Q: "Does the Bible say that all depression is of the devil? If a believer suffers from depression is it wrong to seek relief from this via counseling and/or medication?"
A: Good question! The short answer to your first question is “Yes” (but your question deserves a long answer) …in that Satan corrupted God's original design for us, through human sin. The Bible provides good insights. In the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted our original parents to distrust the Lord, which led them to disconnect from themselves, from each other, and most importantly, from God...and in that process their thoughts and beliefs became dark and twisted. That's the nature of sin, and that has become the life story of all humans since then (except Jesus). So in light of this, depression isn't a condition God intended for any of us to experience. But life in a fallen world includes many things that God did not want us to have to experience. So how do we face them?
While the Bible doesn't use the word “depression”, Elijah, David, Solomon, and even Paul described emotions and behaviors that might have been what today we call depression. Where does this depression come from? It's not always easy to say exactly where an individual's depression comes from. Is it personal sin, misplaced hope, overwhelming circumstances, a physical disease/chemical deficiency, or a spiritual attack?
Some of David’s psalms appear to be coming from a point of depression, and they are instructive. Some of his depression came certainly from his own personal sin:
In Psalm 32 he seems depressed until he confesses his sin to God.
In Psalm 38, he seems depressed and prays a prayer of contrition to God, who lifts the burden.
In Psalm 130, he may have been depressed and asked for forgiveness and mercy, and decided to wait on the Lord for relief from his suffering.
In Matthew 7, Jesus tells believers that they are not to worry—another significant root of depression. The Bible instructs us to live lives filled with joy and praise (Philippians 4:4; Romans 15:11). God intends for us to live joyful lives. This is not easy for someone suffering from depression, but it can be healed through prayer, confession, loving support of faithful friends, Bible study, forgiveness, and even through godly counseling. That said, it is important not to become absorbed in ourselves. The Christian life is turned outward, focused on Christ and others. It is very natural for a self-focused life to become depressed. Why? Because self is always a depressing subject!
As pastors, we see depression as being like a "check engine" warning light on the dashboard of a car. Depression can be a valuable signal to us that something is not quite right in our lives and needs attention. If we ignore that signal, depression can get stronger and stronger. Learning to respond correctly to depression is very important.
You also asked "If a believer suffers from depression is it wrong to seek relief from this via counseling and/or medication?" The simple answer is no, it's not wrong. Although depression is sometimes caused by sin, it can also be caused by overwhelming life circumstances, or physical issues which cannot be cured by "bucking up." Sometimes depression can be greatly alleviated by learning new ways to respond to difficult circumstances—and that's where good friends, pastors, or counselors can be very helpful. Clinical depression is a physical condition that might need to be diagnosed by a physician, therapist, or psychologist and perhaps treated with medication. The right medication can be profoundly helpful. However, one of the risks is that a prescription could “medicate” the real issues and give us a false sense of wellbeing without dealing with the root of the problem.
The first step towards healing should always be to “check the oil” and honestly ask ourselves if there is any un-confessed sin (ranging from ineffective attitudes and unwise behavior patterns, to simple disobedience, or even willful rebellion) in our lives that we need to honestly bring to God. If there is, then be quick to repent and receive the forgiveness that Jesus so freely offers!
A second step towards healing should be to ask ourselves if we have unconsciously placed our hope in the wrong place (i.e., anything other than God). The Bible teaches us that we may need to regularly remind ourselves about this. What is the chorus of the “soundtrack of our lives”? The psalmist repeatedly addressed his own soul, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42:5-6, 11; 43:5)
Then we can, like the Apostle Paul, repeatedly, “…take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16) because if it is a spiritual attack it requires a spiritual response!
Finding the unique reason for a person's depression is important. If you are struggling with depression, we invite you to talk to a pastor about that. We absolutely believe that God is our healer, and that also in some cases, seeing a doctor for depression, is how He will heal us, and in such cases it is no different than seeing a doctor for a broken bone. We would be delighted to talk and pray with you, or even to give you a list of counselors who might be helpful.
Pastors Steve, Mark, & Greg
If you have questions you would like us to address, simply add a comment to the "Questions" post and we will answer it under its own post...