I recently received a question on a difficult topic. I will be releasing my response to the question in three separate blog posts. Here is the entire question, followed by part 1 of my response:
How do you as a Christian deal with something like depression? For a while now, I have felt very lost and I know that my relationship with Jesus is not what it should be. I think I have pushed God away because I blamed Him for allowing me to go through some very tough struggles. Have you ever dealt with depression? Or felt lost and blamed God? Any thoughts and encouragement from the Word would be appreciated. Thanks!
Thank you for your honesty in this question. Sometimes it is difficult to ask such a deep, personal question, and I appreciate you for doing so.
Let me start off my response by explaining what I mean when I use the word “depression”. Everyone has moments of sadness, where they feel down about themselves or something happening in their lives. If severe enough, you could consider these moments to be depressive-like states, but they still don’t result in depression. What is the difference? Depression is an experience of sadness combined with a sense of complete hopelessness, usually for an extended period of time.
This hopelessness can affect almost everything that you do. You can lose motivation to do something productive. Connecting with God through prayer or other means can seem unappealing. And on the “extreme” end of depression, suicidal thoughts may come to mind.
In her book, Life, In Spite of Me, Kristin Anderson narrates her slide into this sort of depression. While she was in high school, a series of tragic events occurred in a short period of time. First, her grandmother and three acquaintances died. Then a close friend committed suicide. Three months later, Kristin was raped by a guy she was just getting to know.
A severe case of depression began to consume Kristin’s life, and she puked on a daily basis due to the trauma. During her senior year of High School, her parents grounded her for breaking a curfew. She rebelled by sneaking out of the house to spend time with her friend Liz. After their time together, Kristin experienced a feeling of absolute hopelessness:
“Once in the car, I began to feel the numbness of my soul. I felt as if I were dead inside. Liz dropped me off down the street from my house. I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to face the same scenes I had the day before.”
Kristin decided to walk to the park near her home. Moments later, Kristin noticed a train approaching, and serious suicidal thoughts began to invade her mind:
“The night is icky
The world is disgusting
My life sucks
It could all be over soon, and then I won’t hurt anyone”
Kristin made the split-second decision to lay on the tracks. And her life, to say the least, changed drastically.
The severity of this story may seem rare – not everyone goes through so many difficult things in a short period of time. However, this story shows how difficulties can bring someone to the point of losing all sense of hope. And in Kristin’s case, difficulties led her to conclude that taking her own life was the best option.
When someone has gotten to this point of life, there is not going to be a simple, this-will-fix-everything answer. Depression is a complex issue because there are so many potential factors involved – emotional factors, psychological factors, spiritual factors, or a combination of all three.
I don’t know what specific factors cause each case of depression. My response won’t solve your issue or provide the ultimate answer to depression. But I hope that this response will help, even if it’s in the smallest of ways.
I’ll start this response by talking about some of the questions you asked me about my own life. First, I have not personally dealt with depression in the way I described it above, but I have experienced other struggles you brought up in your question.
For example, I definitely have felt lost before, and actually feel that way often. I didn’t think that blaming God was part of that process when I started to write this post. But after further reflection, I realized I was wrong. Let me give you a quick rundown of the three ways I most feel “lost” and show you what I mean.
I’ve felt lost in doubt, specifically about the existence of God, and I’ve blamed God for it – “If only God provided more evidence, this would be so much easier.”
I’ve felt lost with the decisions that had to be made in my life, and I’ve blamed God for it – “If only God made more things clear, this would be so much easier.”
I’ve felt lost with the mistakes I’ve made over and over again, and I’ve blamed God for it – “If God didn’t make me this way, this would be so much easier.”
I look at the three things above and figure that if they all went away, life would be so much better than it is right now. And the thoughts can continue further. Why is God putting me through all of this stuff? What is wrong with me? Why does this have to be so hard?
And when I stack up all of these difficulties, one question begs to be asked.
What hope is there in all of this?
In part 2 of Dealing with Depression, I will discuss potential responses to this question.