Many individuals struggle with depression and have to fight the battle of sanctification in this area. All Christians are attacked at various points with temptations, and we must each put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand. One of the keys to helping someone dealing with sin of any kind is to urge them to live theocentrically, that is, to exhort them to be God-centered in their life. Christians must be reminded of the great glory of God and His awesome power, then be spurred on to live for the sake of His name. To that end, I want to examine the book of Ephesians and offer some counsel to those who may be struggling with depression or are trying to help another believer in this battle.
Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus begins by exclaiming the greatness of God through praising His name. Foundationally, for any individual struggling with depression, the start of the counseling plan should be to show them the greatness of God. This truth should be tied in with God’s love for His people, just as the Apostle Paul does throughout the first chapter of this epistle. In Ephesians 1:3, he says God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Those fighting depression need to first recognize the incredible power, sovereignty, glory, and love of God. At that point, they need to see Paul’s encouragement regarding the truth that this great God has blessed every single believer with all of the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:8). These doctrines would serve as a solid rock upon which to counsel Christians dealing with depression.
By Grace Not Works
Secondly, Christians struggling with depression should also be reminded of the truth that it is by grace alone through faith alone we are given salvation. Ephesians 2:8-10 clearly says the only way of salvation is by grace through faith and “not a result of works so that no one may boast.” Therefore, the person is not fighting their depression to earn their salvation, they are seeking to rid themselves of it as part of the sanctification process. They need to understand they have actually been raised and exalted with Christ. Christians do not find confidence or hope in the shifting sands of human opinion. However, this vital foundation is found only in Christ. Anyone struggling with depression must be shown the depths of joy poured out to them because of the grace of Christ. Pastors must urge such individuals to look to the Lord in difficult times and trust alone in Him.
This joy in Christ does not fade away during difficult times of trial or persecution. Paul himself was in prison when writing this epistle (Ephesians 6:20). That fact is proof that the believer is enabled to go through times of uncertainty and suffering with joy because of the Lord. It is not confidence in self that drives joy. Neither a prideful self-esteem nor an unholy debasement of oneself will not drive joy. Rather, a true humility recognizing our identity and hope is in Christ is what fuels joy in difficult times. To be frank, it is the grace of the Lord Jesus which gives us joy and thankfulness in Him.
Knowledge, Wisdom, and Encouragement
Paul reminds the saints in Ephesus the love of Christ surpasses all knowledge in Ephesians 3:19. A Christian who has been purchased and redeemed by Christ should have confidence and assurance, not because of their greatness, but because the Lord of glory has redeemed them. Christ, who is the sovereign king, died for this person, and any good counseling plan must point to that fact and urge a depressed individual to find confidence in Christ. Ephesians 4:4 also reminds the saints there is “one body and one Spirit” to which every Christian is called. All saints have equal access to the Father. Therefore, the Christian struggling with depression should seek counsel from wise and mature saints. They have a vital role to play in the body of Christ, so they should begin to actively serve in the local church in capacities which fit their specific gifting under the guidance of biblical elders. Ephesians 5:2 points to the Lord as the example of sacrificial service, and all Christians should follow His pattern. Assigning a mature saint to one struggling with depression should help each individual to be strengthened.
Another important point is found in Ephesians 5:19, which urges believers to address each other through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, making melody to the Lord. In the entire last half of the letter, Paul is focused on instructing the believers in shunning sin and helping them walk in the ways of Christ. Ephesians 5:20 shows they are to be always thankful. It is intriguing how Paul includes singing and thankfulness in the portion of the letter urging Christians to be faithful in how they live. Clearly, these are important qualities, and that truth needs to be emphasized to those dealing with depression. They should be urged to sing praises to God and to focus on being thankful even during difficult times. Paul is not asking Christians to back away from difficulties in life, rather, he is urging them to go forward with thankfulness for what God has done in Christ. Ephesians 6 concludes the letter with instructions to take up the armor of God. Pastors should walk through this section and ensure the depressed individual understands everything they need to withstand the attacks of the devil in this realm. This action will serve as cement to help the person in their war against their flesh.
Maybe you are reading this article while struggling with depression. Let me urge you to look to Christ as your hope and source for sanctification in this battle. Seek to find joy in Him. Read the Word of God and run to it that you may be filled with hope even if the season in your life is trying. Focus on knowing more of God, and the light of His Word shall bring eternal joy to your heart because of the salvation Christ has given to you. A believer fighting against depression is just like all of us who are saved, seeking to grow against the opposition of our flesh where we must pursue more Christlikeness. We each struggle against the flesh in various ways and see the biblical truth and try to live out. Pray to God in repentance when you fall, and move forward progressing by the power of His sanctifying Spirit according to the Scripture for the sake of Christ!