Does depression have spiritual symptoms?

You bet it does!

If you are a leader, you need to be able to recognize when depression is the cause of a spiritual slide so you can help your people get appropriate treatment.

Depression disrupts all relationships including our relationship with God. A depressed Christian will feel that they have lost the joy of their salvation and that they no longer feel God’s presence. God will seem farther away, silent and unreachable.

A depressed Christian has additional guilt added to their depression since they usually condemn themselves for not snapping out of it. They will assume that they have a spiritual weakness or a character flaw.

Let’s look at how depression affects spiritual activities. There are four fundamental things that Christians do to maintain their walk with God.


First, we pray. Prayer requires concentration and the presumption that a loving, caring person is listening to our prayer. Depression makes it hard to concentrate and the low mood makes one feel cut off from God. Prayer then becomes very difficult for the depressed person.


Second, we read the Bible. This too requires concentration that a depressed person just doesn’t have. As a result, Bible reading is abandoned since it’s too difficult.


Third, we worship. Worship requires concentration and a sense of hope or celebration. Depressed people can’t concentrate and they have nothing to celebrate. They feel dead inside. So worship stops too.


Fourth, we go to church. This involves seeing and talking to people. What do you think are the most awkward words that a depressed person can hear in a church lobby? They are, “Hi, how are you?” How can they respond to that question? They can’t be honest and say, “I want to die, thanks, how are you?” Small talk is very difficult and usually avoided. Depressed people often stop coming to church since it’s just too difficult to be social.

So you can see that the four fundamental devotional activities are almost wiped out by depression. It’s very hard to have a healthy spiritual life when you can’t pray, read, worship or go to church. At this point many assume that God is punishing them or that they have committed the unpardonable sin. A Christian will then suffer even greater depressive pain since not only do they feel cut off from people but also from God, their last resort for help.

Don’t make this mistake

Psychiatric disorders, particularly depression, are the only medical illnesses that I know of, with spiritual symptoms. Unfortunately, when leaders see spiritual symptoms like the four mentioned above, they may presume there is a spiritual cause to the problem and that the solution must be spiritual. This error can cause unnecessary delay in the person’s recovery.

If you use the information on our web site by clicking on the link “Am I normal?” you will be able to help the person determine if they have depression and need to see a doctor. When medical treatment is combined with spiritual and emotional treatments, people recover faster than using just one treatment method.

The good news is that when the depression is treated, spiritual life will return to normal.

Have a look at this video, Why do I feel so far from God when I’m depressed?

We have two DVDs that will help you understand depression from a Christian perspective. Just click on the names below and you can watch five minute previews.

Moods: What Christians should know about depression, anxiety and mood swings.
Depression, The Path to Recovery

I have created books, seminars and recordings that will easily explain the diagnosis and treatment of mood disorders from a Christian perspective. You can see links to many of my resources here.

Leadership Q & A

  1. What is the best church growth strategy?
  2. Are you burning out?
  3. Is suicide the unpardonable sin?
  4. Can a person be too supportive of your ministry?
  5. Are you afraid of psychiatry?
  6. What is the unpardonable sin?
  7. Is fear a sin?
  8. Is counselling your gift?
  9. What is the key question to ask?
  10. Does depression have spiritual symptoms?
  11. Is your church “seeker friendly?”

2 comments on “Does depression have spiritual symptoms?

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