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  • Writer's pictureBrandon 'b.Side' Alvillar

Why Am I Depressed? Christian Men & Depression

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this article in NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM, is trying to offer medical advice or counsel. This article is only intended to compare scripture to public statements about depression.

Depression is an interesting subject. Is depression a newer condition like many older people think, or is it simply the newer way to identify an age-old problem? Since this condition has affected so many people more recently, there is an abundance of things being said in the world today, about how to address it. Is it just me, or does it seem like, the more information we seem to get about depression, the more people seem to be depressed? I'm sure there are plenty of Christian men asking, "Why am I depressed?" In this article, we’re going to look at what the world says depression is, and compare it to what the Bible says. Hopefully, we’ll understand whether or not as Christian men, we should be depressed…

The Pan American Health Organization defines depression like this:

Depression is an illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities for at least two weeks.”

Black and white photo of a depressed person with face against a wall

The Mayo Clinic says it this way:

Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings 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.”

If we look at these definitions from leading health organizations, we see that they agree on some things. They both classify depression as an “illness” or “disorder.” Both of these definitions focus on our emotions. Depression seems to primarily cause sadness and loss of interest in “normal” things. This quality of sadness is intensified for depressed people because the emotional state of the person affects mental and physical conduct. Our perception of value changes. The loss of interest produces an intensified rut that can stifle and paralyze people’s productivity. Having known people who have gone through this, they’ve used the term “black hole” to describe the feeling. They say it’s like an oppressive dark force that keeps you glued in a thought process, where everything seems useless or pointless. That’s pretty intense!

Young black man praying in the dark

Now, I’m in NO WAY trying to undermine the intensity of depression. I’m not here to suggest that depression isn’t real, like some crazy Christians out there. The question here is, SHOULD we be in this state, as Christian men? Here’s another way of putting it:

As believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, having all of eternal, spiritual, and practical tools that the LORD has provided to His children, should Christian men be in this dark abyss?

The simple answer is “no,” we shouldn’t. BUT, having been born-again by the Holy Spirit, we shouldn’t sin or doubt God either, but we all still struggle with that, don’t we? No one wants to be depressed, but people, even Christians, end up there sometimes. What does the Bible offer to us then, so that we can prevent this sort of thing, or at least, minimize the damage? Check this out…

There are a few words that these medical definitions use, that have Biblical parallels. Let’s look at the issue of sadness. The English word “sadness” is only used one time in the King James Version of the Bible. The original Hebrew word that’s translated “sadness” in that passage, is mostly translated into the English word “evil.” When this Hebrew word is used, it’s actually used to describe the effect of unfaithfulness to God. That’s the way the Bible contextually uses this word. The way this word is used in Nehemiah 2:1-3 has some really interesting connotations. Check it out:

And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, [when] wine [was] before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before. Therefore the king said to me, ‘Why [is] your face sad, since you [are] not sick? This [is] nothing but sorrow of heart.’ So I became dreadfully afraid, and said to the king, ‘May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, [lies] waste, and its gates are burned with fire?’”

Here, the scriptures show that Nehemiah was “sad.” He wasn’t sick, but he was noticeably sad, to the point where his work was affected. Notice how he described the cause of his sadness. He was unsettled by the condition of his homeland, his people, and the condition of God’s integrity as a result. He was messed up emotionally, which affected his thinking and conduct, because the things in his life pertaining to God’s Word and purposes, weren’t in harmony. That wasn’t Nehemiah’s fault in particular. Still, that disharmony in his life compared to the Word of God, caused issues. Doesn’t it affect the core of our souls when our lives are contrary to God’s will and purpose for us?

Now let’s deal with the issue of “loss of interest.” The Bible addresses that too. Take Ecclesiastes 2:1-26 for example. At the beginning of the chapter, Solomon talks about how much he was able to accomplish in his life. He basically did all of the things any of us would ever want to do. He had it all and had great joy in the labor that he had to do to get it all. He admits though, that after all was said and done, and he looked back, it was all pretty worthless. He started to realize that, there was no difference between him and anyone else in reality. If he was wise, he would soon be forgotten, just like the fool. If he was rich, someone who did nothing to work for riches would inherit his, and he’d be forgotten, just like the poor. He called it all “vanity.” It was emptiness.

An interesting shift takes place in the middle of the chapter. Solomon admitted that, once he came to this miserable understanding, he began to hate the work that he once loved. He began to despise the things that were once precious to him. His whole perspective changed because he didn’t value things in life like he once did. Is this sounding familiar?

There is an interesting similarity in both of these instances – Nehemiah and Solomon. For both of these guys, it was their relationship to the LORD that caused them to show signs of “depression.” For Nehemiah, his realization about how far away he and his people had come from the LORD, put his mind in that dark place. For Solomon, it was his realization about how holy God is, compared to our temporary and corrupted condition, that caused his mind to race to a dark place. These issues stem from two things:

The realization of human depravity, compared to the hopelessness and dissatisfaction of NOT being God.

Here's what I mean by that.

Both Solomon and Nehemiah realized that they were weak. They both had voids in their lives. They both had needs. In Nehemiah’s case, he wasn’t able to do much to fill that void. In Solomon’s case, he did A LOT to try and fill that void. Yet, in both cases, they ended up in the same place. They were both hopeless in themselves because they both realized that, apart from God, they could do nothing. That is a startling reality to the human ego and is deflating to worldly ambition. Notice how, even though both of these men showed signs of clinical depression, the Bible explains that both of these men were wrestling with SPIRITUAL issues. Here’s an important rule of the Bible:

You can’t use carnal tools to produce spiritual results.

This isn’t to say that all spiritual issues will cause signs of clinical depression. This does strongly suggest though, that clinical depression likely has spiritual roots concerning spiritual issues, based on someone’s relationship with God. This means that for all of the “wisdom” and “help” that’s available out there, if it doesn’t consider the spiritual root of the problem in some way, through the spiritual tools that the God-of-the-Bible has provided, it’s not going to really fix anything. It might mask symptoms for a while, but won’t really fix the root of the issue.

Hopeful young business man looking out of high rise window at city

Here's the good news. Even though it seems like having signs of depression seems bad, think about the testimonies of Nehemiah and Solomon, and the good things that God did with their “depression.” God didn’t see their issues as we do. The Bible teaches that those signs of depression were necessary for those men to be humbled, making them powerful servants of God in many ways. Maybe the LORD has to break us down in certain ways because we place too much hope in the things of this world and this life, which isn’t fruitful for His spiritual purposes. Remember what Jesus said in John 12:25…

He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

As Christians, we’re not supposed to be governed by our emotions or feelings. We’re not supposed to be motivated in this life to thrive in our personal interests. We’re not supposed to live, so that we can find activities we enjoy, just to gratify ourselves. Solomon did that. It didn’t work. Maybe the LORD uses things like “depression” to wake us up from the vanity of this life. Maybe the LORD uses depression as a way to shake people’s foundation in this life, to show where the heart really is. Maybe God uses depression, to show us where we are building up false hope in things that are taking His place. That might not always be the case, but it’s definitely something worth considering.

The truth of the matter is, issues like depression are so nuanced, that you can’t really pinpoint the cause and solution to one thing. I will say though, that one thing that is seldom considered in the conversations about depression, is the spiritual roots of the human soul. So, if we think that we’re showing signs of depression, maybe we can start addressing the issue like we would anything else that reflects an impure connection to God. We can look to the Word, and ask the LORD to show us the true condition of our hearts, to see where we are wrong. Maybe there IS something taking the place of God in our hearts that we can’t see, which is causing us to be so hopeless in this life. Maybe there are things that are causing us to lose focus on our hope in eternal life. Whatever the case is, it’s never a bad idea to seek the LORD, His righteousness, and prayerfully ask the LORD to show us where we can make changes in repentance, to grow closer to Him. After all, you’ll never see anywhere in scripture, where people who were close to God at a certain time, were depressed about it…

#depression #mentalhealth #sadness #ptsd #trauma #anxiety #controlyouremotions #selfcare #mentalhealthawareness #freeyourself #spiritualhealing #christianmen #mensministry #manhood #mentor #pastorbside

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