Mental Health

Depression and COVID-19: Bad News and Good News!

April 12, 2024
5 minute read
Depression and COVID-19: Bad News and Good News!

It has been 22 months since Covid-19 rearranged all of our lives. We have endured lockdowns, social distancing, masking, immunizations, working from home, and online education. Many lost jobs, income, and the purpose that work gives us. We lost the social connections that church, clubs, and friends gave us.We have suffered with unending arguments about the right things to do and the frequent changes in what the experts told us we should do. And, then there was the ever-present fear of catching a virus that could lead to serious illness, hospitalization, and perhaps, death.All of this came with a price. According to the data released by the US Census bureau earlier this year, depression and anxiety reached an all time high with as many as 35 to 40% of us reporting that we were either worried or depressed. I doubt that this surprises any of us very much. You would have been playing Rip Van Winkle for the last 22 months not to have noticed. That is a small portion of the bad news, but there is good news.[i]

There is help in the middle of the storm

For those who are looking for aid in a difficult time, there is help and hope. Our Savior said so! "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-12:1 NASB). In the middle of our struggle Jesus offers help to those who wish to come to Him to get it.The same Savior speaks when it comes to our fearful worries. "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John. 14:1-3 NASB). For those who fear the risks and problems of living and possibility of dying, Jesus says come!

Talking to someone is important

Of all the things I could say about those who struggle with sadness and worry, perhaps the most important would be to talk with someone. Paul gives himself as an example of the benefit of having someone share the burden he bore. “For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus…” (2 Corinthians 7:5-7 NASB).Paul was discouraged by the physical suffering he faced, the opposition from unbelievers, and the problems at the Corinth Church. In Paul’s own words, “…we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians 4:8-19 NASB). The help and support that Titus brought and the news of the Corinthian repentance comforted him.Choosing to do nothing about our sadness and worry is not a good strategy. If we are in the middle of a struggle, we should be looking for our Titus. And, the place to look is among believers and in His church!

For most of us this is not likely to be a disease

In the middle of 22 months of Covid, not only would it be easy to become discouraged as Paul did, but also to receive a diagnosis of depression. The space for this blog will not allow for an examination of the criteria used, but many consider that perhaps 90% of the diagnoses of depression confuse normal sadness over loss for a medical disease.[ii]The good news is that while many of us may have struggled with sadness over our losses these past two years, counseling from scripture offers hope. Paul reminds us of the hope in his letter to the Romans.“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1-5 NASB). The hope we can find as believers can be found in scripture and is tied to our purpose in life.

Finding purpose always helps

A key element of sadness that comes with loss is that we tend to aim our efforts at loss recovery. The depth of our sadness will correspond to the size of our loss. The duration of that sadness depends on when and if we can recover the thing we valued. Those loses can be loved ones, valued jobs, treasured friendships, possessions and just about anything we think we cannot live without.In many situations the loss cannot be recovered. In those cases, we must change our goal or we can remain stuck in a sad mood. Eventually, it boils down to a matter of worship. We can either change our goal in life or we can continue to suffer.A dear friend and mentor of mine, Dr. Robert Smith, once pointed me to the solution in 2 Corinthians 5:9. “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” The primary goal in life for all believers is not loss recovery. It is please our Savior. I once told a counselee who was struggling with a significant loss and severe mood problems that I thought she could get entirely well. She just had to be willing to say one sentence and mean it. The sentence was, “I want to glorify God with my life more than I want to breathe!”She had to decide that she wanted to live in a way that honored God more than she want to recover a lost relationship. And, she did just that. She had a new purpose to live for and it was to glorify God.

Two more helpful thoughts

Another important aspect of the sadness many have suffered in this pandemic was due to loss of our community connections. The hardest thing for me has been attending church by live-stream. I thank God for the technology. It kept us as close as the risk of infection could allow, but I mourn the loss of time spent with friends. I thank God it is coming to an end. Go back to church and find your friends. It will help your mood.The last thing that encourages me is that the year 1918 ended and did not go on forever.[iii] That was the year of the Great Influenza epidemic that killed millions of people worldwide and rocked our nation to the core. It came, and it left. Be encouraged, I suspect Covid eventually will do the same.[i] Alyssa Fowers, William Wan “A third of American now show signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census bureau finds amid coronavirus pandemic.” Washington Post, May 26,2020[ii] Alan Horwitz, Jerome Wakefield, The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007) For those who are interested in this subject, Horwitz and Wakefield present a strong case. I summarize their work in Good Mood Bad Mood, Shepherd Press 2013.[iii] I commend to your reading the book “The Great Influenza” by John M Barry, 2004, Penguin Books. Can be had on Audible. It is an excellent account of the 1918 epidemic and the last 2 chapters describes most everything that has happened in the past two years.Photo by Alex Ivashenko on Unsplash

Share this post
Tag one
Tag two
Tag three
Tag four

Join the Biblical Counseling Movement

Discover the power of biblical counseling and transform your life.

By clicking Sign Up, you confirm that you agree with our Terms and Conditions.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong. Please try again.