Depression is universally recognized as a monumental issue in our society. People are plagued by not only constant discouragement but also constant disappointment. They feel sadness even through the happiest times in their life.
While there is no shortage of people who want to help, there are very few answers to depression that address the problems that exist in the soul. The book of Ephesians provides a great foundation for a counseling plan with someone presenting depression in the counseling room. As a foundation, the approach to biblical counseling should be God-centered even in cases of depression… actually, especially in cases of depression. God must be seen as sovereign, as near, and as the answer to our problems.
This is why the first act in the counseling room should be to establish reliance on prayer. We see that Paul often prays for the Ephesian church because he believes that God can do “above and beyond” what we can even think to ask of him (Eph. 3:20). We struggle to understand our own hearts, but God knows our hearts. We struggle to change ourselves, but God is sovereign even over us. Therefore, it is necessary to be in constant prayer while seeking healing from our heart issues. Paul even encourages the church to pray at all times with every request (Eph. 6:18).
Moreover, we should recognize that God is truly able to help us. Ephesians places an overarching emphasis on the sovereignty of God in all things (Eph. 1:9, 1:22, 3:13). Pray knowing that God hears, cares, and is powerful to answer.
We also see the importance of the body of Christ in our lives, especially in our struggles. Every person in Christ has been gifted for the good of the church (Eph. 4:16). We were not created nor intended to live alone.
In fact, isolation is an enemy to healing. We need each other. The counselee should be encouraged to seek out Christian community to help them bear the burden of depression. Their gifts are essential to the body, but the body is essential to the individual. The counselee must be willing to be transparent with themselves, their community, and with God about their struggle.
The counselee should also seek to be identified in the way that the Bible would identify them. Does their depression bear on their identity? No, they are first and foremost inheritors of the gospel of peace (Eph. 2:17). They are in Christ.
It is easy to be defeated before the battle begins, but the counselee should be encouraged to let go of the idea that their presented depression is beyond cure. The overarching identity of the believer in Ephesians is that they are in Christ. They are a part of the body of the Lord, and the Lord is the bringer of peace. They are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, who is elsewhere called the comforter.
Finally, they should be encouraged to continually thank God. Even when they do not see a reason to, there is always a reason to give thanks (Eph. 5:20). The counselee should be encouraged toward optimism, which is a more Christian position. While trials may come and go, our God remains forever. Our struggling is purposeful and God is still in control.
In summary, Ephesians urges those struggling with depression to:
- Establish a reliance on prayer.
- Trust in the loving care of God.
- Pursue Christian community.
- Identify yourself biblically.
- And always search for reasons to thank God.
God has been infinitely gracious to each of us. We have reason to be hopeful even in the midst of hardship. We have reason to be thankful in every circumstance. The counselee should be encouraged to seek out reasons to constantly thank God and glorify him.
Brooks is currently pursuing an M.Div. with an emphasis in Biblical Counseling from Midwestern Seminary. He is a Pastoral Intern at Redemption Hill Church and the Marketing Manager at Bethany Global University.