Can I Find Freedom From Depression? With Stephen Arterburn [Episode 233]

Find Freedom Depression Stephen Arterburn

Depression can feel like a wet blanket that weighs us down or a dark fog that keeps us from seeing clearly. It can lead us to feeling helpless and alone—even to the point of hiding our feelings because we’re afraid of being shamed or misunderstood.

But when we’re struggling, we have two choices: we can either sink even more deeply into our own sadness or—through God’s grace—we can seek help.

And today, help is on the way!

Best-selling author Steve Arterburn shares with us practical tools and a proven path to finding healing and joy.

As we talk about his book, 100 Days to Freedom from Depression: Daily Devotional, Steve explains the powerful, transforming effect God’s love has on your health. And he’ll share what you can do when negative emotions take the lead.

The God of light has not left us in the dark, sister, and today’s conversation will help you see the light that will renew your hope.

So, if you’ve found yourself in a season of sadness or are struggling with depression, it’s time to break free. Listen to this episode of the podcast, and let the hope begin.

Meet Steve

Stephen Arterburn is the Founder and Chairman of New Life Ministries—the nation’s largest faith-based broadcast, counseling, and treatment ministry—and is the host of the New Life Live! broadcast.

He is the author and co-author of over one hundred books, with 12 million in print, including Every Man’s Battle and The Life Recovery Bible. Steve also founded the Women of Faith conferences attended by over five million women.

He has degrees from Baylor University and The University of North Texas as well as two honorary doctorate degrees and is currently completing his doctoral studies in Christian counseling.

Steve currently serves as the teaching pastor of one of the largest churches in America, Northview Church in Carmel, Indiana, where he resides with his family.

[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Find Freedom From Depression? With Stephen Arterburn [Episode 233]

Stephen Arterburn: And on your own, you're probably unable to do anything about it --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

Stephen Arterburn: -- impact the way you feel, the way you think. And so that's why I've always said trying harder just seems to make trying harder. That's why we need to kind of, in a humble way, seek some kind of help.

Jennifer Rothschild: Depression can feel like a wet blanket that weighs us down, or a dark fog that keeps us from seeing clearly. It can lead us to feel helpless and alone, to the point where we even hide our feelings because we're afraid of being shamed or misunderstood. When we're struggling, though, we have two choices. We can sink even more deeply into our own sadness, or through God's grace we can seek help. Well, today help is on the way. Best-selling author Steve Arterburn is ready to give you practical tools and a proven path to find healing and joy. So let the hope begin.

K.C. Wright: Welcome, welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Now, would you welcome your host and my soul sister, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Hello, friends. We're glad you're here today. Jennifer here to help you be and do more than you feel capable of as you live the "I Can" life of Philippians 4:13. K.C. and I are sitting here in the podcast closet, and I got to tell you what it smells like. It smells like hazelnut coffee.

K.C. Wright: Oh, good.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, you were afraid I was about to say something else? You smell fine, K.C.

K.C. Wright: Well, I didn't know, you know.

Jennifer Rothschild: You smell clean, showered.

K.C. Wright: Okay.

Jennifer Rothschild: You smell like even a little -- is that Euphoria?

K.C. Wright: I know I wear sometimes too much cologne.

Jennifer Rothschild: No, you're not wearing too much.

K.C. Wright: My daughter is helping me with this. "Dad, bring it down."

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, no. I haven't thought that. Besides -- here's what's funny, y'all. You know, we have often said over the years with the podcast, like, he is the male version of me. So I love Calvin Klein Euphoria for women. So he comes in one day, I'm like, "K.C., you smell so good."

K.C. Wright: It's strange. Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: And it was Calvin Klein Euphoria for men.

K.C. Wright: I always have loved that smell.

Jennifer Rothschild: Isn't that funny?

K.C. Wright: But the Rothschild Homestead has always blessed my heart. As soon as you walk in the door, I mean, the smell of coffee and candles.

Jennifer Rothschild: Mm-hmm.

K.C. Wright: I mean, seriously --

Jennifer Rothschild: I'm a little obsessed.

K.C. Wright: -- this place.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, I'm a little obsessed.

K.C. Wright: I wish this was scratch and sniff podcast right now --

Jennifer Rothschild: I know. But, K.C. --

K.C. Wright: -- so you could take a whiff.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- your coffee is hazelnut coffee, and that's what is smelling so good right now. So -- anyway, that has nothing to do with anything.

But I hope you guys will just pour your coffee or your tea and enjoy this conversation we're about to have. We're going to be talking a little bit about depression. But I want you to know this is one of the most positive conversations, practical conversations you're going to hear. All of us have dealt with, on some level, just having to tackle difficult moods or seasons of sadness, and sometimes it is a full-blown depression. You may have experienced that, you may know or love somebody who has or is right in the middle of it.

I've told you on the podcast before -- and we will link to those episodes -- where I've really struggled in the past. I had a very difficult season, and it ended up that I had to finally just go to the doctor. I did all the things I knew to do and -- anyway, I'm at the doctor, and she did some tests, you know, and she says to me, "You really have some chemical issues with your dopamine, and we need to get this fixed."

So if you know my story at all, you know that one of the first things -- like, a big statement to me is, "It is well with my soul," because that was the first song I ever played by ear when I first lost my eyesight, was "It Is Well With My Soul." So it is super significant to me. And when -- you know, the doctor, when she prescribes something, she goes, "Now, I'm going to give you a medication called Wellbutrin." And I was like, "Oh, yeah, of course you are." Because I've always sung, "It is well with my soul," and now I'm going to sing (singing), "It is Wellbutrin with my soul." Yeah. So it was, it was Wellbutrin with my soul. But the Lord used that medication to help my brain chemistry get back in order --

K.C. Wright: Praise the Lord.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- so that I could think more clearly and begin some emotional, mental, and spiritual healing.

So we're going to talk today with Stephen Arterburn about some of these kind of issues, and you're just going to be very refreshed by it. But I got to tell you, for those of you who enjoyed listening to our Spill the Beans episode last week, I want to let you know that we are going to be in Jackson, Mississippi, next week at a Fresh Grounded Faith. It is not too late for you to get your tickets and come. Lysa TerKeurst is going to be with me --

K.C. Wright: Whoa.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- Michael O'Brien is going to be leading worship. It's going to be fantastic. And that will be next weekend. So y'all go ahead if you're close by. Or you've got plenty of time to hit the road and come join us at a Fresh Grounded Faith.

K.C. Wright: I got to tell you, the ladies from my church all went to a Fresh Grounded Faith recently. And I'm here to tell you, it's -- I don't know what's going on, but it's life changing. This is the second year in a row that they've gone. They've made a commitment to go with their girlfriends, their sisterhood --

Jennifer Rothschild: Good.

K.C. Wright: -- and they have come back the following Sunday lifted, revived, renewed, refreshed. And I know Jennifer gives all the glory to God --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: -- and it's 100% Holy Spirit. But let me just say, he is using Fresh Grounded Faith.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, it's because it's about the Word. It really is about the Word. Making God's Word accessible and unintimidating and connecting women with each other and with God's Word. So, yeah, if you're close by, or even not close by, like I said, hit the road. You got time. Join us there. And on the way, on the way, do we have a great podcast for you to listen to.

K.C. Wright: Yeah. Let's talk about Stephen Arterburn. He is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries, the nation's largest faith-based broadcast, counseling, and treatment ministry, and is the host of the New Life Live! broadcast. Steve is the author and co-author of over 100 books, with 12 million in print, including this one -- I have handed out hundreds of these as a youth pastor -- "Every Man's Battle" --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, such a good one.

K.C. Wright: -- and The Life Recovery Bible. Life changing right there.

Steve also founded the Women of Faith Conferences attended by over 5 million women. He has degrees from Baylor University and the University of North Texas, as well as two honorary doctorate degrees, and is currently completing his doctoral studies in Christian counseling. He's amazing.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, he is.

K.C. Wright: And he's well educated --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, obviously.

K.C. Wright: -- to speak on these things.

So Steve currently serves as the teaching pastor of one of the largest churches in America, Northview Church in Carmel, Indiana, where he resides with his family. And Carmel, Indiana, is where my Eliana was born, and Stephen and his family used to be our neighbors.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's cool.

K.C. Wright: Total side story.

All right, pull up a chair. This is going to be one great podcast to listen in. Here's Stephen and Jennifer.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right, Steve, let's start with this. Depression is a word that gets thrown around a lot. So could you just start with describing what depression is for those who maybe have never experienced it, or maybe they don't really understand what it is.

Stephen Arterburn: Yeah. Well, I think the easiest way to understand it is that you're sad. But it's not a very short sadness, it's not something that comes a little stronger and lessens, but it stays with you and it goes deeper than the normal sadness that you have. So that's the most obvious thing.

But then it starts to impact things that you normally do. Depression makes it difficult to concentrate. And your brain doesn't function well, and so you're not inspired or motivated to do -- things that are normally pretty easy for you, they become difficult. And then eventually, if it is untreated, just getting out of bed, it's not difficult anymore, it's impossible or almost impossible. And so you know what sadness is. This is deeper. It impacts your behavior, your brain -- you know your brain. Not only is it sad, but it's not working well for you. That's how I would know I was depressed over I was just normally sad.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Just having a bad day or a few bad days?

Stephen Arterburn: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: You know, I had a bout of depression many years ago, and I -- that was atypical for me. And I remember -- once I kind of started to clue into what it was, I almost felt like a spectator watching myself. Like, why can't I function? That was one of the clues for me.

Stephen Arterburn: Yeah. And it is a mystery. And the thing is, you see it and feel it eventually, and on your own you're probably unable to do anything about it --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

Stephen Arterburn: -- impact the way you feel, the way you think. And so that's why I've always said trying harder just seems to make trying harder. That's why we need to kind of in a humble way seek some kind of help. And when the help doesn't make it better, we seek different kind of help.

Jennifer Rothschild: It is a process.

Well, and your book title alone indicates that it is a long process, 100 days. It's not something one and done, that once we figure it out, then we just will ourself into being better.

Stephen Arterburn: Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: So tell me this, Steve. And I know this is a bigger question. But what causes depression?

Stephen Arterburn: Well, there is a -- well, a couple different things. One, there's an endogenous depression which relates to a malfunction, you could say, in wiring of the brain or in the chemistry of the brain. And you might have had no more or less tragic things or sad things happen, but your brain doesn't work like other people's brains. And so until that wiring or that chemistry is leveled out or normalized, you're going to struggle with it. Of course, medication can help that, but there are other things that we can do to get that brain working better.

For instance, if you're depressed, the worst thing -- the most difficult thing is probably to exercise, and yet that is something that seems to show as much a positive result as, let's say, medication. And then there are supplements that can put the brain in a healthier state. These are the kind of things that you want to be doing, especially if you resort to or have to take medication.

Now, I went into a severe deep depression in my twenties, and the last thing I wanted to do was to get out of bed. And so when I finally found the courage to get out of bed, I went to a golf course. I had two golf clubs and I walked that golf course. That was the only thing I -- I was in nature, I was outside, I was breathing fresh air, and so I was able to get better from that exercise. And the medication at that time was so horrible. It was Elavil and it caused about 20-pound weight gain, which depressed you even more.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right.

Stephen Arterburn: So if you're depressed, you might be ashamed of it, you don't want to reach out, but there is so much good help that's available. And I say this, no one thing changes everything, and so it probably is going to be a combination of things that will make it better. The worst thing you can do is just expect God's going to perform a miracle and wait for God to perform that miracle. God is probably waiting for you to do some things, and God will help you and do it with you, but don't presume or assume that God is going to miraculously relieve this or that it's a result of deep sin, unconfessed sin, which a lot of people want to throw at you when you do become depressed.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, it's true, there are -- well, I like what you said. Because in many ways God's giving us an opportunity to cooperate with the healing, to be good stewards of our whole bodies, mind, soul, emotion, all of it.

But you just mentioned something that makes me want to ask. I mean, there are stigmas. So what are some of the stigmas or misconceptions about depression when it comes to the church and Christianity in general?

Stephen Arterburn: Well, the first big one is that if you're depressed, then you're not spiritually fit. If you were spiritually fit or strong, if there was no unconfessed, hidden sin, then you'd have no reason to be depressed. If you're depressed, well, there must be something you're not turning over to the Lord; and if you'd just do that, then everything would be better. And so that's totally ignoring the fact that there's tremendous research that isn't anti-Biblical, but supports the fact that there is a depression that doesn't go away.

There's also another depression from -- let's say you lose a child. Well, you're going to be very depressed. But if you lose a child on top of the fact that your husband did something negligent that led to the loss of that child, that's going to be very, very difficult to overcome. And I know of situations where the father took a nap, the baby was smothered. Now the mother has lost a baby and the husband was involved with it. That's pretty tough right there. And so we've got to see human beings as human, with limitations, and provide compassion and try to have some understanding, versus what a lot of people do, and that is go to instant judgment and assuming something that just simply may not be true.

Jennifer Rothschild: Good word. Instant judgment.

Or sometimes too, Steve, I think there's the mentality of instant fix. And neither one are correct.

Stephen Arterburn: Yeah. Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: And we don't know. And sometimes it is, it's like depression is this weird cocktail of things, that unless we're in it, we just don't understand.

Stephen Arterburn: Right. And anybody that comes to you with this phrase, you need to eliminate exposure to them, when they say, "All you have to do is." There is no "all you have to do."

Jennifer Rothschild: No, there is no --

Stephen Arterburn: You have to [indecipherable]

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

Stephen Arterburn: And the quick fix is just a horrible, horrible thing for people to try. It's addressed in Jeremiah 6:14 where it says, "From prophets to priests, they are all frauds. They treat the mortal wounds of my people with superficial treatments. And do they care? No. They don't even blush." Now, that's Jeremiah a couple thousand years ago or more, 3,000 years ago, saying what happens today. Band-Aid, superficial, quick-fix stuff when this thing is really so deep and needs professional care.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's so good. I appreciate you saying that. And I appreciate you quoting Jeremiah too, because we do think maybe this is a new phenomenon, and it's not. And I love how God even addressed it then, and he cares about these wounds, that we don't just have superficial treatments toward them.

And so since you personally experienced a deep depression in your twenties, and then you've been so involved in just helping people's mental and emotional health over the years, I would be curious what you personally have learned about God because of depression.

Stephen Arterburn: Well, there is this wonderful Scripture that says, "In my deepest wound I saw you, I saw your glory, and it dazzled me." There was a time I was so broken and depressed, it was like all there was was God and me. And it was a painful time, but there was comfort there that I had never felt. It wasn't a comfort that led to relief from the depression, but there was a presence of God there that I had never felt before. He was truly with me. And when everything else in my life was stripped away, I experienced him in a completely different way and was very grateful for that.

The other thing that I've learned is that God wants to use pain. For me, it ignited something in me. I didn't want people to ever have to go through this as a Christian, and so that's a big part of me studying counseling and then creating at the time New Life Treatment Centers. Back in 1988, we had 32 Christian psychiatric programs in secular hospitals. I don't think I would have cared that much or been inspired to do that that much if I hadn't experienced that horrific pain and struggle that I went through myself.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, I know you can't see my face right now, but I'm smiling just because -- What a beautiful redeemer we have.

Stephen Arterburn: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: I mean, your difficult season, I mean, that's what God used. And so pain is not ever a dead end. Not ever a dead end. God redeems everything. That's such an encouragement. Steve.

This conversation already has been so good, and I know our listeners realize that this is a reflection of how good your resources are, especially this new devotional, "100 Days to Freedom From Depression." I love that that's the title, because that's what it feels like, a prison. And God can get you free with the community of truth, with professional help, with Scripture, with just the whole process. So I'm super grateful that you've written this.

But this will be our last question, Steve. If someone is struggling right now with depression, or perhaps someone is listening and they're resonating because they're like, oh, this is my person that I love, I know this is what he or she is dealing with, what can a person do, when this podcast ends, to help deal with this struggle?

Stephen Arterburn: There are two things I want to say. One is, many times when we end up in a state that's distant from God, either because of something we've done or the way we feel, we think we've gone too far and God's done with us. I've felt that before.

And my wife and I have The One Year Bible For Men and The One Year Bible For Women coming out where we did commentary for every day of the year. In February, in the Old Testament there was a passage of Aaron worshiping a golden calf; and the same day, the New Testament, Peter was denying he ever knew Christ. So the first chief priest and the guy that's supposed to be the rock in the church: failure. God did not take their calling away; he restored them. Aaron returned to chief priest and Peter became that rock due to God's restoration. So that's what I want to say. God wants to restore you from wherever you are. He is a God of restoration.

Secondly, it is the most courageous thing you can do to ask for help. New Life has an 800 number, 1-800-NEWLIFE. We have people there that will find the resource that you need. It might be a coach, a counselor. You may need a psychiatrist, you may need a book. I wrote "Healing is a Choice," which are the ten choices that a person can make to provide the most likely outcome of healing. Not necessarily physical, but sometimes when we do these other things, physical healing comes. God loves you, is for you. Don't listen to other people. We've been doing this for 35 years, and we do it with the truth of God's Word as a foundation. Get help. Don't struggle alone, don't feel shame, don't let people condemn you. You let us help you. We'll restore you. But this devotional, you look at this, you read it, you're inspired. It's got great Scripture, commentary, great quotes by other folks. A hundred days of that, along with a few other elements like some exercise and great eating, you're going to be in a better place in 100 days.

K.C. Wright: What a powerful and real conversation. You can find Stephen's book in our show notes, either in the link, in Jennifer's Insta profile, or right here at

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Here's the thing, our people. Get honest, get help, get free. That's what I say, my friends. So if you need help, call the number that Stephen gave. And we will also have that on the show notes too.

I do always say that honesty leads to intimacy; but repression, it just leads to greater depression. And you need intimacy with God and your people, so be brave, as Steve said, and get honest and get help. So go to the show notes at to get a copy of his book and also read a transcript of this conversation, because you might need to review it. I sure do.

So until next week, our people, just remember no matter how you're feeling or what you're facing, you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.

K.C. Wright: I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: And you can.


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