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Depression in the Bible: Jonah

Jonah 4

A time when depression WAS because of a spiritual problem.

Jonah 4:1-9
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.  So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.  Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city.  And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant.  But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered.  And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint.

Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”

Jonah was a prophet during a time of deep corruption.  Obviously times were not unlike they are today.  God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach about repentance and turning back to God.  Jonah was dead set against God showing the people of Nineveh any grace.  Jonah decided he knew best and he refused to do what God told him to do.

Jonah repented of his disobedience, and God told him again, go to Ninevah and preach about repentance and turning back to God.  This time Jonah did what God told him to do and the people of Nineveh did repent of their sins and turned back to God.

Now, from a modern day perspective, most people would be thrilled.  If a church or organization felt God calling them to go and preach in a city that had turned away from God, God provided for the mission, the mission was a success, and the people were saved, we would have an all out media blast.  There would be rejoicing and praising God that sinners had been saved.

But not Jonah.  He was not happy at all.  He did not want those people saved.  He wanted those people judged, judged guilty, punished, and he certainly did not want any grace or mercy shown to them.

Wow.  Jonah was angry.  A prideful, spiteful kind of angry it sounds like.  He was so angry he wanted to die.

In Jonah’s case, his depression was a direct product of his resentment, ill will, lack of forgiveness, jealously that God would offer others what he only wanted for himself and his people, and blatant, outright, no holds barred disobedience.

If you even suspect that anger, hatred, predjudice, unforgiveness in your heart towards another, holding a grudge, or any kind of jealousy or envy is causing your feelings of depression, pray immediately that God would give you the grace to forgive.  To let go.  To rise above and be the person God would have you to be.

Proverbs 12:25    Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but an encouraging word makes it glad.

Proverbs 12:26    The consistently righteous man is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked causes others to go astray.

Proverbs 14:16-17    A wise man fears and departs from evil, But a fool rages and is self-confident.  A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, And a man of wicked intentions is hated.

Proverbs 14:29    He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, But he who is impulsive exalts folly.

Proverbs 15:18    A wrathful man stirs up strife, But he who is slow to anger allays contention.

Proverbs 15:26    The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, But the words of the pure are pleasant.

Proverbs 17:20    He who has a wayward and crooked mind finds no good, and he who has a willful and contrary tongue will fall into calamity.

Proverbs 18:2    A self-confident fool has no delight in understanding but only in revealing his personal opinions and himself.

Proverbs 18:20    A man’s moral self shall be filled with the fruit of his mouth; and with the consequence of his words he must be satisfied whether good or evil.

Proverbs 18:21    Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it for death or life.

Proverbs 25:23    The north wind brings forth rain, And a backbiting tongue an angry countenance.

Proverbs 29:11    A self-confident fool utters all his anger, but a wise man holds it back and stills it.

Proverbs 29:20    Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?  There is more hope for a self-confident fool than for him.

Proverbs 29:22-23    A man of wrath stirs up strife, and a man given to anger commits and causes much transgression.
A man’s pride will bring him low, but he who is of a humble spirit will obtain honor.

Matthew 12:33-37    “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

James 1:19-20    Understand this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear a ready listener, slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.  For man’s anger does not promote the righteousness God desires.


There are six Greek words from the Bible that translate into the equivalent modern day English words that we associate with light, moderate, and severe depression.  They range from sadness to acute mental anguish, loss of hope, despair, the inability to enjoy life.


Depression is real.  It ranges from discouragement all the way to despair and hopelessness.  

From a modern day medical point of view, if a person experiences at least five of these symptoms for one month they have major depression. Mild depression would typically be defined as having two to four of these symptoms for over one month:

  • deep sadness or emptiness
  • apathy, loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • agitation or restlessness, physical hyperactivity or inactivity
  • sleep disturbances
  • weight/appetite disturbances
  • diminished ability to think or concentrate
  • feelings of excessive guilt, self-reproach or worthlessness
  • feelings of fatigue or loss of energy
  • morbid thoughts of death or suicide

Often times children of God are afraid to admit they are suffering because they feel it will be seen as a spiritual problem. Depression CAN be the result of a spiritual problem, of sin in one’s life, and of disobedience to God, but it does not always follow it IS a spiritual problem just because you are a believer.

There are many factors that cause depression and usually there are more than one at work. These are common factors known to contribute to depression:

  • not having proper nutrition whether eating too little, too much, or not eating the right foods for your body
  • chemicals such as prescription drugs, illicit drugs, or common accepted substances such as caffeine and sugar
  • hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can leave you feeling exhausted, depleted, lacking energy and mental clarity
  • hormonal imbalances
  • allergies
  • heavy metals
  • mental, physical, and sexual abuse from your past that you have not dealt with and overcome the emotional scars
  • microbial over-growths/toxins
  • any number of medical conditions (stroke, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, thyroid)
  • natural light deprivation as sunlight is a key factor not only in mood but also in natural production of key vitamins your body needs to function properly
  • imbalances of naturally occurring chemicals in the brain along with other neuro and psychological disorders
  • life trauma such as severe loss as the death of a loved one, close friend, family member, also the loss of a job, or of the support of a church or group of friends

There is a huge difference between having the “blues” or the “blahs” or having a bad day or even having a bad week, and severe clinical depression.  There is no shame in admitting you are weak or have need of help.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10    And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Many of the Bible’s most faithful suffered from bouts of depression, including Jesus.  As in anything, if you are struggling, or sense that you have or may have some level of depression, always, go to God first.

Proverbs 3:5-6    Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

If you even remotely suspect it is a spiritual problem then talk to God about how you can make it right.

1 John 1:9    If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

But also remember that if you fell off your roof and your arm was broken you would get in the back of the ambulance without thinking twice about it.  It is doubtful you would sit around worrying if you fell off the roof, or down the stairs, [or slipped on ice on a winter’s day, or whatever misfortune befell you that would render you in a situation that called for an emergency room visit], whether or not sin in your life got you to that point.  Maybe it did or maybe it did not but if your arm is broken you need a doctor to set it.  Likewise, if your mental state is broken, seek professional help.

Proverbs 1:5    A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel

Proverbs 2:6    For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding

Proverbs 16:22    Understanding is a wellspring of life to him who has it. But the correction of fools is folly.

God calls us to have life and to have it more abundantly.  Letting pride or embarrassment prevent you from being able to have and enjoy your life is as much of a sin as any sin you may think you have committed to get you to the point of depression in the first place.

The Cure for Jonah’s Depression

Truthfully, we don’t really know what ultimately became of Jonah.  Did he let anger and prejudice eat at him till he indeed did die a bitter, hateful, spiteful old man?  That would be truly sad if that is what happened.  It would also be truly sad if that is what you let happen to you because you cannot bring yourself to forgive or to show others the same grace that Jesus shows to all who come to Him.

Ephesians 4:32    And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

1 Peter 4:8    Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins love forgives and disregards the offenses of others.

Matthew 6:15    Jesus said,“But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

What a sad state of affairs to live an angry, miserable life and die without the free gift of forgiveness Christ died to give us all because of pride and a misguided feeling of superiority.


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Depression in the Bible: Moses
Depression in the Bible: King Saul
Depression in the Bible: Hannah
Depression in the Bible: Jonah
Depression in the Bible: Elijah

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One comment on “Depression in the Bible: Jonah

  1. Pingback: “I am feeling suicidal” | daily meditation

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