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Depression or Discouragement?

Updated: Jun 20, 2021

We are currently living in a time of heightened anxiety. I think that is obvious. There is a great increase in mood disorders, depression, panic attacks and psychiatric disorders. All of us find these conditions challenging, and the church does not have a good track record for dealing with this form of suffering.

I met with a young woman once who had been sexually abused as a little girl. She was suffering from severe clinical depression, extreme anxiety, and had an eating disorder. In her case, long-term depression had affected her brain function. I advised her to see a doctor to go on some medication until she could regulate her emotions and sit quietly for prayer. She said, “I have to ask my husband first; he is a pastor.” I said, “Medication is a need for you. If you needed insulin, would you say, ‘Let me go ask my husband?’ If you need glasses, would he prefer you to walk into walls instead?” When she asked her husband about it, he said, “No, you cannot take any pills. All you need is Jesus.”

I arranged an appointment with the husband and asked him these questions:

  • Have you been praying for your wife? Yes.

  • Has the church been praying for her? Yes.

  • Is she getting better? No.

  • Would you agree to a three-month trial on antidepressants for her? Yes.

The medication elevated the hormone levels in the brain to the point she could receive healing prayer. She experienced inner healing and deliverance, and in three months she was a different person!

Depression is a biological condition, not a moral failure. It’s not something that is resolved when you quote a Bible verse and tell it to go away. A person suffering from depression finds him or herself unable to function. If unrecognized, it robs a person of their life. Current theories on the causes of depression can be classified into two categories: physiological (that usually means there’s a genetic predisposition to mental illness or clinical depression) and sociopsychological (a complex interaction of social and psychological factors and brain function). In many cases, depression can be treated with psychotherapy, counseling and healing prayer. Sometimes antidepressants may be part of the process, but not always. Since God created us, including our brain and nervous system, through prayer he can change the neuropathways that have been impaired and help us experience joy! Common to all depression is a state of sadness, despair, and hopelessness, accompanied by bodily and cognitive changes that affect the ability to function normally. Symptoms of depression can differ greatly in strength and duration. Some can emerge under new circumstances, such as postpartum depression after the birth of a child. Another cause of depression may be childhood trauma. Severe trauma in childhood can sometimes cause the chemicals in the brain to be modified. In psychology we call this hurtful learning. When life looks bleak to me, I love to read the Psalms. My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. — Psalm 42:3-5 In Psalm 42, David is remembering the good times, when he used to worship, celebrate and be joyful. But now his soul is down in the dumps! He turned his thoughts to hope. Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Remember this the next time you are having a low period in life. Talk to yourself and remember God’s faithfulness and all he has done for you! This is God’s word for discouragement. But depression is very different from discouragement! Discouragement is a transient state, usually with an obvious cause—maybe you were fired from a job or you discovered your child started taking drugs. A person that is discouraged is spiritually stable. They can get out of bed in the morning and go to work. They can concentrate and control their thoughts. This person stills enjoys their family and hobbies and life in general. A person in severe depression often loses all interest in life. They withdraw from normal routines like eating, hobbies, and friendships. They experience a prolonged sadness and symptoms of irritability, extreme worry, anxiety, and general apathy. Many have headaches, digestive disorders, and back or joint pain. Sleep patterns may change—they can’t sleep, or they sleep all the time. A depressed person feels worthless and unloved, and in extreme cases, may consider suicide.

Just a warning: do not try and reason with a severely depressed person, especially if they are considering suicide. If someone reveals to you they have a plan to harm or kill themselves, you have a moral responsibility to intervene and obtain professional help.

The most successful way to treat depression is to treat all three levels of our humanity, body, soul and spirit. Keep your body healthy by eating nutritious food, exercising and getting sufficient sleep. There may be a need for medication to regulate brain function. Taking meds doesn’t mean you have to be on them forever. Bless the medications as you take them and pray against any bad side effects. Pray for the brain itself to come back into health—for negative thought patterns to be erased and new neuropathways to be formed.

For the mind and soul, counseling and psychotherapy should always be considered. Depression and discouragement affect our spirits. Be willing to receive prayer for inner healing from brokenness and despair, and for generational healing and deliverance. We know that physical illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, can pass down the generations. In the same way families can have a predisposition to depression and mental illness. Pray that these conditions are cut off in your own and succeeding generations. Pray for the healing of memories and trauma. Bind up any tormenting or accusing spirits that may intensify the negative feelings and keep us in bondage.

Lord, I pray for anyone that has been affected by discouragement, depression, or mental illness. I pray that the darkness will leave them. I pray that the light of Jesus would flood every part of our brains, our memories and our bodies that have been affected. Bring great healing and restoration to your children. We thank you, Lord Jesus, that you are the one that restores us to our right mind, and you bring us to the path of freedom. Nothing is impossible for you. Amen.

by Judith MacNutt, Christian Healing Ministries

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