Contents

Contents

Editor’s Note: Many of our readers have asked for help with the unique challenges they face in spending quality time with God. 

In this article, we asked one of our contributing authors to simply tell her story, including the lessons she has learned and victories she has experienced connecting with God during times of clinical depression.

The insights provided in this article are not intended to take the place of medical advice or to be a one-size-fits-all solution for anyone who experiences challenges in their emotional health. We realize that what works for one person might not work for another. Rather, through one person sharing their story and the scriptures that help them, we hope to give faith and creative ideas to others who may be battling similar challenges.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11 NIV

What I love about this passage is that God’s Word is incredibly powerful and is not limited by the circumstances I find myself in.

God’s Word will accomplish all the good God intends for me to experience when I read it. 

As someone with clinical depression, it encourages me to know that the Bible will give me hope (Psalm 119:114), build my faith (Romans 10:17), and equip me to do what God wants me to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17) even when I feel physically, emotionally, spiritually, or mentally limited. 

This is why I think it’s so important to read the Bible when I feel depressed, but depression can make doing anything seem more challenging. Depression affects how we think, feel, and act; it can limit our ability to function in many areas. It can affect our appetite, sleep, energy, and ability to focus. It can lead us to have negative and self-critical thoughts. 

When I get depressed, I stop taking care of basic needs like making sure I have clean clothes and eating properly. I can feel sad, or I can feel numb. Sometimes I feel exhausted but unable to sleep, and other times I sleep for hours if given the chance. I don’t want to do the things I typically enjoy, like reading, watching TV, playing sports, and spending time with people I care about.

Usually, when I read the Bible, I walk away inspired, encouraged, or moved to change something in my character that would make God happy. But when I feel depressed, it’s difficult for me to engage emotionally with God. I either feel unmoved by the Bible, or I filter God’s Word through a lens of negativity. I argue with scriptures, having thoughts like:

  • That’s not true.
  • That doesn’t apply to me.
  • God doesn’t really care.
  • I can’t do it. 

There have been times when I have felt so defeated by these thoughts that I have chosen not to read the Bible at all. I have felt like God and the Bible cannot help me. I have even felt angry at God because I feel like he made me this way, and I don’t understand why.

But in the midst of these very strong thoughts and emotions, I also know that I do love God, and he does love me and will help me. It’s just really hard to hold on to those beliefs when I am feeling depressed. This can make me feel even more down because my relationship with God is important to me; I believe reading God’s Word is the key way I listen to him and connect with him. So when I choose not to read the Bible, I feel like I’m telling God he doesn’t matter to me, even though he does. 

In times like these, it’s incredibly helpful to remember one of God’s promises about caring for us in the trials of life:

We all experience times of testing, which is normal for every human being. But God will be faithful to you. He will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every test or trial you face so that you can bear it. And each test is an opportunity to trust him more, for along with every trial God has provided for you a way of escape that will bring you out of it victoriously.

1 Corinthians 10:13 TPT

For me, depression feels like one of these trials. It tests how faithful I will be to God when I am at my lowest. This is not to say that God makes me depressed so that I can pass some test, but that my depressive episodes are opportunities to rely on God, since I can’t rely on myself. I can turn to him and believe what he says in the Bible regardless of what my thoughts or emotions tell me. 

I believe that because of my challenges with depression, I have been able to get deeper into the Scriptures. I have memorized many over the years in the hopes that God’s Word will start to replace my automatic negative thoughts. I have made tons of Bible studies over the years that have helped me and many others because of my fight continue to read God’s Word during my depressive episodes. My character is much stronger than I probably give myself credit for because I try hard to keep fighting for my faith when I am depressed (Romans 5:3-5).

I love that God promises I will make it through my episode of depression victoriously and each episode can help me discover how God is working to help me. It gives me the faith to keep trying to connect with him.

Over the years, I’ve learned many lessons about connecting with God during times of depression, and I’d like to share those in hopes that they might be helpful for others who face similar challenges. Quick disclaimer—I am not a medical professional, and these tips should not in any way be substituted for medical advice. I would just like to share what I have learned over the years and the Bible verses that help me to this day. 

Start by facing the facts of depression with faith

Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.

Romans 4:19 MSG

Abraham understood hopelessness. This is why Abraham inspires me; I believe he can understand my episodes of depression and the utter hopelessness they bring. He faced the sad and hopeless facts in his life, but he kept believing. I am challenged and inspired by Abraham’s choice to believe God’s promise when his circumstances would have told him otherwise.  

I have learned that I can imitate Abraham’s decision to believe by facing the facts of my depression with faith:

  • Fact #1: I need to admit that I feel depressed.
  • Fact #2: Accepting my challenges will help me move forward with hope.
  • Fact #3: While sifting through the clamor, I will find God.
  • Fact #4: God understands my depression.
  • Fact #5: This time will pass.

When my depression tells me, “There’s no point in trying to connect with God right now; it won’t work,” I have to choose to believe that any effort I make to read the Bible to connect with God does matter. 

Whether you’re reading this for yourself or to support a loved one who is experiencing depression, I hope the scriptures and tips in this devotional help you face the facts of depression with faith. God will stick with us in the trials of life, and help us come through these trials victoriously. 

If there are parts of your depression that you don’t see listed here, I encourage you to take the time to come up with your own “fact list” that you can choose to face with faith. 

Let’s look at some verses of the Bible that help us face these five facts with faith. 

Fact #1: I need to admit to God, myself, and others that I am feeling depressed.

Sometimes I don’t even know I’m depressed until one of my close friends notices and points it out to me. I would rather say I’m just low on faith or distant from God, because these are things that I feel like I can control or do something about. When I’m depressed, on the other hand, I feel captive to that depression until it goes away.

Admitting I feel depressed is one of the hardest parts about feeling depressed. I just don’t want it to be true. But God says,

Instead, we will lovingly follow the truth at all times-speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly-and so become more and more in every way like Christ who is the Head of his body, the Church. Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly, and each part in its own special way helps the other parts, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Ephesians 4:15-16 TLB

When I won’t admit I feel depressed, I’m not speaking or living truly. I might think that denying my feelings of depression makes them easier to deal with, but actually, denial makes it so much harder to get the love and faith I really need. God and my friends want to take care of me and meet me where I’m at, but I have to be willing to admit to them, and myself, where that is.  

Pause and reflect

  • When you’re depressed, how do you feel about admitting it to God, yourself, and others? Why? 

Fact #2: Accepting my challenges will help me move forward with hope.

Sometimes God gives a person wealth and possessions. God makes it possible for that person to enjoy them. God helps them accept the life he has given them. God helps them to be happy in their work. All these things are gifts from God.

Ecclesiastes 5:19 NIrV

According to psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, acceptance is the final stage of the grief process. Struggling with mental or emotional health challenges can bring up feelings of loss of normalcy, especially as we look at people around us who don’t have the same challenges we do. No matter how much I exercise, how consistently I take my medication, or how well I sleep, I will still experience times of depression. Sometimes I can grieve the loss of normalcy that this creates. Those of us who have a medical diagnosis of depression can feel left out, alone, afraid, and envious of others who haven’t experienced this loss. 

I remember spending time reading the Bible and praying one day and realizing that I have to work harder than the average person to seek God because of the way my emotional health affects the way I think, feel, and act. I felt saddened by this but I also found great freedom in accepting that this was my new reality. 

My husband walked in the room as I was coming to this realization and I said, “I have to work harder than you and other people without mental health challenges to have a relationship with God.” I went on to tell him that I didn’t want any pity and I wasn’t going to mope around about it but I just needed some acknowledgement that it was true—I do have to work harder. He agreed and I went about my day. 

I feel like that was a turning point in my pursuit of faith.

God can help us accept the life we have, and acceptance is actually key to our emotional and spiritual well-being. It means we have accepted the reality of our situation and understand how it affects our lives.

Acceptance doesn’t mean that my lot in life is just to endure. I believe that acceptance actually frees me up to see the possibilities and purpose in my pain. Yes, I have depression, but sometimes I even say that depression is my superpower. As I learn to understand it and accept it, my depression actually helps me connect with God. It makes me more empathetic, and my journey can give hope and perspective to others. 

Depression was already a common illness before the pandemic, and the pandemic only increased its prevalence. In 2021 it was estimated that depression was affecting 1 in 3 American adults. That means that a lot of people suffer in the same way I do. My experiences help me understand, connect with, and have compassion for others who have similar hurdles in their lives. 

Pause and reflect

  • Are there thoughts, emotions, and fears that make it difficult for you to accept that you will feel depressed sometimes?  
  • Who can you talk to to help you address these things so that you can accept your emotional health challenges and move forward in hope?

Fact #3: While sifting through the clamor, I will find God.

If you sift through the clamor of everything around you to seek her like some precious prize, to search for her like buried treasure; [5] Then you will grasp what it means to truly respect the Eternal, and you will have discovered the knowledge of the one True God.

Proverbs 2:4-5 Voice

I love the way this scripture is worded. “If you sift through the clamor of everything around you,” you’ll discover the knowledge of God. When I feel depressed, there is a lot of clamor. Sometimes the “clamor” is loud, negative thoughts. Sometimes it is raging emotions. Sometimes, it is an endless undercurrent of negative thoughts and emotions combined, playing in my head like background music. 

When I am experiencing these things and try to read the Bible, it can feel like the scriptures are on mute. It can be difficult to sift through this clamor to hear what God is trying to say to me through the scriptures, but I love the promise that while I’m sifting, I will find God. 

Over time, I’ve discovered an arsenal of tools that help me feel successful at reading the Bible when I’m depressed. 

  1. Listen to the Scriptures or watch them. 
  2. Read a chapter or a few verses at a time and re-read it so it actually sticks.
  3. Ask those who know me well what I should read in the Bible. 
  4. Stick to passages of the Bible that help me balance out my negative thoughts and emotions. At times, when I have been very depressed, I have searched out parts of the Bible where other men and women were very depressed, suffering, and complaining to God. This might help some people when they are feeling depressed, but I only walked away feeling more down. I have to make decisions to read passages of the Bible that build my faith and hope when I am feeling depressed.
  5. Read along with an audio Bible so I can see and hear the scriptures simultaneously. This helps me when my depression affects my ability to focus. Listening and reading at the same time stops my mind from wandering away from the Bible.

I’ve found that putting these practicals into action helps me walk away feeling successful at reading the Scriptures. My search for God may look and feel different during these times, but I will still find him. 

Search for the LORD and his strength. Always seek his presence.

Psalm 105:4 GW

Pause and reflect

  • What kind of thoughts and emotions do you struggle to sift through to hear God? 
  • Do you believe you can sift through the clamor to find God when you feel depressed? 

Fact #4: God understands my depression

One of the greatest hurdles to reading the Bible when I feel depressed is adjusting the expectations I have for myself about what a great time with God looks like. I’m a self-motivated person, so if I want to do something, I will do it and I will give it my best effort. When I feel depressed, I don’t want to do anything except sleep, be on the verge of tears, or veg out. 

I’ve learned to function while depressed, but engaging with God requires a level of focus and emotional bandwidth that all but disappears when depression takes hold of me. I have to fight to not give in to feeling guilty for my lack of motivation and interest during this time. All I can do is ask God to help his words drown out the self-critical thoughts that tell me my efforts aren’t good enough. 

Here are just a few scriptures that help me know that God understands my heart and just wants to be close to me when I am going through times of depression:

He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.

Psalm 33:15 NLT

Suppose I wanted to hide from you and said, “Surely the darkness will hide me. The day will change to night and cover me.” [12] Even the darkness is not dark to you. The night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same.

Psalm 139:11-12 ERV

I was pushed back, attacked so that I was about to fall, but the Eternal was there to help me keep my balance.

Psalm 118:13 Voice

Please listen and help me. My thoughts are troubled, and I keep groaning.

Psalm 55:2 CEV

God understands my depression. He knows how I think and understands my heart. He’s not looking for any kind of performance or perfection in my Bible study. He just wants to connect with me and be with me in these difficult moments. Understanding this about God quiets any guilt I might have so I can actually listen to the Bible and pray.

Take action:

Create your own personal playlist of scriptures and books of the Bible you can read when you are feeling depressed. 

I’ve included mine for some inspiration, but feel free to make one that’s your own!

How I Read the Bible When I Feel Depressed 3

Fact #5: This time will pass.

Lastly, the thing I have to remind myself of is that this time will pass. I will not always feel depressed, but when I do, my best action plan is summed up in the scriptures below. 

‘I am not saying that I have already reached that place in my life. I have not yet completely become the person that God wants me to be. But I am trying very hard to reach that place. That was Christ’s purpose when he first made me his own. My Christian friends, I do not think that I have reached that place yet. But this is what I do: I do not think about past things that have already happened. Instead, I try hard to reach the things that are in front of me.’

Philippians 3:12-13 EASY

All God wants me to do is to keep trying—keep trying to read the Bible in whatever capacity I can, and keep trying to trust that he is with me and will help me through it. 

You will help me, Lord God, and keep me from falling.

Psalm 54:4 CEV

Final thoughts

Reading the Bible, like many other things in our lives, can feel challenging when we are depressed, but every effort we make matters and will be part of our journey in building and maintaining our faith. 

Decide to read, listen to, or watch the Bible when you are feeling depressed. Make a working arsenal of spiritual tools that help you sift through the “clamor” in your mind, and ask some trusted spiritual friends to help you with what they think you need. 

God understands your depression, and he’s not looking for a perfect religious performance. He has vision for how our unique experiences can be an inspiration to others. 

Because of my depression, I’ve been able to relate to and inspire others to build a powerful relationship with God. God wants to be close to us and to support us. Like the Scriptures say, God really will keep us from falling emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally as we cling to the hope we find in his Word.

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This article was developed by the Deep Spirituality Editorial Staff.

Deep Spirituality logo

This article was developed by the Deep Spirituality Editorial Staff.

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How I Read the Bible When I Feel Depressed 7