The Bible doesn’t use the word depression as such but there are other words used which describe a negative mindset or troubling experience- brokenness- downhearted- discouraged and so on.
There are a few people in the Bible who, although greatly used by God, suffered some deep, dark negative emotions.
Elijah is one example. He seemed to suffer a major burn out- the spiritual warfare he had been engaged in left him exhausted with sleepless nights.
“I have had enough Lord, he said. Take my life, I am not better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:4
What led this great man to feel the way he did?
That constant pressure, spiritual warfare in the form of Jezebel and Ahab’s men.
We can look at the triggers in Elijah’s life, and certainly, Jezebel was a major one.
However, there was FEAR. He ran for his life because he was afraid. This fear had gripped him, laid hold of him, and left him tired, worn out, exhausted, discouraged, and defeated.
King David had bouts of anxiety and fear. There were times when he felt low, discouraged, and broken. He felt the weight of his own sin and failures and mistakes crashing down on him. He cried out to God for mercy, forgiveness, and help.
He wrote songs and many of them resonated with deep human emotions of sadness.
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him, my Saviour, and my God.” Ps. 42:11
It’s like David is talking to himself. That is not a bad thing to do. In fact, it can be very helpful as you learn to speak out your fears, concerns, and pain. He asks himself. ‘Why are you feeling like this?’ and then ‘Hope in God’.
If you are feeling bruised and battered with the work you are doing for the Lord then you are in good company. However, these accounts are not written so that we can simply say that we are not alone, or that we can see other great leaders going through some of the things we are going through. They are written to give us some keys to unlock us and release us from our prisons. Elijah did recover. David did put his hope in God.
Look at Jonah. Here is a servant of God who simply does not want to do what God has asked him to do. There are reasons why this is so for him. It is not that he simply and willfully goes the opposite direction to the one God had shown him. He just doesn’t like this assignment.
In fact, he doesn’t think God is right. Everything in Jonah resents the thought that God wants to be kind to these Ninevites.
Jonah tries to run away from his assignment. The fact that he thought he could run away from God is in itself an indication of the state of his mind. And after a storm at sea, being swallowed by a giant fish, and then being saved and given a second chance, he obeyed. He preached God’s message to the people of Nineveh.
Instead of being happy that the people responded to his message, he became angry.
Imagine you preach a message to people and they believe the message you
preached and they go overboard in putting it in to practice and you end up getting angry? No preacher would react like that. Jonah is no ordinary preacher. He is a preacher with attitude, and those kinds of preachers are very seldom happy.
“Now O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:3
And even after God reached out to Jonah again with great compassion, he responded, “…I am angry enough to die.” Jonah 4:9
One of the things we can learn is that if you don’t deal with your anger it can lead you to a place you don’t want to be. Anger can lead you to spiral down. You may even feel you have every right to be angry but if you let yourself stew in angry juice then it’s not going to make you feel good.
Forgiveness plays a huge part in our mental health. Forgiving and knowing you are forgiven.
I choose to forgive rather than be angry. I choose to forgive rather than let bitterness take over me and lead me to a dark place. Even if someone has caused you grief, if you don’t forgive then they keep causing you grief. The moment you forgive and let it go is the moment you find freedom and peace. Draw a line and move on.
It is not easy to forgive those who have hurt you. In forgiving you are not saying that what happened to you doesn’t matter. In forgiving you are not saying that you will be able to forget. When you forgive you are giving that person a gift they don’t deserve just as God forgives you your mistakes. He gives a gift you don’t deserve. However, that is what grace is about and that is the way you can become free from bitterness, which is soul-destroying.