The root cause of depression in the Bible, science, and what the doctors say
- Depression is a spiritual battle.
- Depression is linked with sinful nature.
- Unforgiveness leads to depression and anxiety.
- Satan wants to corrupt our minds.
- Divine affliction.
The link between mental problems and demonic influence
Insanity, sickness, or physical disability were often associated with sin and demonic influence in the Bible. However, it’s not always the case in the story of the man who was born blind (John 9:3). In Luke 6:18, those who came to hear Jesus were healed of their diseases; those “troubled” (mentally afflicted) by unclean spirits were cured.
Talk therapy helps, but the root cause remains
In the Bible, we are told to share each other’s burdens, seek wisdom from elders, and bear each other’s burdens. It’s similar to what happens in talk therapy, but without God. However, psychotherapy is a temporary remedy unless the cause is rooted out.
1. Depression is a spiritual battle in the mind
Victor Frankl specialized in neurology and psychiatry. He focused on depression and suicide. From 1925 to 1945, he developed Logotherapy. It believes that life’s purpose and meaning enable us to survive despite insurmountable challenges.
Frankl shows us that the root cause of depression is a spiritual battle in the mind. Satan takes advantage of our sinful weakness by suggesting the following lies.
- Life has no meaning.
- Life is hopeless; there is no solution.
- I have no purpose in life.
His theory was put to the test during WW2. Like Job, he lost all his family possession and suffered at Auschwitz. Despite his unbearable situation, he chose to survive, knowing that “suffering had a purpose.” He believed external forces couldn’t break the “spiritual self.”
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
Case and point: Mark Goodnight on the root cause of depression
He saw a dozen psychiatrists and took medication for a time. Mark read self-help books to soothe depression and even did illegal drugs—but none helped.
Things began to change when he started reading the Bible. When he became a Christian, someone laid hands and prayed for healing in Jesus’ name. Suddenly, the blackness that consumed his life for the last twenty-five years was gone instantly.
Case and point: Emily Millora Juson on avoiding depressive thoughts
Emily had cancer, and there were signs of spreading. Chemo helped, but cancer returned at least three times. The struggle was real, with physical pain and uncertainty, but deep depression was kept at bay.
She depended on God’s promises and saw plentiful miracles along the way. Each day passed into weeks and weeks into years. God sustains Emily to this day—devoid of chronic anxiety.
When doctors or faith did not seem to help
Indeed, these men are not faithless, but they lost the battle—despite prayers, therapy, and medication. We do not have all the answers, but one thing is sure, Jesus wants to give us life to the fullest!
2. Giving in to sinful nature leads to depression
The person suffers guilt and condemnation that can lead to depression. Therefore, the root cause of depression is when we embrace our sinful nature by living in sin.
“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…it is a sin living in me that does it.”
Case and point: A woman with schizophrenia whose root cause was the love of money
A woman was on and off at a mental hospital for schizophrenia and manic depression for a decade. After knowing Jesus, the episodes stopped. Without church fellowship, she returned to Buddhism years after.
She also became busy making money, and like a child of the world, she mocked God and declared herself an atheist who would instead worship the Chinese Buddha. Soon, her mental problem returned. Mental pills and injections helped, but they also turned her into a different person, controlled by the drugs.
Case and point: Daughter was raised in a Christian home but chose to live in sin
Loving Christian parents brought up Carol (not her real name). Although it would cost a lot, her parents placed her in a reputable Christian high school in Wheaton. Many American public schools discourage Christian activities yet welcome Satan as an “after-school club.”
Carol’s disobedience caused her depression to spiral downward—despite efforts, prayers, and counseling. She had inappropriate relationships and harmful influences. Carol died of a heroin overdose.
Sinful habits allows satanic foothold.
3. Unforgiveness can lead to depression
A study led by Italy’s Department of Education in 2019 showed unforgiveness was related to hedonic balance (HB) and depression. In contrast, forgiveness is effective in regulating and reducing depression.
Dysfunctional or aggressive behaviors triggered by anger, severing ties with friends, or ruminating about others can lead to depressive thoughts, loneliness, and guilt, leading to anxiety. [Deffenbacher et al., 1996]
- God commands us to forgive because unforgiveness cause bitterness. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
- It imprisons our minds and prevents us from experiencing true joy. (Psalm 32:1-2)
- Unforgiveness is the root of bitterness and causes trouble. (Hebrews 12:14:15)
- Forgiveness brings us peace of mind. (Colossians 3:12-15)
“… If you have something against someone, forgive him. That is the way the Lord forgave you. And to all these things, you must add love… Let the peace of Christ have power over your hearts…”
Forgiveness brings us peace of mind.
4. Satan wants to corrupt our mind
Without Christ, the “god of this world,” freely influences and corrupts our minds (2 Corinthians 4:4). The first thing he tells us is that “there is no hope.” Satan is at work with those who are disobedient to God.
Every person without God is in dire mental condition
According to John MacArthur, every person without God is in a bad mental state. It doesn’t mean their rational mind is not functioning, but it does mean they are in the kingdom of darkness.
Children of disobedience
The influence may seem circumstantial or external coming from culture, but it is still under the influence of the power of the prince of the earth, the spirit that is now at work in the children of disobedience. (Ephesians 2:2)
“Anyone who is not a believer is operating in some sense with the demonic influence,” according to John MacArthur. [Q&A 78]
Satan is at work with those who are disobedient to God.
One of the symptoms of chronic mental illness is when a person’s frequent thoughts of suicide. Ultimately, these thoughts of harm come from Satan. He wants to kill and destroy us (John 10:10).
Mental illness and self-injury
In Mark 5:1-7, a man from Gerasenes lived in the tombs (caves), and he was supernaturally strong that chains could not bind him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills, he would cry out and cut himself with stones (v 5). He was immediately healed when Jesus said: “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!.”
Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 20% of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide, and 9% have attempted to take their lives.
The frequent lie of the enemy: “There is no hope”
God may allow Satan to break our body, but those who hope in Jesus have hope and do not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). On the other hand, Satan tells us, “there is no hope,” and death is the only escape.
- 1 Timothy 6:5 – Depraved mind
- 2 Corinthians 3:14 – Dull mind
- 2 Corinthians 4:4 – Blinded mind
- 2 Kings 6:11 – Troubled mind
- 2 Timothy 3:8 – Corrupt mind
- Isaiah 61:3 – Spirit of “no hope”
- Romans 8:7 – Sinful mind
5. Divine affliction
There’s also “divine discipline” or affliction that causes brokenness and leads to repentance and salvation. Because God is sovereign—Holy and loving, He allows, if not causes, discomfort when we’re stubborn. He does it out of faithfulness to the elect.
“I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous & that in faithfulness You afflicted me.”
Repentance and renewing our mind can extinguish the root cause of depression, even in difficult physical circumstances.
Unbelief is a sinful mental activity. When we ignore or refuse Jesus as our only hope, we become faithless, causing us even more depressed. The reason repentance (change of mind) is a requirement for salvation.
Although physical pain or trauma may remain, pursuing the mind of Christ extinguishes the lies of Satan. Whatever the root cause of depression is, Jesus is our savior!
We can learn a lot from the following testimonies:
- Testimony of Corrie Ten Boom on overcoming depression during WW2.
- Testimony of Joni Tada on her debilitating health condition.
- Testimony of Hayden Kho on how he overcame suicidal thoughts.
 APA – How Religious Beliefs Can Protect Psychological Well-being.
 Miller, Fletcher, Kabat-Zinn – Mindfulness meditation.
 NCBI – Neural correlates of healing prayers, depression, and traumatic memories.
 Wiley, Todd Chan – Religious beliefs compensate for purpose in life in the socially disconnected.