(I was out of the country on a counseling conference in Chile.  Here is the first half of my notes from a lecture on depression)

Notes on Depression Lecture


Begin with Psalm 88

Psalm 88 (ESV)

I Cry Out Day and Night Before You

1  O LORD, God of my salvation,
I cry out day and night before you.
2  Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!

3  For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4  I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
5  like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6  You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7  Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

8  You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9  my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you.
10  Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11  Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12  Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

13  But I, O LORD, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14  O LORD, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15  Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16  Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17  They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18  You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.dep


I          “Depression” is an Ambiguous Term.


A         It is ambiguous in terms of what we mean by depression.


1          It can refer to merely feeling down.


2          It can refer to extraordinary pain and inability to act


“The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain.”

― William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness


3          Therefore, when someone uses the word “depressed”, it is necessary to fully define in fact of that particular person what is meant.


B         It is ambiguous in terms of causation


1          There are multiple physical conditions which are associated with depression


2          There are multiple environmental conditions which are associated with depression


3          The physiological and environmental aspects will often work in conjunction to create the condition


II        It is suffering


It suffering which afflicts us physically and emotionally. The most crushing things about depression is the loss of hope


“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.”

― Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation


“It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul.”

― William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness



II        It is not uncommon


A         The “common cold” of psychiatry.


In 2009–2012, 7.6% of Americans aged 12 and over had depression (moderate or severe depressive symptoms in the past 2 weeks).


Figure 1. Percentage of persons aged 12 and over with depression, by age and sex: United States, 2009–2012


Source: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db172.htm



B         It is common even among Christians.


1  Martin Luther suffered from serious physical problems and repeated depression


In a letter to his friend Melanchthon on August 2, 1527, Luther wrote:


I spent more than a week in death and hell. My entire body was in pain, and I still tremble. Completely abandoned by Christ, I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation and blasphemy against God. But through the prayers of the saints (his friends), God began to have mercy on me and pulled my soul from the inferno below.


2          Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, Vol. 1, Lecture 11, The Minister’s Fainting Fits:


AS it is recorded that David, in the heat of battle, waxed faint, so may it be written of all the servants of the Lord. Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy. There may be here and there men of iron, to whom wear and tear work no perceptible detriment, but surely the rust frets even these; and as for ordinary men, the Lord knows, and makes them to know, that they are but dust. Knowing by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between, I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange thing had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun has shone right joyously did not always walk in the light.


It is not necessary by quotations from the biographies of eminent ministers to prove that seasons of fearful prostration have fallen to the lot of most, if not all of them. The life of Luther might suffice to give a thousand instances, and he was by no means of the weaker sort. His great spirit was often in the seventh heaven of exultation, and as frequently on the borders of despair. His very death bed was not free from tempests, and he sobbed himself into his last sleep like a great wearied child. Instead of multiplying cases, let us dwell upon the reasons why these things are permitted; why it is that the children of light sometimes walk in the thick darkness; why the heralds of the daybreak find themselves at times in tenfold night.


3          It is reported in the Psalms

See, Psalms 42-43

4          It has been written about extensively by Christians