Did Jesus battle depression? Seems like a strange question at first, but consider Isaiah’s prophesy of the coming Messiah: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
That certainly sounds like someone dealing with the symptoms of depression. So why do we immediately push back at the thought that Jesus might have dealt with symptoms of depression?
Perhaps it is because we have the false notion that depression is either 1) a sin or a 2) sign of weakness. But neither is the case.
In fact, depression is not something a person chooses. Rather it is something a person must choose how to deal with. The real issue is not whether a person experiences depression, but instead, how the person reacts to depression.
For this reason I am of the opinion that Christ did indeed battle depression. And more importantly, He battled it perfectly. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Christ wasn’t the only person in Scripture who dealt with depression. For instance, David exclaimed, “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping” (Psalm 6:6).
Even great preachers such as C.H. Spurgeon experienced the woes of depression. He explained, “I find myself frequently depressed – perhaps more so than any other person here. And I find no better cure for that depression than to trust in the Lord with all my heart, and seek to realize afresh the power of the peace -speaking blood of Jesus, and His infinite love in dying upon the cross to put away all my transgressions.”
This issue is important to me because I have struggled with depression. And it has been my experience that there are no easy answers. The darkness can attack without warning. It does not ask permission and it does not need a reason. Make no mistake; depression is real.
What does it feel like? I’m sure its different for everyone, but for me, there are days that everything is covered with a thick fog. Despondency feels like an unending trance that is inescapable. And if someone were to offer you an all-expense paid vacation, you wouldn’t take it because you don’t even know what would make you happy. Worse, you feel like you don’t even know yourself anymore.
Unfortunately, a stigma still surrounds depression. Some believe its imagined. Others believe it demonic oppression. Some say its strictly spiritual, while others believe its strictly physical. Some believe you must take medicine. Others believe its a sin to take medicine.
Of course there is more than one category of depression (situational, clinical, etc). But no matter the source or treatment (counseling, medicine, etc), depression is always an opportunity to draw nearer to Christ. For this reason, we must view the words of a counselor as an extension of Christ’s wisdom –not a replacement for it. And we must see medicine as a gift of God –not an alternative to His power. If I seek a cure without seeking Christ, I am bowing to idols of my own desires.
That’s why I think Hebrews 4, after reminding us that Christ has experienced our same temptations, encourages us in verse 16 to “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
So here’s the takeaway:
- Depression is real. (Jesus experienced it)
- Experiencing depression is not sin. (Jesus didn’t sin)
- Experiencing depression is not necessarily a result of sin. (Jesus is completely righteous)
- There is no “quick fix” for depression –it is a battle (often for life).
- The key is our reaction to depression: whether or not we cling to Christ.
If you know of someone dealing with depression, here are a few thoughts:
- You have an opportunity to minister the patient, merciful love of Christ to them.
- Be patient and listen to them.
- Encourage them to see biblical counseling. (A good biblical counselor will encourage them to also consult a physician to determine if there is a need for medicine).
- Continue pointing them to dependency on Christ.
- Pray for them –and don’t give up!
Did Jesus battle temptation? Yes, I think so. But even more -I believe He defeated it!
Photo by Joel Joseph.