You Are Not Your Depression

October 25, 2015 1 Comment »
You Are Not Your Depression

By Tim Sweetman

Cowering in the dark. Lying in the bed unable to get up. Desperate thoughts. Tears. 

Just saying the word depression can feel like we’ve been thrown into a cold, damp, dark room with little hope of escaping. 

That word might as well be described as dead weight walking. I’ve been there, I promise you. I remember occasion after occasion, particularly during some dark days in college, where I sat in total fear and despair alone in my dorm room. Unable to leave. Unable to speak. My mind was spinning as fast as my heart was dropping. There was a weight so heavy on me that I could barely breathe. 

I was another of the 25 percent of the population who wrestled in the darkness. 

I know so many others who have wrestled and struggled—friends, family, neighbors, coworkers. Some to the point of harming themselves. Some even contemplating taking their own lives. Others who went through with it. 

As it turns out, we’re not alone. 

David Knew Depression

Our friend David the psalmist knew depression—or another word: despair. He wrote in Psalm 43:5, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” He cried out in Psalm 73 about how “my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered” (v. 21) as he watched the wicked rejoice in their wickedness. In Psalm 77 he sang, “My spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing, I was too troubled to speak” (vv. 3, 4).

Yet in every moment David did the same thing—in the midst of his cries to God and in the midst of even the most devastating depression, he remembered. 

• “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (42:5).

• “I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge” (73:28). 

• “What god is as great as our God?” (77:13).

It could not have been easy, but David did what Paul said in Romans 12:2—he renewed his mind. He didn’t allow the despair to take over. He acknowledged it and overcame it with the truth. 

Paul Knew Despair 

Speaking of Paul, he knew depression and despair too. In his second letter to the Corinthians he wrote to the church that after experiencing trouble in Asia, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death” (1:8, 9). 

But in a purely classic Paul move, he rejoices despite his despair. “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us” (vv. 9, 10). 

Paul refused to accept defeat in the face of his greatest fears. Just imagine—the great and bold Paul despaired. Yet later in the book, he’d pen some of the most inspiring words ever written: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:7-12). 

Jesus Knows Death

Not only did David and Paul know what we’re going through, our Lord is also familiar with what we are going through. But unlike David and Paul, he didn’t just past-tense know despair or depression—our Lord currently knows our depression even now. He’s right here with us at this very moment. 

Isaiah wrote: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem” (53:3).

Yet he found victory in the cross. And that’s where we too will find our own victory. There is nothing—not even depression—that can take away the reality of what occurred on the cross. Jesus didn’t die to remove our depression, but he did die to take away our sin. And even if the darkness and heaviness never leaves our chest, the beauty and reality that our sin is no longer there should cause us to rejoice in even the darkest of hours. 

We are forgiven. We are saved. We are redeemed. 

Friends, let us not be overcome. Our Lord knows where we are. And more that that, he knows who we are. 

My Encouragement for You 

I would like to offer some thoughts for the spiritual aspect of mild depression, which is known in the Bible as “despair.” I am speaking of what often occurs due to wrong thinking based on life circumstances both within and out of your control. If you believe you are experiencing a more severe form of depression, it is always advised to seek professional help. Nevertheless, whatever type of depression you are experiencing, know that God will provide you the grace you need to endure. He will never leave you or forsake you even as you fight for joy. 

Like anything in life, it’s all too easy to become the very label we’ve put on ourselves. We are not our depression. If you look at the life of David or Paul or Jesus himself—not one of them allowed the despair and depression to define who they were or what they believed. The truth reigned supreme. They fought back against depression with the truth. With that in mind, here is my encouragement to you. 

1. Refocus 

You are not your depression. You are a son or daughter of God, saved graciously by the grace so generously given to you on the cross. There is nothing you need to fear. If you have lost God as the center of your life, destroy your idols and return to him. If you feel like you’ve failed in the eyes of other people, know that it is only God’s opinion of you that matters (and he sees the work of Christ, not your works). If you’re finding yourself in the midst of depression because of some sin you’re trying to manage apart from Jesus, confess your sin and repent. If you are angry and haven’t given forgiveness, turn from your sin and give that forgiveness.

Whatever it is, refocus your mind and remember: 

You are forgiven. You are saved. You are redeemed. 

2. Rethink 

Your mind has to be renewed in order to defeat depression. So often as I’ve found myself in the depths of depression, I realize so quickly that I am allowing my mind to repeat over and over again unbiblical or unhelpful things. All is lost. I hate my life. What’s the use? Why is this happening to me? 

The writer of Lamentations knew those feelings well but refused to let them dominate his thinking. “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” 

Like David we must train ourselves to respond to depression with truths about who God is and who we are to him. Paul instructs us in Philippians: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

You are forgiven. You are saved. You are redeemed. 

3. Refresh 

There are a number of practical things you can do to battle depressive thoughts, including (but not limited to): 

• List things you are thankful for. 

• Memorize Scripture, especially about who you are to God.

• Listen to and sing uplifting or worship music. 

• Avoid daydreaming and pity-parties at all costs. 

• Ask someone to help encourage you. 

Things may not get better right away, but God promises that “he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). 

You are not your depression. 

You are forgiven. You are saved. You are redeemed.

Tim Sweetman is a freelance writer in Arnold, Maryland (

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