“Am I a bad Christian because I’m… depressed?” Many faithful Christians suffer from depression or anxiety. They end up with a sense of guilt if they rely on medications to overcome their illness. In this article, we’re going to talk about misconceptions that are associated with psychological illnesses.
Misconception: Anxiety and depression are due to a lack of faith. So just pray hard enough, and these struggles will go away on their own. There is no need for medications.
Reply: First, a person’s psychological struggles are not a reflection of their faith or an indication of God’s inability to heal them. God can heal any illness, and all faithful Christians become ill at many points in their lives. For example, God allowed Satan to cause suffering to St. Paul, as described in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9: “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness’ ”.
The experience of St. Paul demonstrates that a person can be of great faith yet still face discomfort and trials. It also demonstrates that while God is the Almighty, He also has the greatest wisdom when He allows hardships to happen and uses them for our own good and His own glory.
Second, mental health issues and psychological disorders are serious illnesses, and just like any other illness, the person who suffers from them should seek professional medical treatment. God created us as intelligent beings. He gave people like doctors and mental health professionals the understanding and skills to help those in need. Therefore, it shows that Christians may be subject to depression without needing to feel guilty.
The Bible has several stories about the use of medical treatments that were common at the time. These situations and stories weren’t only “acceptable” by God but were also encouraged. This is clear in both the Old and New Testaments. In Ezekiel 47:17, “Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month, they will bear fruit because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” In 1 Timothy 5:23 “Stop drinking only water and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses”. So the Bible stood for medications, not just miracles.
Misconception: Depression (or any other mental illness or disorder) is a sin. Being anxious or depressed means that you are failing to be joyful in all things that God commands.
Reply: The Bible states in Romans 3:23 that we have “all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” meaning that we all (all human beings) have a need for forgiveness. So, repenting and asking for forgiveness aren’t just limited to those suffering. Concerning the commandment in Philippians 4:4 to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, Rejoice!”, it’s a target that we strive to reach with God’s grace. However, it is also true that the psychological state of humans is never constant. For example, in Ecclesiastes 3:4, the Bible states that there is “time to break down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”.
We cannot ignore a number of significant figures in the Bible who clearly went through tough situations and how God treated them with nothing but love. The prophet Jonah prayed, “Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live”, Job said, “I loathe my very life,” and even Jesus said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”
Misconception: Anxiety and depression are due to unconfessed sin. So, suffering is a punishment from God.
Reply: In the Bible, Elijah was one of the characters who battled depression. He prayed to God, saying, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:4. There was no indication of sinful living when Elijah got depressed. After Elijah expressed some of his suicidal thoughts, God responded with empathy and led Elijah to rest, eat, and drink. God didn’t accuse Elijah of any sin but rather dealt with him with great compassion. Therefore, clearly, Christians can be subject to depression without feeling condemned.