There is an unspeakable power of depression in those who suffer from it. Of course, there are different levels of depression and many cases that can be understood due to the circumstances in our lives, and those are to which I’m referring. Not the instances where there is a neurological discord causing it, but the ones where the depression itself is having a neurological effect. I’ve never had the experience of being depressed in the way that I hear of most often, nor do I ever want to. So my thoughts on depression are from a viewpoint of someone on the outside of this turmoil, but I won’t hesitate to share insight from this vantage point because, I propose, living from the outside looking in has given me relief from this struggle that is going on in too many Christians.
So many biblical references could point to the issue of depression; however, I want to focus primarily on the 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes. This book has been my absolute favorite “go to” throughout my many seasons of being a Christian. I love Ecclesiastes for all of the rich insight it can provide for all phases, viewpoints, outlooks, in all walks of life. Its words have been ingrained in my heart and mind from my earlier years of being called an idealist who looks at life through rose colored glasses, but twenty years later they’ve stuck with me, as I still have the blessed disease of being a serial optimist. Perhaps that isn’t the result of others when reading it, but the raw emotions written on page shaped me in many ways.
Overall, the Teacher (thought by many theologians to be Solomon) expresses the meaninglessness of everything: wisdom, pleasures, folly, toil, advancement, riches, friendlessness, oppression. This, in itself, is cause to be depressed. When nothing seems to matter, there is depression. Nothing that we do or strive to do, even with the best intentions, seems to be able to draw us out of ourselves. Even if, for a moment, we reap what we sow and see a glimpse of what happiness and contentment might look or feel like, we, nevertheless, seem to be pulled back into our own heads of misery. We hate life and despair over the events not under our control (Ecclesiastes 2:17-23). To pursue finding meaning is “a chasing after the wind” (1:14,17; 2:11,17,26; 4:4,6,16; 6:9). So why even try? Does this book imply that we are to wallow in the depths of despair? If we do continue to search for meaning, finding none (8:17), shall we give into these unfruitful cravings and just stay in the mire of depression?
Absolutely not. Without a doubt, no. To deeply embrace verses 1-11 in chapter 3 can evolve your thought life. Giving up, in the manner of giving up all to God, knowing that we cannot discover anything about our future (7:14 & 8:7-8) and exercising (and perhaps exorcising) your thought life to “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13) seems an unattainable goal, but one that will bring your soul benefit beyond understanding. This isn’t to suggest that reading Ecclesiastes with fervor will dramatically change a life that struggles with depression, but more a suggestion that it can.
Our world offers many remedies to lighten the load that depression weighs, from prescription medications to self-help seminars, but the only guaranteed reprieve will be from God. It is, above all, His Word that saves, so to attempt to make depression bigger, and more powerful, than our Almighty God, is not thinking in line biblically. So, if in the midst of depression, how diligent are you being about spending time in Scripture? Are you open to what God may have for you in this season of your life? Prepared that your depression is a discipline measure on His part? Or that you may be depressed for years to come, but still expected to spend time with Him in prayer and in His Word?
There are no guarantees in life, except those that Ecclesiastes sheds light on which can drive you further into despair, or lift you out, depending upon your reading of it. My humble suggestion is to take in the words and the overall accomplishment God has already made in us, through Christ, finding solace in that “the spirit returns to God who gave it” (12:7). Our esteem of ourselves isn’t in need of being boosted, it is our esteem of God that does.