Monday, February 10, 2020

Anonymous Asks (79)

“Is being depressed a sin?”

One of our guest authors dealt admirably with the question of the alleged “sinfulness” of grief back in 2014, and much of what she said then applies to depression.

All other things being equal, experiencing depression is not a sin. Elijah, Jeremiah and other prophets all described or experienced feelings that seem awfully familiar to a modern depressive.

All Things Being Equal ...

Of course, all other things must actually be equal. It is important to know whether we are talking about genuine depression or about something else entirely. There is an awful lot of confusion out there on the subject.

People tend to say they are “depressed” when they are not. They are using the word in a vague, general sense rather than with clinical accuracy. They mean, “I’m miserably unhappy, and I’ve been that way for a long time. It’s significantly affecting my life.” They do not generally mean, “I have some kind of diagnosable medical condition.”

Medical Conditions and Genetic Predispositions

Medical conditions and genetic predispositions are not sinful things. Even on the rare occasion where you have somehow participated in causing them, they are still something that happens TO you, not something you are consciously and deliberately inviting into your life. Nobody sets out on a course of action with the express aim of becoming depressed and debilitated. The argument may be made that someone who smokes for forty years is sinning against themselves (and others) in so doing. The cancer which often results may be said to be a consequence of sin, but cancer is not in itself sinful. Having cancer does not put distance between men and God. Likewise, experiencing depression may make you feel distant from God, but there is no indication we can find in our Bibles that God has actually withdrawn.

So then, what if my prolonged unhappiness has no basis in biochemistry? Well then, it is likely not truly depression I am experiencing. Grief, guilt, disposition and the consequences of undisciplined living are often mistaken for depression. But depression is a disorder, while the things so frequently mistaken for it are very orderly indeed.

Natural Sadness Triggers

Grief is natural. It is the human spirit operating correctly. Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” In an fallen world, grief is both expected and appropriate. It is God’s way of enabling us to deal with the consequences of sin without denial or escapism. The solution to grief is not drugs, but time or a change of condition.

Guilt is natural. We are designed to feel miserable when we do something wrong. Guilt is the alarm bell that tells me my conscience has been violated, and something needs to be done about it. The solution to guilt is not drugs, but confessing and being forgiven.

A melancholic disposition is natural. It is one of the four commonly recognized types of temperaments. People often mistake introversion for depression, but it is quite common and perfectly normal. Melancholics may be extra-susceptible to depression, but that does not mean all melancholics are depressed. To the extent that there is a solution for one’s normal state of being, it is to be careful not to engage in the sorts of pastimes that occupy you with the tragedy and cruelty of the world. Leaving CNN on blast 24/7 is poor practice for melancholics. I personally avoid the news like the plague.

Undisciplined Living

Finally, the consequences of undisciplined living are what they are. They can produce a state of mind easily mistaken for clinical depression. There is an easy way to test for this: if you think you are experiencing depression, first eliminate from your life all the lifestyle and environmental factors which may be making things worse. Get regular exposure to the sun. Pick a reasonable sleep schedule and stick to it. Eat foods which are good for your system in reasonable quantities, and get regular exercise. Cut back on social media. Clean up your living environment. If you have responsibilities you’ve been putting off, make a list and start working your way down it. Out-of-control living makes people miserable, so remove all the potential sources of stress and sadness in your regular schedule and see what results.

If you’re still feeling depressed after all that, then it’s worth looking into it more seriously. But if it is genuine depression you’re dealing with, then don’t make things worse by adding phantom guilt to the mix. Real depression is not a sin.


  1. We (family and friends) find this exploration of remedies for depression most helpful.

  2. We, family and friends find this explanation f depression and its cure most helpful.

    1. The connection between inflammation and depression certainly sounds plausible. Inflammation is a far more serious health issue than many people realize.