Why do people get depressed?
Well, why do people get depressed? Depression, almost always, will have a spiritual cause, meaning a soul cause.
Now, one cause of depression is sin. We look at Psalm 32, where David, after he’d committed adultery by stealing Bathsheba, and then committed murder, he describes in Verse Three, “When I kept silent about my sin, “my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; “my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat “of summer.” And, in David’s case, somebody might say, “Well, boy, David, you have no energy, “you might to the 10 Symptoms, “you’ve got nine of them, you’re clinically depressed.” He might have been depressed, physical symptoms. But the cause in his case was he was miserable because of his sin. I talked earlier about the case of Herald, who had been diagnosed as clinically depressed, he was on very strong psychotropic drugs, lots and lots of symptoms of depression, loss of interest in life. But there were issues in his own heart that once they were dealt with, he was set free from that depression and no longer was on the pills for more than a decade afterwards.
Another cause of depression can be how we deal with circumstances, which can be overwhelming. You’ve lost your job, your house is being foreclosed, your children have rebelled, your spouse has left you, you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. And these circumstances can be very hard. We’re going to look at Psalm 42 later, but I think Psalm 42 and other Psalms, often the circumstances that psalmist’s disease, away from the people of God, he’s suffering somehow, and that is contributing to his feelings of depression.
Another issue, circumstantially, can be in justice. In Psalm 73, when the psalmist is complaining about the prosperity of the wicked, he said, “It was troublesome in my sight.” He was on the verge of despair until he entered the sanctuary of God. So, some people, let’s say how depression can sometimes be related to anger, that you’ve been treated unfairly or the world’s not fair, the government’s not fair, your boss isn’t fair, things have gone wrong, and that anger that comes can lead to despair, depression, misery. Relationships, somebody’s let you down. We talked, in Jeremiah 17 how, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man “and makes the flesh his strength.” “He will be like a bush in the desert.” And so, when you’re depending upon people to meet your needs, and people let you down very badly, you’ll hear sometimes a counselee say, “I just feel like I’m drying up.” I’ve heard many times, that’s also the idea, “Yeah, I feel like I’m drying up.” Well, they’re drying up because they expected it to rain, figuratively speaking, they expected other people to help them, other people have let them down, and that can lead to depression.
There can also be physical factors in depression. In First King’s 19, it appears that Elijah, after a very busy time of fighting the prophets of Baal, and running away from Jezebel, he is exhausted, and he’s at the point where he wants to die. I think lack of sleep can be, that physical issue of a lack of sleep, can do horrible things to one in terms of the brain, in terms of energy, drive, and can make depression spiral down much faster. Also, there can be brain disease, or brain weakness. There are situations where someone has schizophrenia, someone has other issues where the brain, clearly, is deteriorating. And that can contribute to depression. Some people who have abused substances, that’s also affected the brain, and had the effect of making depression a bigger issue.
And, oftentimes, there are a mixture of causes that the person not only lost his job, but his girlfriend broke up with him, and he’s sick. All these things together. Sometimes, the hard circumstances also will expose our spiritual weakness, that you say, “I must have” whatever it is, to be happy. “I must have my car, my house, my girlfriend, “my kids fulfilling my dreams.” And we realize that we’re depressed because we put our hopes there, instead of putting our hope, primarily, and ultimately, solely, in God. Oftentimes what happens is under the stress of the circumstances as we respond wrongly, then there can be physical breakdown.
I’ve even seen, I think, when people under very challenging circumstances and they worry, they are overwhelmed with fear, they’re not trusting in God, they can’t sleep. It affects them, then, physically, and things get much worse. When you’re counseling people, you may face cases where you can’t be sure of the cause. I will ask a lot of questions. By the way, I don’t just step in and say, “Where is your sin? “What did you do like David did?” Sin is not the only cause of depression in terms of who’s the woman or who did you kill. There are others as well. One of the most perplexing cases I had was actually not long after Herald, which was clearly sin. I had a young lady, newly married, and just had major feelings of just feeling depressed, and I wanted to do everything I could imagine in terms of cause, and there was nothing. Could it be there was something happening physically, hormonally, contributing to that? Maybe so. One thing we need to be careful of is not to be judgmental and assume the worst of somebody, saying that they are suffering depression and it’s all their fault. It may be, under the circumstances, they are striving with the grace God gives them to endure. So, if there’s suffering, be careful not to make them more miserable, especially by accusing them of sin of one kind or another, that you’re not even sure of.