Defeating Depression: A 7-Step Christian Approach

By Dr. Bob Martin III
Published 2 years ago

Defeating depression can be tough, especially for a Christian. Without a doubt, life is challenging. And nearly everyone will feel depressed at some time in their life (1 Cor. 10:12-13).

But God does not allow anything to occur in our lives that is beyond his control. Or that is beyond our ability to endure without sinning (1 Cor. 10:13).

 

Quote from Pops: Nearly everyone will feel depressed at some time in their life

 

I.   Types of Depression

It is important to realize that there are several types of depression. But I am only going to cover: 

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
  • Reactive (Situational) Depression

 

 

1.   Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) or Clinical Depression

By comparison, major depressive disorder (MDD) is a more severe condition. In general, it lasts months to years with persistent mood changes. Symptoms include crying, sadness, melancholy, guilt, or hopelessness.

Furthermore, physical symptoms are common. These include inactivity and difficulty in thinking and concentration. There may also be changes in appetite and sleep disturbances.

Above all the symptoms of depression, the most problematic is suicidal thoughts. That is why involving a trained professional is critical.

 

 

Major Depressive Disorder Symptoms Lasts months to years • Persistent mood changes crying, sadness, or hopelessness. • Physical symptoms are common • Suicidal thoughts

2.   Reactive/Situational Depression

Self-limited or reactive depression is common. It typically lasts as long as weeks to 1 to 2 months. Reactive depression chiefly occurs after:  

  • Giving birth
  • The death of a loved one
  • A physical injury or surgery
  • Disappointment

 

Reactive Depression and causes Self-limited 1-2 wks to 1 to 2 mos Often occurs after: • Giving birth • The death of a loved one • A physical injury or surgery • Disappointment

 

II.   How Common is Clinical Depression? 

Seven percent of Americans have had at least one major depressive episode. This statistic comes from the National Institute of Mental Health

Specifically: 

  • 18- to 29-year-olds are most affected. 
  • However, teenagers are the fastest-growing group.
  • Moreover, women are twice as likely to experience depression 
  • Depression is more common during the winter and holidays like Christmas

 

III.   Defeating Depression Means Knowing its Causes

When sin entered the world (Gen. 3), everything became broken spiritually and physically. Depression is a result of this brokenness.

There is no one singular cause of depression. Depression can result from: 

  • Firstly, genetic influence
  • Secondly, biological causes
  • Thirdly, physical factors
  • Fourthly, emotional problems
  • Finally, spiritual causes

 

Research using specialized brain-imaging technologies. The research shows abnormalities in various parts of the brain. Particularly, areas for regulating mood, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behavior. There are also changes in neurotransmitters. 

It is important to realize that the relationship of these findings to disease is unknown. On the one hand, they may represent the cause. On the other hand, they may be the result of depression.

 

Causes of Depression 1. Genetic influence 2. Biological causes 3. Physical factors 4. Emotional problems 5. Spiritual causes

 

1.   Genetic/Biological Causes for Depression

There is no known “depression” gene(s). But twin and family studies suggest a possible genetic connection. Over their lifetime’s first-degree relatives have an increased risk of developing MDD. This risk is two to four more likely than the general population.

 

2.   Biologic Contributors to Depression 

Additionally, many physical illnesses can cause or worsen depression, including:

  • Hormonal imbalances 
  • Neurological disease
  • Systemic disease
  • Infections
  • Cancer
  • Premenstrual depression (PMDD)

 

3.   Physical Factors Contributing to Depression

Moreover, physical factors that can contribute to depression include:

  • Medication side effects
  • Drug and alcohol addictions
  • Poor nutrition
  • Sleep disorders
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Post-surgical depression

 

4.   Emotional Contributors to Depression

Further, there are several emotional triggers for depression include:

  • Stress
  • Grief 
  • Financial challenges 
  • Divorce
  • Debilitating disease
  • Abuse or trauma 

 

5.   Spiritual Contributors to Depression

Finally, spiritual causes for depression include: 

  • Satanic attack
  • Sin in your life (Psalm 32:3-5)

 

IV.   Defeating Depression Begins with the Right Diagnosis

All things considered, defeating depression requires a multifaceted approach. A trained mental health specialist needs to diagnose and treat MDD. They must also screen for suicidal thoughts.

In particular, look for a mental health professional who practices Christian principles. 

Additionally, visit your primary care physician. They can screen for physical factors that might be contributing to your depression. 

 

V.   Defeating Depression Using the Put-off and Put-On Principle

Ephesians 4:22–24 describes the process of transformation into a “new self.” In essence it involves three stages: 

  1. Firstly, “putting off” the old self of our former way of life (Col. 3:8-9) 
  2. Secondly, being transformed in our mind in Christ (Rom. 12:2)
  3. Finally, “putting on” our daily renewed new self (2 Cor. 4:16) through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:26)

 

Put-off and Put-On Principle Transformation into a "new self" by: 1. "Putting off" the old self 2. Transformed in our mind in Christ 3. "Putting on" a renewed new self through the Holy Spirit

 

 

VI. 7-Step Christian Approach to Defeat Depression

As an illustration, the put-on and the put-off process is a helpful paradigm for defeating depression. We overcome depression by “putting on” 7 steps: 

  1. Firstly, Biblical thinking
  2. Secondly, embedding Scripture into our minids
  3. Thirdly, Biblically speaking to God (a.k.a. prayer)
  4. Fourthly, Biblical speaking to others
  5. Fifthly, Biblical action
  6. Sixthly, a Supportive community of Christians 
  7. Seventhly, physical and mental health maintenance

 

7-Step Christian Approach to Defeat Depression Biblical thinking Scripture memorization Prayer Biblical speech Biblical action Supportive community of Christians Physical and mental health maintenance

 

1.   Biblical Thinking: A Train Analogy for Defeating Depression

Unquestionably, to defeat depression, we need to take control of our thoughts (mind). Consequently, our goldy thoughts will lead to godly actions (behaviors). And godly actions ultimately control our emotions (Colossians 3:2).

For instance, think of the analogy of a three-car train. 

  1. Firstly, the engine is our minds (thinking) 
  2. Secondly, the middle boxcar is our actions (behavior) 
  3. Thirdly, the caboose is our emotions. 

 

Image of three car train: with Thinking as engine, then Behavior, then Emotions as Caboose

 

Conversely, with depression, the order is reversed. Our emotions (caboose) control our behavior leading to depressed thinking. 

Undeniably, our feelings can lead us astray. But God’s Word never does. That is why God’s Word never commands us to change our emotions (which is impossible) but to obey Scripture (John 14:15). 

To sum up, defeating depression starts with controlling our thoughts (minds). And this involves knowing and obeying Scripture. 

 

2.   Defeating Depression by Embedding God’s Word into Our Minds 

Above all, overcoming depression requires embedding God’s Word into our minds (Phil. 4:8). That is, we need immersion in God’s Word consistently (1 John 2:3-6) instead of dwelling on things that lead to sin. 

Biblical thinking involves: 

 

 

3.   Defeating Depression with Biblical Speech to God: Prayer

Equally important is faithfulness in prayer (1 Thes. 5:17-18). Prayer is one of the spiritual disciplines that leads to intimacy with God. It is a powerful tool for defeating depression. 

Donald Whitney’s method of praying Scripture is a simple method to learn. To illustrate, take one word, phrase, or verse from your daily reading. On the other hand, you can also use a Psalm, biblical narrative, or epistles. 

In effect these words or phrases should stimulate your thoughts to God. And to clarify, our prayers should seek to be based on the Holy Spirit is leading us. 

For example, starting with Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” 

We pray: 

  • Thank you, Lord, for being my shepherd all my life. 
  • Please shepherd me through these challenges for your glory. 
  • Help me, Lord, to shepherd my family well

 

Additionally, if we get stuck, the ACTS method reminds us of categories for praying. 

 

4.   Defeating Depression with Biblical Speech with Others

Likewise, Biblical speech with others needs to be: 

  • Especially truthful and gracious (Col. 4:6). 
  • Obviously loving to reflect our love for God (1 John 4:20-21). 
  • Forgiving just as God has forgiven you (Eph. 4:32) 
  • Uncomplaining about feeling depressed, sorrows, and worries (Phil. 2:14-15) 

 

5.   Biblical Actions that Deal with Depression

Putting on biblical actions means: 

  • Evidently living a faithful life that pleases God (1 Tim. 4:7-11)
  • Putting on righteous deeds in the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16) 
  • Glorifying God by regarding others as more important than yourself (Phil. 2:3-7) 
  • Emphatically blessing others through biblical love and service (2 Cor. 5:14-15). 

 

6.   Defeating Depression Through a Supportive Christian Community

Another key point in dealing with depression requires being with other Christians. 

  • Reach out to other Christians at church, at work, in your local community (Heb. 10:23-25)
  • Coupled with creating friendships with believers who have healthy Christian lifestyles 
  • Look for Christian mentors, accountability partners, and friends
  • Allow qualified professionals in the church to help you (Gal. 6:2)

 

7.   Physical and Mental Health Maintenance Help Overcome Depression

Finally, both physical and mental health maintenance includes: 

  • A healthy diet 
  • Exercise (Romans 12:1) 
  • Identify and avoid situations that cause depression or make it worse 

 

VII.   Myth: Christians Who Take Antidepressant Medication Are Not Relying On God 

Certainly there are many misconceptions about depression. But one really bothers me. It is, “A Christian taking antidepressant medication is not relying on God.” 

To explain, this statement is a logical fallacy called a “false dichotomy.” 

A “false dichotomy” claims that there are only two choices. And a person must choose “either one or the other (“either/ or”). In this case:

  • Either medication
  • Or relying on God

 

But in this situation the answer is ‘both/and.” A person can still rely on God while taking medication. 

Medical studies have shown that antidepressants alleviate certain symptoms of depression. But they do not cure depression! 

Basically antidepressants alone are only a help. They are not a cure. They are not going to make the Christian’s unbiblical thinking and problems go away! 

Therefore, antidepressants may improve someone’s mood and thinking. So that a depressed Christian may think, act and speak with more clarity. 

Therefore, antidepressants can be a blessing, if they help a Christian live a godlier life. 

 

VIII.   Defeating Depression: What is Your Next Step?

God expects depressed Christians to obey Scripture. It doesn’t matter the cause or severity of depression or how we feel (Phil. 2:14-15). 

To obey God’s command, we need a proper perspective for this trial. That perspective involves our seeing depression as an opportunity for spiritual growth (Jas. 1:2-4). 

Therefore, if we handle depression biblically, we will: 

  • Glorify God (1 Pet. 4:16) 
  • Show God’s power in our lives (2 Cor. 12:9-10) 
  • Trust in God’s comfort (2 Cor.1:3-5) and sustaining care (Psa. 46:1-3).
  • Be conformed to Christ’s image (Rom. 8:28–29) 

 

If someone in your life struggles with depression—reach out to them. Listen and give them hope! Also, help them find a godly and trained pastor or counselor.

If you struggle with depression, get help. You are not alone, and there are resources to help you. 

 

Further Resources

Binmin Podcast Ep. 24: Depression | When Life is Tough

Binmin Podcast Ep. 25: Suffering | When Life is Tough

 

References

Clinton, T and Ron Hawkins. The Quick-Reference Guide to Biblical Counseling. Baker, 2009

 

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