Communion with God alone is enough to help us all combat discouragement.

According to statistics, about 5% of people across the globe suffer from depression, and over 10% of Americans are depressed. Sometimes depression has a physical cause; sometimes it is caused by circumstances. When our circumstances threaten to discourage us, God’s remedy is spiritual. Though you might not guess on the first read, Joseph’s story in Genesis 40 tells us how to avoid depression and discouragement in our Christian walk.

Principles from Joseph’s Prison Experience:
  1. God is always loyal to those who are loyal to Him.
  2. God superintends and overrules all other forces in our lives.
  3. God even works with exactness through the uncertain aspects of our lives.
  4. God carries out His designs even through the troubled times of those who don’t know Him.
  5. God may or may not grant us approval from others; either way, we are always to please God.
  6. God allows spiritual success despite limitations of position or possession.

Don’t despise times of hard circumstances, for it is in them that God teaches us the best lessons. G. Campbell Morgan said, “Whether in slavery or whether in prison, in prosperity or in adversity, Jehovah was with Joseph. In that sacred and gracious fellowship, he was triumphant over circumstances.”

There are no forces nor facts over which God does not lay his hand in quiet strength and majesty and make them tributary to the accomplishment of his ultimate purposes.

Joseph avoided depression in the most limiting of circumstances – in prison! How did he do it? How can we?

Understand what causes depression.

When we are aware of its causes, we can avoid the pitfalls of discouragement. Sometimes habitual setbacks are unavoidable. We should not interpret this to mean that God is not pleased with us. Joseph trusted the sovereign God instead of others’ definitions of promotion.

In the midst of his own temptation to discouragement, Joseph had the opportunity and ability to help others with their own setbacks. Helping others endure often keeps us from drowning.

Joseph used his knowledge of God in his decision-making. He kept serving and using the talents God had given him to help others.

Know the course of depression.

The road to depression includes complaining, blaming, and a twisted sense of justice. Thinking that being good and honest doesn’t pay or that God isn’t fulfilling his end of the bargain – these are pitfalls on the course to discouragement. Joseph trusted the sovereignty of God who knows the truth of the future because it belongs to Him!

Whether God’s plan for the immediate future includes me or not, I must trust Him that my faithfulness to Him now God will use for His glory in the future.

Understand the cure for depression.

If spiritually caused, the cure for depression is found in Christ, His Word, His Spirit, and the fellowship of His body. Joseph didn’t even have many of the benefits that we enjoy today in a written Scripture, indwelling Spirit, and freedom to gather with other believers – and yet he flourished! Christ is enough.

The cure for depression is to immerse ourselves in the promises of God, helping others, discipling, and the hope of future service and reward. Joseph looked forward to future service because his purpose was eternal. He wanted wider influence to be used by God to the fullest extent possible.

The amazing thing about Joseph was that he was able to combat his circumstances without many of the aids which would normally be associated with the handling of discouragement. Like many an imprisoned soul since his day, he found that communion with the Lord Himself could meet the deepest needs of human heart, including the ability to combat discouragement.

Application Points

  • Are you stuck in the dark place of discouragement or spiritual depression? Commune with your God, saturate yourself in His Word, and fellowship with His people. What is one thing you can do this week to start using the cure that God has for you?
  • Think about your thinking in difficult circumstances. Are you snared by any of the pitfalls to discouragement? Do you deeply believe the six principles above? Study what God’s Word says to correct your thinking.
  • Fellowship with other believers is a key part of avoiding or curing spiritual depression. Do you feel like you don’t need fellowship? Are you more of a “lone-ranger” Christian? Consider when difficulty will come in your life. The Bible tells us that we should desire fellowship, because we do need it.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • Ephesians 6:6 – Always aim to please God.
  • 1 Peter 4:10 – Our responsibility to use the spiritual gift God has given us.
  • Hebrews 10:24-25 – Christians need fellowship.
  • Romans 15:4 – Learn from what is recorded in the Bible.
  • Hebrews 11:22 – Joseph looked to the future.
A Hymn to Encourage: “Shout with Delight”

Shout with delight to the Lord, all you people,
Worship the Lord with full gladness of heart.
Come bow before him with songs full of praises,
Joyful with all of your heart.

Know that the Lord, he is God.
Know that the Lord, he is God.
For he made us, we are his flock,
The sheep of his pasture, and he is our Rock!
Know that the Lord, he is God!

Enter his gates with a song of thanksgiving,
Enter his courts with your tongue tuned to praise.
Our God is good, and his love lasts forever;
Faithfulness marks all his ways.

Know that the Lord, he is God.
Know that the Lord, he is God.
For he made us, we are his flock,
The sheep of his pasture, and he is our Rock!
Know that the Lord, he is God!