Psychology Today reported “depression has increased modestly over the last 10 years with nearly 9 million Americans receiving treatment for depression in 2007.” Yet estimates are more than twice that number of American adults 18 and over suffering with depressive disorders ranging from seasonal depression to bipolar disorders and postpartum depression.
People with a depressive illness cannot simply pull themselves together and get better. Chronic depression affects the way a person eats, sleeps and thinks. Without proper treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months or years.
The Bible acknowledges that people can become dangerously low in spirit. The Apostle Paul, for example, showed concern about one man who “may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow,” at 2 Corinthians 2:7 — English Standard Version. The Jewish New Testament of the same verse says, “swallowed up in overwhelming depression.”
Some depressed people have felt so low they could identify with the prophet Jonah who said at Jonah 4:3, “At this point, LORD, you may as well take my life from me, because it would be better for me to die than to live.” — Common English Bible.
How comforting to know that our loving Creator is described at 2 Corinthians 7:6 as the “God, who comforts and encourages and refreshes and cheers the depressed.” — The Amplified Bible.
We can be certain that God understands our feelings and weaknesses, and how debilitating depression can be on our minds and bodies. Psalm 34:18 says, “Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves,” — New World Translation.
According to Isaiah 57:15, God is so close to His depressed servants that He is described as actually dwelling “with the crushed and the lowly, reviving the spirit of the lowly, reviving the heart of those who have been crushed.” — Common English Bible.
How can someone depressed get such comfort from God? Philippians 4:6-7 says, “In every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus.” — GOD’S WORD Translation.
This is not to suggest God will remove all our difficulties in life right now. But He can impart the strength and wisdom to cope with “all things” — including depression, according to Philippians 4:13.
Other Scriptures offering consolation to the depressed are, Psalm 39:12, Isaiah 40:10, Psalm 34:4-6, Luke 12:6-7, Psalm 40:1-2, 1Peter 5:7 and Psalm 147:3-5.
According to helpguide.org, “The key to depression recovery is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there. Draw upon whatever resources you have. You may not have much energy, but you probably have enough to take a short walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one.”
The online resource for mental and emotional health added, “You can make a huge dent in your depression with simple lifestyle changes: exercising every day, avoiding the urge to isolate, challenging the negative voices in your head, eating healthy food instead of the junk you crave, and carving out time for rest and relaxation. Feeling better takes time, but you can get there if you make positive choices for yourself each day and draw on the support of others.”
Mounting evidence suggests physical activity triggers new cell growth in the brain, increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and endorphins, reduces stress, and relieves muscle tension — all things that can have a positive effect on depression. Experts also recommend socializing with positive people — trying to adopt their optimism and persistence in the face of difficulty.
This is all easier said than done, I know. I’ve been very sad in my life but never clinically depressed. I could not begin to know personally how to cope with an illness that many describe as so physically, mentally and emotionally draining you feel you are in a downward spiral into a bottomless black hole.
There are a number of treatments for depression. Some people have been helped by their family physician. Others have used herbal medications, mood-boosting foods, diets and exercise. Still others need special treatment involving prescribed antidepressant medications. Why not check with your doctor?
Physicians can do much to alleviate the suffering of the depressed. But until a permanent solution is extended by the God of tender mercies, we can bask in the words of Lamentations 3:55-57, “I have called out your name, O Jehovah, from a pit of the lowest sort. My voice you must hear. Do not hide your ear to my relief, to my cry for help. You have drawn near in the day that I kept calling you. You said: ‘Do not be afraid.’” — New World Translation.
That prayer will be answered soon, at God's appointed time, when the words of Revelation 21:4 will have special meaning for sufferers of depression: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."