Depression and the Spirit
Depression has tripled since the pandemic first hit. However, as prevalent as it has gotten, depression and mental health remain stigmatized topics. Due to the lack of dialogue, many suffer from depression unnoticed– even in the world of faith. Depression is a difficult illness to address, and often there isn’t one correct way to go about healing. Sometimes, it’s important to look through a combination of perspectives such as the perspective of the flesh, the soul, and the spirit.
The flesh, the soul, the spirit, and mental health
1 Thessalonians 5:23 reads, “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As God’s creation, people are not just one dimensional. Just as we have various facets to our personalities, there are also three to our being.
We have a body, the visible, and we also have a soul and spirit, both invisible but affecting even our flesh. For instance, when someone is “in low spirits” it means they are sad, and oftentimes it manifests on their faces as frowns and distant gazes. Another example is when someone is described to be a “lost soul” referring to someone who wanders aimlessly through life, unable to find their belonging in the world.
The flesh, the soul, and the spirit are connected to each other. As believers of God, who is spirit (John 4:24), we are able to view our well-being through these three lenses, and gain a better understanding of how we are doing.
Mental illness can also be viewed through the three lenses. For instance, depression could be largely due to chemical imbalances but also be a side effect of events that traumatize the soul and the heart.
The bigger picture
Because mental health is affected by the conditions of the flesh, soul, and spirit, it’s important to understand what ills these three. We understand that the flesh can grow sick and weary because of physical diseases. One can become ill if they ingest poison or other harmful substances that attack their physical body. But what hurts the soul and spirit? These two are not necessarily harmed by physical things. For example, one can face a physically stressful situation, such as doing physical labor everyday, but still remain happy and feel uplifted in their spirits. So then, what harms the spirit and the soul?
The Word of God was given to help us understand the source of suffering and what is being done to resolve it and bring forth peace. The Word, is then, as applicable and necessary to the believer as it is to the non-believer. However, in a recent 2018 finding, only 35% of American churchgoers say that mental illness could be overcome with Bible study and prayer (Lifeway Research). Although the Bible doesn’t provide simple and straightforward answers to address mental illness, the Bible does contain insight that allows us to see the invisible aspects of our well-being that would otherwise remain invisible and unexamined.
The Bible describes the current condition of the world as one with death, mourning, crying, and pain (Revelation 21:4). It has always been this way since we can remember. However, it also describes a time when the world was the complete opposite; a world of peace, joy, paradise, and eternal life. After God had created the heavens and the earth, He gazed upon His creation and said all was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But as we know, sin entered into the heart of man and what was once very good became tainted with what was evil– evil that started the endless cycle of birth, suffering, and death. Overtime, creation became further and further away from the Creator, the source of life and the source of good.
Within us, the spirit that God created and formed longed and yearned for reconnection– yearned for things to be restored to its original state of good (Zechariah 12:1, Psalms 42:1). But as sin continues to grow and multiply, the heart continues to forget to the point where even the longing of the spirit has become quiet. The echoes of pain filled the heart of man and before we know it, this became the reality that all have accepted.
“C’est la vie– such is life.
We live, and then we die.”
Mental illness is not new. It has been present ever since. However, the knowledge of man, only a babe in its nascence, is incomplete in dealing with this ancient disease. We are limited to the point of view of the flesh, to the things that we can see, hear, observe, touch, and smell. But the beingness of man is so much deeper than what meets the eye.
The desire for healing
Depression has tripled since the pandemic first hit. Many are slipping down the funnel of hopelessness as they try various methods of healing. Though the flesh can be medicated, or calmed, or distracted by momentary joys in life, until the spirit and soul are addressed, the individual will continue to remain in the roller coaster of “being fine” one moment, and being utterly dejected in the next.
The Creator desires for healing (Revelation 22:1-3) to take place as all of creation is also eagerly awaiting for that day. If God had intended for creation to die, then natural order would require no resistance from animals as they survive in the wild. However, we witness evidence of the contrary as we observe animals. They are fierce in wanting to live and ferociously reject being killed. The human body, when it is ill, its cells fight to protect and preserve its health. When we are sad, the body’s response is to cry– to alleviate the weight in its desire for relief. Individuals dealing with depression may also respond in similar ways. Suicide is not the first thing that someone dealing with depression thinks of. Before it gets to that stage, there is a period of searching and seeking on how to deal with this mental illness, and when that is not found or given or addressed, then one falls to the pattern of life and death.
There is more to the well-being of a person than just the outward. There is more to being healthy than just doing well to the physical body. Jesus recognized the importance of the spirit. In a verse, he speaks, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the spirit and life,” (John 6:63).