One of the great underlying reasons why a person uses drugs, alcohol, or gets involved in any addictive behavior is a way to deal with their depression. When an individual doesn't understand what causes depression or how to combat it they will fall prey to thinking they can escape it by – getting high – getting drunk – becoming a workaholic – or finding something else to take their mind off how they feel. However, these behaviors never solve the real issues that cause the depression and keep you from a satisfying life.
I. What is Depression?
Depression is a feeling of sadness, despair, and hopelessness. When a person is depressed it is usually because of some problem that is occurring in life. When this problem remains unresolved a person begins to believe that there is no solution to this difficulty and he or she becomes even more depressed. A person begins to feel helpless and believes that there is little meaning or purpose to life. If these thoughts remain unchecked he or she may eventually not want to continue with life and consider suicide. This drastic consideration is the result of believing that there is no way out of the circumstance or dilemma that is being encountered. This attitude of hopelessness encourages a person to then fail to take the appropriate actions that would solve the problem which is causing the depression.
II. What Causes Depression?
A. Anything can cause depression. Some things that could cause depression would be: disappointment, an unresolved conflict with an individual, anger toward God, unbelief, guilt, an ongoing struggle with an addiction, or falling behind in any responsibility.
B. However, these problems, conflicts, or adverse circumstances are not "in themselves" the cause of depression. If just adversity or problems were the primary cause of depression, we would all be depressed everyday. However, the Bible promises us that we are to have peace, joy, and victory in the midst of adversity and trials. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) (1 Peter 1:6-8)
C. Consequently, the cause of depression is the way you handle adversity, disappointment, or conflicts. This truth is evident from the teaching of the Scripture above. God wants you to have peace in the midst of your trials. Therefore, what is the right way to handle adversity? You must examine your attitude, thoughts, and actions in the light of Scripture and determine if you are walking in faith, in love, and obedience. If you are not walking in faith and obedience then your conscience will begin to bother you and depression results. Why does your conscience have this effect upon you? Scripture teaches that the mechanism of the conscience have been given to "approve" or "accuse" you (Romans 2:15) (John 13:17) (James 1:25). If your conscience approves your actions and attitudes, you will feel great. If your conscience accuses you, depression results. The bottom line is that you must deal with your problems His way if you want to remain free from depression.
D. Here are some Biblical examples.
1. In Genesis 4:1-9 when Cain's offering was not accepted by the Lord he became angry at God and his brother Abel. Cain rejected God's counsel to him, which was, "if you do the right thing you will be accepted." The Hebrew word for accepted means; to be elated or cheerful. Therefore, he is told that if he would simply take the right action, he would feel cheerful. However, he rejected God’s encouragement, disobeyed His counsel, and his countenance fell. He became depressed because of his unbelief and disobedience.
2. Read 2 Samuel 11 & 12 and Psalm 32:3-5. In these passages it is revealed that David committed adultery and murder, and then refused to confess his sin for about a year. He described what he felt during that rebellious time in Psalm 32. He groaned "all the day long” inside his spirit (vs. 3). He experienced a spiritual drought in his heart until he took the biblical action necessary to relieve his guilt. His conscience was obviously bothering him and depression resulted. However, he confessed his sin and joy and rejoicing returned (vs. 10-11). Why? Because he obeyed his conscience and did what was right before God.
3. Notice the common denominator in both of these examples. In both cases there were wrong actions taken and each failed to obey the conviction of conscience based on their knowledge of God’s Word. Depression was the result.
III. What Should You Do About Your Depression?
A. First, believe that there is a way out. This is the promise of God! "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). Believe today that God will provide for you a way of escape or the strength to bear this adversity. Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed" (Luke 4:18). If you will trust God He will heal your broken heart and set you free from the depression you are experiencing. In addition, God declares that He will "console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3). Believe God’s Word and ask Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit and to remove the spirit of heaviness from your heart.
B. Obey God. Take whatever biblical action is necessary for your conscience to approve you, and the depression will lift. Notice God's encouragement, "Oh, that you had heeded my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea" (Isaiah 48:18). Simply do what God commands and you will have peace. Paul also said, "I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men" (Acts 24:16). This is the choice of obedience.
Here are some examples of actions you may want to take.
1. If you are angry with God, take this action. Confess your sin and ask God to give you understanding concerning His purposes. Trust that God knows more than you about the circumstances of your life.
2. If you are holding a grudge and you are resentful toward another, take the action commanded in Matthew 18:15-17; Mark 11:25-26; James 5:16. Seek out the person to reconcile, confess your faults first, ask for this person's forgiveness, pray together, and ask for God's forgiveness. These are all godly actions that will relieve depression.
3. If you are dwelling in your thought life on, your failures, self-condemnation, or the terrible circumstances in your life; take these actions: First, spend time in the Word of God meditating on His promises. Choose to obey Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things." Next, define each problem on paper to determine the causes and possible actions that might be taken to change them.
C. Take these actions no matter how you feel. Remember if you take the biblical action required, your feelings will change (John 13:17). If you wait until you feel like praying or feel like reading the Bible, you will never do it. However, when you do pray, read your Bible, and seek the Lord, you will be encouraged and feel better.
D. The bottom line in dealing with depression will always be prayer. This is where you will come in contact with the God of all comfort and the God of all hope (2 Cor. 1:3) (Rom. 15:13).
Study these passages for further insight as to how prayer helped David when he was depressed (Psalm 143, 55, 61, 77, 102 and 142). Notice what Solomon taught (Prov. 12:25).