Now my thoughts turn to this: If all Christians must by necessity have the Holy Spirit (in order to be saved in the first place), and the fruit of the Holy Spirit includes joy, can someone be simultaneously depressed and a Christian?
Initially we can see that as joy is a fruit, and we have at the outset only the seed, perhaps someone could be in both states, but as they grow more mature their depression must diminish in accordance with he growth of this fruit. This certainly allows for the existence of such situation, but I think it’s a bit simplistic. Spiritual greats like C H Spurgeon obviously suffered from this, and probably the Biblical prophet Jeremiah too.
What of the illness itself? Well it’s an illness. Depression can be caused by past traumatic events, physical problems in the brain, side effects of prescription drugs or conceivably spiritual attack. None of these things are contrary to being a mature Christian; nobody would bat an eyelid at a Christian with some other disease or physical impairment, and spiritual attack is expected. Of course it can also be caused by recreational drugs/overuse of alcohol – these things are clearly not what a Christian should be doing, but every Christian was unsaved once (and can backslide). So even in this case, this is what happened in the past, not what is happening now.
So we can see that the possibility of a depressed Christian isn’t the oxymoron it seemed to be. There are examples of what we would consider mature Christians suffering in this way, and we can see that the state itself doesn’t contradict our concept of a Christian.
But still there’s this one obstacle:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
(Gal 5:22-25 emph mine)
Joy is an essential characteristic of Christians, but our concept of joy appears to be opposed to the depressed state. Some might say that depression is part of this sinful nature we crucified. Hold that thought though, I want to explore what joy actually is later, and I think it won’t turn out to be the exact opposite we thought it was.
For now, consider this: perhaps depression isn’t proof of a lack of joy and absence of the Holy Spirit, but merely an obstacle in our lives to the Holy Spirit’s perfect work being completed in quite the timely fashion we earnestly desire.
Similarly to what C S Lewis pointed out, we all know of people who are cold, quick-tempered or greedy; perhaps they suffer obstacles in their growing in love, patience, self-control. And in fact, aren’t these obstacles down to the bodies we’re in, the upbringing we had, the spiritual war we battle? Perhaps in the end – when we have new bodies, when the war that’s already won has been finished – then when all this dirt falls away, we shall see that those spiritual fruit that we struggled with most and never could see good development in, are the ones that we really developed fullest.