may not be possible in a church that is consumed with hyper-spiritual fakery and total denial of inner pain. That’s why the attitude I saw when I was younger is so unhealthy. It forces people to deny what they are going through and locks them away from the very healing the Church should be offering.
If that sounds like your Church, I want you to know that you are not alone and it is okay to be sad sometimes.
Depression tells you lies
Depression is a liar. One of depression’s lies is that you are alone; no one else is going through this.
Depression lies and says “this will never end”. In the moment, it feels true but it will end; everything does.
I hope you know what the Bible says about liars.
If you are feeling deep sadness, please tell someone you trust. Find someone, anyone, that you can open up to.
If someone tells you they are feeling sadness, you do not need to have answers. You only need to be there for them. Listen to them. Make time for them. Cry with them. Let them know that they are not alone.
Depression, the liar, and its messengers
In case you were thinking that it is not so bad to claim depression is lack of faith. Let me show you something.
When Matthew 25:41 talks about the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels that has more than one meaning. “Devil” means liar and false accuser. When Hebrew writers talk about the something, they use the definitive article as an example of all forms of that something. So, here, “the devil” means all liars and false accusers.
The word “angels” literally means messengers.
So look gain t the passage. It is talking about a fire prepared for all liars and false accusers (depression) and the messengers of that lie (teachers of bad doctrine). When you perpetuate the myth that depression means you have failed as a Christian, you are being the angel of the devil in that context.
Yes, I just said Christians – whole churches even – can be the angels of the devil. I remind you again what Matthew 25:41 says and ask you if you still think that claim is no big deal?
There is hope
The true purpose of the church is to continue the work of Yeshua (Jesus). This is summarised in Luke 4:16-19.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and the regaining of sight to the blind,
to set free those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
The good news to those who are captive to depression is this: “you are not alone”. This is the message we need to bring to those that need to hear it.
The truth that sets free those oppressed by bad doctrine is this: The claims made by leaders that “depression is a failure as a Christian” are wrong. It is okay to be sad sometimes.
Then, and only then, can healing start.
Let us preach some good news.