It's okay to be sad. In fact, the Bible is a hospitable haven for sad people. Yet, sometimes the sadness stubbornly stays. The Bible gives us eternal hope and introduces us to a loving God who will hold us tight through every dark night.
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Friend, we expect that if you’re reading this, life is particularly hard right now—on the inside. Depression can be hard to understand, mainly because we are complex beings, and at times, we don’t even understand ourselves. We hope that what you find here will be clarifying for you, but also comforting. And may you have courage to persevere through this emotionally heavy season.
Depression is often labeled as a problem. People go so far as to say it’s a disorder. But if we think carefully, we will come to see that this is not always the case, primarily for two reasons.
First, depression is not a problem as much as it is a symptom that points to deep sadness, whether known or unknown.
Second, only recently in the course of human history have we thought that being sad was out of the ordinary. In modern society, we like to put out of our minds anything that isn’t positive. There’s little sympathy for feeling the seriousness and sorrow of life these days.
But if you open the Bible, you will find quite a different perspective. Within its first pages, it will tell you how our world is broken and often the cause of our sadness. There is not a more honest and sympathetic book for those who are suffering and sorrowful than the Bible. The Bible says there is wisdom in weeping, for things are not as they ought to be (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
Depression can be a perfectly appropriate response to life under the sun. Every person will walk through sad times, and many of us will face seasons of depression. In short, the Bible would tell you it’s okay to be sad.
Yet, for many reasons, there are times when our sorrow stubbornly hangs on and won’t let go. That might be where you find yourself today—under dark clouds that refuse to lift. The sadness lingers, or consumes, and maybe you don’t even know why.
King David wrote about this very feeling in one of the psalms we find in the Bible. Through the inspiration of God's Spirit he said, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why are you in turmoil within me?” (Psalm 42:11).
David understood that the clouds of depression don’t merely overshadow us from the outside; they also gather in our own heart—we are disappointed, discouraged, angry, troubled, or overwhelmed within. And just as tears blur our vision, the inner clouds of emotion make it hard to think clearly.
King David finishes his song with, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (v. 11).
Can you hear him talking to himself? How does he counsel his own heart, even when he doesn’t know why he’s downcast?
He says, “hope in God! There will come a time when my prayers turn to praise. He’s my God. I know him to be faithful.”
Hope in God is the only lasting hope—the only light that is more than a dying candle. Hope in God is like the sun that shines through dark clouds, but also doesn’t cease to exist when the clouds hide it.
David knows that there will come a day when these feelings of depression will be over and done with—a day of rejoicing. But that rejoicing will be directed at God. David doesn’t say, “I’ll be happy again,” but instead, “I will praise him.”
David’s hope is God himself, a God who he knows as rescuer, deliverer, redeemer. This God is personal to David. He calls him “my God.”
There are many medications for depression, many means of trying to escape it, but there’s only one way through it, and that’s hope.
We pray that as you open the Bible, you discover hope there—the same hope that David clung to when he couldn’t clearly discern the workings of his heart. You’ll find that Hope has a name, and He doesn’t change no matter how we feel.
The hope found in God’s Word is the hope of Jesus Christ himself. You won’t find a way out of sad days, or a list of reasons to always wear a smile. You’ll find something much better—a person to cling to on the dark, stormy, and deeply disappointing days.
You will also find that he, Jesus, is your light, and there are no clouds too stubborn for him to break through.
Many have opened their Bible in sorrow and found God to be sufficient hope. The experience of depression is common even among God’s children. But by remembering that the Sun had not vanished from existence, though hidden by clouds, they sang through their sorrows. One songwriter said it beautifully:
“When darkness seems to hide his face, I rest on his unchanging grace” (William Bradbury).
Would you open the Bible and ask its Author to fill you with hope?
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4 ESV
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord is close to the
he rescues those
whose spirits are crushed.
What oxygen is
to the lungs,
hope is to our survival
in this world.
And the Bible
is filled with hope.
Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
Charles Spurgeon is one of the most famous Bible teachers of all time, often nicknamed, "the prince of preachers."
But you, O Lord,
are a shield about me,
and the lifter
of my head.
My soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.”
Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
The “normal” human life isn’t what is marketed to us by the pharmaceutical industry or by the lives we see projected on movie screens, or, frankly, by a lot of Christian sermons and praise songs.
The normal human life is the life of Jesus of Nazareth, who sums up in himself everything it means to be human (Ephesians 1:10). And the life of Christ presented to us in the Gospels is a life of joy, of fellowship, of celebration, but also of loneliness, of profound sadness, of lament, of grief, of anger, of suffering, all without sin.
As the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ, we don’t become giddy, or, much less, emotionally vacant. Instead, the Bible tells us we “groan” along with the persecuted creation around us (Romans 8:23). We cry out with Jesus himself, experiencing with him often the agony of Gethsemane (Galatians 4:6; Mark 14:36). And, paradoxically, along the way, we join Jesus in joy and peace (Galatians 5:22).
A human emotional life is complicated, and a regenerated human emotional life is complicated too.
And though it tarry
through the night
And till the morning
waken, My heart
doubt his might
Nor count itself forsaken.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
But blessed are those who trust in the LORD
and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.
the cold breath
of the blues brushed
against the prophets
Elisha, Jeremiah, David,
the Apostle Paul.
Let’s not forget about
the sadness of heart
that Jesus experienced
as a “man of sorrows
acquainted with grief.”