There is a common misconception that the Christian life is always to be positive and joyful, and that depression cannot coexist with deep faith and spiritual growth. In reality, the opposite is true.
Job had a close personal relationship with God. His faith was strong, and he was blameless. He had no unconfessed sin, he was known for his good works, and people looked to him for spiritual advice. His life was an open book, and he was respected by his community.
In spite of his deep faith and spiritual maturity, Job felt disconnected from God. He said “If I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him.”
He was plagued by nightmares that he said were so bad he would rather die. He said that he wished he had never been born.
His friends, the very people he should have been able to count on for support and encouragement, criticized his despondency, speculated that he must be coming under God’s judgment for secret sin, and made him feel even more isolated than he already did. They didn’t consider the fact that Job had lost his children, servants, wealth, health, and the support of his wife. They only saw his depression and rushed to judgment.
Unfortunately, we can see the same scenario being played out in our own modern Christian communities. People struggling with depression and discouragement are often told they are being punished by a vindictive God for their lack of faith or hidden sin.
Depression is often seen as a character flaw. Although it is something that should be assessed by a doctor, depression is not a sign of spiritual weakness. In fact, discouragement often goes hand-in-hand with spiritual depth.
David, the shepherd-boy-turned-king, battled depression and despair, and chronicled his struggles in the Psalms.
Elijah was so weary and discouraged, even after some miraculous victories, that he asked God to take his life.
Jonah was so depressed and angry that he ran away and said he wanted to die.
Moses was deeply grieved over the collective sin of the Hebrew nation, and the weight of responsibility affected him deeply.
Jeremiah was known as the Weeping Prophet. He dealt with constant rejection from the people he ministered to. He was honest about his despair and sense of failure, and cursed the day he was born.
Jesus Himself was called “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” by the prophet Isaiah.
Depression is not a sin, and it is not a sign of spiritual weakness.
The common denominator in each one of these situations is that God was near. He didn’t leave them alone. He was with them. He didn’t condemn them. He didn’t tell them to get over it. He sat with them in the darkness while they waited for the light.
Should we not do the same?