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My Christian life: I have depression, but Jesus has me

I am a Christian. I have depression, but Jesus has me.

I have depression. Which really means that depression has me. It owns me.

I have depression

Thursday. I want to do nothing. A pressure pushes down on my neck and back, bending me over. Breathing becomes toil. My bride looks at my expression and knows: Today is a bad day.

I hadn’t called up the friendly neighborhood depression salesperson and said, “Yeah, Thursday? Could you stop by? I’m a little low on purposeless gloom.” And it’s not even that I forgot to pay the happy man. “Oh, sorry, I did not send the check for my monthly supply of glee. Can I make up the difference on next month’s bill?”

Nope. Depression owns me. And Thursday it decided it would be nice to pay a visit to its little slave and maybe hang around for a while.

But I’m a Christian. Okay, I’m not supposed to be a grinning idiot at all times. I’m not some mega-church preacher who always has to look smarmy. I get that. Sadness is a part of being Christian. Jeremiah wrote Lamentations. Martha mourned at the grave of her brother. Christians suffer. It’s part of who we are.

But shouldn’t I have joy, no matter my emotion at the moment? Isn’t that what Paul said? “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

Oh, never mind. It’s depression. It will just snuff out that joy.

It’s like I suddenly lose the ability to even fake a smile. I lose the ability to care. I can go through the motions of what I need to do, but there’s no will behind it. For a pastor who’s supposed to be happy to see people? Yeah, not so good. I’m supposed to be better than this. I have my joy! You can’t take this joy from me!

But depression mocks me. It plucks the joy from between my hands. It swallows whatever light I have. Depression owns me. I can feel my face taking that slack expression. All the muscle tension vanishes. It really feels like my heart is lowering. I just don’t care.

Why should I? If I can’t even hold on to the joy that Christ gives me, if that treasure is so easily plucked away, what else could possibly matter?

I’m not good enough to hold on to his gifts. I’m not strong enough. I’m weak. And now depression makes me realize how little I am. How small and broken and insignificant.

Now I’m lying on my side, without even the will to pull up into the fetal position. I’m done. Depression owns me, and it’s having its way. I’m not strong enough to hold on to the joy that Jesus gives. What right do I have to fight back at all? Let it ravage my heart and all that lies within me. I won’t fight.

I know in my head that it’s depression. It’s making me look at things this way. It’s turning my head to make me see only one side of anything. I know all this in my head, but it does not change the weight on my heart because I cannot hold on to the joy that Jesus gives.

Jesus has me

But Jesus holds me.

Depression tries to enslave me, but Jesus owns me. He has paid for me with his blood and suffering and death. He has paid a dear price. What has depression paid to own me? Nothing.

I do not belong to depression. I have depression. Jesus has me. This is the way of things.

All those failures? They are mine. I am a failure. I am a broken man. I am so little. I wear such shabby rags when I parade around in my accomplishments.

But Jesus has given me a new record. He dresses me in a gleaming robe of righteousness. And I am not good enough for it. He wastes it on a nobody like me. And yet, he lavishes me with his love and with the honor he has earned. He gives me his record of success, of conquering the sins I have rolled around in.

He makes me whole.

Look, this does not mean that I am now grinning like an idiot. It means that I am not alone in my suffering. It does not mean every problem is solved. It means that it’s not my job to find the solution.

I have depression. Jesus has me.

I still hurt. That void continues. But the void is a lie. I am still a failure, but that is not the end of my story. Because Jesus has made me something different. I have been made new.

I long for the day when it’s all over. I yearn to get rid of these stupid lies that live within me, that worm their way through my heart and lay such hollow eggs to leave me empty. I long for the place where there is no need for broken shepherds to limp as they attempt to tend the sheep. Oh, to lie under the hand of the Shepherd. To know—in ways I cannot fathom now—that all is good, that my Shepherd loves me even in my pain, even in my hurt. To know that I am not alone. To know that these lies are lies and to know it not only in my head but also in my heart so I can laugh at the sheer ludicrousness of what they claim.

This is the struggle I have on days like Thursday, when depression tells me lies that I believe even when I know they are wrong.

Oh, God is so good. Even in the midst of such pain, he shows his love through others. He shows that, though we are broken, though we are so shattered, he loves us in our greatest shames and our secret sins and, yes, even in our depression. We are not alone.

Jesus himself knows every grief. He wept when he was here. He does not hold us as someone who does not understand. Our Brother has not forgotten his sojourn here. Oh, Christian, do you see? He does not always prevent sorrow from entering your life, but he walks with you in it. He wishes to show you that his love is real, whether or not you feel it. He wants to point you beyond the pain of today, to the cross, to the proof that he has not forgotten.

This pain is good. My depression is a gift. It forces me to say that, yes, my strength is not in me. I cannot hold on to any joy.

But joy holds on to me.

My Jesus holds me in his hands, and none can move me from his grasp. Not because I hold on to him, but because he holds on to the one he has bled for. And my brokenness points me to that assurance.

I am a Christian. I have depression. Jesus has me.

Read more: Luke Italiano wrote a book about his experiences with depression called Hollow Heart. Find it at

graphic element passages of hope

What you can do

One of the most important ways you can help someone who seems to be struggling with depression is by helping him or her bring it out into the open. Consider these suggestions for starting the conversation, and show your love by listening intently to anything that is shared:

  • “I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
  • “I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”
  • “I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately.”

Words of encouragement and hope have tremendous power. Here are some examples of what you can say:

  • “You are not alone in this. God is with you, and I am here for you.”
  • “I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.”
  • “You are important to me. Your life is important to me.”
  • “Tell me what I can do now to help you.”

Finally, here are some ideas of helpful actions you can take:

  • Support treatment. Look up local counseling options and help with scheduling. Offer to drive to an appointment or even go to one together.
  • Provide assistance in whatever area the person needs and is willing to accept. Even small household tasks can seem overwhelming to someone who is depressed.
  • Lead by example. Take care of yourself and your own mental health.
  • Encourage activity. Suggest going for a walk together. Ask the person to accompany you on an errand.
  • Pray for peace and hope for the person you care about. Offer to pray together.

Sarah Reik is a licensed professional counselor with Christian Family Solutions.

Discover other helpful resources related to depression and mental health at

Author: Luke Italiano
Volume 111, Number 03
Issue: March 2024

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This entry is part 1 of 53 in the series my christian life

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