“Is depression simply depression or is it spiritual oppression?”
The answer is maybe. In truth, depression is a very complicated creature that can be multi-faceted and come in many varieties. It can have differing causes and may have differing symptoms and differing cures. Books numbering thousands of pages have been written, and so I clearly I can’t summarize everything (nor do I know everything), but let’s take a quick look at the possible causes of depression and I want to direct you to some more sources.
3 POSSIBLE CAUSES OF DEPRESSION
1. Physical ailment or chemical imbalance
Think back or remember a time when you were sick with the flu, at that time your whole body is in pain and you feel weak and tired. Your brain isn’t fully functioning, you have a headache and the symptoms of pain, numbness, dizziness, lightheadedness seem to make you feel that happiness is far away. Sometimes taking Tylenol will cause the throbbing headache and irritating discomfort to cease or at least decrease in severity, and sometimes even pills wont help. Or remember a time when you have not gotten enough sleep for days and your friends are asking you to go out and have fun, you respond with a lazy voice that you’re tired and don’t want to do anything. I have had moments where I have been overworked, underslept, and slightly sick and this has clouded my vision with tiredness and an unwillingness to do anything exciting. We have all experienced a temporary feeling of depression that was induced by some physical condition or behavior. People who have thyroid disease and lack T3 hormone, for example, are usually tired and sleepy, and a quick fix to their condition is artificial thyroid hormone. There are definitely cases where depression (sadness, tiredness, lack of motivation) is caused by physical features. One of my friends has sickle cell anemia which is a disease of the red blood cells causing them to move less oxygen, as a result this friend has had many episodes of sever fatigue where the only think they want is to sleep.
There are definitely cases of depression caused by physical problems that need physical cures. If you feel depression but can’t find an emotional or spiritual reason, try to get enough sleep, proper nutrition with vitamins, and see your doctor about a number of diseases that cause fatigue.
2. Emotional grieving
There are times in every person’s life where grieving, sadness, and depression is a normal side effect and/or method of coping through a certain life situation. It does not matter how super spiritual or filled with joy you are, when tragic events rip their way into your life, it is impossible to be unaffected. Jesus had a friend named Lazarus and when this friend died, Jesus was “deeply moved and troubled” by this event to the point that “Jesus wept” (John 11:33-35). Even God in the flesh reacted with sorrow, so how can we mere humans who cannot change every situation not be filled with grief during heartbreaking moments. Sudden sickness, poverty, and/or death of our loved ones are often enough to cause us be filled with depression for a temporary period of time. I recently read an article about a 65 year old man who lost his wife to cancer. He rented out a full page ad in the local newspaper and wrote short statement that he wanted to join his wife. She had been his best friend since their teens and now he was left abruptly and dreadfully alone. Every evening he would take a photo of his wife and drive out to one of their favorite parks, place her photo on the passenger seat, and spend the whole evening crying and wishing she was with him. I can only imagine the tragic sorrow that daily twists his heart like a wet rag, squeezing out of it the last drops of joy.
Situations like this happen all the time, all around us, they are the norm not the exception. And grieving is a natural process that we indeed need to go through, because humans are created to feel, to cry, and to remember. Its normal to be sad for a time when you lose someone you love, whether to death or other reasons. If a woman had her husband walk out on her, its normal and right for her to spend time being sad, and we cannot be idiotic and tell her to “smile because its ok.” Grieving is normal, however, natural grieving must come to an end after some time. If this normal type of sadness is not temporary, it can become a core function of someone’s personality becoming the next type of depression we will discuss.
3. Spiritual Depression
It is popular in today’s post-modern society to treat every sickness, problem, pain, and issue with a pill. The amount of people on Prozac exceeded 40 million in 2008 (1). Our fascination with the empiricism has led us to believe that the only way to cure disease is by treating the body as merely a biological machine, but the bible gives a more holistic view of emotional sicknesses and we are to treat the body as a spirit and soul not just a biological machine. Spiritual depression is a sickness of the sprit that is most distinguished from other types of depression because with it there is no physical ailment and no recent emotional loss or tragedy that could otherwise induce one to be griefstruck. There are a few possible causes of this, the first being sin.
There is in every human the knowledge of good and evil, even if such a moral compass is also tainted by sin and often not correct, most people do believe in some kind of good and evil. When people do evil, what Christians call sin, they are filled with guilt and a feeling of unworthiness and depravity. Real Christians who are in sin are always grieved by their sin and it’s easy to fall into depression because of it. The goal of a Christian in sin is to remember Christ died for you and he is willing to forgive and remove that sin as far as the east is from the west.
Another cause of spiritual depression is Satan and demons. We live in a world where Satan is at war against God and His order (2 Cor 4:4, Eph 6:12). Satan clearly wants evil for everyone, including making someone feel they are never going to be forgiven or that they are no use, not loved, not needed, and etc. Jesus once told Peter that Satan demanded to “sift you like wheat” but Jesus protected Peter from Satan. So too every Christian is under attack by Satan and his army, but we are also under protection from Jesus who gives us armor. The bible tells us to put on the armor of God to defend against Satan (Eph 6:11). This does not mean that in order to fight depression we must engage in a supernatural yelling battle with the devil, instead our weapons are all about Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Our weapons are: truth (which is that Jesus won and Satan is a defeated liar,) righteousness (which Jesus gave us so Satan cannot accuse us,) readiness for the Gospel (which is declaring to all that Jesus defeated death, sin, and Satan,) faith (in Jesus because of Jesus), salvation (which Jesus obtained for us on the cross,) the Word of God (to remind us Jesus loves us and is with us)
Another cause of spiritual depression is our self. In truth we are often weak and self-deceived, and can cause our own depression faster than Satan can even get to us. (And in fact Satan can only be in one place at once, so likely he isn’t always trying to knock you down.) When you start to have incorrect theology, you cannot have a correct life of the mind and emotions, and you are therefore led as captive into depression, only the captor leading you there is…. you. If you are unchristian then you believe the universe is an accident and there is no purpose and no point. So by nature you have no purpose or no point, that is severely depressing! You chose that “theology” and it causes you to be depressed. If you believe that the only way to please God is by being perfect, then you will be severely disappointed in your colossal failure to be perfect, and again, you will end up in depression. If you believe that you need riches, fame, beauty, or etc to be happy or blessed, then you will end up depressed when real life doesn’t fit your expectations. The truth is every time we focus on our external circumstances and look to them as a source of joy we run the risk of spiritual depression.
The only hope is Jesus, the only source of real and lasting joy is Jesus, if you trust on, lean on, and hope on Jesus you will never be let down.