Stewardship of Self for Christian Workers: Depression

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Brochures in this series contain self-help information for missionaries. Each brochure emphasizes practical things missionaries may do for specific problems in the absence of professional help.

Ideally, one ought to consult a medical professional before making any lifestyle change to ensure that the change will not be detrimental to existing conditions or treatments. However, some Christian workers have limited access to mental health professionals.

To read more from the Stewardship of Self series


Resource Description


Christians are not immune to emotional disorders, such as depression. Although a clinical term that is not used in the Bible, depression appears to have been relatively common among early leaders of God’s people.

Early church musicians who wrote Psalms 69, 88, and 102 expressed the despair of depression in the context of hope. Moses, a leader of God’s people and well-known author, asked God to put him to death because he could not carry the burden of the people God had asked him to lead (Numbers 11). Jonah, a successful early cross-cultural missionary, also asked God to take his life when his anger resulted in a wish for death (Jonah 4). Elijah, a leader with the gift of prophecy, fell into the depths of depression. He prayed to die immediately after intense spiritual warfare and a great victory over the forces of evil (1 Kings 19). Therefore, even those actively involved in ministry can become depressed.

Depression and its causes

Although depressed Christians may have many different symptoms, the core of depression always includes depressed moods (sadness, emptiness, tearfulness) or loss of interest or pleasure in most activities. In addition, it may include changes in weight, sleep, energy, emotions, and thoughts. It has many causes, including:

  • Genetic and biological-depression runs in families
  • Medical-the side effects of some medical conditions and some medications may include depression
  • Background and family causes-childhood experiences can lead to later depression
  • Stress or significant loss or changes, such as separation, birth of a child, or death may result in depression
  • Learned helplessness in situations where we feel like we have little or no control
  • Thinking in ways that overlook the positive and see only the pessimistic
  • Anger turned against yourself
  • Sin and guilt leading to self-condemnation and hopelessness
  • A lack of positive or pleasant experiences
  • Having a lack of meaning in life


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