Doctrine Cures Depression

I know that the title “Doctrine Cures Depression” seems a bit strange, but actually it is quite biblical. Looking at our life from a biblical point of view is the cure for whatever gets us down. The biblical point of view is applying whatever Scripture has to say about our situation, and that is doctrine. I came across this thought while reading that modern classic of a work entitled, “Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure” by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones. Here is what he says, In other words, the great antidote to spiritual depression is the knowledge of Biblical doctrine, Christian doctrine, Not having the feelings worked up in meetings, but knowing the principles of the faith, knowing and understanding the doctrines. That is the Biblical way, that is Christ’s own way as it is also the way of Him, and you get that in His Word. Let’s apply this truth to see how it works. What is the cause of our depression? Depression is the result of examining our life from an unbiblical point of view. Romans 8:28 tells us that absolutely everything we experience as a believer is orchestrated by our Father in heaven, and yet he cannot be blamed for the evil that is done according to that plan (Acts 4:27-28). Not only does our Father orchestrate our life situation, but what we experience is also his perfectly wise and loving plan for us. Therefore, the only proper response for the believer is a biblical response. By biblical response I mean the wholehearted giving of thanks and acknowledging that whatever we are experiencing is coming from the loving hand of our Father (1 Thessalonians 5:18). The hard part in this whole equation is the issue of our feelings and thoughts or perception. In order to embrace the biblical perspective on our life we must ignore how things seem to us or how they feel to us. This is why the biblical statement about the need for each of us to allow other believers into our lives is so critical (Hebrews 10:24-25). We need friends who love Jesus more than they love us. We do not need friends who come along side to tell us that our life is so hard and that it is quite reasonable for us to be down about our life. It is not biblically reasonable for us to be down since what we are experiencing is exactly what our Father in heaven wants us to experience. The quicker that we embrace the perspective of our loving Father the quicker we will free ourselves from that ugly effect of the sin of refusing to believe our Father’s words about what we are experiencing. Depression is the natural result of this type of sin. So…… doctrine is the cure for depression. The application of biblical truth is the antidote for the ailment of depression.

10 thoughts on “Doctrine Cures Depression

  1. Geoff,
    I would have agreed with you at one time on this topic. I also believed that having good doctrine should take care of everything, including depression. But now, this side of depression, I have to disagree with you. To say that “depression is the result of examining our life from an unbiblical point of view” is incorrect because it is an oversimplification of this widespread problem. Certainly that can happen, and I would say that I had a very unhealthy way of examining myself at one time. Anytime you look at yourself without the view of the cross, despair will quickly follow. David Murray, in his book, “Christians Get Depressed Too” has a very compassionate and good understanding of the different causes of depression. He says, “It is absolutely vital for Christians to understand and accept that while depression usually has serious consequences for our spiritual life, it is not necessarily caused by problems in our spiritual life.”

    I learned many things about my God, myself, the idols of my heart, and yes, my sin because of my depression. But, that all came later. When I was in the midst of my depression, which lasted at least a year, what I needed to hear was that Jesus loved me and accepted me just where I was, not a future version of me. He loved me and died for what I was going through. Despite what people thought, I did not need to hear that I was in sin, dragging the name of Jesus through the mud, or that I needed a to-do list of some sort to rescue me from my condition. I needed to know I was a child of the King right where I was. The message of grace and the gospel brought healing to my heart and ultimately delivered me out of depression.

    You say that “The quicker that we embrace the perspective of our loving Father the quicker we will free ourselves from that ugly effect of the sin of refusing to believe our Father’s words about what we are experiencing. Depression is the natural result of this type of sin.” But I have to tell you, as someone who’s been there, that you can’t tell the depressed person “to do.” In depression, you can’t rescue yourself by doing more or doing better. Heaping performance expectations on a depressed person will cause them crumble. In my case, I couldn’t “do” anymore. I was done. And that’s just where He wanted me. When I was in my darkest moments, a dear friend called and told me “Susan! You don’t have to do anything! Just look at the cross!” She spent the next weeks and months pointing me to the gospel and reminding me of God’s love for me. I got my assurance back, not by doing anything, but by the Holy Spirit teaching this ravaged heart of the sacrifice of Jesus for me.

    Now I live clinging to the cross, praising Jesus for His love and acceptance of me just as I am. And it’s because of that knowledge, not the doctrine that I had come to idolize, that makes me want to serve Him, doing the good works He has determined for me to do. My theology was not the answer. Yes, I love that God is sovereign and that He is in complete control. I believe He took me through those very dark waters to teach me how far I had left my first love in pursuit of knowledge and the acceptance of man. I don’t believe its doctrine that sets things right, It’s knowing that Jesus died for me, loves me and accepts me just the way I am, even if I’m depressed.

    In the beautiful words of David Murray, “In the meantime let us take our depressed Christian brethren continually before the throne of grace and plead, ‘Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick.’”

  2. like spiritual depresion, do you think sicological problem are due to sin?
    can we cure sicological problem by reading the bible?
    any scriture?

  3. Susan,
    Much thanks for your comment. I am sorry that I have not been able to get back to you or to post your comment until recently. We have had some problems with the IDS website and have only recently sorted them out. With all that being said I will respond to your comment.

    When I said that depression is the result of “looking at life from an unbiblical point of view” this is what I meant. When we experience depressing feelings that tempt us to think unbiblical thoughts we need to respond to them according to Scripture so that we do not dishonor our Lord. I do not believe that depressing feelings are necessarily the result of sin. But I do believe that we are called to respond to our feelings in a God honoring way. I would also say that the believer never finds himself in a situation where he cannot help but give in to his depressing feelings. I would point you to 1 Corinthians 10:13 where we are told that our God never puts us in a situation where we cannot help but to sin.

    You commented on the unhelpfulness of being asked “to do” something while you were struggling with depressing thoughts. I suppose it all depends on what you mean by “to do.” If you mean that you are not responsible to respond to the temptation to disbelieve your Lord regarding your life situation then I would not agree with you. We are to do whatever Scripture tell us to do in any given situation. Regarding depressing thoughts we are called to take God at his word and not live by our feelings (1 Thessalonians 5:18). To refuse to give thanks for our present situation is be in a state of sin and rebellion.

    You made a comment about doctrine and then you talked about the looking to the cross for your healing. I might be missing your point but looking to the cross and remembering what Jesus did for us is recalling the doctrine of salvation. So, I would still stand by what I said previously that doctrine does cure depression.Thanks again for taking the time to comment on this blog. Geoff

  4. Pedro, yes I do believe that sociological problems are the result of sin. But the important thing to remember is that the believer never finds himself in a situation where Romans 8:28 does not apply. Regardless of the sociological situation that we finds ourselves in we are responsible to respond to them from a biblical point of view (Romans 12:2). Thanks again for commenting. Geoff

  5. Geoff,
    Thanks for responding. I have some real concerns about the things you have said. You say that we are called to respond to our feelings in a God honoring way. I no longer agree that it looks the way you think it looks. He has created us to have great emotion and part of working through trials is emotional. Trials are called trials because they are hard. They aren’t the black and white picture that you’re attempting to paint. Sometimes we do question God. Sometimes we do cry out to Him and ask why. The Psalms are full of people in very difficult times of life, who are angry and even depressed at times.

    Steve Bloem, a pastor who has passed through deep and dark depressions, writes: “The Psalms treat depression more realistically than many of today’s popular books on Christianity and psychology. David and other psalmists often found themselves deeply depressed for various reasons. They did not, however, apologize for what they were feeling, nor did they confess it as sin. It was a legitimate part of their relationship with God. They interacted with Him through the context of their depression.”

    You said, “I would point you to 1 Corinthians 10:13 where we are told that our God never puts us in a situation where we cannot help but to sin.” Again, you’re either saying that depression is sin, or you’re saying that any way of responding to it that disagrees with your opinion is sin. When I was depressed, I was unable to respond because the trial of depression often takes away any ability to respond. A depressed Christian is often unable to concentrate, read, or pray. What you are proposing can produce false guilt in a depressed Christian because it doesn’t take that into account and it places an unloving and harsh pressure to perform a certain way on someone who is at that moment, unable to perform at all. What they need at that moment is someone to come alongside and be an encourager, not a judge. David Murray describes it this way,

    “He [a depressed Christian] is at the bottom of the black hole of depression. He cannot do anything, and he can hardly think. The last thing he needs is a preacher telling him to repent and shouting down the hole, ‘Do right and you will feel right!’ Or, ‘Repent of your idolatry!’ He needs someone to shine a light and throw down a rope.”

    Sometimes God does take us to the edge, where we feel like we’re alone. In those times, we need to have the freedom to wrestle with God and cry out to him with our true feelings and emotions, not mask them behind pat answers and proof texts. David cried out “How long, O Lord” several times as he struggled with feelings of abandonment. He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1), words that my Jesus repeated on the cross as He died for me and felt abandoned by the Father.

    Depression can be a part of life. It was brought into my life by the God who loves me. My depression was exactly what I needed so that I could learn to do the opposite of what you are suggesting and be dependent on Him, not myself and my own abilities to respond well. When I was told I was in sin, I went deeper into the darkness. Because of my depression, I already thought I was a failure and a letdown to all those around me. Being told that I was in sin and that I needed to respond better drove me to the false conclusion that I wasn’t a believer.

    I pray that you will consider what I say and take it to heart so that you can learn to become more sympathetic and patient with those suffering with depression. I will close with this quote and encourage you to reconsider your stance on depression and read David Murray’s book, Christians Get Depressed Too. Please consider that your view can and does cause great damage to His church.

    “Increased understanding of depression will make us more sympathetic and useful to people suffering from it. If we saw someone fighting for life in the midst of a freezing blizzard, the last thing we would do is take his coat away. Such an action would be cruel and heartless and could easily lead to death. But, the Bible says, we are effectively doing the same thing if we try to help a depressed friend with superficial humor and insensitive exhortations to cheer up (Prov. 25:20).”

    Psalm 25:20 says, “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.” Telling someone who is depressed that all they need to do is view what they are going through correctly has this same effect. It drives them further from the cross and puts the remedy and burden on their own shoulders to fix themselves.

    Susan

  6. Hi Susan,
    I just want to simply point out that Christ already threw down the rope. I know it sounds overly simplistic, stark, and perhaps naive to a culture as “nuanced” as ours, but the reality is that no temptation has seized us except that which is common to man….and Christ WILL provide a way out so we can stand up, face our emotions, and still make the right choice. THAT is the rope. Yes, it’s hard. No, I probably haven’t gone through trials as difficult as yours. But my Lord has. And He tells me in His Word that His grace is sufficient for me. Grace that provides strength to the martyrs, joy to the oppressed, and hope to the downtrodden.

    Yes, emotions are a real part of everyone’s life, and in themselves they are not sinful. However, the choices we make are subject to the scrutiny of Scripture. The choice to despair is to shun the promises of my Lord. Acknowledgement of what the heart feels – as in David’s Psalms or even Christ’s cry of anguish: “Why have you forsaken me?” – these are not sinful. There are certainly times in which we FEEL as though we are in the aforementioned pit…when it APPEARS as though the very God of the Universe – omnipresent and omnipotent – has left us. But as believers, there is no scenario in which we have license to succumb to our emotions by letting them drive us to unbiblical actions. Think of Job. Think of David. They felt the very depths of human emotion, and yet what were their conclusions? Job – for one – repented in metaphorical dust and ashes when he realized the true extent of his denial of God’s goodness.

    The point is: it truly is in how we perceive our situation. What would Paul and Silas tell you as they sang hymns in their cold, damp prison cells? What would Stephen testify as the last stones bludgeoned his maimed, bloody frame? What has Christ already told us that – frankly – I forget even when it’s staring me in the face?
    …HE BORE OUR BURDEN TO THE CROSS…AND WE BEAR IT NO MORE!
    What does “taking it to the cross” mean other than remembering Christ already paid for it? What does “healing in Christ” mean other than holding tight until our knuckles are white to the promise we have that He will carry us through all trials and tribulations? How do believers take a stand when all their senses are reeling and the very strength within has vanished?

    “Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear and distinct grounds and reasoning—and my conscience is captive to the Word of God—then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God.”

    The source of our depressed emotions may not be a death trial, invading army, or unending calamity, but our response can no different. If we truly are believers, He truly will be sufficient for us. His burden is light…not because it is physically trivial, but because He has equipped us with everything we need to have joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, love, and self-control. Not because we can “hunker down and bear the load”, but rather because He is working in us to will and to act according to His good purpose. He has equipped us with a new heart: the capacity to say “no!” to ungodliness and put on His FULL armor. He has paid it all, and we’re just along for the ride.

  7. Susan,
    Once again thank you for your comments. This discussion regarding a believer’s struggle with depression is not an academic discussion. My aim in the blog is to give the believer real healing from their struggle with depression in the quickest possible time frame. I am fully convinced that it is only when we respond to depression God’s way that we will experience true healing.

    I agree with you that we sometimes question God. I do not agree with you that we are allowed to express thoughts of unbelief without also confessing our sin of unbelief. David in the Psalms was completely honest in his response to his God regarding certain situations in life in which he found himself. The wonderful thing about David is that though he may have begun the psalm at a low point he always ended the psalm praising his God. You have made the statement that honest expressions of unbelief are not sin. I cannot agree with you on this issue. Sin is breaking God’s law (1 John 3:4). We are commanded to do everything for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Any sin that we are aware of that we have committed we are responsible to confess that sin and to turn from it (1 John 1:9). Honesty does not give us a free pass to sin. If David expresses unbelief then he is being honest but he is also in sin. When we talk to our father in heaven we too are called to be honest in our communication, but honest communication must be done in a God glorifying manner.

    At this point I want to say again that the feelings of depression are not sin. It is our response to our feelings that we are discussing. If our response is not a biblical response then we are sinning. You mentioned that any response that a person might make to their depression (negative feelings) that does not agree with my opinion is sin. I never said that. What I did say was that any response that is not biblical is sin. I would stand by that statement.

    You also made mention that there are times when we are unable to pray or concentrate. I would agree with you. The wonderful thing is that Scripture tells us that at those times the Holy Spirit is praying for us according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27). Our Father has promised that he will always be taking care of us. The knowledge of that is doctrine, and doctrine cures depression.

    I agree with you that depression can be a part of a believer’s life. But, depression is no excuse for sin. You made mention of my use of 1 Corinthians 10:13. You seemed to be saying that depression puts a believer in a situation where they cannot help but think unbiblical thoughts. I do not agree with this point of view. To me the Scripture seems quite clear that our father in heaven would never put a believer in a situation where sin is inevitable. I would be the first to say that there are times when it seems to us that sin is inevitable, but this is only believing a lie. Our experience must never override Scripture for Scripture must sit in judgment on our experience.

    In closing, it is what Scripture says about who God is and what he has done for us that is an antibiotic for depression. Allowing other believers into our lives to remind us of what is biblical reality is also a necessary ingredient for healing (Hebrews 10:24-25). We are also responsible to confess any sins of unbelief. It should be noted that a refusal to give true thanks for our present condition is a form of unbelief (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Self-pity and viewing ourselves as a victim are just different forms of unbelief. Embracing our guilt and turning to the cross are what we are called to do. So, after all this I come to the conclusion that following Scripture, the wise, loving words of our Father who loves us, is what we told to do and that is what will bring us healing. We may for a season have to live with down feelings, but these feelings are what your Father has brought into your life because he loves you and wants you to become for Christ-like (Romans 8:28-29).

  8. Reading through the comments, it sounds to me that Geoff and Susan are coming to the same conclusion: it is the Lord who brings healing to every trial and pain we face in our lives. It is the work of God through our Lord Jesus Christ which heals us.

    The feelings we face in our lives come to us because we are human and the world is fallen. We are constantly facing things that bring us to a place of anger, disappointment, frustration, weakness, depression, and on and on. Jesus reminds us that each day has enough trouble of its own. God is always there and He is the only way that we are able to overcome the trials and negative feelings that we face. Jesus said in this world you will have tribulation, but take heart because I have overcome the world. I am thankful that our God is real and true and left His promises in a book for us as a reminder. He doesn’t want us to succumb to those feelings, He wants us to overcome by the power of His Spirit and His Word.

  9. Thank you for a timely teaching. Through my limited experience at counseling the Scriptures, it has been my experience that, just as Jay Adams says, “obedience is not an issue of “can’t” but an issue of “won’t.” I agree with The Dr. and with your teaching concerning depression. Thanks for the reinforcement!

  10. Good post! I ‘feel’ like I am slipping in and out of depression. I do realize that God knows and has orchestrated everything that happens ion my life for my good since I am a believer. The awareness of this truth sometimes slips throughout the day.
    I am going thru ‘a fiery furnace’ and some days just seem SOOO HOT!! I mistakenly look at others and just fall into the depression pit. I know I shouldn’t ‘think it strange’ when these things happen -but I just can’t find relief sometimes. I know I will see Him in glory before the bema seat -but sometimes I want to be there now. He has given me responsibilities here on earth and I desire with every ounce of my being to honor and glorify Him. I do think our trial do ‘eek out’ our ‘ugly thoughts’ but I know God wants us to be real like Job or Aseph. He wants us to have a real relationship with Him telling Him everything so we can know as MORE than our Father, King, Lord, Master, Savior, Friend, Shepherd, Keeper,etc…

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