What Causes Depression?

I’m often asked, “What causes a person to become depressed?”

My answer is often, “No one knows.”

One of my wise doctors, a psychiatrist, once said, “Curt, we don’t understand as much as we’d like about exactly how the brain, and its chemicals, work.”

That being said, I think there are Biblical examples of depression that give us a peek. (Normally in the traditional versions, depression is often called “despair.”)

Moses showed signs of it during the 40 years in the wilderness. It was due to being overwhelmed and the daily pressures of a huge number of people pressing on him for their every need.

David definitely was a person who understood about the highs and lows. His depression was related both to his sin (Bathsheba/Uriah) the sin of others (Absalom) grief (the loss of a child)
and oppression (Being hunted like a dog by his many enemies.)

Elijah in I Kings 19 shows classic depression caused by exhaustion. He was physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted from three years of battle with Ahab and Jezebel, running hard for God, and after the greatest victory in his ministry, the cookout at Mt. Carmel where God showed up to vindicated Himself as well as Elijah’s ministry.

Often, depression and low times slips up on us after our greatest victories. Beth Moore, in her book Praying God’s Word, speaks of depression being a challenge for her after finishing a large project or book.

Once again, sin can cause depression. Judas’ betrayal brings on despair and suicide in the life of a disciple.

A good question here is: “Is depression a sin?”

No, depression is not a sin.

Can sin cause depression? Sure, being out of God’s will and the resulting sin can cause depression. I’ve given you examples above.

But the dark times of Moses and Elijah, two great men of God who were in the center of God’s will, reveal that depression can have all types of causes and backgrounds.

However, at the time of Jesus’ greatest challenge: preparation for the cross, Moses and Elijah were sent by God to encourage and comfort Jesus. (on the Mount of Transfiguration)
These two men who’d been through the fire and found faithful were sent for this heavenly pep talk to the very Son of God.

After my precious friend, Ricky Gallien’s death by suicide, I was asked repeatedly, “How could this happen to a great man of God?”

Ricky was (and is still rightly remembered as) a great man of God, a committed pastor, successful high school principal, committed father and husband. Depression and its results can happen to any person, including steady Christians and gifted leaders.

Don’t believe it? Look at the Biblical examples above.
Study the lives of great Christian leaders like Martin Luther and Charles H. Spurgeon.
Read the biographies of legends like Lincoln and Churchill.

They all dealt with the “black dog of depression.”
But with the help of God, they overcame it to lead strong lives that still call out to us.

May the same be said of each of us.

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