In previous posts, we have been addressing depression. It is a monumental bane to human flourishing. The contributors to depression can be, and are often, physical. A failure to get enough sleep, poor nutrition, and a lack of exercising can all contribute to depression. We also noted, though, that depression can also be related to spiritual issues, namely, sin.
Sin is an unpopular word today. Sin is a judgment, a wrongful view of someone or some action (or, thought) in which someone engages. For example, our vocabulary has changed in order to accommodate a different perspective from sin. Not too long ago, when someone consumed too much alcohol, they were drunkards. Now they struggle with alcoholism (or, disorder). What was once referred to as gluttons are not described as “eating disorders.” Notice the lack of sin and of personal responsibility.
We must acknowledge at this point that we are approaching this serious discussion of depression from a Christian perspective. And even that must be elaborated upon, for the phrase Christian perspective includes a wide-range, and often contradictory, viewpoints. We are approaching this topic from a biblical viewpoint. That is, we take God’s Word and navigate life with it as the authority.
Since we have already laid a foundation for depression, we will not reiterate that here. Instead, we will discuss:
- What is sin?
- How do we address it?
- How does sin contribute to depression?
What is sin
Sin, as described by the Baptist Catechism, is “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” There are two ways of defining sin. First, it is a lack (the word want is used in an older sense) of conformity to the Law of God. That is, it is a failure to think, speak, and/or act in a biblical way. For example, God’s Law requires the observing of the Sabbath. For Christians, this is Sunday, the Lord’s Day. When we engage in work on the Sabbath, we are not conforming to God’s Law.
Sin is also a transgression of the Law of God. Adultery violates God’s Law for marriage between one man and one woman for life (cf. Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4). Thus, to engage in sexual activity with any one but one’s spouse of the opposite sex is to transgress God’s Law. Beeke and Smalley bring this word to modern understanding when they write, “The picture is of stepping over a boundary that should not be crossed.”
We will see how this understanding of sin relates to depression momentarily. Next, we will see how we address sin.
How do we address siN
By asking this question, we are acknowledging that sin is a problem, namely, it goes against God’s Law. God, our good and gracious Creator, made us with specific needs and provided the details on how we should live. Take eating, for example. God instructed Adam as to what he should eat (cf. Gen. 1:29; 2:16). If Adam ate the vegetables and fruit that God instructed him to, Adam would thrive. It was only when Adam ate something God had forbidden that the problem arose (cf. Gen. 2:17; 3:6,-7, 17-19).
Sin, remember, is a lack of conformity to and/or transgression of God’s Word. Addressing it, then, assumes both the validity of God’s Word and our responsibility to it. It also assumes that it can be addressed. That is, there is an option available. Without getting into an intense theological debate, we are working within the understanding that humanity is infected by sin. The theological term, built upon Scripture’s teaching as a whole, is depravity. By this, we understand “Total depravity means that corruption infects the whole person and stains every act he performs.” It permeates humanity so thoroughly that, left to our own, we would always reject God (cf. Rom. 3:11).
Were this the whole story, we would have reason to be depressed. However, it is not the whole story. This is where God steps in to act on behalf of His people. While they were dead in their trespasses and sins, God made them alive (Eph. 2:1, 5). When we could not address sin, He paid for our sins (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). Where our sins violated the Law, demanding God’s just punishment, Christ did what we could not, receiving God’s punishment for our sins and giving us His righteousness (cf. Rom. 3:21-26).
In other words, we cannot address sin, only God can. And God did. In Christ, He has addressed sin. Where we come in, besides our sins being placed on His precious Son, is we are the receivers of that grace. We are, after all, saved by grace (Eph. 2:8). And it is only God’s working through His Spirit in us that we continually address sin in our lives (cf. Gal. 5:16-26).
Summarizing our addressing of sin, we can state:
- We rely on God’s grace to save and transform us from sin
- We only grow in holiness (i.e., moving away from sin to righteousness) through God’s Spirit (more will be said on this later)
- Without God’s help, we would never overcome sin
This leads us to our third and final thought, how does sin contribute to depression?
How does sin contribute to depression
We answered this briefly in the previous post. What I would like to do with the remainder of our time is to branch out our thoughts, including what we have just learned, as it relates to depression.
Sin can directly cause depression, as we observed in the life of David. Drunkards, for example, will be depressed as they dive further into alcohol while simultaneously driving their family away.
Those direct issues related to sin are, for the most part, clear. What is not as evident, and one that we must understand, is that all sin can contribute to depression. This includes a lack of conformity to God’s Word as well as a direct transgression of it.
What does this mean? Think about a marital relationship. We will assume both are followers of Christ. The husband and wife, when practicing open and honest communication, will inevitably end up at some conflict. How do they handle it? How do they respond?
Let us assume that the wife is at fault. The husband, though in the right, responds with condescension. He sins against his wife in his response. The wife, in turn, responds with further hostility toward her husband. The husband snaps back at his wife, which causes the wife to reevaluate her actions. She asks for forgiveness from her husband. Her husband does not give it, nor does he ask for it. Both have sinned. Both need to address their own responses. Only one does (the wife).
The husband is still left with the choice to respond with repentance toward his wife. Yet, in his pride, he refuses. Now, up to this point, the husband has not struggled with depression. However, a few weeks pass, and the husband continues to treat his wife harshly. He refuses to reconcile with her. His initial response to the wife’s sin started him on a downward spiral. This continual plummet into sin leads to a hopelessness that he will never reconcile with his wife. His work and home life suffer. Those things he once enjoyed becoming shells of the past. Yet, he continues headlong into pride. He refuses to admit he has wronged his wife. Several more weeks have passed, and the man begins feeling depressed. He has lost all joy in his home, his work, and his other activities. His relationship with God has been abysmal.
This hypothetical account provides us with an example of what happens when we sin as it relates to depression. The man did not initially struggle with depression. It was his constant choice to sin rather than to repent which led him further downward. Each interaction with his wife provided him an opportunity to repent. Each spurned opportunity led further down in the pit of depression.
Sins, both the lack of conformity to and transgression of God’s Law, causes and contributes to depression. This underscores the detrimental aspects of sin. It is truly heinous. However, as we have already discussed, there is hope in Jesus Christ. He stands, arms wide open, to those who are “weary and are carrying heavy burdens” (Matt. 11:28, NRSV). Regardless of where you may be at on this downward spiral, He stands with everlasting strength and infinite compassion to give you hope and restoration (Heb. 4:14-16).
 The Mayo Clinic, not at all a fringe organization, refers to it as a “disorder.” See May Clinic, “Alcohol use disorder,” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243, accessed 30 August 2021.
 American Psychological Association, “Eating disorders,” https://www.apa.org/topics/eating-disorders, accessed 30 August 2021.
 Baptist Catechism, Question 17.
 I realize that not everyone will agree with this example. The Scriptures teach that Christians keep the Sabbath. For a thorough defense of this, I encourage you to read Richard Barcellos’s book, Getting the Garden Right.
 Joel R. Beeke and Paul. M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 331.
 Beeke and Smalley, Man and Christ, 404.
 Jay E. Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), 135.