Depression and the Christian Mind
Since the age of 16, I’ve consistently struggled with depression and anxiety. As a teenager, I was often described as having a bad attitude, to the point where people in my former church gave me the nickname “Tude.” Isn’t that a great moniker? While some of that may have been the mood swings of a normal teenage girl, it was still a situation my family, our church, and myself did not know how to handle.
Depression isn’t a topic I hear openly discussed enough in church. It’s one of those things where if you haven’t experienced it, it’s really hard to understand. Mental illness, which is what depression is, is still very much a sensitive subject, because there’s a connotation of weakness implied in the word. As Christians, we’re taught to stand firm in our faith and to have zero fear. No exceptions. So, what is wrong with me that I can’t do that? There have been many times I’ve cried out to God, asking why I just couldn’t be happy. Everything in my life was fine, so there had to be something wrong with me. And that’s where Satan enters the narrative.
Let me be clear: I do not think clinical depression is caused by an evil spirit. Depression, just like any disease, is the result of our broken world. Still, Satan is cunning enough to use my depression against me. Think of it this way: Depression is a dark room with the curtains drawn across the windows. Satan may not have shuttered the room, but he is blocking the way to the light switch.
The enemy knows and fears God. For example, in Mark 5:7, a demon-possessed man says to Jesus, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” The enemy knows he is defeated, and yet all too often when I am overcome with my own fear, I let him trick me into thinking I’m defeated also. My depression causes me to ask what is wrong with me or why, if I am a believer in Christ, am I not happier? This is Satan feeding me lies, feeding my depression.
How do we fight this unseen foe? I would never presume to think everyone’s depression is the same, but here are some practical things to try that have helped me.
Say His Name
Speak Jesus’s name aloud and the enemy is forced to flee. Sometimes the effect is instant and sometimes it takes a few days, but if I keep calling on Christ, he will rescue me each time. His name is the best weapon against the darkness. Jesus rebuked Satan during his temptation, and I am definitely not above rebuking Satan either.
Go for a Prayer Walk
When the darkness is really clouding my head, I know that’s when it really counts for me to get up and go pray over my house or office. I go on a prayer walk where I touch the walls, my desk, my bed—anything—and just pray for Jesus’s strength and peace over every inch. I think of it as my own personal march around Jericho, still a battleground just a different terrain.
Arm Yourself with the Truth
Ephesians 6:13-17 says it better than I ever could:
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
The enemy wants you to think you’re all alone in your depression and it’s just not true. Tell a friend of your struggle and ask them to pray and keep you accountable. You’ll need people to push you, not all the time, but sometimes to do small things like going for a walk or telling you to read your Bible.
And for those called to be a shoulder to lean on, be patient with your friend. If they confide in you at all, that’s already a huge step. Depression makes us want to retreat into a shell. Don’t let us. Even if you’re not sure you understand why someone feels this way, just remember we’re all fighting the same enemy, some of us just happen to fight it in our heads, but it isn’t any less real of a struggle.