When Depression Causes Doubt
We are emotional creatures. This is the way God made us. But as we all know, when we get into negative emotions it can have adverse affects ranging from feeling bad to crippling behavior.
The Bible talks often about the effects of negative emotions. When it comes to anger, we have to learn to stay calm, otherwise we can make mistakes (see Proverbs 14:29). In the next verse, verse 30, we are told that “a relaxed attitude lengthens life; jealously rots it away.” So these two examples of uncontrolled anger and jealousy show us that negative emotions can cause bad decision making and a shortened life span.
Of all the negative emotions that I could write about, I felt talking about the spiritual effects of depression is something the Lord wants us to see. From doing a Google search on a simple definition of depression, this is what I found. “Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.”
While depression causes all kinds of physical, mental, and emotional conditions, for us Christians it can cause us to doubt what God has done and will do for us.
One of the best examples I have found is when John the Baptist is in prison and he sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the Messiah or should they keep looking for someone else? (See Matthew 11:2-3).
Here is what is most surprising about this question that John has? Earlier in his ministry when he was baptizing people in the Jordan River, upon seeing Jesus coming to be baptized, John declares he is the Messiah. Look what is recorded in John 1:29-34. “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, soon a man is coming who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before I did. I didn’t know he was the one, but I have been baptizing with water in order to point him out to Israel.’
Then John said, ‘I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, when you see the Holy Spirit descending and resting upon someone, he is the one you are looking for. He is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Son of God.’”
So there we have it. John the Baptist’s testimony is clear that he believes without any doubt that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So how does he get from that absolute conviction and declaration of who Jesus is to questioning if he even is the Messiah?
The only answer that makes sense is John is now depressed. While the account in Matthew doesn’t say that, we know that he is in prison and that environment has to affect him. John is now gone from certainty to doubt, caused by depression.
So how can we break the spiritual deprivations of depression, especially doubt? For openers, we need to read the Word of God even more to see the amazing ways that God has been there for His people. Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Secondly, when God has told you something, a promise for example, write it down and go back and reread it often. Declare out loud what you wrote down so it stays with you.
Third, stay in fellowship with other believers. There are many reasons to be part of a church, but one of the reasons is for encouragement and spiritual perspective. Hebrews 10:25 commands us to not neglect meeting together so we can encourage one another. I Corinthians 12 talks about how every member of a body is important because we need each other. Think how liberating it is to get encouragement from others.
Finally, know that when we are depressed, Jesus doesn’t condemn us or get mad at us. He reassures us!! That is what he did for John when he told his messengers all the great miracles that were happening.
Yes, depression can cause doubt. But Child of God you are still His and your doubts can never sever that relationship. Believe it, receive it because the truth will always set us free.