Being both a Registered Nurse and a Theology student I know and understand that there are both physical and spiritual causes for depression. Believers are often told that we should not be despondent, but should be joyful at all times because of the hope that is in us. In fact Joy is one of the fruit of the Spirit. (cf. Gal 5:22) Yesterday evening before sitting down to write, I met as is our costume on Wednesday nights with my local church for a fellowship meal and prayer. I was humbled by the prayer request. A man struggling with his father’s decisions after the death of his wife (the man’s mother). A husband and wife whose adult daughter is confused about her gender. A missionary and friend who is detained in Turkey, and his wife deported. And these are just a few examples of some of the things that our brothers and sisters are struggling with today.
I believe that the root cause of depression in a believer is a tendency to walk according to the flesh rather than according to the Spirit of promise with which we were sealed when we believed the gospel of Jesus Christ. (cf. Eph 1:13) What do I mean by walking according to the flesh? The flesh looks at self and our physical surroundings; when this happens our happiness is based on wither or not our surroundings please us. The book of Ephesians causes us to look above self; to look towards God and his great love for us. By doing this we then want to be imitators of God, Christ Jesus is our example.
The book of Ephesians begins by praising God. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” (Eph 1:3-4) Why should he be praised? He has chosen us as his own people, he has forgiven our sins, and he has redeemed us from the bondage to sin by the blood of Jesus Christ through faith.1
Ephesians 2:1-10 is an awe inspiring text, because in it our spiritual state prior to salvation is altogether described . Then the text turns towards God and his amazing love for us, magnificently describing what God has done for us in the now, and what he will do for us in the ages to come in Christ Jesus. There is nothing that we have done to deserve his grace, mercy, and kindness. Now that God has done this, we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works.
He loved us, therefore, we should love other people; especially those within the church. The man who wrote Ephesians is a Jew and is in prison for preaching the gospel to the gentiles. “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles — if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.” (Eph 3:1-3) The revelation and mystery that Paul is talking about is that both Jews and Gentiles are both fellow members of the body in Christ Jesus.
Because of God’s great love with which he loved us we ought to seek the best for our brother. In chapter 4 he begins to talk about the different way that a believer should walk. “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Eph 4:25) In Chapter 5 we should be imitators of God; “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (Eph 5:1-2)
In doing so wives are to be subject to their husbands and husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. No where do you find in this writing were the husband demands this of his wife, or the wife demands this of her husband. This happens when we walk in the flesh and not according to the Spirit. If you are walking according to the Spirit your concern is for the other and not yourself.
In chapter 6 he talks about other relationships like kids and parents, and slaves and masters. In each of these relationships ones consideration is not for self, but for the other. He concludes the letter by saying that our real struggle is not with other people, but with the schemes of the devil. Therefore, we must put on the full armor of God.
Therefore when counseling a believer who is struggling with depression I would use the book of Ephesians to tell them: 1) About the Greatness of God. 2) About who they were before salvation. 2) What God has done for them and what he will do for them in the ages to come in Christ Jesus. 3) That Christ is exalted and seated at the right hand of God, and that we the church are seated with him.2 He is the head and we are the body.3 4) Therefore, because of what he has done live a life pleasing to him by seeking the best for the other. 5) Remember that our war is not against flesh and blood, but against the schemes of the devil.
1 C. E. Arnold, “Ephesians, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 246.
2 C. E. Arnold, “Ephesians, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 246.
3 C. E. Arnold, “Ephesians, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 248.