Depression and Doubt
This series aims to promote awareness of the nature and reality of depression, encourage those who are battling depression, and equip those who want to help someone who is struggling. This post is part 7 in the series. Stay tuned for a new post each week, and find the rest of the series here.
These were the most common responses for me when I reached out to God during my depression. It is no coincidence that my season battling depression was also the greatest faith crisis of my life.
While I never stopped believing in God during my struggle with depression (though there were moments when this was a tempting prospect), I questioned God’s involvement in my life deeply. Was God there? Did God care? Why was God so unresponsive?
When you are depressed, it is difficult to feel anything beyond your own sadness. It is easy to wrap yourself in self-pity like a blanket and grow numb towards anything or anyone outside of yourself.
In talking with other people who have dealt with depression, experiencing a faith crisis is a common theme. This should come as no surprise. When you are depressed, everything you do requires extra energy and motivation. Reaching out to God from this state of mind is draining, and often leaves you feeling that you are wasting your time.
Depression tested my faith like nothing else. It would have been so easy to give up on God. When God seems silent, distant, and unconcerned, the motivation to continue believing is slim; especially given the amount of emotional energy one must expend on seeking God.
One lesson I learned during my depression is this: If you look for a reason to doubt God, you can always find one.
Thankfully, the converse of this statement is also true, even though it is more difficult to seek God from a place of darkness: If you look for a reason to believe in God, you can always find one.
The good news is that God is there. God is present in the darkness. God inhabits the silence. I won’t attempt to explain God’s activity. However, I believe that God responds to those who are seeking earnestly. God will likely not crash into your world forcibly, but God will not abandon you.
God will join you in the darkness and wait for and with you. I believe that God desires to bring healing and restoration to your life. God can work through your season of doubt.
There is a hidden treasure in one of the most famous sections of Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20 (often called “The Great Commission”). If you have been in church during a series on missions or evangelism, you have likely heard this text. The preacher will usually focus on the authority Jesus has as the resurrected Messiah, the command to make disciples, teaching, and baptizing. These are all important points and deserve the emphasis they have received.
However, there is an often-overlooked phrase in this narrative that contains a valuable faith lesson. It comes right after the disciples have assembled at the mountain in Galilee where Jesus had instructed them to meet him (see verses 8-10).
Picture the scene: The disciples have just received news that Jesus is alive and are waiting to see him for the first time. Can you imagine the anticipation? Peter paces back and forth nervously. John sits on a nearby stone, his gaze fixed on the path leading up to the top of the mountain. Matthew stands and glances toward the city every few seconds. James talks with Bartholomew. You get the picture.
We aren’t told the specifics of Jesus’s initial appearance to the disciples after his resurrection. All we are told is this: “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted” (verse 17). Did you catch it? Those last three words: but some doubted. Wait, what? How can this be? Aren’t these the men who spent the past three years with Jesus? Weren’t they there when he healed lepers? Didn’t they hear the Sermon on the Mount? How, then, could they doubt at this moment? Jesus was crucified three days ago and now stands before them. Yet doubt remains.
This is not to indict the disciples. I can appreciate their inability to accept what they were seeing. It’s not every day you see a friend who was buried a few days ago.
The point I want to make here is that God still used these men to spread the gospel, build the church, and proclaim the name of Jesus. Their doubt did not disqualify them.
I realize the kind of doubt the disciples were experiencing in this passage isn’t the same kind of doubt that someone going through depression is facing, but I see a valuable principle here: God can use us even in our moments of deepest doubt.
Doubt is part of healthy, authentic faith. We must face our deepest questions about God if we are to have a faith that is genuine.
However, for the depressed person, doubt weighs on them and compounds their sense of loneliness. They wonder where God is. Or even if God is. This is a crippling place to be, but it is not without hope.
There is no single recipe that I can offer those who are in a place of deep doubt. God speaks to each of us in very personal, unique ways. What works for one person may or may not work for another. My advice is simple: keep seeking God in ways that are meaningful to you. Don’t give up. God’s light will break forth like the dawn.
These things are just ahead, awaiting you.
In the next post, I will explore some effects of addiction on someone who is depressed and the tragic reality of suicide.
This material is taken from my book Rethinking Depression (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2016).