I had my first experience with depression at 22. I had no idea how to manage it, navigate it, or even talk about it.
It felt like my world was crashing down. It felt hopeless and dark. Since then I’ve experienced seasons where depression was triggered by circumstances and depression when everything in life was going well. I’ve experienced seasons when depression was brought on by severe anxiety and fear of the future.
We will all experience seasons in our lives like these, and if not personally, someone we love will likely walk through a season of depression. Whether it is depression from grief or loss, anxiety as a result of a global pandemic, or a mental illness that always seems to loom under the surface, there is little we can do to plan for these seasons.
They often hit unexpectedly and quickly, leaving us broken and in need of encouragement and hope.
Though various things have helped me walk through different seasons (counseling, therapy, medication, etc.) one thing that has always helped was the truth and comfort of God’s Word.
Even on days when opening my Bible seemed impossible, when turning to the Lord the last thing I wanted to do, the truth of God’s Word and the comfort He provides always offered encouragement and healing.
When I find myself in a dark season, I do my best to meditate on these passages day after day. I’ve even, by His grace, found myself sharing these passages and the hope and truth they offer with those in my life experiencing depression and other mental illnesses.
No matter the circumstances surrounding me, God’s Word is constant, offering hope and encouragement each day. There are 4 passages I always turn to in seasons of depression.
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1. Psalm 29:10-11
“The Lᴏʀᴅ sits enthroned over the engulfing waters,
the Lᴏʀᴅ sits enthroned as the eternal king.
The Lᴏʀᴅ gives his people strength;
the Lᴏʀᴅ grants his people security." (NET)
They say when you come to a roadway that has flooded, you shouldn’t try to navigate it or drive through it. Instead, you should turn around and go down another road. You never know how deep the water is or if the flood has washed the road away. Rushing water can fill a car quickly, potentially leaving you trapped or drowned.
I would never attempt to cross a flooded roadway, but when I’m faced with the engulfing waters of depression, I often try to navigate the flood alone. When the waters come, I remember Psalm 29. This psalm of praise acknowledges God and His power.
The imagery throughout the psalm is powerful, describing the ways in which God is sovereign over all He has made, including the water when it surges and the water that engulfs.
The word used in Hebrew for engulfing waters is used in Psalm 29 and in Genesis to describe the flood of Noah. If God is king of that flood, the flood that destroyed all life on earth, then He is certainly king of your flood.
He is certainly enthroned over the engulfing waters of your emotions, your loneliness, your disaster, your fear, and your pain. When the floods come, remember His voice. He thunders and appears over the waters as they threaten to overcome.
No matter the strength or the shape of the engulfing waters, He is king. He is enthroned over the waters. He is enthroned over all. He is enthroned eternally. We don’t have to navigate the flood. We can surrender the flood to Him. He is enthroned over it.
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2. Luke 8:43-48
When the woman saw that she could not escape notice, she came trembling and fell down before him. In the presence of all the people, she explained why she had touched him and how she had been immediately healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (NET)
The unnamed woman in Luke 8 suffered from a condition that caused her to bleed continually. She suffered with this condition for twelve long years.
She spent all she had on doctors who could not heal her. Not only was she suffering physically, but she was banished, ignored, even feared. She was isolated from society, deemed unclean by the purity laws in Jewish culture. She could not worship or associate with others.
Alone and in pain, all she had the strength to do was reach out and touch Jesus’ cloak. She believed Jesus was sovereign and powerful and able to heal her. She knew she didn’t need much of Jesus; one touch was all she needed to be healed.
Jesus stopped the moving crowd, likely made up of many prominent men of the city. Jesus asked who touched Him, and the woman knew she would not go unnoticed.
Jesus singled her out and declared to everyone standing there she had, in fact, been healed. Jesus restored her physically when she touched His robe. He restored her socially when He publicly declared her faith had made her well. She no longer had to live in the shadows or hide from society.
What this unnamed woman’s story shows us is the character of our Savior. He is not solely interested in saving us from sin or pain or difficult circumstances. He restores us in ways we don’t even realize we need. He heals, restores, and redeems.
He meets the needs we can see and the needs we can’t see. He restores us fully, even when we only expect Him to do the minimum.
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3. Isaiah 45:3
I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches from secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD. I am the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. (ESV)
After promising to bring judgment on an unfaithful people of Judah, God promised to restore His people. He offered hope to His people in exile, continually affirming His love for them through His promise to redeem and restore.
Mental illness can often feel like a type of exile, being far removed from your usual self or feeling trapped and unable to escape. Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses can feel like an overwhelming season of darkness.
In Isaiah 45, God’s character is on display. He promised to restore His people, to bring them out of their exile to the place He had prepared for them. He would use their season of darkness to bring them back to Him.
God has a plan for all the seasons in our lives, including those marked by mental illness. Though they feel overwhelmed by darkness, we can be confident God will redeem and restore, and even allow us to find treasure in the darkness.
When I remember this passage, I am overwhelmed by the power of God. If He can restore even the darkest season for His chosen people, surely, He can redeem my seasons of depression, allowing me to find treasure in the darkness. And by that, we will know God's good, faithful, loving character.
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4. 2 Corinthians 1:9-10
"Indeed we felt as if the sentence of death had been passed against us, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He delivered us from so great a risk of death, and he will deliver us. We have set our hope on him that he will deliver us yet again." (NET)
No matter what we face in life, chronic pain, cancer, job loss, death of a loved one, a broken relationship, the despair can multiply if it occurs during a season of mental illness. The world can quickly come crashing down, making us feel utterly hopeless.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth he described a situation in which he and his companions were certain they would die. Paul explained that even though they felt this crushing despair, it was so he would come to rely on God alone. God alone can save, God alone can raise the dead.
When we feel lost in despair, whether from our circumstances or from mental illness, God is the only one who can offer us hope.
God delivered Paul and his companions. I can testify He has delivered me time and again.
Scripture is full of examples of God delivering His people when they faced the impossible. He is the God who delivers. He can deliver you. Deliverance may not look exactly like we think it should or come immediately, but it indeed will come. He has delivered us. He will deliver us again. No matter what we’re facing, we can place our hope in His promises.
When depression and anxiety come like a flood, we can remember God’s power and His promises. When we are unable to stand on our own, when we feel isolated and have given all we have, Jesus can still bring healing.
When the darkness is overwhelming, we can trust God to work in our situation and even give us treasures in the darkest seasons. And when we feel despair to the point of death, our God alone is the one who delivers us. We can always turn to Him.
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Originally published Monday, 04 December 2023.