3 Powerful Pieces of Encouragement For The Depressed Christian

I am a depressed Christian.

I don’t mean that in the identity sense, like vegans, Crossfitters, and people who don’t own a television.

I mean I’m a Christian who has dealt with depression and anxiety in various forms for many years. It’s part of who I am, woven into my DNA and traceable in bleak lines throughout my family tree. It seems to be the thorn in the flesh God has given me, meant to drive me to God.

I also know how uniquely challenging it is to encourage a depressed Christian. Depression affects every part a person – mind, body, and soul. It makes simple tasks seem incredibly difficult and moderate challenges seem downright impossible.

This is why I appreciate Chris Cipollone’s new book Down Not Out. He writes as one who has experienced the demonic depths of depression and has witnessed the faithfulness of God even as he walks through the Valley of Death.

Down, Not Out
Down, Not Out
Chris Cipollone (Author); English (Publication Language); 144 Pages - 05/01/2018 (Publication Date) - The Good Book Company (Publisher)

The Dark Lenses Of Depression

Being depressed is like wearing a pair of apocalyptic glasses. Everything seems bleak, futile, and pointless. The promises of God, which normally bring life and hope and sunshine, seem hollow. God himself feels distant and uncaring, like a distracted, removed father who cares more about other things or other people.

Chris writes:

The reason I couldn’t work out what to do [in life] was because I couldn’t help but see the negative in everything. Nothing was appealing because life itself had become impossible to enjoy. When I thought about being a doctor, all I could think of was the oppressive training involved. When I thought about being a pilot, I could only see the financial costs. And when I thought about carpentry, the toll on my body was too much to imagine.

This is a reality that, unfortunately, many Christians who haven’t experienced depression themselves struggle to understand. After all, if the scriptures are true, the solution to depression is simply to believe the promises of God, right? Think rightly and good feelings will follow. Dispel negativity with the positive words of the Bible.

Except that’s not how it works. Mental illness is just as much biological as spiritual. The brain just doesn’t work properly, regularly vomiting large volumes of the wrong chemicals into the neurons and synapses. The body responds to these chemicals, sometimes shutting down, other times hurling the body into full-on panic attacks.

Reading the promises of God, while good and utterly necessary, doesn’t usually change the way I feel. Just like the promises of God don’t take away the symptoms of a migraine, they also don’t usually dispel the crushing feelings of depression.

And frankly, we shouldn’t expect them to. The Bible isn’t Tylenol. It’s the grand story of a sinful world, a saving King, a crushed serpent, and a coming kingdom. Yes, the promises of God are my rock and refuge, the thing I stake my present and eternal life upon. But nowhere does God himself suggest that the Bible is some sort of magical book of spells which cause trouble to disappear and pain to evaporate.

In fact, the opposite is true. We are told that we will have trouble in this world, that we are wasting away, and that we live in a world where sin has broken every part of our humanity, including our brains.

Chris puts it this way:

The first conclusion we must make is that mental illness is a result of the sinful state of humanity. Ever since the fall in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve rebelled against God for the first time, our world has been spoiled by sin (our rebellion against God). If the fall had not taken place, mental illness would not be in the world (neither would any illness).

These realities are precisely why it can be challenging to find encouragement when you’re depressed, as well as why it can be difficult for friends and family to support a depressed Christian. Mental illness is complex, and simple prescriptions like, “You just need to believe the promises of God,” are like patching a bullet hole with a Band-Aid.

Something more robust is needed.

3 Encouragements For The Depressed Christian

Let me suggest some more helpful sources of encouragement for the depressed Christian. In my 20+ years of doing battle with the dark demon (I’m using that term metaphorically), these are the things that have kept me from giving up the fight altogether.

Recognize That Your Feelings Are Just That

Feelings are pathological liars. Very rarely do they speak the truth about reality. They can change in a split second depending on what you ate for breakfast, the amount of sleep you’ve been getting, your family biology, your recurring thought patterns, sinful actions, and 10,000 other variables.

And yet for some odd reason, we treat them as infallible deities who always speak the truth. When we feel bad, we then conclude that things really are bad, even though that’s often not the case.

One of THE most important things I’ve learned to do when I’m depressed is to recognize that what I’m feeling probably isn’t true. The truth is outside of me, located in the sacred pages of scripture.

When I’m in the grip of depression or anxiety, I have to, in a sense, detach my brain from emotions. I have to fall back on what I know to be true even though none of those things feel true.

Chris puts it this way:

When it comes to mental illness, our feelings can be very misleading. I say this because a change in how we feel about God can be one of the main manifestations of depression or anxiety. This can be very distressing for a Christian, yet how we feel about God does not impact who he actually is.

We may feel angry about our circumstances, which leads to the thought that God hates us. He doesn’t.

We may feel lonely, which leads to the thought that God has abandoned us. He hasn’t.

We may feel hopeless, which leads to the thought that there is nothing left to live for. There is.

If you find yourself in a dark cloud, it’s not a good time to evaluate the state of your life, your relationship with God, or what tomorrow will be like. Frankly, that will probably sink you even further into darkness.

Rather, you need to dramatically simplify your thinking. Cling to the simple truths of scripture, even if they feel empty. Often, I’ll pray simple prayers like, “Father, I know you love me and are going to get me through this.” I don’t let my mind dwell on whether I’m being a good dad or if I’m reading the Bible enough.

Then I turn my attention elsewhere, often to something quite mindless like a show on Netflix. I know that I can answer all the big questions of life when God brings me to a better place. Until then, I’m going to keep my thinking childlike (in the biblical sense).

Find A Faithful Friend

Depression and anxiety can be terribly isolating. The last thing you feel like doing is being around other people. And this is often made worse by the pat answers that are given when you tell someone you’re in the darkness.

However, it’s critical that you have at least one friend who, though they may not fully understand what you’re experiencing, will love you unconditionally.

I have several people in my life who fit this bill, my wife being first and foremost. When I feel like life is nothing but cemeteries and corpses, she prays for me, loves me, serves me, and encourages me to get the rest I need.

I also have several friends who I will text when things are bad. They may not know exactly what it’s like to be depressed or anxious, but they understand the human condition that we all experience. They know that life is difficult, that our bodies are broken, and that depression is a real thing.

They sympathetically listen and then usually offer to pray for me, which is, frankly, the best thing for me in the moment.

Chris helpfully says, “Whether a spouse, family member or friend, you may be wondering how to care for someone you love. And in that question lies the answer. You love them.”

Love means hanging in there with those who are weak, crushed, down, depressed, and hanging on by a thread. Love means presentness. It means encouragement and support, even if it feels like the person isn’t responding to that support.

If you’re a depressed Christian, try to find one person who can be a lifeline for you. Yes, it can be challenging to find someone like this, but you need to. You can’t be a lone ranger when it comes to navigating the dark and choppy waters.

Fall Back On Jesus

When you’re stumbling through the dark, it usually feels like God has abandoned you. This can be an utterly terrifying experience, especially the first time you experience it.

But Jesus has you in a grip much stronger than your grip on him. Though it may feel like all is lost, it’s not. He has you, is holding you, and will sustain you as you travail through the screaming void.

Chris puts it this way:

christian depression

There will be times when the most you can do is say, “Help me, Jesus.”

He will indeed help you. You probably won’t feel his help, but he’s there, holding you, guiding you, and shepherding you to green pastures. You may not be able to hold onto him, but he has you in his omnipotent grip that nothing, including your depression, can break.

Honestly, you’re much weaker than you feel. The good news is that he’s much stronger than you can imagine.

The End of Depression

There will come a time when your depression and anxiety will be fully and finally gone. When Christ returns, tears will be dried, brokenness will be healed, and mental illness will be banished, never to return.

Until that day, you can rest in the simple, lovely truths God has declared over you: you are loved, you are held, and you will be sustained until the end.

Down, Not Out
Down, Not Out
Chris Cipollone (Author); English (Publication Language); 144 Pages - 05/01/2018 (Publication Date) - The Good Book Company (Publisher)

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Hey, I'm Stephen Altrogge. I'm a dad and published author. I've written for The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, ERLC, Church Leaders, Crosswalk, and many more outlets. You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook .

46 thoughts on “3 Powerful Pieces of Encouragement For The Depressed Christian”

  1. Sometimes I haven’t been able to express all the despair of life. I find the most powerful prayer then is “Lord, help me! “

  2. Thank you, Stephen, for both addressing the ones struggling with depression and those trying to help them. Like Job’s friends, there can be such a powerful inclination to try to “fix” their depression after a while. Your admonition to love them and keep encouraging them to look to the Lord is right on point.

  3. Could the wife who is mentioned as supporting the depressed husband write to us – the wives who do this. And specifically could she talk about how to not fall into the pit of depression yourself. As a wife supporting a depressed spouse I find it hard to find resources that help me cope. Or if you have resources, please point us in the right direction … thanks 🙂

  4. Thanks for this excellent reassurance. We have an adult daughter who’s so depressed she’s in a rehab center now trying to get a handle on it all. Diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, her life (and ours) is like standing on a sunny beach then being hit by a tsunami not once, but over and over. The turmoil, pain, and sorrow seem never ending. We often say to each other, “Where would we be without Jesus?” I’m going to print this article and mail it to her since she’s cut off from the internet. This should arrive at a time to offer her some hope.

  5. Really great stuff Stephen. Too many times I search through christian blogs etc to get my answers. But… the joy that they promise doesn’t come so i feel unloved and on my own. So then i think, i’m not really saved and i’m not worthy cos I don’t feel like these people do and i don’t get this joy thing. Why do these people (proper christians) experience this and i don’t? etc etc.
    Nice to see someone telling it like it really is. Thank you

  6. Thank you very much for this amazing article. I, too, suffer from depression and also am dealing with a daughter has borderline personality disorder. You never know if she is going to be “ok” with you today or turn on you like a mad dog. It is heartbreaking and adds to my depression that I’ve had the last 30 years on and off. Your description puts everything so well and it gives me much hope as I know as well, Jesus is always guiding me through this as always. I appreciate your honesty and sharing with others what depression REALLY feels like. God bless and my thanks to you!

  7. This is priceless advice. I know you are not admonishing people battling depression not to seek medical help. In fact you are essentially expressing the need for the “Big 3” help: mental, physical and spiritual. Thank you so very much. I needed this more than I can express! GOD Bless!

  8. This article affirms what God has been teaching me in my recent bout of depression and anxiety. I give way too much power to my thoughts and feelings! What I do is more important. What I do is ask God what is the next right thing and then get on with it. I also take God at his word despite my feelings or thoughts and believe that he is good, he passionately adores me and has a good plan for my life. He will carry me through each day, some days all I can do is breathe and that’s ok. Living is a choice and God is pleased with my courage to keep showing up each morning at his feet asking for the power to live through another day, one day at a time.

  9. Thank you so much for this. I have been dealing with depression on and off for 45 years. This week I was suddenly fired, then had to be involved in litigation. Today, the depression came on. I appreciate this article is so very, very much.

  10. Thank you very much for sharing your time in struggle, expressing openly what I simply “felt” unable to do. Recently turned 50. I’m a man very much alone. Never been married, have no children. At times, I don’t even know who my friends are anymore. Darkness. You said it. Your post and the responses from others have at least given me hope that there IS light at the end of the tunnel, and of course there is light in me. God bless you.

  11. This article could be about me. I’ve been living with depression most of my life (I’m 67 now so a very long time). It’s sad to say that I’ve passed it down to both of my children and now one of my grandchildren. Many times I’ve been at the edge of that pit thinking that it would be easier to just give in and end it all. But by the grace of God and a couple of really good friends who recognize the signs before I do I’m still here. Although we should go to God first we also need to realize that we can call a local crisis services if things get so bad that we’re ready to give up. Thanks for all your great articles. Glad I found this site.

  12. Thank you so much for this article
    Last night I stayed up till 0430 just ripping myself a new one and wondering why God would waste His time. My head speaking His truth my emotions a raging torrent. It’s amazing to are that He truly is here …He never leaves or is disgusted. He loves me

  13. Thank you Stephen
    Also, I am a depressed Christian.
    Our Heavenly Father is faithful. The Spirit directed me here to your website. I appreciate the candidness and honesty.

  14. Stephen,

    I cannot thank you enough…this article is a literal answer to a prayer that I uttered just moments ago. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for the last 23 years and this so perfectly sums up the struggle AND how I, too have come out of it over and over again. Thank you for the reminder that I need to do it yet again…detach myself from the disease and wait until I feel better to make decisions. More and more of us need to share our stories so people can find hope and healing. God is good…no matter how we feel 🙂

  15. I am in the valley. I googled I am a depressed Christian – God is NOT answering any of my prayers. I don’t want to read anymore of His empty promises. I am sick of saying verses over and over in my head. I have prayed-help me jesus-no help.

  16. I just wanted to thank you for writing this. I shed some serious tears of relief after reading this article. You have no idea how much you have helped me and I’m sure many others. I have fought grievously many spiritual battles for years trying to hold on to God through the darkness.. I hope God blesses you tremendously Stephen, your other articles are awesome too, thank you again.

  17. Excellent article. I was meant to find this today. You have no idea how much you have helped me. I’ve been so tired of people saying trite and even hurtful things in order to cheer me up. Even the Psalmist got depressed and had every reason to be so.
    It’s a perfectly normal condition to have because we live in this imperfect, abnormal fallen world. To me it feels like that In the depths of our soul we miss our perfect home…Eden, so in a way, depression is a from of homesickness. Our day we will get to go home.

  18. To Michael Orndorff .You are not alone in your feelings.I am 69 and been depressed on and off most of my life.I temporally get relief from church and the Bible,but still feel hopelessness and despair.But I have to believe God is faithful and loves us.Try not to give up hope.This life is temporary.If we are obedient and faithful God will reward us for eternity.God bless.

  19. This is the best article I have ever read on Christians suffering from depression. And I desperately needed it tonight. I just wanted to let you know you made a difference. Thank you ?

  20. Very insightful and sound advice in this article. I will put these into practice. Some other things that help me manage depression are exercise, eating healthy, trying to stay away from processed foods and spending time outside in nature. I once heard a minister say that in this life, we are all making the best of a bad situation. It can be overwhelming, but I trust God to get through it.

  21. Nice piece I have also been dealing with depression and chronic anxiety for like 18 years now, sometimes I feel really down but I just know fighting on would be worth it in the future

  22. Hello,

    I feel like I have situational depression and anxiety. Something goes wrong, I think of the worst case scenario and react to it. I get to where I don’t care that I don’t care. What helps is continued education. One idea I implemented was to write down what I’d like my life to look like if I weren’t depressed and/or anxious. I even say things out loud, like, ”I’m going to do the best I can whether I feel like it or not”! I think hearing myself speak helps me recognize God put the desire to overcome within me. That’s a powerful thing when you think about it. It’s also something I’ll have to apply for the rest of my life.

  23. I was looking for a way to find not if Christians can be depressed. Your article addressed
    so am reason that have been helpful manly that it’s okay I’m not being judged by God but
    loved even though I can not see it or feel it. Thanks so much for sharing and thank God for people who can effectively share.


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