Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

Bible teaching about depression

The Bible teaching about depression is enormously encouraging. Jeremiah is an excellent example, which can be found in the book of Lamentations. We can find hope and help from the times of our disappointment and discouragement all the way to despair and depression. Here is how.

Example of Jeremiah

Jeremiah is even sometimes called the, “weeping prophet.” The background of this book is the fall and brutal destruction of Jerusalem at the bloody hands of the Babylonians in 586/5 B.C. 

Times were dreadful. Famine and the sword consumed the fallen city. The book is filled with sorrow, melancholy, and mourning as Jeremiah sat on a hill, weeping over the devastation of his beloved city. If anyone had cause for depression, he did.

This is seen in Jeremiah’s words, which vividly illustrate the conditions of depression.

Jeremiah's Mental State

“I have become a laughingstock to all my people, their mocking song all the day.He has filled me with bitterness, He has made me drunk with wormwood. And He has broken my teeth with gravel; He has made me cower in the dust. And my soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness. 

So I say, ‘My strength has perished, and so has my hope from the Lord.’ Remember my affliction and my wandering, and the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me” (Lamentations 3:14-20).

As a qualification, there are spiritual, physical and medical causes and cures for depression. 

There are also degrees of depression, ranging from the blues to despair and suicide. 

My focus here is on the Bible teaching about the mental causes and cures for depression, and which parallels the thought of a particular psychological theory known as Cognitive Therapy. 

The Anatomy of Depression

Cognitive therapist, Aaron Beck, maintains there is a triad of forces that bring on depression. These forces originate in our thinking. They are constant negative thoughts about our person, our situation, and the future. They lead to the symptoms of feeling defeated, defective, deserted, and deprived. These factors exactly describe Jeremiah, don’t you think? 

This analysis fits the Bible teaching about depression. Let me break it down for you below.

  • Feelings of defeat: “broken teeth, cowering in the dust, etc.”
  • Feelings of defectiveness: “laughingstock of all my people, filled with bitterness, etc.”
  • Feelings of desertedness: God had made him, “drunk, bitter, broken his teeth,” and rejected from peace, etc.”
  • Feelings of deprivation: he was deprived of hope.

Now you can begin to see how depression works in our mind. But, let me show you the triad of negative thoughts.

  • His person: he was mocked, bitter, bowed down within, and the unworthy object of God’s wrath (cf. verses 1ff.).
  • His present situation: in his mind it was horrible, devoid of peace and happiness.
  • His future: Jeremiah’s hope had perished. It was gone. He was in despair.

In sum, Jeremiah’s interpretation of the very ugly scene before him had driven him to a dark, deep dungeon of depression in his mind. That is why he said, “my soul remembers and is bowed down.” 

Remembering is a function of our mind. 

When we hear words like “I am a dirty rotten no good louse, my situation is horrible, terrible, awful, I can’t stand it, and there is no hope for my future,” then depression has dug in deep. I am not talking about fleeting flights of thinking, but engrained, habitual patterns of viewing the world. 

Jeremiah's Solution

The great news in the Bible teaching about depression is that there is hope for you and me. There is a different way of viewing calamity and/or the problems that sometimes consume us. 

There is a way out of the dungeon of depression. Here is how Jeremiah did it.

In verse 22, which follows Jeremiah’s thinking pattern of depression, we find out how he dug his way out of the black hole of depression. It is exciting! He said, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope” (Lamentations 3:21). There you have it! 

The key! He changed his thinking, and his way of looking at his circumstances! Hope returned! What, then, did Jeremiah start thinking about?

God's Goodness, Wisdom and Power

He reminded himself of God’s loving kindness, compassion, faithfulness, goodness, and delivering power (Lamentations 3:22-26). He also said this, “Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” (Lamentations 3:37). 

In other words, the Bible teaching about depression instructs that God is in control of life and events of history. It is wrong for us to complain about how God does things (cf. verses 39, 40). 

When we don’t understand our circumstances, we must leave matters in the hands of God who loves and cares for His people.

As a side bar, by now you have probably recognized that Jeremiah’s words are echoed in the great 1923 Christian hymn by Thomas Chisholm, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

There you have it: the Bible teaching about the cause of depression that arises from a negative mental state, and the solution to those nasty thoughts and feelings. God’s solution is to change your thinking about your situation, and trust Him. Another word for that strategy is - faith.

Where To Go From Here

Depression is sometimes called the “common cold” of psychological problems. It is complicated, and can lead to suicide. Consequently, if you suffer from depression, and cannot find relief, I urge you to immediately contact your physician and/or pastor. 

As another qualification, I do not mean to minimize the pain, nor imply that getting out of depression is as easy as switching a light on. Life can be brutal at times, just as with Jeremiah. It takes specific work and time to change our thinking habits. 

For more details on the mechanics of Cognitive Therapy, I highly recommend the popularized version in print, “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy,” by David Burns. 

For more nuts and bolts on how to discover and combat those negative thoughts that swirl around in our skulls, see my essay onmanaging thoughts

There I show a step by step method that will bring great relief for any negative emotions. 

All the best to you in your continued study.

Dr. Willis and Esmie Newman

BIBLE STUDY QUESTIONS

1. How would you describe depression?

2. In Paul’s life, what was one trigger and solution of depression (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)?

3. How did Job describe his depression (Job 9:21-10:1)?

4. What were some things that happen to Job (Job 1:12-19; 2:7-10)?

5. What was the source of calamity that hit Job (Job 2:7)?

6. Summarize how God told Job to handle his circumstances and depression (Chapters 38-42)?

7. What were the symptoms of David’s depression (Psalm 32:3, 4)?

8. What was the initiating factor of David’s depression, and how did he deal with it (Psalm 32:5; cf. Psalm 38).

9. What did David suggest to cope with depression (Psalm 32:6-11)?

10. What is suggested to relieve depression in Proverbs 31:6, 7? Note: medicinal use is in view.

11. What stood out to you the most in this study? Explain.

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