What Does the Bible Say About Depression?

Many people showed signs of depression in the Bible

What Does the Bible Say About Depression?
Photo Source: Unsplash / Ben White

You won't find the term depression in the Bible, except in the New Living Translation. Instead, the Bible uses words such as downcast, sad, forlorn, discouraged, downhearted, mourning, troubled, despairing, and brokenhearted.

People Who Showed Signs of Depression in the Bible

Many Bible people demonstrated symptoms of this disease: Hagar, Moses, Naomi, Hannah, Saul, David, Solomon, Elijah, Nehemiah, Job, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Judas Iscariot, and Paul.

What truths can we glean from God's Word about this condition? While the Scriptures won't diagnose your symptoms or present treatment options, they can bring reassurance that you are not alone in your struggle with depression.

No One Is Immune

The Bible shows that depression can strike anyone. Poor people like Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, and very rich people, like King Solomon, suffered from depression. Young people, like David, and older people, like Job, were also afflicted.

Depression strikes both women, like Hannah, who was barren, and men, like Jeremiah, the "weeping prophet." Understandably, depression can come after a defeat:

When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. (1 Samuel 30:3-4, NIV)

Oddly, an emotional letdown can also come after a great victory. Elijah the prophet defeated the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel in a stunning display of God's power (1 Kings 18:38). But instead of being encouraged, Elijah, fearing Jezebel's revenge, was weary and afraid:

He (Elijah) came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. (1 Kings 19:4-5, NIV)

Even Jesus Christ, who was like us in all things but sin, may have suffered depression. Messengers came to him, reporting that Herod Antipas had beheaded Jesus' beloved friend John the Baptist:

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. (Matthew 14:13, NIV)

God Is Not Angry About Our Depression

Discouragement and depression are normal parts of being human. They can be triggered by the death of a loved one, illness, loss of a job or status, divorce, leaving home, or many other traumatic events. The Bible does not show God punishing his people for their sadness. Rather, he acts as a loving Father:

David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6, NIV)
For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn-conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. (2 Corinthians 7:5-7, NIV)

God Is Our Hope

One of the great truths of the Bible is that God is our hope when we are in trouble, including depression. The message is clear. When depression hits, fix your eyes on God, his power, and his love for you:

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8, NIV)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9, NIV)
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18, NIV)
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." (Jeremiah 29:11-12, NIV)
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; (John 14:16, KJV)
(Jesus said) "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20, NIV)

[Editor's Note: This article is not designed to diagnose symptoms or explore treatment options for depression. If you are experiencing severe, debilitating, or prolonged depression, we recommend that you seek advice from a counselor or medical professional.]