First, let me say I am indebted to Ed Welch in Depression: Looking up from the Stubborn Darkness.
Depression is a form of suffering.
What is suffering? Suffering is when something uncomfortable, painful, or debilitating happens to us through no fault of our own.
- When a sickness takes us down for a day
- When we cancer cells racing through our bodies
- When an unfair boss fires us from our jobs
- When people gossip about us and ruin our reputations
- When we are falsely accused of something we did not do
- When some natural disaster befalls us and takes from us our property, livelihood or family
- When someone sins against us physically with some sort of attack (either against us or against someone we love)
Each of these things has one thing in common. It is something outside of us, coming at us, hurting us, and causing pain. This is suffering.
Now a small caveat. Does this mean when I sin and am suffering the consequences of my sin I am not suffering? Right. Maybe it can be classified as suffering, but this is not what I primarily have in mind. Why? Because we can trace its roots back into our actions.
Does this mean that we who suffer have no sin? No, that does not mean that. Take the list above for example.
- When a sickness takes me down for a day – I can respond with anger and frustration
- When cancer races through my body – I can still have and idol in my heart.
- When an unfair boss fires me – I could begin to gossip about the boss out of frustration
So just because we are suffering does not mean we are sinless. And just because we have consequences for our sins, does not mean we are suffering.
However suffering is something that is not obviously connected to our direct actions, and it comes and causes us pain.
God speaks much about suffering and how to handle suffering:
- James 1:2-4
- Matthew 5:11-12
- 1 Peter the whole book really
- Romans 5:3-5
So if depression is a form of suffering AND God tells us how to handle suffering, THEN we can handle depression through the same way we would handle suffering. That means there is hope for depression.
But the question is: IS depression suffering?
- Do you know where it comes from?
- Is it because you have unconfessed sin?
- Is it because you are living out a sinful lifestyle that you are trying to hide from others?
I think if the source of the depression is not you some how, or at least not obviously you, then it is something that comes from without. And therefore it is suffering.
So take up the Bible read those passages about suffering. Walk the Darkness, Talk over the Darkness, and Call the darkness suffering.
God has always promised to be with his people in their suffering. He calls them to suffer (Phil 1:29) and he will never leave us alone in our suffering (Hebrews 13:5). Therefore you have all you need to live in the darkness and to do so with godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4)