Discouragement and Depression

woman behind fence



Strong and Courageous Blog

Last week we unpacked how the Gospel is meant to change everything about us, so that we are constantly becoming a new man or woman in Christ. Today, I would like to look at the subjects of discouragement and depression in this context, and to relate how legalism can play a role in messing things up.

Again, I will be using ideas that are developed by Tim Keller in his work titled Center Church. He articulates how moralism and relativism are destructive to the true nature of the good news of the gospel. Concerning the notion of depression, he says, “When a person is depressed, the moralist says ‘you are breaking the rules. Repent.’ On the other hand, the relativist says ‘You just need to love and accept yourself.” It is pretty easy to see that both of these approaches are shallow and cannot get to the very core of the issues that we are facing. Keller further states, “Absent the gospel, the moralist will work on behavior and the relativist will work on the emotions- and only superficialities will be addressed instead of the heart. Assuming the depression has no physiological base, the gospel will lead us to examine ourselves and say ‘Something in my life has become more important than God, a pseudo-savior, a form of works righteousness.’ The gospel leads us (on a deeper level) to embrace repentance, not to merely set our will against superficialities.”


 The scriptures say that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Could it be that some of the aspects of discouragement and depression are birthed out of some sense of pride? The idea that someone takes on the belief that their problems are so big that even God is not able to fix them, presumes ultimately that despair is their destiny. Unless the depression is physically sourced, this sort of thinking is conceptually prideful in nature. To say to God,” no…. my problem is bigger than your grace could ever be,” is an ultimatum that is not helpful. Can we be repentant here? By placing our problems and challenges in their proper perspective of subordinate to God’s ultimate authority, it is much more healthier. I know that this is not an easy endeavor, dark times can land upon us for long seasons of time. However, it is in this dark cauldron that discovering God’s grace becomes real and powerful. Jesus said “In this world you will have tribulation, but take courage for I have overcome the world.”

in flight dove

 In holding this perspective, we are not ignoring our problems. Rather, we are embracing their reality. It is in this context that we are recognizing that the power of the Holy Spirit leading us into gospel integrated living is possible.  The presence of the Spirit of God is the reality that gives us the opportunity to rise above the circumstances that challenge us.


Video Link: Tim Keller: How to deal with dark times.