As Christian Hedonists, we’re not unfamiliar with the pain of depression. And we get a lot of questions in the inbox about how to work through those unavoidable times in life when depression hits. There’s often a physical and medical side to depression, but also a spiritual side to these seasons, too. In that vein, a question comes in an email from one female listener.
“Pastor John, what Scripture passages do you return to when you are suffering from depression? I am suffering from depression pretty bad at the moment, and I need some help from Scripture. Can you help me?”
This is the central question for her to ask — namely, “Where shall I turn in Scripture, in God’s word?” This is what God said we should listen to: his word.
Now, I don’t want to be naïve here. To be sure, there are many dimensions to depression — from genetic, to dietary, to exercise, to trauma, to demonic harassment, to relational stress, to financial burdens, to weather conditions, to sinful entanglements, to sleeplessness, and on and on. I don’t want to give the impression that I am oversimplifying the complexities of what might trigger a season of darkness, or depression.
Nevertheless, I’ll say it again: under and over and through all these issues that may need to be addressed — and I would encourage her to address all of them that are relevant — the key question is “What has God said to me?” That is, “What does the Scripture say?”
The reason this is so key is that the Bible says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Depression regularly involves a weakening of our faith and our hope, and God is clear that reawakening of faith, reawakening of hope, will not come if we’re not hearing the word of God.
The Scriptures do not present themselves as an automatic guarantee of emotional turnaround, because the Scriptures themselves describe people who hear the word of God and do not emotionally turn around — like the parable of the soils, or 1 Corinthians 15:2 (“You believed in vain”), and so on.
The Scriptures aren’t naïve, as if they are the quick and easy panacea for every emotional blankness [Depression is emotional blankness? Really?]. But the point is that, without the Scriptures, there’s no hope of a Christ-exalting turnaround of our emotions.
Medication might turn us around emotionally, but by itself, without the word of God, it won’t put us on a right footing with Jesus Christ. It may feel good, but without the word of God, it may not have done you any long-term good.
— John Piper, Desiring God, What Hope Does God Offer in My Depression?, September 8, 2018