Enhancer of Joy
Lesson Developed by
Sarah F. Farmer, Katherine M. Hyde, and Nadja Reilly
Depression in Biblical Days
Tips to Prepare
Spend time to pray for your students, review the session, and examine your own experiences with depression. We are asking the youth to discuss personal and sensitive topics; thus, it is important to take a little extra time to set the stage by reminding young people about confidentiality, loving support of each other, and where to go if the topic stirs up painful emotions.
- A List of Symptoms of Depression (Optional)
- A List of Prayers from Psalms (Optional)
- What to Do If Your Friend is Depressed (Optional)
Setting the Atmosphere
Young people should be seated in a way that allows them to see each other. One suggestion is to have students sit in a circle. You can also allow students to sit at tables that are shaped as an oval or horseshoe.
Psalm 3:3 – But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. P
The purpose of this session is to help young people examine the Bible as resource for walking through depression and enhancing their emotional health.
In this session, youth will be able to identify specific people in the Bible who struggled with depression and identify biblical passages in the Bible that help cope with depression.
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life with Christ by Peter Scazzero
Gather (5 minutes)
Activity 1: Prayer and Greeting
At the opening of the session, begin with prayer and read the focal scripture. Invite students to greet one another and to share with another youth in their group what it means for God to be a “lifter of their heads.”
Engage (25 minutes)
Activity 1: What Manner of Sadness Is This?
- Tell students that you are going to make a statement. Tell them if they have ever felt like that to raise their hand. Say the following statements without revealing who says them. After each statement, wait for students to raise their hand.
Depressive Statements from David: “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.” Psalms 38:4
Depressive Statements from Job
- “I have no peace, no quietness, I have no rest, but only turmoil.” Job 3:26
- “I loathe my very life, therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.” Job 10:1
- “Terrors overwhelm me…my life ebbs away, days of suffering grip me. Night pierces my bones, my gnawing pains never rest.” Job 30:15-17
Depressive Statement from the Prophet Elijah: “I have had enough Lord, he said. Take my life, I am not better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:4
Depressive Statement from the Prophet Jeremiah: “Cursed be the day I was born…why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?” Jeremiah 20:14,18
- Tell students that each of these are statements come directly from the Bible. They are expressed by well-known people in the Bible like David, Job, Elijah, and Jeremiah.
- Ask students to raise their hand if they already knew that depression existed for a long time, even in the Bible.
- Tell students that depression does not make someone a “bad” person, but it lets us know that they are walking through a challenging season emotionally and may need our support and friendship in order to overcome any feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, which is often associated with depression.
Activity 2: Diagnosing Jonah
- Tell students that we are going to explore depression in the Bible by looking at the life of Jonah. Invite them to read the story of Jonah, particularly Jonah 4. Reading the story can be done in a large group or in small groups. As they read Jonah invite them to respond the following questions: What makes you think your biblical character might be depressed?
- Remind students that in earlier discussions you had about symptoms of depression and suicide. Invite them to think about these discussions to see if any of these symptoms match what they observe in Jonah.
- Does the Bible say anything about how the character might look that might indicate depression?
- What is the character saying that indicates he or might be depressed?
- Is your character exhibiting behavioral signs that might indicate depression?
- How is your character relating to God in this story?
Friendly Interventions Role Play
- If you were Jonah’s friend, what would you do? What would you say.
- In groups of 2, role play before the larger group what you might do and say to Jonah if you were his friend.
- At the end of the role play, share with students that if they ever have a friend who is depressed that they can make a difference in their friend’s lives but they should never feel the burden of walking their friends through darkness alone.
Reflect (25 minutes)
Activity 3: Journaling
- Invite students into a time of journaling. Ask them to reflect on a time where they felt like God was the lifter of their head. Ask them to respond to the following questions in their journal:
- Why were you down?
- Where was God?
- In what ways were God present during the time?
- In what ways did God feel absent during the time?
- In what ways did God lift your head?
Activity 4: Sacred Story Sharing
- Once students have written in their journal, invite them to share their journal entry or what they discovered from writing with another youth in the group.
- Remind them that sharing story in this space is a sacred act and should be treated with honor and respect.
- Tell each youth that they are to complete the process of sacred story sharing by allowing their partner five minutes to share their story.
- After one youth shares their story, the other youth should ask the question below.
- What did you need in the moment?
- From God?
- From Yourself?
- From others?
- After their partner shares, it is time to repeat the process with the person who has not shared.
Send Forth (5 minutes)
Activity 5: Praying the Hope-filled Prayers
- Say the following prayer found in Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Repeat the prayer. Ask students to listen to the words.
- Now, invite students to repeat the words with you and make the prayer personal. They can say, “May the God of hope fill me with all joy and peace in believing, so that I may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
- Remind students that sadness is nothing new and is prominent throughout scriptures. Tell them that sadness is so prominent in the Bible that it is just the resource to use when one feels sad. Share, for instance, that Psalms is a great resource for finding prayers when they are experiencing sadness. Invite students to pick one or two of their favorite prayers that the Psalmist prayed. Invite them to memorize these prayers. Encourage them to pray these prayers anytime they have a negative thought about themselves and their circumstance. Also, remind them that when they encounter a friend who feels sadness, they can share this prayer with them.