Depression among God's People

Richard Anthony

Depression is something that happens to everybody at one time or another. Those who follow the ways of Almighty God are not immune. The following are examples, from scripture, of godly men who expressed depression. My hope is that it will make you realize that you are not alone in your sadness, and that when we trust in God, our grief can turn into joy.


1 Kings 19, Ahab tells Jezebel what Elijah had done; she is enraged, and threatens to take away Elijah's life (verses 1-2). He leaves Jezreel, and comes to Beer-sheba, and thence to the wilderness, where he is fed and encouraged by an angel (verses 3-9). Elijah complained to God the following:

1 Kings 19:10, "And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."

Elijah complains that the more zealous he was to maintain God's glory, the more cruelly he was persecuted. He complains of not being able to endure to see the dishonour done to God's name by their obstinate idolatry and wickedness. He complains that of all God's prophets, who boldly and publicly plead His cause, the remained of His prophets, who are not slain, hide themselves, and dare not appear to do God any service. And finally, Elijah despairs of doing them any good, for instead of receiving his testimony, they hunt for his life.

But God instructs him as to what to do (verses 11-14), and Elijah is sent to Damascus, in order to anoint Hazael king over Syria, and Jehu king over Israel, (verses 15-18). And then He meets with Elisha, who becomes his servant (verses 19-21). God also destroyed the house of Ahab and Jezebel so they were no more of a threat to anyone (2 Kings 9). Elijah persisted in His Faith towards God, and was rewarded.


In Numbers 11, the people complain, the Lord is displeased, and many of them are consumed by fire (verse 1). Moses intercedes for them, and the fire is quenched (verse 2). The mixed multitude long for flesh, and murmur (verses 4-6). The people weep in their tents, and the Lord is displeased (verse 10). Moses then deplores his lot in being obliged to hear and bear with all their murmurings, and would rather die than see his grief and misery daily increased by their rebellion:

Numbers 11:10-15, "Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased. And Moses said unto the LORD, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat. I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness."

Moses is commanded by God to bring seventy of the elders to Him that he may endue them with the same spirit, and cause them to divide the burden with him (verses 16-17). He is also commanded to inform the people that they shall have flesh to eat for a whole month (verses 18-20). Moses expresses his doubt of the possibility of this by saying:

Numbers 11:21-22, "And Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?"

However, the Lord confirms his promise (verse 23), and the seventy men are brought to the tabernacle (verse 24), and the spirit of prophecy rests upon them (verse 25). Even though Moses was depressed, he expressed his weariness to the Lord, and the Lord heard his words, and made his burden lighter.

Children of Isarel

During there wilderness wanderings, in the desert of Zin (verse 1), the people complain about the lack of water:

Numbers 20:2-5, "And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink."

Moses and Aaron make supplication at the tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord appears (verse 6). He commands Moses to take his rod, gather the congregation together, and bring water out of the rock (verses 7-8). Moses takes the rod, gathers the Israelites together, chides with them, and smites the rock twice, and the waters flow out plenteously (verses 9-11). When God's children have a need, God supplies their need.


In Job, chapter 1, Job is stripped of his family and property (verses 12-19). In chapter 2, Job is afflicted with sores and boils (verses 6-8), and his wife reviles him (verse 9). His three friends come to visit and mourn with him (verses 11-13). In chapter 3, Job curses the day of his birth, and regrets that he ever saw the light (verses 1-12). Job regrets that he is appointed to live in the midst of sorrows, for the calamities which he feared had overtaken him (verses 20-26).

In chapter 6, Job shows that the great affliction which he suffered was the cause of his complaining, by which life was rendered burdensome to him (verses 1-13). He complains that, whereas he expected consolation from his friends, he had received nothing but the bitterest reproaches, on the assumed ground that he must be a wicked man, else God would not so grievously afflict him (verses 14-20).

In chapter 7, Job continues to deplore his helpless and afflicted state (verses 1-6). He expostulates with God concerning his afflictions (verses 7-12); describes the disturbed state of his mind by visions in the night season; abhors life (verses 13-16); and, showing that he is unworthy of the notice of God, begs pardon and respite (verses 17-21).

In chapter 9, Job complains of his lot, and maintains his innocence (verses 25-35). In chapter 10, Job is weary of life, and expostulates with God (verses 1-6). Job complains of his sufferings, and prays for respite (verses 14-20). In chapter 13, Job pleads with God, and deplores his severe trials and sufferings (verses 20-28).

In chapter 14, Job complains of the shortness, misery, and sinfulness of man's life (verses 1-4). Job deplores his own state, and the general retchedness of man (verses 16-22). In chapter 16, Job enters into an affecting detail of his suffering (verses 6-16), and consoles himself with the consciousness of his own innocence, of which he takes God to witness, and patiently expects a termination of all his sufferings by death (verses 17-22).In chapter 17, Job complains of the injustice of his friends, and compares his present state of want and wo with his former honour and affluence (verses 1-6).

In chapter 19, Job complains of the cruelty of his friends (verses 1-5), pathetically laments his sufferings (verses 6-12), complains of his being forsaken by all his domestics, friends, relatives, and even his wife (verses 13-19), details his sufferings in an affecting manner, calls upon his friends to pity him, and earnestly wishes that his speeches may be recorded (verses 20-24). Job warns his persecutors to desist, lest they fall under God's judgments (verses 28-29). In chapter 21, Job charges his friends with falsehood in their pretended attempts to comfort him (verse 34).

In chapter 29, Job laments his present condition, and gives an affecting account of his former prosperity, having property in abundance, being surrounded by a numerous family, and enjoying every mark of the approbation of God (verses 1-6). Speaks of the respect he had from the young (verses 7-8), and from the nobles (verses 9-10). He details his conduct as a magistrate and judge in supporting the poor, and repressing the wicked (verses 11-17); his confidence, general prosperity, and respect (verses 18-25).

In chapter 30, Job proceeds to lament the change of his former condition, and the contempt into which God had brought him (verses 1-15). Pathetically describes the afflictions of his body and mind (verses 16-31). In chapter 40, Job humbles himself before the Lord (verses 1-5). In chapter 42, the final chapter, Job again humbles himself before the Lord (verses 1-6). God accepts him; censures his three friends; and commands Job to offer sacrifices for them, that he might pardon and accept them, as they had not spoken what was right concerning their Maker (verses 7-9). The Lord turns Job's captivity; and his friends visit him, and bring him presents (verses 10-11). Job's affluence becomes double to what it was before (verse 12). His family is also increased (verses 13-15). And having lived one hundred and forty years after his calamities, Job dies a happy man (verses 16-17).


In Jeremiah, chapter 20, Jeremiah, on account of his prophesying evil concerning Judah and Jerusalem, is beaten and imprisoned by Pashur, chief governor of the temple (verses 1-2). On the following day Jeremiah is released, who denounces the awful judgments of God which should fall upon the governor and all his house, as well as upon the whole land of Judah, in the approaching Babylonish captivity (verses 3-6). Jeremiah then bitterly complains of the reproaches continually heaped upon him by his enemies; and, in his haste, resolves to speak no more in the name of Jehovah; but the word of the Lord is in his heart as a burning flame, so that he is not able to forbear (verses 7-10).

Jeremiah 20:7-8, "O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily."

Jeremiah professes his trust in God, whom he praises for his late deliverance (verses 11-13). The remaining verses, which appear to be out of their place, contain Jeremiah's regret that he was ever born to a life of so much sorrow and trouble (verses 14-18). This complaint resembles that of Job; only it is milder and more dolorous.

Jeremiah 20:14-18, "Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad. And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?"

However, Jeremiah was blessed by the Lord, and even begot a daughter (Jeremiah 52:1).


In this verse, Saul is sorry, because he is yet alive, and asks a stranger, an Amalekite, to finish killing him:

2 Samuel 1:9, "He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me."


In Jonah, chapter 3, Jonah, this hasty and inconsiderate prophet, was vexed because his prediction was not fulfiled. He had more respect to his high sense of his own honour than he had to the goodness and mercy of God. He appeared to care little whether six hundred and twenty thousand people were destroyed or not, so he might not pass for a deceiver, or one that denounced a falsity. He was angry because the prediction was not literally fulfilled; for he totally lost sight of the condition.

Jonah 4:3, "Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live."

In other words, Jonah was saying, "Do not let me survive this disgrace. Thou hast spared this city. I thought thou wouldst do so, because thou art merciful and gracious, and it was on this account that I refused to go at first, as I knew that thou mightest change thy purpose, though thou hadst commanded me to make an absolute denunciation of judgment." God has left this example on record to show that an inconsiderate man is not fit to be employed in his work; and he chose this one example that it might serve as an endless warning to his ekklesia to employ no man in the work of the ministry that is not scripturally acquainted with God's justice and mercy.

Jonah 4:8-9, "And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death."

In verse 11, the Lord says, "And shall not I have pity upon Nineveh?" How much is the city better than the shrub? But besides this there are in it one hundred and twenty thousand people! And shall I destroy them, rather than thy shade should be withered or thy word apparently fail? And besides, these people are young, and have not offended, (for they knew not the difference between their right hand and their left,) and should not I feel more pity for those innocents than thou dost for the fine flowering plant which is withered in a night, being itself exceedingly short-lived? Add to all this, they have now turned from those sins which induced me to denounce judgment against them. And should I destroy them who are now fasting and afflicting their souls; and, covered with sackcloth, are lying in the dust before me, bewailing their offenses and supplicating for mercy? Learn, then, from this, that it is the incorrigibly wicked on whom my judgments must fall, and against whom they are threatened. And know, that to that man will I look who is of a broken and contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word. Even the dumb beasts are objects of my compassion; I will spare them for the sake of their penitent owners; and remember with the rest, That the Lord careth for oxen.

No doubt that ancient Nineveh was like ancient Babylon. The Ninevites were on the verge of destruction, but on their repentance were respited. This last expostulation of God, it is to be hoped, produced its proper effect on the mind of this irritable prophet; and that he was fully convinced that in this, as in all other cases, God had done all things well.


Philippians 2:26-28, "For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful."

In the above passage, Paul expresses the sorrow he endured on account of Epaphroditus' sickness and on account of his apprehended death, as well as to his own state of affliction, being imprisoned and maltreated, and the prospect of a trial, and the want of friends. The Greek phrase "full of heaviness" expresses his being worn out and overpowered with heavy grief. Had Epaphroditus died, not only would Paul would have lost a valued friend, and one whom he esteemed as a brother and worthy fellow-labourer, but he would have felt that the church at Philippi had lost a valuable member.

But God, in his mercy, spared Epaphroditus from death, and Paul from grief.

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