Summary: The Bible is clear that the most often cause of depression and accompanying anxiety is sin that goes unconfessed and unrepented.
A Spiritual Malady
Sadly, an estimated 25 million Americans suffer with depression at any given time. These depressed Americans spend billions of dollars on anti-depressant drugs and billions more on psychological therapies and counseling. However, the vast majority of sufferers never come to a true understanding of the cause and true cure for chronic depression.
The Bible is clear that the most often cause of depression and accompanying anxiety is sin that goes unconfessed and unrepented. Throughout the Scriptures, God teaches that our feelings or emotions flow from our attitudes and actions. Simply put, people feel bad because of bad living. Good living produces good feelings. To have good days, one must have good attitudes and deeds.
In a culture, such as our own, that tries to preach that there are no absolutes of right and wrong and that we should never have to take personal responsibility for our problems (the fault always resides in somebody else), this message is considered insensitive, dangerous and unwelcome. However, the truth that sometimes hurts is the same truth that 'sets us free'.
I want us to see the connection between ungodly attitudes and/or actions and depression. To do this, I will begin by looking at the examples of two characters of the Old Testament – Cain and David.
The story of Cain is found in Genesis 4, where it is recorded (vs. 1) that he was the first son born to Adam and Eve. The record (vs. 2) also states that our 'first parents' had another son named Abel. Cain was a farmer and produced crops while Abel was a raiser/shepherd of sheep. We read, in verses 4-5, that both Cain and Abel worshiped God by offering to Him sacrifices, but the content of their sacrifices were quite different. Cain offered to God the fruit of his labors (a grain offering) while Abel offered to God the fruit of his labors (firstborn lambs). This all seems well and good.
However, the Scriptures teach that not only does God seek to be worshiped but, also, He always provides instruction on the way He seeks to be worshiped (John 4:23-24). We find that God did approve of Abel and his worship offering but God did not approve of Cain and his worship offering. We get further insight about this from Hebrews 11:4, where it says that “by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” Now, we are taught in Romans 10:17 that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Without hearing the Word of God, one cannot have true faith. Once God has spoken His will, only then do we have something to believe, accept and act upon. The fact that Abel offered his sacrifice “by faith” means that he heard God's will on worship and he obeyed God's instruction on what kind of sacrifice to offer to God in order to receive God's approval and reward. By inference, we can conclude that Cain's sacrifice was not offered “by faith” - that is, it was not in accordance with what God had taught about acceptable worship. Cain decided to worship God his own way and not in obedience to God. Therefore, God did not approve of Cain nor his offering. Cain may have been zealous to worship God but his worship was not based upon God's Word. This shows that Cain was guilty of human pride and this pride led him to disobey God's will.
Now, Cain's problem could have been quickly and joyfully resolved if he had been willing to acknowledge his ungodly pride and disobedience, ask for forgiveness and then repent (determine to henceforth submit to God and His will rather than do things his own way). God would have forgiven Cain and their relationship would have been fine and dandy. But, that is not what happened.
Cain compounded his problem by not only refusing to confess his sin and pursue repentance but the text says “he became very angry.” What did his great anger and unrepentant sin lead to? Depression! The text says that “his countenance fell” which is a metaphor indicating that Cain's inner happiness and peace had departed from him and he felt despondent or depressed.
Through decades of observation and providing some counseling, I have found that most cases of depression have as their root pent-up and unresolved anger. We are commanded, in Ephesians 4:26, to resolve an issue or problem causing our anger before the sun sets. We are not to carry it over to another day. Why?
There are three reasons:
Secondly, harboring anger, bitterness, resentment and hate within us, according to Ephesians 4:26-27, 'gives the Devil an opportunity' to spur us to commit further sins, whether they be in our attitudes, speech or actions. As we shall see, this is exactly what happened in Cain's life.