When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34: 17 – 19; ESV
In the recent death of beloved actor Robin Williams, it is believed to have been an apparent suicide. This talent; one whom I believed to be the greatest because of his diversity and abilities to create roles in ANY genera, left my heart downhearted. I thought of him as the best in comedy and he has touched my life in ways he never imagined (nor did I until his passing). He taught me how to laugh at myself, to express myself in comedy, and to have the ability to bring joy to others by ways of humor. I thought he was happy and had everything… I guess I was wrong. It doesn’t change how I feel about him, but it does make you think about what drove him to that point of desperation.
Depression is not uncommon. Many people battle it daily; some more than others. Many of the greatest biblical heroes/heroines suffered from it. Elijah faced it after his great defeat over the prophets of Baal, Joshua battled it after his army was defeated at Ai, David suffered from it during his lifetime, Peter had a breakdown after he denied knowing Jesus three times, and so on. But in each case of depression, God was able to restore those who suffered it. Today, these is an entire science (psychology) that studies and deals with depression and other forms of mental illnesses.
I have heard suicide defined as “A permanent solution to a temporary problem.” This might be true, but it doesn’t change the fact that people suffering from depression feel that death is better than living with the hopelessness depression brings. Jonah and Elijah both wanted God to take their lives; Judas did hang himself because of the hopelessness he felt after betraying Jesus. Two of the three found out that depression, when brought before the Lord, can find brighter days ahead.
Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest the following about depression:
When the Spirit of God comes He does not give us visions; He tells us to do the most ordinary things conceivable. Depression is apt to turn us away from the ordinary commonplace things of God’s creation, but whenever God comes, the inspiration is to do the most natural simple things—the things we would never have imagined God was in, and as we do them we find He is there. The inspiration which comes to us in this way is an initiative against depression; we have to do the next thing and to do it in the inspiration of God. If we do a thing in order to overcome depression, we deepen the depression; but if the Spirit of God makes us feel intuitively that we must do the thing, and we do it, the depression is gone. Immediately we arise and obey, we enter on a higher plane of life.
A person would be a fool to think that depression isn’t taking place within the church; even in the most Spirit-filled churches of today. It is the most non-talked-about topic in the church. People suffer silently from it for three reasons:
- People might be judged for having depression – those who suffer depression are sometimes stated to have “lack of faith”, “sin in their lives”, or “have not received the ‘joy of the Lord’”
- Their depression’s cause is “not as deep” in the eyes of others – others might think the person suffering “has a right” to be depressed; maybe in part of how they (others) have overcame a similar experience quickly.
- The stigma assigned to depression as being a “mental issue” – even though it is a mental issue, it is also a heart issue. Depression is caused by a number of things and has more than one solution. Yet people might believe that those who have depression also might have other mental illnesses. How wrong they are!
Depression also may have a spiritual aspect to its cause and effect on a believer. Not knowing for certain where Robin Williams stood spiritually, it is hard for one to say that it was definitely caused by a lack of spirituality. However, should a person have a faith and believes in that faith, it will assist them to come through depression quicker and with better results verses those without a faith. Science has proven the effectiveness of spirituality in the recovery from depression.
Pastors: Please, if you believe you have someone in your congregations that you believe is dealing with depression, talk with them. Even if you believe yourself “not qualified” in pastoral counseling, refer them to a specialist. If you, as a pastor/leader are dealing with depression, talk about it. Relate it in your sermons, talk to professionals, seek God’s guidance. Let others see that even Christian leaders will deal with depression; the Bible is full of examples of those leaders! Breaking the silence will allow true healing to take place. God bless!
 Chambers, O. (1986). My utmost for his highest: Selections for the year. Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering.