If you’re like a lot of people, you might feel like the Bible doesn’t have much to say about depression. Well, if that’s you, I’ve got great news for you. Because the Bible is composed of the stories and lives and experiences of real people who actually lived, these very real people experienced very real emotions. Chief among these feelings and experiences was depression, because life has always been hard.
The book of Psalms is probably the best place to hang out if you are feeling depression actually. Though the Psalms were written as a hymnbook of sorts, it deals with lots of intense emotions and experiences, with an emphasis on depression. In this article, I’ve outlined 17 amazing Psalms that deal with depression so that you will be able to have a full sense of what God thinks about depression.
The Big Picture of These Psalms on Depression
Before we start walking through the specific verses, I wanted to give you some big-picture bullet points that will ring true throughout these passages:
- God never judges a person for having depression, but instead draws close to the brokenhearted to give his presence and reassurance.
- There is no condemnation for those who follow God, so if there’s a sense of condemnation coming upon you, then it’s not from God.
- God is very patient with us and never puts a timeline on our healing.
- We won’t always have a clear sense of God’s work in our lives amidst our depression, but we can trust that he is always working.
#1. PSALM 18:4-6
The ropes of death entangled me;
Floods of destruction swept over me.
The grave wrapped its ropes around me;
Death laid a trap in my path.
But in my distress I cried out to the Lord;
Yes I prayed to my God for help.
He heard me from his sanctuary;
My cry to him reached his ears.
When we are battling depression, we can feel exactly how the psalmist David describes here. We can feel choked by death and flooded by destruction, as hope recedes from our sight and everything feels lost. We can feel not only like death has laid a trap for us, but that we have fallen into the trap. There is a terrible place to be, trapped by death with no apparent way out.
But there is still hope.
In desperation, like David we can pray to God for help and he will hear us from the heavens. This is the promise that we see all throughout the Bible—God is a God who hears and sees our pain. Going all the way back to Hagar in Genesis 16, God has seen the downtrodden and answered those prayers. No matter how dark the times get, no matter how hopeless things might feel, we can trust that God has heard our prayers. So don’t give up and stop praying, because God is listening.
#2. PSALM 18:16-19
He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
He drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
From those who hated me and were too strong for me.
They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress,
But the LORD supported me.
He led me to a place of safety;
He rescued me because he delights in me.
These verses pick up from where we left off before. God not only hears our prayers, but he acts. He will (eventually) rescue us from our pit of despair and the deep waters we find ourselves in. Though we might feel like we are treading water for a long time, we can do so knowing that God is working on our behalf.
There are four specific promises here from God. He will support us. He will lead us to safety. He will rescue us. He delights in us. Rest in each of these promises when you find yourself overcome with depression. There is hope.
#3. PSALM 18:28-30
You light a lamp for me.
The LORD, my God, lights up my darkness.
In your strength I can crush an army;
With my God I can scale any wall.
God’s way is perfect.
All the LORD’s promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
Continuing in Psalm 18, we have more promises from God. He lights a lamp and lights up our darkness, which can be a powerful promise when we feel overcome by depression. Depression can make us feel weak, but God promises to give us strength to crush an army and scale any wall, and also promises to be a shield for us.
These are perfect illustrations for depression, at least in my life, because I have felt hemmed in by walls when I’m depressed. I have felt trapped by darkness and afraid to move anywhere. I have needed a shield from the attacks coming against me. God promises exactly what we need, and we can trust him because all his promises prove true.
#4. PSALM 18:46
The LORD lives! Praise to my Rock! May the God of my salvation be exalted!
Praise can be a key to overcoming depression. Hear me carefully here though, because I’m not saying that we can sing worship songs and suddenly feel better about ourselves. That toxic theology and just wrong, because depression isn’t always a spiritual problem so it doesn’t always have a spiritual solution.
But, and this is important, remembering the goodness of God in our lives can have a profound effect on how much space we give to our depression. We must remember that our God is alive and active on our behalf. Sometimes depression will waver in the face of the living God, and even if it doesn’t we can trust that God has heard us as we consider this psalm in its fullness.
#5. PSALM 28:1-2, 8-9
I pray to you, O LORD, my rock.
Do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you are silent,
I might as well give up and die.
Listen to my prayer for mercy
As I cry out to you for help,
As I lift my hands toward your holy sanctuary.
The LORD gives his people strength.
He is a safe fortress for his anointed king.
Save your people!
Bless Israel, your special possession.
Lead them like a shepherd,
And carry them in your arms forever.
We’ve all done in a place of desperation where we feel like giving up. Perhaps like me you’ve even entertained suicidal ideations. Take heart that David felt the same. You are not alone in these feelings. God promises to never leave us alone in our sorrow but to draw near instead.
The trick is that we don’t or won’t always feel his presence. Sometimes, we have to take it on faith that God is with us because we might feel no different after our prayers. But he is worthy of trust. He is a safe fortress for us. He is our great shepherd. He will carry us in his arms. We can rest in this knowledge.
#6. PSALM 46:1-3
God is our refuge and strength,
Always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
And the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
Ah, the God of our refuge. This is such a powerful promise because sometimes a refuge is EXACTLY what we need. A place to be safe from all the craziness of life, a place where earthquakes or crumbling mountains or roaring oceans won’t touch us.
This is an epic promise from God, one we should cling to. When everything feels like it’s falling apart, when our depression is telling us that nothing is going to last and it’s all going to get worse, we can hold tight to our unchanging God. He will always be ready to help us, every day, all the time, no matter what.
#7. PSALM 142:1-3
I cry out to the LORD;
I plead for the LORD’s mercy.
I pour out my complaints before him
And tell him all my troubles.
When I am overwhelmed,
You alone know the way I should turn.
Sometimes we feel as though we need to sanitize our prayers to God, as though we should only tell him good things or tell him tiny snippets of the bad things. That’s now how David rolled here in this psalm. He poured out all his complaints and troubles to God because he was overwhelmed.
We can and should do exactly the same. God can handle our difficulties. He won’t be surprised, put out, or frustrated because we choose to be radically honest. This is exactly what he wants, for us to share our overwhelm with him. It is only then that we can see what God might do in response to our circumstances.
#8. PSALM 30:3-5
You brought me up from the grave, O LORD.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
Sing to the LORD, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
But his favor lasts a lifetime.
Weeping may last through the night,
But joy comes with the morning.
Let’s address the elephant in the room from this passage. God isn’t angry with any of us. His love is 100% directed toward us. Sometimes it FEELS like God is angry with us, but that’s simply not true. We are walking in his favor so long as we are in Christ.
This doesn’t keep us from feeling like we’re in the grave or the pit of death, and it doesn’t keep us from our evenings of weeping either. Life is hard, and this world is dark. To pretend otherwise is to be dishonest. But we can trust that God is God, and in the words of the Apostle Paul, we can believe that God is for us.
#9. PSALM 30:11-12
You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
That I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.
The experience of the psalmist can be our experience too. God can take away the mourning we have been clothed with and replace it with joy. We can place our faith in God to be the lifter of our heads. He will do more than just listen to our complaints. He will ACT. God will actively move in our lives to change our circumstances and our mindset.
When this happens (yes, I said WHEN, not IF), we can join the psalmist in praise to God. Maybe it will be in singing, maybe it will be in poetry, maybe it will be in a painting. The method doesn’t really matter—we should be certain to recognize the goodness of God in our lives and give him thanks for it. He’s worth it!
#10. PSALM 61:1-5
O God, listen to my cry!
Hear my prayer!
From the ends of the earth,
I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the towering rock of safety,
For you are my safe refuge,
A fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
Let me live forever in your sanctuary,
Safe beneath the shelter of your wings!
You might be noticing a theme by now. We can expect that God will hear our cries when we are overwhelmed. I don’t think there’s a better description of depression than being overwhelmed, and God promises to be listening and protecting us in the midst of our overwhelm.
The imagery in this psalm is beautiful: a towering rock of safety, a safe refuge, a fortress, a sanctuary, staying safe beneath the shelter of wings. So many good things promised here by God, but perhaps the biggest thing to notice is that we are not alone. God will be beside, along, and with us. He will guard us when our thoughts get the best of us, and he will keep us safe.
#11. PSALM 59:16-17
But as for me, I will sing about your power.
Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.
For you have been my refuge,
A place of safety when I am in distress.
O my Strength, to you I sing praises,
For you, O God, are my refuge,
The God who shows me unfailing love.
Context is always important, and the context of this psalm is profoundly so. Saul had sent soldiers to David’s house to kill him, and this psalm was part of his response. Mind you, the earlier part of the psalm is crying out for justice and destruction of enemies, but David goes on to center himself in the goodness of God to end the psalm.
He calls God his Strength, his refuge, his place of safety, and the source of unfailing love. Like David, sometimes our depression comes over us because of unsavory circumstances. Even in the midst of these types of circumstances, we can trust God to be our Strength. He will never fail us.
#12. PSALM 136:1-5
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who alone does mighty miracles.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully.
His faithful love endures forever.
When our depression really starts to get a hold of us, we forget who God is and what God has already done for us in the past. This leaves us adrift in a sea of darkness, which is a terrible place to be. As I already mentioned, I don’t mean to insinuate that giving thanks to God is a magic pill to solve our depression. Sometimes, we need mindfulness and psychotropic drugs and counseling and solid friendship to escape the grips of depression.
But centering our hearts and minds on the things that God has already done for us will in a very real sense prime the spiritual pump of faith for us to expect that God is going to do something fresh in our lives. This can be a powerful antidote to depression in its own right, and it is worth exploring.
#13. PSALM 27:4-5, 13-14
The one thing I ask of the LORD—the thing I seek most—
Is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
Delighting in the LORD’s perfections
And meditating in his Temple.
For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
He will hide me in his sanctuary.
He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’s goodness
While I am here in the land of the living.
Wait patiently for the LORD,
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.
Depression causes us to put our focus on all the things that are going poorly in our life and everything that’s wrong with us. It’s a tough hole to dig out of, for a lot of reasons, and there’s no easy fix for that scenario. Indeed, this type of rapid-fire negativity is what’s been responsible for the worst depressive moments in my life. Psalm 27 offers a different path when we find ourselves “in the dumps.” Instead of focusing on all that’s wrong around us or within us, this psalm suggests that we can turn our eyes God-ward. We can meditate on his perfections instead of our imperfections.
The promise of God, when we focus on him, is that he will conceal us from our troubles and hide us in his sanctuary. If you’re anything like me, being hidden by God sounds like a pretty solid deal most likely. When we place our trust in God, we will be able to join with the psalmist and say that we have confidence in God to show his goodness before our life ends. That’s a solid promise to lay hold of in the midst of dark seasons.
The psalm ends with a challenge we can speak to ourselves. “Be brave. Be courageous. Wait patiently for the Lord.” This isn’t always easy to do, because it’s too easy for circumstances and emotions to draw us away from a patient waiting on God. But the best news of all is that we can ask God to give us the bravery and courage to wait for him. He loves answering those prayers.
#14. PSALM 31:5, 7, 10, 14
I entrust my spirit into your hand.
Rescue me, LORD, for you are a faithful God.
I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
For you have seen my troubles,
And you care about the anguish of my soul.
I am dying from grief;
My years are shortened by sadness.
Sin has drained my strength;
I am wasting away from within.
But I am trusting you, O LORD,
Saying, “You are my God!”
When depression is hitting hard, we can entrust our spirits into God’s hands because he is a faithful God. When all around us feels topsy-turvy and not worth fighting for, God will stand firm on our behalf because he is always on our side. We can know we are seen by God from the heavens in our all struggles, and it’s more than just seeing us—he cares for us and is actively working to produce a change in our lives.
Like David the psalmist, our years can feel shortened by the strength of our depression, and we can wonder if we’ve fallen into sin because of the absence of God. But we have a choice in this moment: we can believe what our emotions and our brain is telling us, or we can believe what the Bible tells us. The Bible says God is for us and nothing can be against us. When circumstances or emotions rise us in ugly ways, it can feel like we’ve been abandoned. But we can still choose to declare our trust in God.
#15. PSALM 140:6
I said to the LORD, “You are my God!”
Listen, O LORD, to my cries for mercy!
This might be the shortest lament found in the Bible. Clocking in at just one verse, there is still a lot packed in here. David starts with a declaration of commitment to God, and so can we. When darkness falls all around us and we are overcome with depression, we can be tempted to walk away from God. After all, he should be fixing our problems, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way, and we are sometimes left in our depression.
But we don’t have to weather the storm alone. We can with the psalmist cry out to God for mercy. He will answer. It might not feel like it some days. On those overwhelming days, we have to trust God’s character even when it seems like he’s absent. We can make a choice to trust in his goodness when there’s no evidence of it, because God is good, every day, all the time.
#16. PSALM 138:6-8
Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble,
But he keeps his distance from the proud.
Though I am surrounded by troubles,
You will protect me from the anger of my enemies.
You reach out your hand,
And the power of your right hand saves me.
The LORD will work out his plans for my life—
For your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever.
Don’t abandon me, for you made me.
There is both a promise and a warning at the beginning of this passage. Humility is the key to intimacy with God. We must guard our hearts against pride because this offends the character of God. There’s a weird thing that can happen with our mental health conditions, where we feel like we are “better than” those who aren’t battling these issues. We might be going through hard times in a unique way, but it doesn’t make us better.
Another promise is contained in the last line. We can know that God will never abandon us because our lives are hidden in Christ, always and forever. Nothing that happens can ever change God’s commitment to us. We can gain confidence in his love for us because of his unending commitment to us.
#17. PSALM 65:5-8
You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
O God our savior.
You are the hope of everyone on earth,
Even those who sail on distant seas.
You formed the mountains by your power
And armed yourself with mighty strength.
You quieted the raging oceans with their pounding waves
And silenced the shouting of the nations.
Those who live at the end of the earth
Stand in awe of your wonders.
From where the sun rises to where it sets,
You inspire shouts of joy.
When we are battling depression, we feel like we are sailing on distant seas. We feel like we are far away from everyone and everything. Yet the promise of God applies to us even in these moments. He is our hope even then. What does it mean to have our hope in God though? The simplest definition is to believe that God is going to come through for us, no matter what. It means to hold fast to a reality in which God is faithful all the time, even when he feels absent. Sometimes that feels like a fantasy, but hope in God never disappoints.
We can know that God is always for us because he has given us the Holy Spirit as a down payment of our inheritance in Christ. We are given the Holy Spirit as a nonrefundable deposit of future blessings. If God were to abandon us, he would have to leave the Holy Spirit behind. Now THAT, my friend, is commitment to a cause. He literally says he’d rather break up the Trinity than lose us.
Believe it or not, there are many more verses that speak to depression and where God positions himself in our depression than we’ve covered here. By sticking only with the Psalms, I made a decision to simplify things. The overwhelming testimony of Scripture says that God is for us, God loves us with everything in his being, God is committed to drawing us closer to him and causing us to resemble Christ, and God will never leave us alone in this world. Take heart friend—no matter how lonely it feels right now, you are not abandoned.