Will I ever feel normal?

In his namesake book, Job lies in the dust and longs for death. He feels cut off from normal life and can’t see how things will ever get better. Sleep torments him with fitful nightmares or eludes him altogether. Worst of all, Job yearns for God but can’t seem to find Him anywhere.

If you’re familiar with these emotions, you know depression at its worst. You may forget to eat (Psalm 102:4), become physically ill (Psalm 102:5), or cry often (Psalm 42:3) or for no apparent reason (Psalm 6:6­–7). You may feel lethargic and uninterested in life. You may feel as though life has knocked you down, and you are being submerged by wave upon wave, unable to breathe or get your footing (Psalm 42:7).

Depression may be triggered by traumatic events, such as divorce or the death of a loved one. Medical issues may also trigger depression, and in these cases, medication can be prayerfully considered. We should also evaluate our lives for good habits in sleep, eating, exercise, and time management.

Depression may also be triggered by misapplying or not believing God’s Word. When that happens, we become out of sync with God and miss the hope He offers and the power of Christ that lives in us. Still other times there is no apparent trigger, and this can be especially hard for Christians who think a close relationship with God should preclude deep sadness, but this isn’t necessarily true. Sometimes depression is simply another type of suffering in our lives—an unwanted circumstance that we must learn to patiently bear until God chooses to deliver us.

Depression tells us we have no value and no future. It’s a hope-stealer and a liar, except for one point. In the struggle to function normally, depression makes us keenly aware of our limitations. Even the most basic tasks such as getting dressed or making a phone call can take a huge amount of effort for the depressed. These limitations are exaggerated from what we experience in normal life, but they still point to the larger reality that we all desperately need God.

We don’t like this. We want to feel strong, smart, capable, and in control. Yet when we read through the Bible, we see that not only is self-reliance an illusion, but it also hinders God’s work in our lives. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). When we think we can do it ourselves, we don’t turn to God because we don’t feel the need. Depression spins life out of control, and God can use this to teach us to depend on Him.

This doesn’t mean depression is fun. It’s awful, hard on us and on the people around us. But it isn’t pointless. The limitations we experience in depression can uniquely position us to receive God’s grace. A godly response to depression, then, doesn’t focus on quick fixes to improve our mood, nor does it just accept that this is just the way it is and give in to despair. Instead, it takes the sense of being constantly, desperately in need, and it lays it at God’s feet, again and again and again.

Practically, this means realizing we need God’s help, asking Him for it, and then clinging to His promises—those assurances from the Bible that He will come through. We feel desperate, yet Christ has given us a future (1 Corinthians 2:9). We feel overwhelmed, yet God keeps the floods from washing us away (Psalm 124:2–5). We don’t feel close to God, yet He is near to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). We are afraid of slipping through the cracks, yet God will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). Depression disorders every aspect of life, but God’s “steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1) and sustains us always.

Depression disorders every aspect of life, but God’s “steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1) and sustains us always.

These promises of God may sound weak when your feelings are so strong, as if you’re holding up your hand to stop a wave, but this is what it means that the Christian life is a life of faith. By faith, we believe that there is power and truth in the Word of God. God’s Word cleanses like fire and breaks strongholds like a hammer tearing through paper. It teaches, encourages, corrects, and strengthens us. God’s Word brings newness of life to deadened souls just as it brought light and order out of deep darkness. Don’t let a spirit of doubt keep you from the riches you have in Christ. Ask God to make His promises real to you, and then hold tightly to them.

God is the answer to every limitation and need in our lives, but it isn’t always easy to see. The more we know God, the easier it becomes. We know God more by studying the Bible and hearing it preached, spending time with other believers, obeying Him, and praising and thanking Him. Ask God to help you know Him more as you seek Him in these ways. Ask God to help you want to seek Him.

At the end of his book, Job confesses to God, “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes” (Job 42:5 NLT). Similarly, God can use your depression to give you a greater sense of joy and hope in Him. Ask God to show you how this can possibly be true. Through it all, remember, God “keeps account of your tossings” and holds your “tears in a bottle” (Psalm 56:8). You are always upheld by His loving arms.

Additional Resources

Psalm 18:2
Psalm 40:1–3
Romans 8:35–39
Colossians 3:16
Depression (one-page PDF)