No matter what you’re struggling with, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one. Maybe you know someone who struggles with depression. Maybe you are battling it yourself or have felt depressed for a season in the past.
But have you ever stopped and thought, “I bet Jesus gets it…and I bet there are a lot of people in the Bible who struggled the way I do”? It’s wildly helpful to know you’re not alone and to learn from those who have made it through similar things as you.
The fact is, God knows more about depression, anxiety, despair, and sadness more than anyone else in this world—any psychiatrist, counselor, pastor, or friend. And in his Word, God provides a framework we can use to approach the subject.
Below you’ll find a handful of people who knew God intimately, saw him move powerfully, wrote books of the Bible, were kings…and battled depression.
Here are 5 people in the Bible who struggled with depression:
Job is the oldest book in the Bible. And it’s all about suffering.
The story starts with Job—a rich, healthy, blessed man who was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” But in one day, Job’s life falls apart.
Foreigners kill his servants and steal all of his animals (aka his livelihood). Then a great wind comes up and pulls down the house on his family, killing his seven sons and three daughters. And to top things off, Job ends up with boils all over his body.
You think your life is hard…
He ends up writing really depressing poetry. In Job 30:16-20 he says, “Depression haunts my days. At night my bones are filled with pain, which gnaws at me relentlessly. With a strong hand, God grabs my shirt. He grips me by the collar of my coat. He has thrown me into the mud. I’m nothing more than dust and ashes….I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I stand before you, but you don’t even look.”
You may relate to Job if you feel constant sadness. It may seem as if every day is filled with depression, or you may even believe God is absent.
Elijah saw God do the most incredible things (like send fire down from heaven to win a bet against false prophets). You’d think after seeing God move in radical ways, he’d be on a constant Jesus-high, right? Well, he later becomes overwhelmed with fear, unsure that God is going to act in the way that he wants him to. He’s afraid for his life and begins to experience suffering. In the midst of that suffering, Elijah finds himself reaching the point of, “I don’t want to live anymore.”
In 1 Kings 19:4 he cries out, “I have had enough, LORD…Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
You may relate to Elijah if you’ve ever thought, “I am all alone. I can’t take it anymore. I don’t want to live anymore. There’s no point.”
3. King David
David wrote most of the Psalms, and was maybe the most emotional in the whole Bible—up and down, up and down. One minute he’s going off praising God, and the next he’s like, “Where are you, God?!”
He feels like God has turned his back on him, and claims that his life is full of depression and sadness.
In Psalm 6:5-7 David’s words ring, “I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears. My vision is blurred by grief...”
He becomes overwhelmed with sadness and unable to sleep. And yet God calls him “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).
You may relate to King David if you’ve ever just felt exhausted from grief, or like you can’t even sleep.
4. Heman son of Korah
This one’s a guy most of you probably haven’t heard of. Heman wrote Psalm 88, which has been described as one of the darkest Psalms in the whole Bible. The book of Psalms would be like the Spotify list for the Israelites (God’s chosen people), because they would go to the temple (where the church) and sing them. In this Psalm, Heman cries out that God has abandoned and betrayed him.
He says in Psalm 88:5-7, “I am forgotten, cut off from your care. You have thrown me into the lowest pit, into the darkest depths. Your anger weighs me down; with wave after wave you have engulfed me.”
He does what so many of us do when we’re in a bad place—he turns and points the finger at God. He feels like he’s already in the lowest place, and it’s like one wave after another just keeps hitting him. Do you know what he means?
He ends the Psalm by saying, “Darkness is my closest friend.” That was way before Simon and Garfunkel sang, “Hello darkness my old friend” (#IYKYK).
You may relate to Heman if you’ve ever felt alone, angry at God, or stuck in darkness.
Jeremiah was another major prophet (chosen by God to proclaim truth and warn others). He had a lifelong battle with sadness and wrote an entire book of his sorrow called Lamentations.
In Lamentations 2:10 he says, “I have cried until the tears no longer come; my heart is broken.”
Jeremiah writes in the Bible that he’s cried so much that there’s nothing left to come out. Sound familiar?
You may relate to Jeremiah if you’ve ever thought, “I’ve cried so much that I ran out of tears…I feel so heartbroken.”
The Bible is not full of men and women who are immune or unaware of what it’s like to experience sorrow and pain. God included and made sure that these true stories were included in the Bible, partly so that you would know you’re not alone. Depression can come for anyone.
God doesn’t want you to experience depression, but he also understands what you’re walking through. He is merciful, gracious, and empathizes with what you're going through (Hebrews 4:14-16). Even in depression, Jesus is your healer and hope in the darkness. Cry out to God in prayer when you’re feeling depressed and focus on the truth in his Word. He will work all things together for good. And one day, if you are a believer in Christ, he'll wipe every tear from your eyes in heaven.
Hold on to that hope. And keep fighting depression with the help of God's Spirit, his people, and his word. Your life has purpose.