Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.
No one is immune from becoming depressed. The World Health Organization reports that more than 264 million people worldwide suffer from depression. That number includes over 16 million Americans.
About 76–85% of people suffering from depression and other mental disorders try to hide them or deal with them on their own. Some people are too ashamed to get the help they need.
Since there is a stigma about depression, many Christians associate it with weakness and lack of faith. Some of them think being depressed is a sin, and they did something bad to cause it.
The Bible gives many examples of people who battled depression and were victorious over it. They never stopped believing God would bring them through. When we invite God into our depression, we also can become victorious over it.
Read through the alphabetical list below to see who those characters were and why they were depressed.
Don't think for a moment that David was never depressed just because he was a king and has been described as "a man after God's own heart." David wrote 73 of the 150 Psalms. Many of them were laments where he wrote that he was depressed because of his enemies who set out to harm him.
David was able to overcome his anxiety and depression by praying, singing praises to God, worshipping Him, and crying out to God in despair.
"For my life is consumed with grief and my years with groaning; my iniquity has drained my strength, and my bones are wasting away. (Psalm 31:10)
“I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:1-4)
Elijah was a mighty prophet who performed many miracles, including calling down fire from heaven and being victorious over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (2 Kings 1:10). In the very next chapter, we read that Elijah became depressed. He felt crushed, and he became physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually sick.
Elijah, who once had been a picture of spiritual courage, was at a low point. He ran away from Israel when the nation needed his leadership the most. He felt defeated and was so depressed that he wanted to die. He prayed, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life" (1 Kings 19:4).
God did not take Elijah's life. Instead, He ministered to the prophet, and Elijah recovered from his depression.
Hannah's story is found in 1 Samuel 1:2–2:21. She was one of two wives of Elkanah. She was barren while the other wife, Peninnah, gave their husband all the children. Peninnah taunted and teased Hannah. Hannah was depressed, and every time Penninah gave birth to another child, Hannah became even more depressed.
Every year, Elkanah took both wives and his children to Shiloh to offer a sacrifice to God. While there, Hannah was too depressed to eat. She prayed while sitting at the table. Eli, the priest, saw her mouth moving with no sound coming out. He thought the worst of her. He confronted her for being drunk.
Hannah explained she was praying for a male child. Hannah's prayer was answered and when Samuel was born and weaned, she dedicated him to the temple.
Heman, Son of Korah
Heman is not a well-known biblical character. He was one of the sons of Korah. He wrote only one psalm. Psalm 88 has been described as one of the darkest things recorded in the Bible. Heman cries out and accuses God of betraying and abandoning and betraying him.
Heman was depressed and at his lowest. In Psalm 88:5-7, he writes:
“I am forgotten, cut off from your care. You have thrown me into the lowest pit, into the darkest depths. Your anger weighs me down; with wave after wave you have engulfed me.”
The psalmist ends Psalm 88 by saying, “Darkness is my closest friend.”
Jeremiah was one of the major prophets who dedicated his entire life to serving God. That did not keep him from suffering bouts of depression as revealed in his two books, Jeremiah and Lamentations. He felt lonely, insecure, rejected, and defeated. His book, Lamentations, shows how he wept all the way through the five chapters. That's why he is known as the "weeping prophet.”
God forbade Jeremiah to marry and have children of his own. His own family mocked and made fun of him. However, in the midst of his depression, he still obeyed God and maintained his faith.
God encouraged him, according to Jeremiah 31:16.
“This is what the LORD says, ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,’ declares the LORD….”
God continued with His encouragement in Jeremiah 33:3.
“Call to me, and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Jeremiah trusted God and continued to be His servant.
You might think it strange that Jesus was ever depressed. You must remember that He was fully human as well as fully divine. Therefore, He suffered everything that we suffer in order to be the perfect example for us.
If you think Jesus wasn't depressed and grieved the way we are sometimes, then you should read Luke 22:39–46. Jesus told His disciple that His soul was deeply grieved. During His agony, Jesus prayed very hard in anguish. His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44).
After Jesus prayed to His Father, He accepted that the hour has come for Him to go to the cross.
Job suffered from depression after many personal losses that came all in one day. First, he lost all of his material possessions. He hadn't got over the loss of his possession before he received news that he had lost all ten of his children. If that wasn't enough to send someone into depression, Job was stricken with painful boils all over his body. To add fuel to the fire, his wife told him to "Curse God and die."
Job did curse the day he was born, but he did not curse God as his wife suggested. He kept the faith even when his three friends insisted Job had done some wrong for all those terrible things to happen to him.
Job was healed of the boils and he came out of his depression after he prayed for the friends who falsely accused him of sinning. God gave Job twice as much as he lost along with the promise that his latter days would be better than his former days (Job 42:10-17).
Jonah was a minor prophet whose story is told in his short book of only four chapters. Jonah was doing just fine until God commanded him to go to Nineveh to preach. Jonah didn't want to tell the rebellious people to repent and turn back to God. Therefore, he boarded a ship going in the opposite direction. He was thrown overboard and shallowed by a big fish.
During the three days Jonah was in the belly of the fish, he prayed. Then the fish spit him out, and Jonah ran all the way to Nineveh to do what God told him to do.
Jonah's disobedience, resentment, anger, prejudice, unforgiveness, and jealousy caused him to be depressed. Even after Jonah preached and the Ninevites repented, he became even more depressed because he wanted God to only take care of the Israelites, His own people instead of the Ninevites.
Jonah's story teaches us that some negative emotions we keep bottled up inside us cause depression.
Martha is mentioned in the New Testament only three times. One of the times, the Bible records the story about Jesus visiting Martha and Mary in Bethany (Luke 10:38-42). Martha was focused while preparing to be a great hostess while Mary sat at Jesus' feet listening to Him.
Martha was burdened with the preparations and told Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Jesus did not do what Marth requested. Instead, He replied, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is a need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
Notice Jesus said Martha was "anxious and worried." Jesus knew immediately what Martha's deeper issue was. With this short story, Jesus gave one of the best remedies for depression: Choose the better part and sit at His feet.
Moses battled depression. He struggled with many things during his 120 years. When he was 80 years old, God commanded Moses to go to Egypt to be a deliverer for His people. Moses gave God excuses why he couldn't go. Finally, he did accept the assignment.
Moses had a lot on his shoulders while dealing with Pharaoh in Egypt and millions of rebellious people as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. On many occasions, Moses cried out to God in despair. He felt hopeless and defeated.
When a famine occurred, Naomi, her husband, and two sons left Bethlehem and lived in Moab. After her husband and two sons died, Naomi returned to Bethlehem, and one daughter-in-law went with her.
Naomi was bitter, angered, and hurt. She said, “The Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.” Read Naomi's story in the short book of Ruth with only four chapters.
Don't think Paul was never depressed because he was saved and a servant of God. Paul often wrote about being in despair and “burdened beyond his strength” (1 Corinthians 1:3-8).
Paul considered himself the least of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:8). He prayed three times, but God did not remove a thorn from his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:6-7).
Even in the midst of struggling with depression, the apostle wrote 13 books of the New Testament. He wrote Philippians, the "joy book" while under house arrest.
Solomon was a son of David and the author of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. He was rich, wise, powerful, and possessed everything the world had to offer, including 700 wives and 300 concubines. Even with everything Solomon had, he summed up his life this way:
“Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
Based on what Solomon said, possessing many things does not prevent people from becoming anxious and depressed.
Dora Weithers on October 18, 2021:
Learned much from this article. Elijah has been my poster figure for depression in the Bible. Thank you for showing it in these other characters. Very insightful!