Is Depression a Sin?
John 14:1 Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God
I have known those who, in their depression, think they have failed God. They feel that as they spend so much time with a depressed mood that they must be doing life wrong and thus, feel guilty. They believe their depression is a sin.
This largely stems, I think, from verses like this one, in which Jesus said we are not to let our hearts be troubled but are rather, to believe in God. To be depressed, discontent or anxious then, must be faithless, right?
I am not prone to depression, so what I write may seem a little insincere. The closest I know of depression on a regular basis is restlessness. I do not sit still well. I have a constant need to move on to the next thing. Then, when I get to the next thing, I am not content there. I am restless.
So, I will use that discontentment as an example here. My predisposition to being restless is no more sinful than having blue eyes or brown hair. My predisposition to food or drugs is likewise not destructive in itself. Those things are all however, defects or flaws in how I perceive life, joy, purpose and meaning. Those defects may all be considered diseases or illnesses in that they negatively impact the way in which my brain responds to reality.
My discontentment, like my addictive personality, though a defect, is not necessarily destructive or sinful. It can however, easily lead to destructive behavior. I can, in my discontentment push my family to constantly participate in my restlessness. I can become irritable when they do not want to follow. I may pursue me, turning from God, treating others poorly. The defect, though not a sin in itself, may lead to destructive behavior.
To this, Jesus says, Do not be troubled, believe in God. Some will interpret this as, If you are depressed, you need to pray more. If you are still depressed, then you lack faith and are not praying enough.
Jesus never said that depression is sinful though. He is said that when we are troubled, the proper response is to choose faith in God. What does that mean? Does that mean just pray? Though prayer is absolutely part of the Christian life, Jesus said that faith is keeping our eyes on him and then following with our life. Believing in God then, is doing whatever it takes to turn our gaze from self to God, following him. It is my personal opinion that this may include counseling and even (gasp) medications for some.
It is doing whatever it takes to turn my gaze to God that I am able to enjoy the peace and life He intends for me. I tend to think that as I have chosen this once, I should be set for life. I choose to focus on God in the morning, but then get frustrated when I am discontentment in the afternoon. I want to be delivered once-for-all from my defects.
If my addiction has taught me anything though, it is that I will not be free from my defects in this life. God may allow me more grace in some areas, but while I am in this flesh, I will coexist with its defects. As I may always struggle with discontentment, others will always struggle with depression or anxiety.
It is not our defects that define us though. It is our response to them. Do we allow our defects to drive us to destructive behavior or do we allow our defects to continually turn us to God? I can, in my restlessness, discipline myself to choose to turn to God whenever I feel discontent. The discontentment is not completely removed, but I find peace and life in God, despite my defects. God, often allows our defects to remain so we remain dependent on him.