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Do the responsibilities and cares of this life seem at times to be too much for you to bear? Have you ever felt despair, or what we might call “the blues” due to the circumstances of your life? Many, if not all of us, would probably admit to experiencing feelings such as these at one time or another. One might won­der if a Christian can experience depression, and if so, what can be done to overcome those anxious, despair­ing feelings. To further examine these questions, it would be helpful to look at how the world views depression, and compare this to what we find in God’s Word.

Depression is an affective disorder, meaning that the primary disturbance is in the mood of the person. It differs from “normal”, mood swings in the degree or extreme nature of the mood, as well as in the duration of the mood. There are four basic types of depression. The first is “normal” depression which is considered to be a normal emotion. It is characterized by feelings of sadness, despair, frustration and unhappiness. The second type of depression is grief. Again, this is con­sidered to be normal, an appropriate response to an identifiable external loss. Grief typically subsides over a period of time. The third type of depressing is called “mild” depression which is more severe than a normal mood swing. It typically persists for a longer period of time, and the reason for the depression is less obvi­ous. Finally, there is severe depression, during which the person may lose contact with reality, or may experience suicidal tendencies.

Depression is a disorder which is characterized by numerous symptoms. There may be sleep distur­bances, loss of appetite, anxiety, symptoms of physical illness, and either extreme inactivity or agitation. A person who is suffering depression usually has more than one of these symptoms, but not all symptoms are typically present at one time.

According to the world’s view, there are a number of factors which are etiological, or help to explain the causes for depression. Genetic make-up is one expla­nation given. Biological reasons, such as a chemical deficiency, is another. Environmental stresses, and specific life events are factors which are believed to play a very big role in depression. Work stress, school stress, and specific events in one’s life would be included in this category. Finally, there are what the world calls psychodynamic factors, which would include low self-esteem.

Treatment of depression depends on the degree or severity of the depression. A more mild depression might be treated with medication while more severe depression may require hospitalization. A treatment technique which is less commonly found today than in the past is the use of electro-convulsive therapy, which removes the patient’s memory of events which have recently happened. Still another form of treat­ment is counseling, and it is not unusual to combine more than one of the treatment techniques in an effort to reduce depression. Even so, it is estimated that 50% of those who experience depression will develop it again at some point in their lives, while 15% become chronically depressed.

Knowing then what the world says about depres­sion, how should the Christian view depression in the light of God’s Word? While there is no mention of depression specifically in the Bible, it does speak about being filled with anxious care, which often accompanies depression. The Bible tells us to cast our cares upon God in I Peter 5:7. In the sermon on the mount, Christ tells us that we must not be consumed by earthly care, but to seek first after the Kingdom of God, and He will supply us with earthly necessities (Matthew 6:25-34). From these and other passages, we can learn the following. First, because we live in a world which has been cursed by God, and both by nature and action, we sin against God, we too, can experience the spiritual illness of depression. When we are filled with earthly cares and depression, it is the result of a lack of trust in God and His providence. This lack of trust in Him is in reality, sin. Secondly, our cares and resulting depression are most typically regarding things over which we have no control. “Which one of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? (Matthew 6:27). Finally, when we put our trust in God, He will provide us with what we truly need in this life.

One might think that the Biblical instruction regarding anxiety and depression would be more easi­ly applied if we lived in those times. But what about in today’s world, when life is fast paced and the responsibilities are many? We should bear some things in mind if this is what we think. God commands us to cast our cares upon Him. When we do not, we sin. God’s Word cannot in any sense be thought of as lim­ited by time, or appropriate only for those living in Biblical times. Secondly, can we really say that we have more to be concerned about or depressed about than those in Biblical times? In Psalm 43, David writes, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul and why art thou disquieted within me?” And in Psalm 55, David speaks of the terrors of death, fearfulness and trembling, and horror that overwhelmed him. Remem­ber, this is King David, whose life was in danger both from worldly enemies and his own son who sought his throne. Certainly, the cares and responsibilities dur­ing Biblical times were no more trivial than those of today.

How then, must the Christian deal with depres­sion? Medication and Christian counseling have an appropriate place in treatment, but God has provided a fool-proof cure, his cure is found in Philippians 4 and was the subject of a sermon Professor Decker gave at Southwest some years ago. “Be careful for nothing but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which passeth all under­standing shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” This is not instruction to be care-less, rather, we must have proper care and concern for things and the circumstances of our lives. We are instructed to let our needs be made known to God in prayer. One cannot properly pray to God when the heart is full of anxious concerns. Prayer must be made with thanksgiving, knowing and believing that God will answer our prayer. God will provide a peace which passeth all understanding and He will keep our hearts and minds through Christ. This thought is echoed in the words of Psalter #150. “Thy burden now cast on the Lord, And He shall thy weakness sustain; the righ­teous who trust in His Word, Unmoved shall forever remain.”

 

The Christian is placed in many different circumstances while on this earth. Some are characterized by hardships and trials, and others are full of joy and peace. How should the Christian respond? Throughout the Bible there are numerous times where God’s people sang in response to their various circumstances. Singing in response to God’s ordering […]

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The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

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The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]

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Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]

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Tennessee Young People’s Retreat 2021

The 2021 Tennessee young people’s retreat was held August 9 to 13 by Providence, Hudsonville, Unity, and First (Holland) Protestant Reformed Churches. The retreat took place at Eagle Rock Retreat Center in the city of Tallassee. It was about an eleven-hour drive, give or take a bit due to stops for food and restrooms. Though […]

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