Lincoln Turned to the Bible to Manage His Depression

1-president-abraham-lincoln-1809-1865-everett-02-300X300werbby Rex Rouis

Abraham Lincoln fought clinical depression all his life, and if he were alive today, his condition would be treated as a “character issue”—that is, as a political liability. His condition was indeed a character issue: it gave him the tools to save the nation. – Joshua Wolf Shenk

There were times when for his own safety Lincoln would not allow himself to carry a knife, for fear that he would hurt himself, or worse. The following is an excerpt from the article, Lincoln’s Great Depression. It shows how he used faith to manage his melancholy (depression):

According to General James F. Rusling, Lincoln said that during the fighting at Gettysburg he turned to prayer, felt the whole thing to be in God’s hands, and “somehow a sweet comfort crept into his soul.” In another revealing incident that summer, Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Lincoln’s dressmaker, once told of watching the president drag himself into the room where she was fitting the First Lady. “His step was slow and heavy, and his face sad,” Keckley recalled. “Like a tired child he threw himself upon a sofa, and shaded his eyes with his hands. He was a complete picture of dejection.”

He had just returned from the War Department, he said, where the news was “dark, dark everywhere.” Lincoln then took a small Bible from a stand near the sofa and began to read. “A quarter of an hour passed,” Keckley remembered, “and on glancing at the sofa the face of the president seemed more cheerful. The dejected look was gone; in fact, the countenance was lighted up with new resolution and hope.” Wanting to see what he was reading, Keckley pretended she had dropped something and went behind where Lincoln was sitting so that she could look over his shoulder. It was the Book of Job.

Taken from Joshua Wolf Shenk’s classic, “Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness.” You can also view a short article version: “Lincoln’s Great Depression” And a great article showing forth in great detail that Abraham Lincoln was indeed a believing Christian – “Abraham Lincoln: The Old School Presbyterian Convert.”


  1. Feeling Very downtrodden, hopeless, helpless. In a pit that I can’t pull myself out of. Please pray for a miracle for my health and healing. Mental, physical and spiritual also protection from evil doers and wishes .. Thanks You

    1. I don’t know where or how you are today, but AJ I will pray.
      Father, our redeemer our way maker, miracle worker, who opens doors no man can open, closes doors no man can close, especially in darkness that encompasses our souls. In Jesus name , Father send forth your light into this spirit to give directions and enlightenment of your loving Holy Spirit.
      Invade this soul bringing joy unspeakable. Peace beyond understanding. Build a hedge of protection from evil and send your ministering angels to fill their needs. Deliver them from familiar mind travels that lead them into darkness. Bind every power of the enemy, in the mighty name of Jesus. I ask you to seal this work in the blood of Jesus that AJ is forever free from tormenting spirits.
      John 1:4-5 In him was life;and the life was the light of men. The word says the light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.
      In Jesus Name I pray Amen.

  2. Ty I have a story if you want to hear I have been asking God where do you want me to read ( my husband said read in Proverbs)but I just didn’t think that’s where God wanted me to. Then I saw your post and felt yes Lord yes I believe this is where you want me to go Ty

    1. Author

      Delores – I am so happy that this blessed you. God wants us blessed in all areas of our lives. Fight this terrible spiritual darkness with all that is in you in Jesus Name. We love you. Rex

  3. Michu Vazquez, don’t normally refer anyone to movies regarding the question of whether God truly exists but since that movie is about that very question, and since the proof is explained SO well, I highly recommend the movie God’s Not Dead. The first one. The debate between the student and professor brings out some very compelling questions and answers with proof revealed in way that goes FAR beyond the simple go-to , “just read your Bible” .

  4. I am suffering from depression myself. It is something I have always fought ever since I can remember and 36 years later I still struggle with depression. I often think that there is something wrong with me, that I cannotor will not be able to ever be a good, contributing member if society due to my depression. So needlessto say I was stumped when I saw one of the nation’s greatest presidents suffered with depression so extreme he contemplated thoughts of suicide. I can relate. So after coming across this web page I was intrigued by how even Lincoln turned to scripture to soothe his depression. Today started out a bad day for me. I guess it’s been going on worse than usual for about a week now. It’s been a long time since my depression hit so hard I let thoughts of ending my life be entertained into my thoughts. This is where depression gets really scary. But to make a long story short, I looked into the Good Book for scriptures pertaining to other great leaders of the past inthe Bible and how they overcame their depressions with the help of God. And how quickly my mind frame has changed. This morning I felt hopeless, alone, worthless, just overall down on myself with no way I could think of to turn my mind frame around. And now i feel hope. I see a light at the end of the tunnel. The scriptures are my reassurance that God is with me, that He has not and will not abandon me. Jesus Christ faced persecution amongst the majority of the population in a time when few had faith in Him. And He died for my sins, for our sins, so that we could recieve forgiveness. We need to make reading the Bible a daily habit, and prayer a regular daily habit as well. God’s Word is living and that life in His Word breaths new life into us. I’m not saying it’s like magic and will magically make all your worries disappear, but it is miraculous and will bring peace to you in your greatest time of need. What a loving Father we have that cares so much about me that He will pull me out of a depression so deep and dark that death seems like the only way out. Thank you Jesus Christ. I cast my cares upon You, because I know You love me and will sustain me in my time of need.

  5. If you will allow yourself to open your heart , allow the Holy Spirit to come in. He will live with you forever as your slather, care gtaker and everything else you can need.
    If you will read ROMANS 10 VERSE 9 , YOU CAN BE SAVED. The HOLY SPIRIT lives within us forever, we can know God is real for His Spirit bears witness with our SPIRIT that we are SAVED. After you are SAVED you will always know it because there is always the HOLY SPIRIT leading you the right was, sometimes our SPIRIT leads us the wrong way. Hope this helps you!

  6. When we spend time in His presence (prayer, praise, bible study) He makes Himself known. If a person doesn’t spend time with Him and form a relationship it will be very hard to believe or have faith. So many people say “I believe there is a higher power” and then leave it at that, so many people only call on Him when disaster strikes and then don’t wait for Him to move or don’t acknowledge Him any further and then feel forsaken by Him, it’s ridiculous if you think about it, it’s as if The Almighty King of the universe could be used as a convenience and then shoved back in the closet. How could one build a relationship or trust with someone when they won’t try to find out who the other is, they won’t spend time getting to know them, just going by their own assumptions about who that person or God is, no effort on their part at all. These people are missing out on their whole purpose of living, it’s a sad shame.

  7. though I do agree with all the information I will ask now, how do we know god truly exists?

    1. Hi Micxi,
      One way to know (in your own experience) that God exists is to do what President Lincoln did. Try reading the Bible, asking God to reveal himself to you as you read it … and see what happens. I’d start by reading the Gospel of Luke – pray as you read and be open to what God is showing you. God is alive and wanting to be part of your life in a dynamic way.
      Thanks for posting !
      God’s peace and His love to you.
      ‘See, I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it?’

    2. Lol, how do you know God exists? Psalm 19:1 to 4 The heavens declare the glory of God,
      and the sky above[a] proclaims his handiwork.
      2 Day to day pours out speech,
      and night to night reveals knowledge.
      3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
      whose voice is not heard.
      4 Their voice[b] goes out through all the earth,
      and their words to the end of the world…

    3. I think that is a great question that even those that have been raised in church their entire life have asked. I have even heard many, many famous preachers have at one time or another questioned. There is no where in the Bible that says we are not supposed to question God. Don’t let anyone tell you that, if they do ask, please show me where that is in the Bible.

      I think everyone has to find their own way to God, even the Bible says that. I would direct you to read The Case for Christ, or The Case for God. It was written by a man that started out to disprove God, then as he begin to research he found just the opposite. Both are written from a very logical, scientific way.

    4. Sometimes, you have to look around you and think of how many blessings you have received. Someone had to create the world as we know it. How many times you were almost in an accident, how many times you looked into the face of your newborn, your parents, your siblings and friends and realized that without them, you would not be. How many times did you feel a connection with nature-trees, sky, snow, dirt. These are all blessings. and God knew you . He had a plan for you while he was creating this world. He called you. And by asking that question, you have heard His call.. You were born with all the faith you need to believe in His forever love. The Bible (God’s Word) tells us of the good, the bad, and the ugly. All we have to do is open the door of our hearts and believe His promises and realize that once we believe, we have the Holy Spirit inside us. Don’t ever listen to anyone who preaches even one word that goes against what is in the Bible. Casting doubt is not from God.

  8. That is wonderful. A President , turning to the most high for comfort, wisdom, peace , and all the great things the word of God has to offer. Blessed be the name of the Lord above!

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