I have often heard it said that depression is is caused by internalized anger. I don’t think it is that simple. I believe that internalized anger is more closely associated with shame (or defeated pride). I don’t disagree that shame is a factor in causing depression, but there are other factors to consider. Chemical disorders, demonic oppression, difficult relationships, financial struggles, dark memories, and various other abuses are all elements that could contribute to a person’s struggle with depression. Many of these factor into my own struggle.
Yet, there is one terrifying factor that is common to all people, no matter who they are, no matter where they live, and no matter what stage of life they are in. The fear of death. This is the ‘big daddy’ fear and it is pervasive and formidable. Not only do we fear our own death. But we also fear it for our loved ones. We fear the death of a beloved parent. We fear the death of our children.
Besides death itself, we fear a million “little deaths” that exist between this moment and the moment of our own final departure from this life. The loss of our youth. The loss of our health. The loss of our intellect. The loss of accumulated wealth. The loss of children who grow up and leave our homes. All these are like “mini” deaths, that remind us every day that we are just passing through this life, like so many who have passed through before us. We are but a breath, a whisper, and then we are gone.
My own battle with depression is more associated with this reality than any other cause. Death. I think it was also a great factor in John Owen’s struggle with depression, especially in his early years. Owen was a great man of God, with tremendous faith, yet he was no different than any of us. His mortality, along with his sin, stood ever before him, and it often cast him into wretched bouts of gloom. Thankfully, this depression drove him to the Cross of Christ. And it was in the face of Christ that his depression was lifted. It was also this reality that led him to pen “The Death of Death in Death of Christ” and the book I am currently reading, “The Glory of Christ“. It is also why John Piper centered on the thoughts of John Owen in his book, “When the Darkness will not Lift“. Piper dedicates his book on depression to Owen on the first page where he writes, “To the memory of John Owen, who has wakened hope for many in the darkness of perfectionistic despair.”
I praise God for wonderful Christians like John Owen, John Piper, Ed Welch, Brennan Manning, Paul Tripp, Elyse Fitzpatrick, and Dan Allendar – those who have helped me to gaze at the glory of Christ by faith. I must admit that I see Christ through weak eyes that strain to squint at a dim reflection through a dirty mirror. Yet, I trust that even these faint glances of Christ’s beauty will continue to pull me out of my depression and see me though this life until at long last I see my Savior face to face.