Why, my soul, are you downcast?

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:11)

3 Things Not to Say to a Depressed Person

by Terry Powell | Read by Terry

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:11)[/caption]


I can’t remember a time when chronic depression wasn’t a nemesis for me. As a child I often felt an overwhelming sadness and wept without understanding why. Now I’m a 67-year-old Christian college professor who still wanders occasionally into the dark fog of hopelessness. 


As an adult, a number of acquaintances have said things to me that frustrated more than helped. From my perspective as a conservative Christian, be wary of saying these three things to persons who are experiencing a major depressive episode.


1. Have you been having your quiet time lately?



A lady in my Sunday School class posed this question after I asked for prayer during a depressive episode. I told her that I had been consistently reading God’s Word and praying. Her nonverbal reaction indicated that she didn’t believe me.


Causes of chronic depression are too varied and complex to blame it on anemic faith or undisciplined devotional habits. I may have an upbeat day when I neglect time with the Lord, or I may have a dark day when I spend unhurried time with Him.


If depression correlates with stunted spiritual development, how do you explain the exceptional fruitful ministries of giants of the faith such as David Brainerd and Charles Spurgeon?


2. You won’t be depressed when you get to heaven!


This statement teems with truth. Bodily pain, vulnerability to sin, strained relationships, and a proclivity for despondency are all temporary afflictions (Rev. 21:4).


But a depressed state can clog the mental and emotional receptors due to a debilitating sense of despair experienced by the despondent person. When he or she is plagued by a high humidity in the heart that smothers motivation for daily tasks, when the person can’t imagine ever laughing again, the comment about heaven can come across as glib or superficial.


What the person needs is your physical presence and heartfelt prayers for the Holy Spirit’s comfort.


The close friend who left work to come alongside me on a rough day didn’t quote Bible verses to me. He understood that I could probably recite verbatim most verses he might mention. Instead, he wept for me, whispered prayers for me, and sat beside me for an extended period of time.

My friend’s presence was God’s way of saying, “I haven’t forgotten you. I love you.”


3. I’ll pray for this evil spirit of depression to leave you.


Once again, I must qualify what I’m about to say.


I’m a firm believer in the spirit world, both the angelic and the demonic. Because of the vulnerable state a depressed person is in, Satan may increase his attacks during such a time. Some depression may originate from Satan, especially when the despondency is a consequence of a pattern of sin in a sensitive believer.


Yet this remark falsely assumes that all depression stems from demonic oppression or attack, with the cure being warfare praying that casts out the evil spirit.


But the research is crystal clear: chronic depression is often associated with a depletion of a brain chemical, such as serotonin. A predilection for depression occurs in family lines, showing a genetic predisposition. Even physical diseases such as diabetes or hypothyroidism may wreck havoc on emotions and result in an extended dark mood.


Assigning a spiritual cause to what may be a physically-induced condition could keep someone from getting the medical intervention he or she needs.


No matter what causes depression, prayer and other spiritual weapons must be wielded. There’s a spiritual battle involved in how we respond to the despair. Will faith or hopelessness have the last word?


But it’s an oversimplification to blame all depression on an evil spirit.


When it comes to things NOT to say to a depressed person, what would you add to this list? 

More Posts From Terry

Walking Alongside a Depressed Spouse

     What a husband or wife does or says in relation to a depressed spouse can either exacerbate the symptoms or help relieve them.   Dolly, my bride of over 46 years, doesn't understand depression experientially.       She's optimistic, outgoing. Her emotions stay...

Intercession is a way of loving others.

8 Tips for Giving Criticism

When you need to confront, especially as one Christian to another, or as a leader to someone you supervise, here are tips I’ve learned from 40-plus years in vocational ministry. 1. Know the conditions for giving criticism. When is it necessary? *Is the person’s attitude or behavior dishonoring...

What are you really living for?
Dr. Terry Powell

Dr. Terry Powell

Terry is faculty Emeritus of Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina, and is author of Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement To Sustain God’s Servants. His website penetratingthedarkness.com is an excellent resource on depression.




Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement to Sustain God's Servants

Terry Powell

Serve the Lord long enough and discouragement or some form of opposition is inevitable. Joy-sapping workloads, feelings of inadequacy, lack of fruitfulness, or battle fatigue from spiritual warfare often spurs God’s servants to quit or sabotages their passion. The purpose of this book is to infuse them with biblical perspectives that buoy flagging spirits, boost motivation, and cultivate endurance.


The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd

John Piper

John Piper invites you into the lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd to discover how God takes the privilege of faith and strengthens it with trials so that we experience a greater hunger for him. The perseverance of these godly servants exemplifies the essential fruit that affliction can produce in your own life.


When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God–and Joy

John Piper

Even the most faithful, focused Christians can encounter periods of depression and spiritual darkness when joy seems to stay just out of reach. It can happen because of distressing circumstances, hereditary or other physical causes. John Piper aims to give some comfort and guidance to those experiencing spiritual darkness. Readers will gain insight into the physical side of depression and spiritual darkness and what it means to wait on the Lord in a time of darkness.



Mental Illness


Too often, stigma, isolation, loneliness and shame follow a diagnosis of mental illness. Not here. Here we offer resources for mental health steeped in love and grounded in faith. Here you are among friends, welcome just as you are. Here we offer resources steeped in love and grounded in faith. Here you are among friends, welcome just as you are.


Depression Fact


The art of letter writing can be a vital, life-giving ministry of hope to those who are hurting, grieving, recovering, homebound, lonely, ill, depressed, or isolated. While life-giving to the receiver, letter writing is also life-nourishing to the writer.

Looking for thoughtful and encouraging ways to put #PenToPaper in action? Or perhaps a gift to inspire others to begin writing notes? Choose from these beautiful notecard collections.Choose from these beautiful notecard collections.

Every purchase made at the Chronic Joy Store helps to support our mission and ministry to sow the life-giving seeds of hope, purpose, worth, and joyone precious life at a time.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share with your friends!