Think your depression is unique to you, or perhaps to this age? Think again. Depression goes all the way back to nearly the beginning of time. Here are some instances from the Bible which reveal the trouble, grief and depression suffered by some of our biblical “heroes.” I briefly mentioned some of this in a blog from December, 2021, but would like to expound on it now.
The prophet Jeremiah had a tough road for sure. Doing God’s bidding, he called out other prophets of his day as “false.” He also spoke at length about how the nation of Israel was crumbling; not a popular message, to be certain. Looking further into his life, we see he was attacked by a priest and his own brothers, thrown in prison by the King and received multiple death threats. He is actually referred to as “the weeping prophet,” and the fact that he wrote the book of Lamentations is further proof of why this is such an apt nickname.
Jeremiah cried out, “Oh, that I had died in my mother’s womb, that her body had been my grave! Why was I ever born? My entire life has been filled with trouble, sorrow, and shame” (Jeremiah 20:17b-18).
He was so distraught over the sins of Jerusalem, the city he dearly loved, that he wrote, “I have cried until the tears no longer come; my heart is broken. My spirit is poured out in agony as I see the desperate plight of my people” (Lamentations 2:11). Jeremiah followed the Lord in everything he said and did, but unlike the proclamations of the so-called “prosperity preachers” of today, he was NOT rewarded with riches and bountiful blessings. He was so depressed, in fact, he turned his negativity toward God, thinking it was all the Lord’s fault he was so miserable. Check out his “lamenting” from the book of Lamentations:
“I am the one who has seen the afflictions that come from the rod of the Lord’s anger. He has led me into darkness, shutting out all light. He has turned His hand against me again and again, all day long. He has made my skin and flesh grow old. He has broken my bones. He has besieged and surrounded me with anguish and distress.
“He has buried me in a dark place, like those long dead. He has walled me in, and I cannot escape. He has bound me in heavy chains. And though I cry and shout, He has shut out my prayers. He has blocked my way with a high stone wall; He has made my road crooked. He has hidden like a bear or a lion, waiting to attack me. He has dragged me off the path and torn me in pieces, leaving me helpless and devastated.
“He has drawn His bow and made me the target for His arrows. He shot His arrows deep into my heart. My own people laugh at me. All day long they sing their mocking songs. He has filled me with bitterness and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink. He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust.
“Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, ‘My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!’
“The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words” (Lamentations 3:1-19).
This hits me so deep, because it’s a reminder that just because we follow God’s directives to the letter does NOT mean it’s gonna be easy. Quite the opposite, in fact, but OH the rewards coming to us!
Taking a look at another biblical hero who suffered: King David, one of the Bible’s mightiest warriors and leaders, was fully distraught when he proclaimed, “I am bent over and racked with pain. All day long I walk around filled with grief. A raging fever burns within me, and my health is broken. I am exhausted and completely crushed.
“My groans come from an anguished heart.
“You know what I long for, Lord; You hear my every sigh. My heart beats wildly, my strength fails, and I am going blind. My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance” (Psalm 38:6-11).
Next we have Elijah. After one of the greatest miracles in the Old Testament (you can read about it in 1 Kings 18), Elijah “went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died’” (1 Kings 19:4).
Many of us know the story of Jonah. God told him to go to a wicked and ruthless city, Nineveh, to preach the Gospel. Jonah didn’t want to go, however, since it appears he hated the Ninevites. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, comprised of a brutal and warlike people who were enemies of Israel, and many theorize Nineveh’s destruction would’ve been a HUGE victory for Israel.
It sounds cold to say about a minister, but Jonah didn’t want God to forgive them. He felt Nineveh deserved God’s judgment (don’t we all?), but he also knew the heart of God. He knew God longed to forgive and love people, even these cold-blooded, pre-ISIS terrorists, and if the people turned to the Lord, they would be forgiven, despite their corrupt nature. Well, this didn’t satisfy Jonah’s idea of justice at all. So after he runs in the opposite direction, gets swallowed by a “big fish” (not a “whale”), is vomited up on the beach and finally brings God’s message of love and forgiveness, Nineveh is converted. Good news for the Kingdom of Heaven, but Jonah was so distressed he wanted to die.
“Didn’t I say before I left home that You would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen” (Jonah 4:2-3).
Just like Elijah, Jonah prayed the “kill me now” prayer many of us have uttered in our bleakest moments of depression. I actually wrote about that prayer in a June, 2017 blog : https://brokenpeople.blog/2017/06/29/that-kill-me-now-lord-prayer/
Another popular biblical character is Job. We hear the story told like this: “Job was the richest man in all the land, until the devil complained to God that Job was only faithful because he was so stinkin’ rich. So the Lord granted the devil permission to take all Job’s children, property, nearly all his servants and totally wreck his health. Job remained faithful, however, and eventually earned back twice what he originally lost.”
WOOHOO! What a tale of victory!
But between those two catastrophic and miraculous events, we get a tiny glimpse into Job’s misery, heartache, anger and depression from the following verses:
“Why wasn’t I born dead? Why didn’t I die as I came from the womb” (Job 3:11)?
“I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest; only trouble comes” (Job 3:26).
“I am disgusted with my life. Let me complain freely. My bitter soul must complain” (Job 10:1, emphasis mine).
“I live in terror now. My honor has blown away in the wind, and my prosperity has vanished like a cloud. And now my life seeps away. Depression haunts my days. At night my bones are filled with pain, which gnaws at me relentlessly” (from Job 30:15-17).
Moses led the Children of Israel on a 40-year trek through the desert, and I’m sure he fought dark emotions many times. For example, when he found out the people had crafted for themselves idols made of gold, he prayed, “(F)orgive their sin—but if not, erase my name from Your book” (Exodus 32:32)! There’s that “kill me now” prayer again.
Even Jesus Himself struggled. Isaiah 53:3 says He was “a Man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” When He was praying in the garden, He told his friends who were there with Him, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me” (Mark 14:34).
So there ya go, biblical PROOF you are not alone in your depression! I know it sounds odd but it brings me a measure of comfort to know these biblical “supermen” fought the exact same darkness we have battled on countless occasions. But now, on to the good news! (Because the following are Bible verses. Get it? “Good news?” Anyway, moving on…)
“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest'” (Matthew 11:28).
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you” (I Peter 5:7).
“The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9).
Hang in there, you’re gonna make it, I promise! As the old saying goes…