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Myths Some Christians Believe About Depression

Updated on September 9, 2016
Carola Finch profile image

Carola is a Christian writer and author of three books. She writes about Christian living, the Bible, relationships, and other topics.

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The terms Christian and depression do not seem to go together. Christians are supposed to be optimistic, joyful, and full of hope right?

Tragic events such as the suicide of Pastor Rick & Kay Warren’s son and celebrities such as Robin Williams are bringing depression out of the closet and to be examined in the light. However, some Christians have strong opinions about depression. They feel that Christians should not get depressed and that this condition is a sign of spiritual weakness and lack of faith.

Depression is a state that can drain your energy, create burdens, and gnaw away at your mind. It crushes our spirit (Proverbs 15-13) and leads to hopelessness and despair. It is often a response to discouragement, grief, or emotional pain. When we are depressed, we tend to isolate ourselves.

Unfortunately, we are often separating ourselves from people who could encourage us and correct any distorted ideas we may have.

True believers do not become depressed

Unfortunately, many Christians do not take depression seriously. They think that people are weak and just need to “get over it” and pray more.

Christians who think Christians do not become depressed need to take a tour of King David’s psalms such as Psalms 6, 30, and 31. David provides graphic descriptions of physically wasting away, crying, not sleeping, and dark thoughts. He struggles with despair that his trial would never end. The apostle Paul has described himself has having great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart (Romans 9:2).

Depression is a complex condition with many causes, such as a chemical imbalance in brain, physical and mental exhaustion, past trauma, grief and loss, and emotional pain. Some people benefit from psychological help, therapy, and/or medication. In many cases, their depression is not their choice or their fault.

Depression equals a lack of faith

Some Christians argue that Christians should be able to reject depression by applying faith. However, many people who are definitely full of faith struggle at times.

Elijah fed by the ravens, by Giovanni Lanfranco, Musée des beaux-arts de Marseille
Elijah fed by the ravens, by Giovanni Lanfranco, Musée des beaux-arts de Marseille | Source

Take the prophet Elijah for example (1 Kings 18). Here was a man so full of faith that he dared to challenge the prophets of the god Baal to build an altar on Mount Carmel and call on their god to light a fire on it and a sacrifice.

While the prophets of Baal called on their god, shouted, cut themselves, and danced around the altar, Elijah built an altar to God with a deep trench around it. The altar was doused with water that filled the trench.

Elijah prayed that God would show the Israelites present that He was the God in Israel. God sent a fire that not only burnt up everything on the altar, but licked up the water in the trench. Elijah took charge and ordered the deaths the prophets of Baal.

When Queen Jezebel heard what happened, she threatened to kill Elijah (1 Kings 19). The prophet fled and felt so blue that he asked God to take his life. God did not condemn Elijah for being depressed. Instead, God sent an angel to give Elijah food and drink and reassured him that he was not the only believer left in Israel.

In the past, God had ravens bring him food previously and miraculously increased the amount of food a widow could feed him (1 Kings 17).. God showed himself to Elijah and gave him specific tasks to accomplish.

In the same way, we may respond to stressful situations by becoming depressed no matter how much faith we have. We are all weak human beings who struggle with faced with trials and challenges. We can, however, pray to God and receive His comfort and reassurance that our difficulties are only temporary. He also sends us people to comfort and support us.

Depressed people just need to pray more

Some people pray more when they are feeling down, while others feel so discouraged it is difficult for them to pray. Prayer is a good thing and should be practiced by every Christian, however, we do not have the power by our own actions to fix ourselves. Only God can do help us pull ourselves out of the pit we are in.

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Depression should not be acknowledged or talked about

This misperception is slowly changing, but unfortunately, many Christians still feel shamed into not talking about it. This can people stuck in their depression. Depression thrives in isolation.

Depression is mental not physical

Depression affects our physical bodies as well. We may have trouble sleeping or sleep too much. We may be worn out from crying and feel as physically sick as David did.

Resulting stigma

Myths and misconceptions about depression and mental illness in general have created a strong stigma. Depressed Christians feel guilt and shame as if their state was their own fault. They feel that they are sinning or lacking in faith.

They fear that other Christians will judge them as being weak and unspiritual, and unfortunately, their fears are often justified.

A 2014 study by Association for Psychological Science (APS) states that about 40 percent of people with serious mental illness are not receiving care, and many who start an intervention fail to complete it. APS identifies stigma as a significant barrier to treatment.

Next steps

As Christians, we need to be proactive in taking steps towards overcoming depression.

Prayer: Praying is vital to the process of coming out of this condition. When we cry in prayer out to God, He comforts and encourages us. He also sends people into our lives that can support us on the journey out.

Bible study: The psalms of David are encouraging. In the midst of is despair, David had hope that his situation would change for the better.

Diet and sleep: When we eat a poor diet and do not get enough sleep, we are more susceptible to depression. Like Elijah, we need to take time out to eat and get proper rest.

Supportive friends and loved ones: Depressed people tend to feel isolated as if they are the only ones who struggle with these problems. When we are depressed, we need others to encourage us and listen when we need to share our burdens. They listen without judgement and keep our secrets. Church leaders and pastors may also be able to assist us. In some cases, professional counselling can also help address past trauma or emotional pain that are contributing to our condition.

Support groups: Talking about our struggles is an important step in our recovery. Support groups such as Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step Christian recovery program, and programs and groups offered by mental health services providers can also help. They provided safe, confidential environments.

Making life changes: Sometimes, life situations contribute to feelings of depression. Some jobs, for example, are unfulfilling and dead end. Some relationships may need to be reassessed and adjusted.

Medication: We take medication for physical illness, so why not take it for mental illness? Some depression may be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain and require treatment by a medical professional. Some people are dramatically helped by medication to treat their depression.

Hope for the future

Depression is only a temporary state. We may cry through the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). We can cry out to God for solutions to our problems and He will send his Holy Spirit to comfort us. We can always have hope for the future in spite of whatever challenges we may face.

Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. If depression interferes with daily living or is leading to suicidal thoughts, I urge people to seek professional help.

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  • Carola Finch profile image
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    Carola Finch 15 months ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for your comments. I wish mental illness did not still carry such a stigma.

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    Asanda Matsaunyane 15 months ago from Johannesburg

    A much needed article. I wish so many could read this. I love the references to the bible, indicating truth.

  • Hope Centre profile image

    Hope Centre 2 years ago

    I agree with you Carola Finch. Depression needs medical treatment because it's a reality. It can be treated like any other disease.

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    Stargrrl 2 years ago

    Excellent hub! You are on point!

  • Carola Finch profile image
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    Carola Finch 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    There many factors involved in depression. Some people struggle with it more than others. When we tell people to just "get over it" we are putting them down and creating stigma. Giving up the burden to Christ is just the beginning of what can be a long recovery process.

  • Ann1Az2 LM profile image

    Ann1Az2 LM 2 years ago

    Depression is often caused by guilt or grief. Thankfully, Jesus took all of it, all the suffering, all the pain, all the guilt and all the grief to the cross. All we have to do is accept that and move on with the Holy Spirit as our guide.

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    sarah 2 years ago

    Depression is NOT "a physical disorder" or "chemical imbalance in the brain" or "just like a diabetes". These are myths that have no foundation, and for christians to keep believing them and spreading them as truths is causing harm and needs to stop! The pain and suffering experienced by those diagnosed as depressed is very real and does require support and understanding (sometimes quite intense support)... but telling people that their depression is the result of a deficiency of seratonin in the their brain...that "its just a physical abnormality" that the person has no control over, is untrue and...making people feel that they are at the mercy of their biology (aka darwinian theory of dancing to your dna and biology). The elusive "chemical imbalance"has never been found and is a heavily propagated myth that enourages medication compliance. And if you ask any physician or psychiatrist about the truth of this theory they will tell you that because ssri's increase seratonin, it is then assumed (with no proof!) that this person has a serotonin deficiency that needs increasing. All through the bible there are people who experienced extreme moods and even occasionally expressed suicidal ideation...and they were the people that were close to Gods heart..But just as God did not rebuke these people as not having enough faith for feeling this way... neither did they get told they were suffering from a physical brain disorder they had no control over....every single experience you read in the bible of people experiencing extreme states, had actual reasons for feeling the way they did....and just as it would have been harmful and uncaring for christians in biblical days to tell their suffering brother or sister to "snap out of it and have more faith"....it would have been just as cruel if they had said.."we think its concerning you feel this way...you need a doctor and medicine to help you stop feeling this way as its not healthy for you! You need chemical balancing!" How differently the bible would read if this was true! Jesus no longer man of sorrows as now he takes his anti-depressants..Davids psalms completely lacking in passion, no extreme highs or lows because he takes lithium for bipolar and his mood is now stable. Job and Elijah no longer want to die and no longer have persecutory complex thanks to their combined anti-depressant anti psychotic! We are creating a society that is unable to tolerate uncertainty and deal with peoples emotions. A society that no longer has empathy and who no longer comes alongside people suffering in order to help them through their periods of pain. Instead we have become a society of pathologisers and medicators...who have been indoctrinated into believing that when a person is depressed they need prozac for their faulty brain...not compassion, understanding and love and prayer. This needs to stop

  • Carola Finch profile image
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    Carola Finch 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. I think that depression is a reality we need to accept.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

    So depression is one of the topics some Christians need to study and understand. Depression does not disprove spirituality; it proves humanity. Some prayers deepen depression, unless the pray-er has the right perspective on the situation. Thanks for dealing with this issue; I applaud you.

  • WiccanSage profile image

    Mackenzie Sage Wright 2 years ago

    Interesting hub; I've known a lot of Christians/ex-Christians who struggled with depression and it led to a crisis of faith on top of it because they were made to feel guilty or feel like they had to try to hide their depression, as though it meant they must be doing something 'wrong'. I think it's great that you advocate support and getting away from the stigmas, nice hub.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

    Depression is often dubbed the "common cold of mental illness" because it impacts so many people. I hope that your hub encourages those who need help to seek it.

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