Am I losing my faith if I suffer depression?

At the start of this series on turmoil, we looked at some of the difficulties people might experience in relating to God when they are suffering from trauma. Is it ok to be angry with God? To question him, to disagree with him, to doubt him, or something else? The Bible gives us many clear examples of people who had such difficulties and enshrines them in scripture. It’s ok. Even Jesus did it.

But another question might be, “Am I losing my faith?”

What if church now freaks me out? What if I find the Bible triggering? Or what if I’m anxious all the time? Or some other thing?

We are gifted with the story of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Let’s trust that the level of detail we are given about his feeling world is intentional on God’s part.

Mark’s gospel tells us Jesus was “deeply distressed and troubled.”1

“My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death,” Jesus said.2

That is intense distress. Many people could relate to that strength of negative feelings. Whatever he meant, we can be confident that as a deeply empathic person, Jesus can sit with someone who is experiencing extreme emotional distress and be aware of what it was like for him in his darkest hours. He gets it, and has mercy.

One of the encouragements I would love to offer someone who is wondering if their distress and circumstances mean they are losing their faith, is this: Prioritise your safety and well-being.


Taking the long-term view

Abuse is exhausting.

I think it is critical to take a long-term view, and when in abuse or some other dangerous situation, I’d focus on getting safe as quickly as, (safely), possible. Live to fight another day. Please. That includes emotional well-being, and emotional or other non-physical forms of abuse. If you are in danger, a call to 1800RESPECT or even 000 might be the best next step.

Meanwhile – God sees you. And just as he wouldn’t ditch you just because you are physically sick or injured, he won’t if that harm is emotional or mental. He is not a fair-weather friend.

For those whose experience in trauma is a deep sense of closeness and trust with God – what an asset that is! I’m so glad. But it ain’t like that for everyone. So for those who struggle, my encouragement is to perhaps express a different kind of trust – that it’s ok to focus on your well-being. If anyone understands what you are dealing with, God does.

Some of the common mental health issues faced by people who experience trauma are depression, anxiety, stress, and post-traumatic stress. Those four issues alone can give rise to a wide range of symptoms, and it’s common to experience a combination of them.

My focus here is not on diagnosis. It’s on relieving potential distress in a person’s relationship with God. For those who resonate with a few of these symptoms, I heartily recommend seeking out a competent therapist. And for those who have experienced abuse or other trauma, I’d add to that: look for one who is trauma- and abuse-informed. You might like to get in touch with Beyond Blue, or another service. They also recommend seeking competent help rather than relying on their website alone.


So am I losing my faith if I suffer depression?

Let’s consider some of the symptoms that, if they are significant and/or ongoing, might indicate depression rather than a “spiritual problem”:

Feeling depressed.

Decreased interest or pleasure in activities.

Weight loss.

Weight gain.

Change in appetite.

Fatigue or loss of energy.

Feeling worthless.

Feeling excessive or inappropriate guilt.

Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.

Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or a suicide attempt.3

The Bible talks about all of these things. Look at Psalm 42, for example:

My tears have been my food

day and night,

while people say to me all day long,

“Where is your God?”

These things I remember

as I pour out my soul:

how I used to go to the house of God

under the protection of the Mighty One

with shouts of joy and praise

among the festive throng.4

That fits the picture of “decreased interest or pleasure in activities.” Reading on, the psalmist does believe things will change one day. But they are difficult now.

A depressed person might not enjoy “Christian activity” like singing, going to church, prayer, or being with others. That doesn’t mean they’ve lost their faith: those things are all normal expressions of a challenging mental health issue.

Steve Wade

A depressed person might not enjoy “Christian activity” like singing, going to church, prayer, or being with others. That doesn’t mean they’ve lost their faith: these are normal expressions of a challenging mental health issue. Share on X
Before you go…

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  1. Mark 14:33
  2. Mark 14:34
  3. This list simplified from the DSM V
  4. Psalm 42:3-4


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