Are anxiety and depression considered sins for Christians? What is the WELS biblical position about anxiety and depression for people coping with chronic physical and emotional pain and who may suffer from mental illness? While we never would excuse sin, how are we to view it if we or another we know of struggles with anxiety (to the point of involuntary anxiety disorders such as panic attacks) and/or difficult emotion regulation with depression, etc.?
The meaning of the First Commandment is that we “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” As human beings, we fall short of doing what God commands. Our violations of all the other commandments illustrate that.
Worry is a lack of trust in God. Jesus instructed his followers not to worry (Matthew 6:25-34). Through the apostle Paul, God instructed the Christians in Philippi not to be anxious (Philippians 4:6). While worry is a sin, worry can also be a symptom of mental illness. When that is the case, people are not freed from accountability; the presence of a mental illness can provide explanation for the worrying that takes place. Certainly, counseling with one’s pastor and receiving help from medical and mental health professionals is in order.
Depression is a mood disorder. “The cause of depression can be physiological, psychological, or spiritual, or any combination of these. Poor eating and sleeping habits or a lack of exercise can also cause depression, or they might be the result of depression. A serious loss, anger turned inward, or guilt that remains unresolved can all cause depression.” That quote is from page nine of a book titled Pressed Down But Not Forgotten. It is a good resource on the subject of depression. Your pastor or church library may have a copy.
Your questions draw attention to some of the problems people have been experiencing since sin’s entrance into the world in the Garden of Eden. Thanks be to God that through his gospel he provides forgiveness for all our sins and strength for Christian living.
Your questions also deserve a more thorough response than can be provided here. WELS Special Ministries, through its Committee on Mental Health Needs, has resources that may be helpful to you. You will find those resources here.