The Bible’s 12 Steps to Overcome Depression

I know so many people who deal with the debilitating effects of depression. Family members. Friends. I also have gone through several seasons of depression in my life. Now, I don’t want to oversimplify depression and its effects. I’ve seen the necessity and benefits of helpful medicines for my immediate family members, but I believe they are not the end all for dealing with depression. They may simply enable the person to stand up, sometimes literally, to the effects of depression, but then the person needs to take wise actions and have right thinking.

King David often dealt with depression in his life. And for good reason. He was literally chased from his home, family, and friends and ended up hiding by himself in a dark, cold, damp cave. These were probably his circumstances as he wrote several of the psalms, particularly Psalm 143.

“So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed” (v. 4, NIV).

I also like how the NLT translates this: “I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear.” That’s how many people with depression feel.

In verses 1-3, David had described the circumstances of his depression and anxiety. In verses 5 and following, he told what he did about it. These could be seen as his prescriptions, or the Bible’s 12 Steps to Deal with Depression. I will summarize them here, but I believe the best thing to do when battling depression is to simply read this passage yourself.

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  1. Remember all that God has done in the past (v. 5).
  2. Surrender your own ways/will to him (v. 6)
  3. Be honest with God. Ask him for his help. Pray (v. 7).
  4. Trust him daily (v. 8). This starts each day by spending time with him in his Word and in prayer, listening to him.
  5. Ask him daily to show you the right way (v. 8).
  6. Be aware of your Enemy and enemies—those who are fighting against you (v. 9).
  7. Depend on God for his rescue from them (v. 9).
  8. Seek God’s will (v. 10). I often pray something like, “I want to do your will, Lord. Give me the wisdom and strength I need to do it.” David’s prayer is better, I think. Perhaps more humble. “TEACH me to do your will.” He’s admitting he doesn’t know how to do this, although he had spent most of his life pursuing God’s will and it seems that except for a few pretty major slips, he had done God’s will.
  9. Rely on the power of the Holy Spirit (not your own) to lead you (v. 10).
  10. Trust what God will do in the future (v. 11).
  11. Remember it’s not about you. It’s about God’s name and reputation (v. 11).
  12. Continue to serve God (v. 12).
Would you like other verses to read when you need to overcome depression? Psalm 34:18; 42:5-6; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (great for a small group setting); Matthew 6; Revelation 21:4.


Leading with Grace: How We Deal with Depression, Anxiety, and Suffering (especially when the suffering is inflicted by fellow Christians)

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