Does Joy Cure Depression?

Anokina Shahbaz | February 19, 2024

Are you struggling with depression and looking for help? You are not alone. Depression is a debilitating and complex mental health condition affecting millions of people worldwide. It can limit daily functioning and make easy tasks seem highly strenuous. Seeking help from a professional and support from loved ones is paramount to healing. And along the way, looking for ways to incorporate joy into your day-to-day life can alleviate the symptoms. While joy is not necessarily a cure for depression, it can help a great deal.

God tells us in Psalm 34:18 that He is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Spending any considerable amount of time in a depressed state can certainly feel like our spirit is being crushed. Suffering is an unfortunate part of being in this world. Joy is one antidote. How can it help? It can lift the weight of whatever is crushing us, even if only temporarily, so we can enjoy the abundant life God has for us. 

What brings you joy? If nothing comes to mind, what used to bring you joy? Begin by reflecting on where in your life you can start to look for or recreate that joy. It does not have to be something that requires much time or energy. It just has to be unique to you and your circumstances. For “a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). The medicine that will work for someone else may not work for you. And creating your joy offers you some control over your situation.

Though this process can take years, focusing on one day at a time is helpful, and often one moment at a time. God does not ask us to maintain a state of joy; He wants us to turn to Him whether we are jumping for joy or drowning in agony. He offers up His presence to us and tells us not to grieve, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). When we can’t muster up any joy on our own, we can rely on God’s joy to give us the fortitude to keep going. 

Finding joy is not a way to avoid or deny our pain; it is a way we can begin healing. And God wants to walk alongside us on this journey. He knows all about our human emotions. When He came down from heaven to earth in the human form of Jesus Christ, He experienced our various feelings—joy, sorrow, anger, betrayal, and heartbreak. God can sympathize significantly with us and our pain.

The joy we express can be contagious. It can resonate with someone else and have a ripple effect. It can be why they choose to keep going for one more day. And just like God’s joy can be our strength, our happiness can also strengthen others.  

Alan Noble, in his recently released book, On Getting Out of Bed: The Burden and Gift of Living, puts this sentiment beautifully:

“Each choice to do the next thing is an act of worship, and therefore fundamentally good. Feeding your pets is an act of worship. Brushing your teeth is. Doing the dishes. Getting dressed. Going to work. Insofar as each of these actions assumes that this life in this fallen world is good and worth living despite suffering, they are acts of faith in God. Choose to do the next thing before and unto God, take a step toward the block. That is all you must ever do and all you can do. It is your spiritual act of worship. When we act on that goodness by rising out of bed, when we take that step to the block in radical defiance of suffering and our own anxiety and depression and hopelessness, we honor God and His creation, and we testify to our family, to our neighbors, and to our friends of His goodness.”

Did you know that God delights in you and me? It brings Him joy to be near us. Nothing we bring before Him is too much for Him to handle—not our sorrows nor our debilitating conditions. If we remain close to Him, He will make a way in the wilderness and we can start looking ahead (Isaiah 43:19). We can do our part by learning about our depression, getting professional help and support, and practicing finding joy, but God is the ultimate healer. So “may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).