Confront the Whispering Lies of Depression

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The momentum of a few true statements in our depression can lead us to dangerously false conclusions.

Depression is one of those topics that a lot of people in church tend to avoid.

I can understand why: No one wants to sound calloused about a topic that is sensitive to others and in which they aren’t well trained. I sense that same tendency, which is why I’m glad that counselors like Brad Hambrick can apply their wisdom to questions like these (see here).

The Bible does deal with depression.

That doesn’t mean, however, that depression is merely spiritual. Humans are psychosomatic—body and soul—and when something affects us, it is often an intricate blend of both of those.

Sometimes, then, what a person most needs is not another verse of Scripture, but a hug. Or a nap. Or a vacation.

So what I say here applies mostly to spiritually based depressions and discouragement. Still, even for the most physiological of depressions, the spiritual element is not immaterial. There may be more of a spiritual element than we often realize. And when we are in the midst of spiritual depression, we must confront the lies that depression speaks to us.

Elijah, the great prophet of God, went through a crippling period of depression, even to the point of having suicidal thoughts (1 Kings 19:4).

Twice in 1 Kings 19, God asks Elijah why he is so despondent. And twice Elijah responds with a mixture of truth and error.

“I have been zealous for you,” Elijah says. And this is true.

“The Israelites have rejected you.” True.

“They have killed your prophets.” True again.

“And I am the only one left.” False.

Although Elijah does not know about it yet, God has 7,000 faithful people in Israel, and he’s about to raise up another prophet with twice the power Elijah had, a man named Elisha.

More than that, God is ultimately going to bring someone greater into all of this mess—Jesus—who will be the fulfillment of everything Elijah has presented in a weak shadow.

Elijah is not alone at all. But this is how despair and depression work.

J. D. Greear J.D. Greear, Ph.D., pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.

More from J. D. Greear or visit J. D. at

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  • Chisombe

    Whether both are done in public or private it is sin, and this pastor should stop and repent in order to be role model to the flock.

  • Chisombe

    Great encouragement on depression have liked it. Keep posting.

  • djhutch5

    Thanks for your thoughtfulness regarding this topic. In my experience, the church has not been hesitant to talk about depression – rather too quick to judge those who seek help under a doctor’s supervision. The fall of man can manifest itself in a variety of different ways, and for some I believe that includes the inability to just “shake it off.”

    I’ll spare you the mini-sermonette, but I appreciate your acknowledgement that depression is not just spiritual.

  • amos8

    “Elijah, the great prophet of God, went through a crippling period of
    depression, even to the point of having suicidal thoughts (1 Kings

    I appreciate your efforts to help in this vital area. I would ask, however, that you be more careful in your writings/exegesis.

    There are other good examples of depression in Scripture, so I’m not sure why you chose this one–which does not contain depression. Perhaps we can say he was “afraid” (as some translations say this in verse 3), or not happy. We could even argue he was a little depressed (but I would argue he was not, or it was not in the Scriptures). But to say he went through a “crippling period of depression” in 1 Kings 19 is a gross error, and misleading.

    Further, it is not accurate to say he had suicidal thoughts.” Praying that he might die is NOT the same as suicidal thoughts! Wanting to die and thinking about killing yourself are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. I have never been suicidal, but have, on more than one occasion (due to severe physical pain), pleaded with God to take me home. I wanted to be free from pain/painful circumstances, but I never came close to thinking about suicide.

  • Cassie

    True depression (as apposed to going through a season of sadness and/or spiritual warfare) is two-fold – a mental illness and a spiritual battle. First and foremost it is a mental illness, a chemical imbalance in the brain, that can be treated medically. The problem is when your mind is weakened, Satan can easily implant his “whispers” in your ears with his lies. It is not that you have a “secret sin” or you did “anything wrong”. Satan uses anything he can to get people to turn away from God, and he is not opposed to using “easy targets”. When people medically treat their depression, they have regained control of their thoughts and can more easily fight against the evil one’s lies.