Why do some Christians feel worthless and useless? Why do they feel like a failure? Why are they disappointed in their lot in life? Why do they choose depression when they feel unsuccessful?
In the previous articles, I discussed two of the three causes of depression—unconfessed guilt and a wrong response to difficult circumstances. In this last column, we will examine the third cause.
Individuals will choose depression if they have unbiblical values or standards of success. The media is ubiquitous. Between social media, radio, television, and online streaming services, consumers are being bombarded with a value system. These platforms generally define success as being educated, beautiful, youthful, talented, wealthy, and well-liked. Hence, many people are subconsciously comparing themselves to this standard.
Here are some examples. A college student becomes, depressed because he has been rejected into medical school due to his grades. Another student becomes bulimic, because she does not think she is thin enough to be beautiful. A retired resident of a nursing home thinks she is worthless, because she is old and weak. A parent is grieved, because his son is not talented enough to play professional baseball. A construction worker is in despair, because he cannot provide a spacious house and new cars for his family. A woman is in dismay, because her colleagues at work have not accepted her as a part of the group.
In 1 John 2:15-16, God warns us to renounce the world’s standards for success. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” God admonishes us to flee from this value system. We should not love it, adopt it, or compare ourselves to it. The desires of the flesh, eyes, and pride of life will not bring success in God’s eyes. On the contrary, they will lead to the destruction of our souls. Ironically, many Christians choose depression, because they have not attained something which God deems toxic for their spiritual wellbeing.
If you have fallen into the world’s trap, how should you respond? First, seek God and communicate with Him by prayer. When David had depression in Psalm 42, he said, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Therefore, you should seek God by opening up His Word. God has revealed Himself and His will in the Bible. Crack open your copy and thirst for its quenching effect.
Second, you must believe in the facts and not in your feelings. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” We cannot trust our feelings, because they will blind us to the truth. We must believe the truth of the Scriptures. What does the Bible teach as the barometer of success? What should our goal be? 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” A person glorifies God by trusting Him, worshiping Him, and obeying Him. This is God’s definition of success.
Third, you must actively preach God’s truth to yourself instead of passively listening to your feelings. Once you know the truth, you must meditate upon it. Paul tells us that God has given a “way of escape” for every temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). When you are tempted to covet your neighbor’s success and feel like a failure, remind yourself of 1 Corinthians 10:31. Meditate on ways to glorify God. This activity is a part of the process of having your mind renewed into conformity with the Bible and not the world.
Fourth, you must believe that there is hope. Wayne Mack enumerates the four lies which rob us of transformation. Individuals believe that their experience is unique, God is not faithful to them, God will test them beyond their ability, and there is no hope. Romans 15:13 reveals God’s power to give hope to the depressed. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Fifth, you must have an eternal perspective and not a temporal one. Paul commands us “to set our minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” When a person becomes depressed, he has forgotten the eternal promises of God. If you are a Christian, you have everlasting hope. Revelation 21:4 says about the eternal state, “He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” By contemplating this future joy, one cannot stay depressed.
Friend, if you are depressed, there is always hope with God. There, however, is not hope outside of God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). A man can only have peace with God and eternal hope for the present and the future in Him. If you are not a Christian, trust God and not yourself. Believe in His promise of salvation by faith in Jesus and through repentance of your sins. All other roads end in despair, but only through Jesus does the destination end in glorious, never-ending hope.
Brandon was born and raised near Springfield, IL. He graduated from Illinois College in 2007 with a B.A. in History and from Moody Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Divinity. He is a PhD student in Historical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City and an ACBC certified Biblical counselor. In April 2016 Brandon accepted the call to pastor at Faith Baptist. He loves history and reading and has a heart for street preaching and evangelism.