Robert Frost once said that the reason why worry kills more people than work is because more people worry than they work. And people work, a lot. Worry, anxiety, and depression are realities that many people – Christians and non-Christains alike – live with daily. We might understand why the idea of going skydiving causes our knees to grow weak, but what about everyday situations that people have to deal with? What does God say about anxiety and depression, we’ll see it’s quite a bit actually, and what’s a right response to dealing with them?
“Anxiety is a fierce, often irrational pest. Its origins, I think, are in what we don’t know. When I was little, I was afraid of the dark. In my teens, that fear stretched to cancer, illness, the future and death.” (What My Anxiety Taught Me About God) We tend to fear what we don’t have the answers to, don’t we? And as we allow the fear to fester in our minds and hearts, we can begin to ask questions that we don’t have answers to. Anxiety seems to be a paralyzing mix of wanting complete control alongside not knowing what’s next for us.
Various degrees of anxiety, ranging from small concerns to fear and dread, are depicted in both the Old and New Testaments around situations that we can relate to even to this day. For example, Hannah was burdened by her barrenness in 1 Sam. 1:16 and Daniel let his dreams get the best of him in Daniel 7:15. In the New Testament, Jesus addressed extremely tangible concerns of his listener’s before providing an example of how people ought to think about and handle anxieties. Let’s take a look at Matthew 6:25-34, where Jesus addresses anxieties about everyday needs like food and clothing before encouraging them to trust God for their needs.
“I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?… Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt. 6:25-34)
Depression is closely linked to anxiety, often discussed in the same breath even, but comes with its own set of characteristics. One author summarizes depression like this, “A deep sense of despondency, discouragement and sadness, often linked with a sense of personal powerlessness and a loss of meaning in and enthusiasm for life.” (Dictionary of Bible Themes, 2009). Where anxiety litters our hearts with fears and questions, depression robs us of hope and meaning.
You may think that there isn’t a place for depression in God’s Word or people that follow God, but the Bible is full of instances of depression. One of the most well-known examples may be the majority of Ecclesiastes. Solomon, who was King David’s son, spends most of the book reflecting on how hopeless life is. He says over and over that life is all but vanity, like striving after chasing the wind. That’s the refrain of the book until you reach the closing chapter where we’re taught that man’s purpose is to follow after God in love and obedience.
“The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecc. 12:11–14)
Responding to Anxiety and Depression
Just as Scripture isn’t shy about these difficult topics, we can also learn how to respond when facing anxiety or depression. We see examples of striving for a renewed vision of God (Isa. 26:3), all hope and trust being firmly placed in God (Ps 42:11), responding to trials with praise (Ps 30:1), remembering how God has provided in the past (Ps 77:11-12), and turning to prayer (Php 4:6-7).
Anxiety and depression are not issues that we can avoid, and research shows where there is one, the other is often nearby. We can learn to deal with each in ways that are healthy and glorifying to God. Whether you’re facing a personal battle or that of a friend or loved one, our Care & Support team can help you better understand the nature of anxiety and depression before equipping you to better cope with whatever life throws at you. If you or a loved one needs help email our Center for Care ([email protected]) to learn about our support groups or one-on-one support and counseling at The Block. No matter what you need to talk through, our clinical counselors want to help. We want you to experience healing, find freedom and gain the tools and wisdom you need to live relationally, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy lives.