In this episode of Theonauts we discuss depression and suicide from a biblical perspective. With the loss of the great actor and comedian Robin Williams, many have been wondering about the mental illness that is depression. We brought in fellow Theonaut Kevin Gaddy to give us a personal perspective of what it means to suffer through this illness. Kevin shares his very personal battle with depression and thoughts of suicide. He also shared how God has been with him through these times, and what he has come to know through the struggle. Kevin states that “It doesn’t really get better, but you learn how to handle it better.”
Depression is a Disease… Literally
Much like cancer, depression is a deadly disease. There are many things that we as a society do not understand about clinical depression, which makes it extremely difficult for those that struggle with it. We do, however, know this. Depression is not a result of laziness or lack of desire. It is not simply feeling “sad” or “down.” It is rather a lack of feelings all together. Depression causes one to feel as if there is no hope, or no reason for functioning. Anxiety is usually coupled with depression, and can cause people to struggle with large groups or to not function in normal social settings. This causes many ignorant judgmental attitudes towards those struggling with depression.
The Bible is full of people who struggle with Depression. The sons of Korah describe extreme depression and hopelessness in Psalm 42. Also, many if not most of the Old Testament Prophets struggled with depression (see 1Kings 19 for an example of this). These people were not simply struggling due to lack of faith. They felt hopelessness and despair in the midst of triumph and greatness.
A Thorn in the Flesh
We can use Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” in order to better understand why God allows people to struggle with depression as well as other illnesses. In 2 Corinthians Paul describes being humbled by God. He was given a “thorn in the flesh.” Many have speculated as to what Paul was describing, but what we do know is that it must have been agony for Paul. In fact, Paul begs for God to take the thorn away.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:8-9 NIV)”
The answer can also be used to understand depression through a Christian worldview. Throughout scripture, God uses the weak in order to display His great power. The depressed Christian is no different. By fully trusting in the Father, and being an example to others, the depressed Christian allows his light to shine so that the whole world may know the power of God in the grace of Jesus.