One of the most fascinating characters and storylines in the entire Bible is that of Israel’s first king, Saul (part of his story was the focus of part 3 – Troubling Torments – of CCC’s Troubled series). At the end of the period of the judges, the people of Israel demanded a king to be like the other nations. Saul, who was from the tribe of Benjamin and stood head and shoulders above everyone else, was chosen by God to serve as Israel’s first king.
Saul’s kingship started well and it was evident God’s favor was upon him. However, a series of missteps and miscalculations uncovered a character flaw in Saul that resulted in God removing his favor from him. Saul was troubled in many ways by this change in his relationship with God and his status/success as king. One of the ways it appears he was troubled was in the form of depression, which impacts more people in varying degrees than we often realize.
There is a circumstantial depression and when circumstances change, the depression lifts or eases. There is also a form of depression that is more physical in nature than circumstantial, though circumstances can certainly intensify it.
Research suggests this physical form of depression is caused by a change in the brain’s chemistry as the result of how a part of the brain called the limbus is functioning. Certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters become exhausted resulting in a depression that continues regardless of circumstances.
Though it’s impossible to diagnose from this time in history, many scholars and psychologists believe Saul suffered from this type of depression (possibly even bipolar disorder) and have even labeled it the Saul Syndrome.
It’s a little more than a usual follow up but take some time to read 1 Samuel 16:1-21:15 and the next step of considering the following questions about how troubles can torment beyond the troubles.
- What do you know about depression?
- What are some of the stigmas and stereotypes connected to depression?
- Why do you think it means that “the Spirit of the Lord” left Saul?
- Do you believe God uses depression to punish people for stepping outside of his parameters? Why or why not?
- In what ways are guilt feelings rightfully associated with the guilt of unwise decisions?
- In what ways can guilt feelings contribute to depression in the absence of guilt for unwise decisions?
- In what ways do see insecurity as a symptom of depression in Saul?
- How might insecurity intensify depression?
- What are the examples of irrational thought and behavior seen in Saul?
- What evidence do you see that David was a loyal supporter and servant of Saul?
- How might irrational thoughts intensify depression?
- How might irrational actions intensify depression?
- How might Saul’s insecurity and irrationality serve to explain his choices but not excuse them?
- What are some ways people try to excuse attitudes and actions rather than explain them?
- What next steps will you take to break the stigma connected to issues like depression?
Some people are afraid to talk about depression because of the stigma connected to it. Some people are afraid to consider that a loved on may have depression because of the stigma connected to it. Some people are afraid to consider they may be troubled with depression because of the stigma connected to it.
Depression does not mean a person is mentally ill or crazy. If it’s more than circumstantial depression, it means there is a physical cause in the brain that needs to be addressed. Breaking the stigma surrounding depression is not a sign of weakness – it may be one of the strongest things we can ever do.
People who are troubled in any way need a place where they can be encouraged, accepted, connected, and loved – a place where healing can take place. Connecting in the church and relationship with followers of Jesus should be such places.
Today is Monday – make it a day where you break the stigma connected to things like depression!