Being a Christian Who Struggles With Depression and Anxiety


Should we have to struggle with emotional disorders?

Why do we?

  1. We’re still human – ‘groaning’ along with the rest of creation according to Paul (Rom 8: 22,23)
  2. Both these conditions are common to mankind: 1 in 5 affected by depression 1 in 10 with anxiety
  • Christians have never been immune –

BC – Elijah, Jeremiah, Job and King David. AD – Charles Spurgeon, William Cowper

These days:  well-respected preachers and teachers both sides of Atlantic

Q: What does this teach us

A: We need to know about and have some understanding of depression and anxiety Forewarned is forearmed!

What do we mean by ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’?

How define ‘abnormal’? Depression – low mood; Anxiety – ‘fear spread thin’

Emotional changes that are distorted: out of proportion in:-

  • duration (2 weeks +)
  • degree that’s disabling, interfering with normal life

Imbalance of mood messenger chemicals (amines) – ‘pathological’ or ‘clinical’ Both anxiety and depression respond to antidepressants

Affects body, mind and spirit

Physically – too tired or

Mentally – can’t concentrate to work properly Spiritually – struggle with faith, Bible reading and prayer

Exercise: What would hold you back from seeking medical help?

‘Good’ reasons:- ‘Bad’ reasons:-

What are the symptoms?

Anxiety and depression – separately or mixed


Anxiety                   x


                                    x       Depression


  1. Tearfulness, despair, lack of hope, lack of feelings (including lack of love for friends & family as well as God; emptiness (includes absence of ‘depression’ in some – more common for men)
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in all or most activities,
    • Anxious, nervous, agitated, restless, irritable,
    • Fearful – of the future and of people, withdrawing from them,
    • Guilt and feeling worthless, self-preoccupied
    • Over-sensitivity – paranoid tendency


  1. Poor concentration and ability to make decisions (useful check what length article can read/take in)
  2. Slowed up thinking
  3. Detachment – depersonalization, derealization
  4. Obsessive thoughts
  5. Phobias
  6. Recurrent thoughts of death &/or suicidal ideas


  1. Sleep disturbance, Insomnia or hypersomnia (especially early morning waking, dreading the day ahead & often improved mood later in day)
  2. Appetite change, 3 Kg + weight gain or loss
  3. Low energy, persistent tiredness, or slowed up movement,
  4. Various aches and pains, feeling dizzy or faint, disturbed bodily functions and sensations

Spiritual impact:

for a Christian,

  1. Loss of sense of believing in God or his love, presence, purpose for life or forgiveness (unshakable guilt feelings),
  2. Prayer difficult and less meaningful – loss of sense of God’s presence – need to cry out to God using Psalms
  3. Bible-reading impaired by poor concentration – less solace from scripture- reading – need to read with a friend

Extreme of depression: psychotic with beliefs that are distorted to extent that out of touch with reality

Extreme of anxiety: self-harm, as reduces anxiety level and re-establishes contact with reality

NB No two people will be identical, but common core of familiar symptoms)

What causes depression and anxiety

Some things generally outside our control:

Nature – (genes)

personality – bouncy, optimistic c/f reflective, pessimistic

biochemical make-up – prone to recurrent depression or Bipolar Disorder – extreme mood swinging (high and low)

Nurture – (or lack of it!) early separation, parental deprivation: ‘learned helplessness’, abuse (emotional, physical or sexual), parental attitudes e.g. unrealistic expectations (‘failing’)

Physiological change

glands e.g. thyroid, , post-viral

hormone swings e.g. adolescence, post-natal, menopausal

exhaustion e.g. from sleep loss (or can cause high mood swing, then low) post-viral, M.E. (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome) Seasonal Affective Disorder in (SADS)

Some things our response can change through how we regard them:

Stressful life situations or events even pleasant ones eg marriage! Exams, transition periods, uncertainty over future. Loss e.g. of peer group, bereavement, loss or lack of pregnancy, unemployment, retirement

Ongoing loneliness & isolation– including cut off by deafness etc. Awareness of futility in life, reality of ‘down-hill path’ with age Suppressed guilt or anger, resentment, disappointment

Christian faith helps through

Realistic expectations – hope not fulfilled in this world God’s trustworthy promises

God’s undeserved love and grace

BUT can make life harder through

Realistic aspect to guilt as feel ungrateful and unloving

Raised expectations particularly from ‘triumphalist’ preaching Guilt at ‘letting the side down’ by poor witness

Caring for those who are resisting the gospel

Satan’s buffeting

And can be aggravated by

inexperience of managing stress recognizing warning signs


Think of the last time something ‘got you down’ – what were your thoughts?



How do we tackle depression and anxiety?

  1. What’s led up to it – humanly and spiritually?

pray from God’s word eg Psalm 139: v23,24, for an open heart and mind pray for grace to keep going & submission to God’s will

  • General practical things

Sleep improvement / relaxation time / more company Exercise / fitness / regular food

  • Tackle specific stresses

   Smallest step first / make a realistic plan that extends beyond depressed state

  • Consider immediate ‘heart problems’ & attitudes e.g. Hurts not forgiven, anger/resentment

Guilt repented but not released (Psalm 103:12) ‘expectations’ ‘entitlement’ pride

– need to repent, accept God’s will and loving nature, despite suffering experienced

  • Above all don’t go it alone:

Talk to someone else – group leader, friend, GP Cry out to Jesus when in pain, using Psalms.

  • Accept any help on offer – antidepressants, psychological help or other therapy,

alongside Christian counseling and fellowship

  • Once recovering, protection through learning about at a deeper level:

God’s character – his love, grace towards us and personal care: He loves us! Self-esteem/Pride issues – who are we serving and why are we doing it? God’s sovereignty –confidence in his awesome power: He is in control!

and fourthly, Get to grips with a Biblical view of suffering

How can we help others?

‘A trouble shared is a trouble halved’ – just expressing feelings helps Especially true if shared with someone showing the fruits of the spirit Listen sympathetically, read the Bible & pray


What are we aiming for?

Not a struggle-free life – can promise you will never have that as a Christian! But – growing security, lived out fully in strong assurance that,

whatever the future holds, as a very old hymn puts it, ‘It is well with my soul’ :

1 ‘When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea-billows roll; whatever my lot You have taught me to say,

‘It is well, it is well with my soul’. Horatio G Spafford(1828-88) We are safe for eternity – and nothing can matter in comparison! Heb 12:11

1 Book: ‘What’s So Amazing About Grace’: Philip Yancey

2 Book: ‘The Freedom Of Self-Forgetfulness’: Timothy Keller

3 Book: ‘Spiritual Depression: It’s Causes And Cure’: Martyn Lloyd-Jones chs 7,10,11,18

4 Book: ‘Out Of The Storm’ (Job) : Christopher Ash

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