Why did God give me depression?


A version of this article was published on FamilyShare.

14.8 million Americans suffer from clinical depression every year. I am one of them, and maybe you are too.

My first true experience with depression came after the birth of my son. I was married to the love of my life, and I’d just been blessed with the most beautiful human being I had ever seen. At a time when I was supposed to be enjoying my life to the fullest, I was the lowest I had ever been.  I was chronically angry, tired and sad. I felt mind-numbingly inadequate, and was constantly overwhelmed with worry about even the simplest things.

While I told my doctor treatment wasn’t necessary because  I “came out of it,”  I never truly did. Two years later, my daughter was born, and I was soon plunged even deeper into the darkness than I’d ever been before. Finally, after much poking and prodding from my loved ones, I went to my doctor for help.

A few weeks later, I felt the first glimmer of true joy that I’d felt in a long time. It wasn’t just the proper treatment that gave me that spark: it was hope. Hope that things could get better, and that one day, the darkness would dissipate and there would be light in my life again.

Since then, depression has been inextricably woven into my life. Good times have been hampered by it, and bad times have been worsened by it.  Thankfully, I am now at a point where it is under control, and experience has taught me (and my ever-watchful loved ones) to recognize the signs when it starts to creep back into my life.

Through all this, I have had ample time to wonder why God allowed me to suffer from depression. Why does He let this happen to His children? I believe, from my experience, there are a few different reasons.

To Instill Empathy For Others

I have met and talked with so many people who also suffer from depression. Because of the experiences that come with depression, we can better feel empathy and offer consolation to those in our paths who also have hearts made heavy by this disease.

We become capable of a more meaningful kind of compassion when we’ve experienced something that others are going through. I’m more aware of my friends who are overwhelmed by motherhood or who I know have dealt with depression in the past, so that I can be there to support them if they need me. The need we have felt in ourselves awakens our senses to the same need in others.

Jesus was a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” That is how He can succor us when we are in need, and we can follow His example. In some small, imperfect way, we can do the same thing for others. (Isaiah 53:3)

To Teach Reliance on Him

In my darkest moments, I had no choice but to cry out to my Savior for His help. I needed His love, and I needed his promise that I would find peace again. My son was diagnosed with autism at age four. I convinced myself I had failed him, because I had missed the signs that something was wrong. I constantly punished myself for costing my son critical years of intervention and therapy by not recognizing his symptoms.

Trust in the power of the atonement was the only thing that got me through that difficult time. Faith that His grace could reach even me, when I believed in my heart that my son’s “late” diagnosis was due to my inadequacy as a mother. That faith helped me overcome, and eventually gave me the perspective I was severely lacking.

He wants us to come to Him! He says so himself, many times. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Please, please get help from a professional if you think you might be experiencing depression, but also allow God to help you by reaching out to Him, too.

To Stretch

I think it’s common for people who suffer from depression to have trouble seeing the strength we are capable of. We show our true strength and our real capabilities as we persevere through the depths of sorrow. This is our unique opportunity to see what we are made of, and we are His! We were made by Him. We are the work of His hands. The strength that comes from being His shines through when our backs are against the wall.

The proof comes not when everything is roses and sunshine, but when the journey is filled with obstacles, heavy burdens and all-out fights.

I never knew my own strength until I survived my first real depressive episode. I felt so weak and broken in the middle of it, but when the clouds finally dispersed, I could see that in reality God had made me more powerful and brave than I ever thought I could be. He plants that strength in His children from the beginning, but often we can’t see it until we’ve had to use it.  

To Refine

“Behold, I have refined thee…I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10)

God chose depression as a “furnace of affliction” for us. Not only do we become stronger as we walk through the flames, but we become purer, too. The refiner’s fire is a kind of preparation for us to become closer to God. The things in our life that keep us from Him fall away as we feel our need for His presence increase.

I can’t say that I’m a great person now that I’ve been “purified” through the fires of depression. I can say that I’m made a better person through Jesus Christ, and that this “furnace of affliction” has helped me see more clearly the things that affect the strength of my relationship with Him. I need that closeness with Him when my mind and heart are in need of the peace only He can give.

The Truth

I can tell you with certainty that God did NOT give you depression because of your mistakes, or because you deserve it, or because He doesn’t care about you. Don’t let depression sell you that story, because it isn’t true.

The truth is, I can’t explain why God gave me depression. I can’t tell you why you have it either.

Here’s what I do know: I know joy shines brighter when you’ve been through the darkest night. I know growth and change require pain and struggle. I know God loves His children, and if He allows bad things like depression to happen to us, it is for our good.

He ultimately wants the best for us. He wants us to be given the experiences we need to grow into the absolute best version of ourselves that we can be.  The person He knows is inside of us, waiting to break through. The person who is like Him.

Have courage. He is with us.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.” (Psalms 28:7)

The Closed Door


A few years ago, a door in my life closed. At first, I didn’t really believe it was closed. I thought that maybe, with a little time and maybe a little oil for the hinges, it would open back up again.

Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you that the door is shut, stuck, locked and bolted. And possibly welded closed.

The only problem with this, is that I really, really, REALLY want what’s behind that door. So bad. It’s been almost four years, and though I’m trying, I still haven’t been able to truly accept the fact that I’m not going to get this particular thing. No matter how righteous, no matter how good it is. I can’t have it, and I don’t know why. I may never know why.

This has caused me a great deal of heartache and confusion. I was certain that God wanted me to have what was on the other side of that door. I just needed the key. Or a crowbar.

I hadn’t actually thought of this “closing” in my life as a “door” until a few weeks ago, when I was scrolling through social media, and up popped one of those heavily clichéd inspirational quotes plastered on top of a nature photograph. Usually I pay no attention to these, but some small part of my bruised heart resonated with this one. “When God closes a door, stop banging on it! Trust that whatever is behind it wasn’t meant for you.”

Suddenly, I was able to picture my lamentation and my refusal to move on from this “closing” as banging on a door that God had shut. Since recently I have been making greater efforts to move on, this began to be my mantra when I felt the familiar fog of sadness, frustration or desperation settle on my heart and mind. “The door is closed. Stop banging on it.”

Though it has helped me greatly to remind myself of this, I still have struggled to put this chapter of my life behind me. If I’m not supposed to have what’s behind the door, what am I supposed to do instead?

One Sunday during our women’s meeting, the lesson was about adversity, about how even though one door may close and cause heartache and pain, God will open another door for us. I was caught completely off guard by this subject that hit so close to home.

Yet in my mind, my angry and petulant side planted a hand on my hip and yelled, “Yeah? Well, where’s my open door?” Despite the anger my spiritual wounds produced, I felt the Spirit whisper to me, “You’ve been too busy banging on the closed door to see the one that has been opened.”

This thought hit me like a ton of bricks. The truth of it reverberated through me. I tried to share my thoughts with my dear sisters in the gospel, but the emotion choked my voice to the point that I was almost unintelligible.

In this journey, I have spent hours upon hours, (years, even) at this door. I have stared at it, knocked on it, banged on it, cried out in desperation to the heavens, and examined every single inch of the door for just one tiny weakness I could use to break it down. Sledge hammers, jackhammers and chainsaws come to mind when I think about how hard I tried and how much I hoped that this door would somehow budge.

The pain of this closed door hasn’t lessened any. Despite this, I find myself finally beginning to trust my Heavenly Father, that maybe what’s behind the door really isn’t part of His plan for my life, and that I will find true happiness in the path that He has laid for me. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s this:

I can’t find my way to the door He has opened, if I won’t leave the door that has closed.

Going forward, my goal is to walk away from the door. My goal is to look around me, and prayerfully search for the door that God has opened for me. I haven’t found it yet, but I trust that there is one open for me. I just need to have the faith, the humility, and the patience to find it.

Erasing the Bitterness

I struggle with bitterness.

It’s not an easy thing to admit. I wasn’t sure I was ready to see it in words, and I wrestled with whether or not I should share it, once it was written. It was difficult to admit this failure to myself, and I find it daunting to share it with others.

I have felt bitterness at the easy successes of other children. I have felt bitterness when my child is left out or lagging behind.

It started with the gentle, age-appropriate babbling of my contemporary’s child.

Today, it is the child riding a bike smoothly, effortlessly. The child reading fluently, writing neatly. The child, the same age as mine, clearly surpassing mine in conversation and understanding.

And I feel bitter.

It’s taken me some time to understand this feeling. I’m beginning to realize that this feeling of bitterness comes directly from pain. A small seed of pain that grew into a poison, hardening my heart towards others.  It comes from the pain I feel on behalf of my son when he struggles with things that come easily to others.

A few years ago, the bitterness was so prominent in my heart it began to affect my relationships. I couldn’t be around certain people because their success, the perceived easiness of their life, caused me to feel grief and resentment.

As the years have gone by, the strength of this feeling has softened and become less emotionally interrupting. Yet every so often, out of the blue, I feel it creep up again. At the library. Playdates. The park.

In my struggles, I strive to make a concious effort to give this pain to the Savior. He asks for my burden, and this is the burden I give to Him. Only He can take it away, and give me back in return the joy and peace I should feel for others. Only He can erase the bitterness.

Because of Him, I can feel joy that these children and these parents, have these blessings! I can be happy that they can achieve these things without the extra focus and frustration. They are my siblings in spirit, children of the same God, and I can feel happy for them.

I recognize and rejoice in Toby’s strengths. I feel grateful that though we find some things difficult, they are not always impossible. I am thankful for every beautiful step of progress he has made, and for all the people God has put in our lives to help him achieve all that he already has, and all he will continue to.

I also recognize that I may have simplicity and ability where others, including the very people I feel this resentment towards, may not. Realizing this has aided in changing my perspective when these situations arise.

I hope and pray that a day will come when I don’t have to fight this knee-jerk reaction, this natural inclination towards discontent and resentment. That someday, the first feeling I have when I see another child succeed where mine doesn’t, is love and gladness.

I still struggle. Every day.

But the more I trust in the Savior, the more I make a conscious effort to let go of the pain, and open my heart up to the kind of love only the Savior can give, the closer my heart is to being whole again.