Did Jesus Ever Get Depressed?

That is an uncomfortable question for some because it forces us to deal with this complex issue. Part of us wants to say “No!” because surely the God-man wouldn’t fail – if depression was a sin, right?!? The other half of us want to say “Yes!” in order to make us feel better by identifying with our suffering Savior. Well, which is it? Did Jesus ever get depressed? I studied Matthew 26:30-50 for an answer. I will say that I absolutely think Jesus was depressed the night of his betrayal. Below you’ll see my reasoning:

  • In the midst of his companions, Jesus Christ was alone. (vv.30-35)
    • Jesus leaves the Upper Room surrounded by his disciples, with the exception of Judas Iscariot. They leave that location singing a song and head into the night. It is always the night that seems the most difficult to navigate when suffering approaches. Jesus turns to his disciples and explains to them what is about to happen. He says that all of his disciples will run away from him in a short while. His disciples not even realizing the severity of his situation, his condition or grasping the importance of what he is saying, all deny that this could happen. Christ is “reprimanded” for even thinking the absurd.
    • And so it is with those who are suffering Depression. So often because the condition is not easily conveyed in conversation or observed physically, friends and acquaintances will overlook the severity of the issue and even “encourage” the depressed by basically saying, “C’mon…it’s not that bad. Cowboy up. Get over it.”, etc.
    • What to do? Listen. Make sure you understand where the depressed are coming from. Listen to their concerns. Take the time to converse with them – allowing them the time needed to share their mind and heart. Don’t talk. Listen.
  • In the midst of his circumstances, Jesus Christ attempted to communicate his distress. (vv.37-38, 41, 45)
    • In the middle of his most tumultuous hour, Jesus takes his three closest friends with him deeper into the Garden. These three: Peter, James and John, witnesses of Christ’s greatest glory (Mount of Transfiguration) are now witnesses of his greatest agony. The words used to describe Christ are “grieved” and “distressed” (nas). These words have this meaning:
      • grieved – to be sorrowful, to be grieved.
      • distressed – a very powerful word indicating great mental stress or anguish, even fear
    • Christ attempts to communicate this in v.38. He explains his fragile state of mind and heart and asks explicitly for his closest friend’s assistance: “…keep watch with me..” And, of course, you know the story, his closest friends fall asleep. They let him down. They’ve heard his cry and they disregard the severity of it.
    • And so it is with those who are suffering Depression. Many times the suffering individual will finally work up the courage to express the depth of his anguish – only to have his friends fail to recognize his suffering. Agitation, sadness, anxiety, fear – all of it – closing in and the depressed is left to face it alone.
    • What to do? Educate yourself about the symptoms of Depression. A good place to start would be to read, Christians Get Depressed Too, by David Murray. It is a small book and an easy to read resource. Take seriously your friends expression of suffering. Sit with them. Express to them that you are available, day or night. Make yourself available. Your friend’s condition will require time and effort on your part to minister to them.
  • In the midst of his companions, Jesus Christ found little comfort. (vv.33-35, 40, 43, 45)
    • We’ve already noticed that eleven of Jesus’ friends failed to recognize the agony he was going through. In fact they were adamant that he was exaggerating the situation. As a result, they weren’t legitimately concerned for Christ in his most needy hour. And they fell asleep when they should have been agonizing with him in the situation. Even after Christ’s repeated pleas for help, they ignored the suffering and became concerned only with their selfish interests.
    • And so it is with those who are suffering Depression. Many times the depressed will attempt to express their suffering in a plea for help, perhaps even repeatedly and find that little comfort is available. This is so vital for the Church to understand! Sometimes we don’t give comfort because we don’t know what to do with the severity of the suffering in front of us. I think this is the greatest reason the Church doesn’t adequately minister to the depressed. We may feel that it is too much of an investment of time and resources. Or, we may wrongly conclude that the suffering will just “get over it”. As a result, the depressed are left to suffer alone.
    • What to do? Firstly, don’t deny the reality, or the perception of the suffering. Even if the situation is not as bad as they think, don’t be quick to dismiss their suffering. Many times the depressed have a difficult time making sense of life and need a listening ear more than sharp tongue. Secondly, don’t fail to follow through. Peter, James and John all followed Jesus deeper into the Garden, and all three failed to minister to Christ in his depressed state. What a missed opportunity it was!
  • In the midst of his circumstances, Jesus Christ wanted relief and release from his present & future. (vv.39, 42, 44)
    • Initially this was difficult for me to observe in my Savior. Here I see Jesus Christ begging his Father to release him from the circumstances he finds himself in, and the weight of what is to come. In the Garden we see Jesus come to the full realization of what was about to happen and it hits him forcefully. It was incredible, intense suffering. He was feeling the weight of humanity’s sin and his intense love for humanity battled against giving in. It was almost more than he could physically bear. We have no idea of the extent to his mental anguish. Repeatedly he comes to his Father. Repeatedly he wages the war of his suffering. Surely relief was tantalizing and release from the situation, tempting. If only there were another way.
    • And so it is with those who are suffering Depression. Day after day it wears the sufferer down. The depressed battle to navigate through the simplest of tasks. They struggle to just keep moving, to keep one foot in front of the other. The struggle is almost all-consuming. It is dark. It is frightening. It is scary. It is worrisome. It is depressing. Their cries to God seem to go unheeded at times. God is distant. God is a tormentor. God is…depressing.
    • What to do? It is at this stage that the depressed need a life-line, not a rebuke. They may be so overwhelmed that physically they are becoming more ill; mentally more fragile, emotionally, spent, spiritually, dry. They need hope. They need to see their suffering Savior. They need to know that he can identify with their struggle, in all it’s frightening aspects. They need to know that on the cross Jesus overcame illness: mental or physical. They need to, ultimately, react as Jesus did in his depression. And that is the last point of this lengthy post:
  • Ultimately, Jesus Christ resigned himself to his Father’s plan and purpose. (v.42)
    • Jesus wrestled through the loneliness, the frustration of lack of communication, the lack of comfort and the strong desire to end the situation in some way that would be more appealing than the cross and facing his Father’s wrath. He had to work through it. He was not immune to it. He wrestled and struggled and scratched and clawed, fighting temptation, and submitted to his Father’s plan and purpose.
    • And so it must be with those who suffer with Depression. There must be a time when we work through it all and realize that God has a plan for our lives. That this suffering will eventually produce good in us. We may not enjoy the situation, and it may indeed get worse. But we have hope. The hope is in the cross and the grave. In the cross because that is where Jesus bore the Father’s wrath in our place, and in the empty grace because that is where Jesus demonstrated victory over sin and death. He demonstrated victory over all our brokenness and holds out the hope of eternal life to all who would take it. He promises eventual good in the middle of our suffering.

Yes. I think the Garden demonstrates clearly that Jesus can identify with the depressed. I think an accurate reading of Scripture points to a suffering Savior who can sympathize with our weaknesses. He was depressed. He is victorious.

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