By Subdeacon Wasim Shehata
“Psychology is essential in dealing with certain aspects of mental health, such as trauma and chemical imbalances and the church is essential in providing spirituality.” Depression In The Bible
Depression is something that numerous people wrestle with, and is something which is common in Christian communities. However, this topic is pretty much stigmatized in Christian communities, especially in communities from the Middle East. There are a few misconceptions regarding mental health and spirituality. The most common one is that one who is close to God, or is spiritually active, could never experience negativity in his life nor end up in difficult situations.
Furthermore, there is this idea that men should not be ‘’weak’’ and experience mental issues and that men who suffer from mental illness are not ‘’manly’’ enough. Besides that these ideas are incorrect, they display the exact opposite of how we should view others. Christ taught us ‘’I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’’ (John 13:34-35).
How, then, could we downplay others emotions? Furthermore, if one gets to hear such accusations, he will blame himself even more and his mental health will only further worsen. It should be taught that professional help and the church are both needed in dealing with serious mental issues, and that each of these two has its own role. Psychology is essential in dealing with certain aspects of mental health, such as trauma and chemical imbalances and the church is essential in providing spirituality.
When these two are combined, they form a significant strong remedy for mental illness.
“to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” [Ephesians 4:1-3] | Depression In The Bible
As Christians, we have only one goal with respect to how we should treat others, and that is to love everyone. Christ did not mention any circumstances wherein we shouldn’t love someone, nor any conditions one should meet to be worthy of love. Christ’s word were very clear; love one another. Paul elaborates this concept by viewing the Christian community as one body, where each Christian is a specific organ (1 Corinthians 12).
Furthermore, how can we downplay others’ emotions when Paul teaches us to ‘’to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’’ (Ephesians 4:1-3).
In order to examine the abovementioned claims, we will take a look at several Biblical characters that experienced periods of depression.
Depression In The Bible | Gideon
Gideon was one of the judged that were appointed by God to guide the Israelites, and lived in a time where the Israelites were chastened by God, due to their sins. Some of the Israelites, however, were good people and cried out to the Lord their God (Judges 6:1-6). God listened to their cry, and sent them a prophet to comfort their hearts (Judges 6:7-10). Gideon was chosen by the Angel of the Lord to be the one who would lead the Israelites to victory. Gideon, on the other hand, did not believe in himself, and even doubted God.
“surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man” [Judges 6:16] | Depression In The Bible
He wondered whether God really pitied the Israelites, and if so, why He allowed them to suffer for such a long period of time (Judges 6:11-13). From this, it can be deduced that Gideon was quite pessimistic, as he thought that God had forsaken the Israelites. As pessimistic as Gideon was, he told God that ‘’o my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house’’ (Judges 6:15), yet human weakness is not an issue for God as His support is enough.
Therefore God answered Gideon saying ‘’surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man’’ (Judges 6:16). Furthermore, Gideon was very surprised and asked God how he could help the Israelites, since he was not able to do anything good (Judges 6:14-15). Gideon needed reassurance from God that He would help in him his battle against the Midianites, and after a few sings he (finally) believed in himself (Judges 6:16-23). After gaining confidence, Gideon destroyed the altar of Baal (Judges 6:24-27).
Yet, Gideon was still somewhat hesitant as he ‘’he feared his father’s household and the men of the city too much to do it by day, he did it by night’’ (Judges 6:27). Gideon was still too much occupied with what others thought. When the people discovered that he had destroyed the altar of Baal, they gathered around him to kill him.
Gideon told God that ‘’if You will save Israel by my hand as You have said’’ (Judges 6:36). Again, Gideon had trouble trusting in God and tested God twice to know whether God was really going to help him (Judges 6:36-40). Gideon wanted to go with a large army, yet God wanted him to take fewer men with him ‘’lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘my own hand has saved me’’ (Judges 7:2). Eventually, God strengthened Gideon and the Israelites in their battle against the Midianites (Judges 7-8).
Depression In The Bible | Job
Job is generally known for having suffered greatly, and in the Arabic language there is even a proverb based on his story (it says; Lord give me the patience of Job). Job witnessed his possessions being taken away from him without being able to do something about it. If this wasn’t enough, Job also saw how his kids died one before the other. Not only did Job lose his property and his inheritance (i.e. his land and cattle), but he lost something which was priceless; his own kids. As if this all was not enough, Job’s friends and wife turned against him.
“why did I not die at birth?” [Job 3:11] | Depression In The Bible
His friends told Job that he deserved all this due to his sins, and his wife told him to ‘’curse God and die!’’ (Job 2:9). Eventually, as everybody would be in such harsh circumstances, Job became depressed. Job became so depressed that he ‘’opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth’’ (Job 3:1). The entire third chapter of the Book of Job is a cry out of unmeasurable agony. As psychology teaches, someone who has suicidal thoughts does not really want to die, but rather wants the pain to ease or stop.
This is also the case for Job, as Job did not really want to die, but rather that his mental torments would stop. Harsh sayings for Job, in his deep depression, were ‘’why did I not die at birth?’’ (Job 3:11), ‘’why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter of soul’’ (Job 3:20) and ‘’I am not at ease, nor am I quit; I have no rest, for trouble come comes’’ (Job 3:26). Only a person that experiences deep agony could utter such words, and Job was one of those people.
God talked to Job, and told him His vision, after which Job was convinced. Despite Job’s suffering, which continued for thirty years, in the end ‘’the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters’’ (Job 42:12-13).
In Part II, we will look at Jeremiah, Elijah, Hanna, and draw together a conclusion in the biblical battle against depression.
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