To be depressed is to be entangled by death. That’s why I hate depression. Its victims have found themselves in death’s long shadow and there seems to be no escape. Pain, hopelessness, hellish torments, thoughts of suicide—these are the death rattles that inevitably accompany depression.
But depression never tells the entire story. It is, at least, myopic. It cannot see hope, so it claims that hope is absent, and it is wrong. Jesus has come and has conquered this enemy by facing death and then rising from the dead. We, by faith in him, join him in that resurrection. As such, we are people who can look ahead with hope. The challenge is this: if we are going to be people of hope, we have no choice but to humble ourselves before the Lord and believe what he says more than believe the myths attached to depression.
A few passages from Hebrews, not typically keyed to depression, can send us in the direction of life.
God saves from death.
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death (Heb. 5:7).
Jesus, our high priest, who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, is showing us that our God is close and can rescue us from death and anything that has become entangled with death. We can approach him with confidence in the same way Jesus did (Heb. 4:15-16). We talk to our Lord. We speak from our hearts with tears, and, in that, we are walking with Jesus, even imitating him.
By faith, we see deeper realities.
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible (Heb. 11:3).
This verse reminds us that there is much more happening than we can see with unaided vision, and anyone who experiences chronic suffering must catch glimpses of those deeper realities. Faith is a way of seeing—or sensing—the invisible realities that stand behind the visible. Depression, when it is being yanked in death’s direction, sees misery; depression when coupled with faith, sees much more.
By faith we discover that, when we turn to Jesus, we are forgiven, we are brought into fellowship with him, which will be all the richer when we see him face to face. If you are depressed, ask for help to see the invisible God who is closer and different than you might think.
Our spiritual efforts will be fruitful.
Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6).
This passage asks us to open our faith-eyes. With this aided vision we see that God initiates, pursues, makes promises, keeps promises, loves with grace and mercy, and says so much to us. We, in response, can’t be inert or indifferent. We can say amen to all he says and does: we can believe him and believe in him. A concrete expression of this belief is to say, “Lord, I believe that you exist, and I believe that you give me strength to seek you and you even bless me as I seek you.”
Somehow, in that gradual descent into depression, death comes alongside and agrees with depression’s assessment that life is vanity and hopeless. If we are to ascend, we must take a stand against the intruder Death, and see with the aid of the Spirit and the Word. We must elicit the help of others, who might be able to see more clearly than we can, and fix our eyes on Jesus.
This is an earlier version of a blog that appeared on the Biblical Counseling Coalition website on April 9, 2015.