Depression is a terrible spirit that ruins the lives of too many believers. To be depressed means to deviate from our God-given personality and spiral downward in despair and hopelessness. Occasional, temporary depression tries to attack all of us. Moses got discouraged and asked God to kill him (Numbers 11:14-15), he said, “The burden is too heavy for me.” Elijah had a pity party under the juniper tree; he too asked God to kill him: “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life.” (I Kings 19:4). Jonah too said, “It is better for me to die than to live,” as he sat under a gourd (Jonah 4:8). These were all mighty prophets of God, but still human as we are. I would say that asking God to kill you was an attack of depression, wouldn’t you?
Have you ever felt that the burden was too heavy, or that you had indeed had enough and couldn’t take anymore, or that it was better for you to die than to live? These three men of God all made it through their temporary depression, though we’re not quite sure what ultimately happened to Jonah. Depression causes you to see things differently from what they really are. It causes you to see everything in a negative light, adding with it the emotions of despair. And while this type of depression tries to attack all of us at times, there are some who constantly live under the dark cloud of hopelessness and despair. For them depression is a way of life.
It is easy to understand how an unbeliever can suffer from depression, for there is no hope without Christ. Yet as the examples of Moses, Elijah and Jonah showed us, it can happen to children of God as well. While theirs was temporary, many others do not resist the devil, and allow depression to become a way of life. They accept depression as if it is a natural and normal part of their lives. It is neither natural nor normal. The Bible identifies it as a spirit! Isaiah 61:3 calls it a “spirit of heaviness. “
It is evident that one’s status in life has no bearing upon this terrible condition. Many who are rich and famous suffer terribly from depression. All of the material things that we think will make us happy only further the emptiness that is already within. Proverbs 14:12-13 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may sorrow. “
I can personally identify with these verses. Before I came to Christ, I sought happiness through drugs and alcohol. I would smile and laugh like everyone else at the parties, but inside, my heart was sorrowful. I took the drugs to escape my depression, but they only brought me to a further depressed state. Thoughts of suicide constantly barraged me. I felt there was no reason to live. My depression caused me to hate myself. I felt like I was in a black hole and there was no way of escape. When Christ saved me, I was at the end of my rope. Praise God! He filled me with His love! For the first time in my life I felt peace, love and joy! I have much sympathy for those who are in a depressed state. I know what it feels like, but like me, you can be free!
I would like to be able to say that I have never had another depressing moment, but that would be lying. I am still human, and as a preacher I too, like Elijah, have went and sat under my juniper tree and had a pity party. However, when you experientially know the truth (John 8:32), it will prevail against the darkness trying to beset you!
There is such a thing as a demon of self-pity. This demon carries a message of self-preservation. Christ said “lose yourself,” this spirit says, “save yourself.” It was this type of demon that had been assigned to stop Jesus from going to Calvary and dying. This demon of self-pity even used one of Jesus’ disciples to try to stop him:
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not-happen to you [Greek: "Pity yourself"]!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.
Jesus was rebuking Satan himself, not Peter. The devil was trying to get Jesus to pity himself and not go to the cross. Jesus immediately recognized this attack and put Satan to flight. Self-pity is never mindful of the things of God, it caters to the flesh and self. Those who entertain the demon of self-pity never do anything for God, they are too busy trying to find it in their hearts to “forgive God” for the bad deal He has given them. Their life revolves around themselves; therefore, there is no time to help others and serve God. In verse 24 Jesus gave the cure for self-pity:
- Let him deny himself…
- And take up his cross…
- And follow Me.
Unto the end, Satan was trying to get Jesus to reject the Father’s will of dying on the cross. Even while on the cross, Satan was screaming “Save Yourself! (Matt. 27:40). Jesus rejected the demon of self-pity at every turn. Jesus came not to save himself but to save the world. But for Him to save you, you first must lose yourself. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25).
Depression, self-pity and heaviness are spirits; to deal with them in the natural is to ignore the root. Isaiah 61:3 tells us what to do with the spirit of heaviness; it tells us to “put on the garment of praise” in its place! The garment of praise is something that must be “put on.” God is not going to do it for you. A depressed person might say. “I don’t feel like praising the Lord.” That is why he stays depressed; he is ruled entirely by his feelings. As long as the spirit of depression is tolerated, it will remain. Some are what is called manic depressive. When they are up, they are all the way up. But when they are down, they are all the way down. I have witnessed many Christians in this place of defeat. For these people, praise must become a lifestyle. Depression and praise cannot co-exist together.
With depression, a person is still at a level where he can free himself up through the power of praise. One thing that depression has been designed for is to steal the praise that belongs to God. Deep within, our spirit longs to praise God and fellowship with Him. Depression clouds out the wonderful things God has done for us and casts despair over our lives. Without a Praise Oriented Life, a person is prey to the spirit of depression. Hebrews 13:15 says to offer up the “sacrifice of praise.” It must begin as an act of faith, for with depression, trusting God is a major factor. At the core of a Christian’s depression is his inability to trust God. We know what Romans 8:28 says in our head, but it must get into the heart. God will work all things together for our good!
People in depression often enter a shut-down mode where they cease to care about anything. Their family, their career, even their relationship with God – they are all casualties of depression. This high level of depression is an open door for further demonic activity in an individual, for our passivity is all the devil needs to begin to oppress.
Lying spirits operate strongly in the area of depression. Revelation 12:10 calls Satan “the accuser of the brethren.” Remember, the devil is the father of lies (John 8:44). The only way he can defeat a Christian is through lies. What did he do with Eve? Deceive. What did he do with Job? Accuse. The devil lies to convince the child of God that God doesn’t love him and that the Word won’t work for him. Revelation 12:11 tells us how to overcome the accuser. It gives us three steps that I believe will also break the spirit of depression off a Christian’s life:
- Overcome by the blood of the Lamb. The blood of Jesus is given as protection and deliverance for you. Plead the blood whenever attacked with depression, command it to leave!
- By the word of their testimony. You’ve got to begin to change your confession from negative to positive, from the lies of Satan to the Word of God. The Word is the sword of the Spirit when spoken from the spirit out of the mouth!
- By loving not their lives to the death. This is the part most people leave out when quoting this verse. You’ve got to stop feeling sorry for yourself. Self-pity is self-destructive, it never accomplishes any good for the Kingdom of God.
Right now, put on the garment of praise and begin to rejoice before God and watch sorrow and depression flee away!
Note: the author acknowledges that there are chemical imbalances that contribute to depression. This teaching is designed to address the spiritual component of depression, which is the most important. God’s healing is available for people with chemical imbalances and the principles outlined above still hold true for those individuals.