Monday, November 7, 2016

Is depression a sin?

Is depression a sin?
This question was submitted online. You can submit your questions here.
This question is a difficult one depending on how you define “depression”. I am not trained in a medical or counseling field, so my answer will not have the depth that some may desire.

The way I perceive it, there is a difference between “depression” and just “being depressed”. This post will briefly examine both of these conditions.

What is depression? and is it a sin?
The U.S National Library of Medicine defines “depression” in this way:
Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods.True clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer. 
The exact cause of depression is not known. Many researchers believe it is caused by chemical changes in the brain. This may be due to a problem with your genes, or triggered by certain stressful events. More likely, it's a combination of both. 
Some types of depression run in families. But depression can also occur if you have no family history of the illness. Anyone can develop depression, even kids. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001941/)
If one has a clinical mood disorder such as depression, it would not be inherently sinful. Many people have different psychological disorders that are outside of their control such as being “bi-polar”, “obsessive compulsive” or numerous others. In these cases, one’s  disorders may result in a plethora of problems. These problems, without treatment, may not be controlled by oneself.

It is often difficult for Christians to seek out medical help for mental disorders. Christians want to believe that through prayer, study and willpower that they can overcome depression and other problems. In some cases this may be true, but God has also blessed us with trained medical professionals that will often be able to help someone through a particular disorder. 

If you believe you have clinical depression, it would benefit you to seek out professional help. A medical professional will be able to give you the tools necessary to help you overcome this particular disorder. A legitimate mental disorder is not necessarily a sin, but often depression will lead one to try to self-medicate through drugs or drunkenness (which is sinful). It is important to get help.

In conclusion, depression is not sinful, and it is not a sign of weakness to seek out medical help and confess that you have a problem. Medicine and Doctors are a blessing that God has provided to help those with legitimate problems. Utilize the blessings that God has provided. Although clinical depression is not inherently sinful, if it takes over one’s life and one refuses to get help, it may provide a strong temptation to do something that is wrong.

In some cases depression can even lead to suicide. God loves you and needs you to be alive and well so you can help him “seek and save the lost!”.

What to do if you think you have depression?
Bruce Hennigan at Focus on the Family wrote these points when answering this question:
When you feel depression beginning to take hold of your life, try to do the following:
  • Make sure you're still reading the Bible and praying. You have the power, in Christ, to do what God wills.
  • Thank God for loving you and bringing you through the bout of depression. God's Word, not your present emotional outlook, is your authority.
  • Try not to make a major decision while in a depressed frame of mind.
  • Thank God for taking care of you and loving you even when you can't feel it or see it. This exercises your faith and strengthens you.
Here are a few additional thoughts to keep in mind for those struggling with depression:
  • At times, depression can relate to emotions that have been ignored or pushed away for years. Be willing to face them through Christ's strength. As Matthew 5:4 says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
  • Though not advisable in every situation, medication may provide needed physical help for people struggling with depression. Talk to a doctor about it.
  • Reaching out for Christian counseling can provide support, help you address underlying causes of your depression, and help you develop a plan of action. (http://www.focusonthefamily.com)
Is it a sin to be “depressed”?
Being depressed is not always the same as suffering from “depression”. Many things can cause one to be temporarily depressed. I have seen people walk around sulking after their team lost the super-bowl. As I am sure you can see, just being “bummed out” does not necessarily mean you have depression or that you are sinning. However, there are times that constantly being depressed (when not caused by legitimate medical condition) would be sinful.

What is causing us to be depressed?
This is an important question to ask when “feeling blue”. One may see the sin in the world or observe a social injustice and feel depressed, this would probably be an acceptable time to be “down”, but one should not be "down" forever and instead focus on the hope that is in Christ. Temporary worry, is normal, but constant anxiety may be from a lack of trust in God. The Apostle Paul wrote:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7).
At times one may be depressed because of pride. Many selfish people will get upset and depressed when they do not get their way. This would be a time in which being depressed is sinful. 

There are countless reasons that may cause one to “feel blue”, some would be sinful and some would not. Wayne Jackson wrote:
But the Bible certainly acknowledges that life’s complications can be depressing (the word is used so elastically). We are even commanded to “weep with those who weep.” This means that we sympathize with their grief, rather than trying to convince them that such sorrow is sinful. 
What Christians do, however, with their grief may demonstrate either strong faith, or it may result in a debilitating depression. Therefore, we must give serious thought to this question. There is no simple “yes” or “no” answer. (https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1212-is-it-a-sin-for-a-christian-to-be-depressed)
Conclusion:
Clinical depression is more than just an attitude problem, it may at times be a serious medical condition that requires the attention of a medical professional. A mental disorder is not inherently sinful, but one needs to use wisdom and make sure they get help when they need it. 

Just because you are “feeling depressed” does not mean that you have a serious medical condition. Do some honest self-evaluation and try to pinpoint the cause and then work to overcome it. Talk to a Christian friend, church elder or preacher and seek out help. Anxiety, worry and feelings of depression can overwhelm a person to a point where they are no longer serving God.

by Cliff Sabroe (Bible quotes from NASB95)