Sex and Depression

By Marc Engelhardt

Everything we have covered thus far highlights how wonderful sex is and that it is a gift from God. At the same time, it highlights how destructive sex can be for people when used outside the intentions for which God gifted it. It can be very discouraging to know that bonding ourselves to people through a misuse of sex will change our reality and who we are. What’s worse is that even if we were ignorant of the truth about sex we typically can’t blame anyone but ourselves for our choices. This can lead to discouraging depression.

Depression is also linked to sex in a cyclical manner. Many people use sex as a way to make themselves feel better, but because sex cannot be separated from its bonding nature, people often feel worse after these sexual encounters, not better. So they seek out sexual encounters again, and they feel worse, and the cycle repeats. What they are using to fulfill themselves is depleting them.

So how do we as Christians cope with depression caused by sexual things? (This foundation speaks well to all depression, but our focus here is narrowed to depression caused by sexual things.) We first turn to the Psalms. The Psalms are incredibly human. What I mean by that is that the Psalms reflect very well what it is to be human in a world corrupted by sin. The Psalms regularly recognize the reality of sin and that our only hope is in God’s grace. Psalm 25:16-22 and Psalm 40:11-17 are such Psalms.

In Psalm 25:16-22, the author is expressing a sense of worthlessness brought on by his own sin and the ridicule of others. This describes depression very well. Depression is typically a spiral down of self-loathing and worthlessness. A life affected by sexual sin, both self-inflicted and inflicted by others, can easily find its way into such a spiral. In the Psalm, when the author is in the spiral, the author turns to the grace of God and his forgiveness. Again, in Psalm 40:11-17, the author expresses being completely overwhelmed by his sin and by the world. Yet in that low place the author knows that God takes thought of him.

In both instances, the author does something that is difficult for someone to do in a deep depression: to look outside of one’s self. This happens because the author already has a background in knowing and trusting in God. In both Psalms there is not a resolution for the authors. We don’t hear about how and when God pulls them out of the spiral and mire, only that the authors know God can and will show his mercy and grace.

This leads us to Romans 8:31-39. Paul lays out how God shows his mercy and grace in Jesus. He makes it clear that God is for us, so much so that he sent his Son to die so that we might not live in sin forever. If God has done this, then we have nothing to fear and nothing can separate us from him. Nothing. We can’t screw up our lives so badly that God will suddenly turn his back on us. We can’t get so low in the spiral that God won’t follow us and pull us out. Our worth isn’t based upon what we have done to others or ourselves; it’s based upon what God has given for us. We can’t change that, and it takes the focus off our mistakes and places it upon what God has done, is doing, and will do for us through Jesus.

This short but powerful foundation leads us to see the world around us in several ways. Firstly, God knows what we are going through, and he knows how we have brought much of it upon ourselves. Yet, God is still for us, and nothing we have done or have bonded ourselves to can separate us from him in Jesus. Jesus died for us knowing full well what we are capable of and what we will do. So, while there are times when we will be totally overwhelmed, we need to remember that God takes thought of us even in our lowest place.

Practically, then, we can do a few things when it comes to depression brought on from sexual things. The first is to avoid the spiral by not returning to the well that poisoned you. The next is difficult in the spiral, but we need to turn to God and not let sin separate us from him. Making a habit of reading the Psalms can be helpful in this.

Another important thing is talk things out with somebody and seek counseling if necessary. And if you are married, don’t necessarily share the details of your sexual sin with your spouse, because that probably won’t help anyone. Rather, be open with the effect your past sexual sin is having on you so your spouse can help you stay out of the spiral.