The “Five Whys” of Life (Why are We Depressed?)
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” Proverbs 12:25
During the process of product development and manufacturing, it has become standard practice in the industry that when a problem occurs the process is halted and a root cause analysis is conducted to find a solution to the problem as well as to assure that the problem never occurs again in the future. There are various methods to conduct the root cause analysis, but the most popular was introduced by Taiichi Ohno, who is known as the father of the Toyota Production System, which became Lean Manufacturing in the US. He called the method “the Five Whys”, directing the production team to continue asking “why” five times, and after doing so, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.
Our lives are very complex and can be challenging, much like the product development process. We are not well prepared for the challenges we face throughout our lives, as both children and adults or parents, and we can easily find ourselves in a state of despair or confusion. I find it helpful to periodically look back at the foundation of my Christian faith and reestablish the thought process that has brought me to the conclusions I now rest upon. I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to ask “Why” five times while examining what I consider the core problem of our lives. I feel that we can gain insight into the nature of this problem and its solution.
The first step is to define the problem. It has been my experience, and my observation, and I think that you would agree, that many people find themselves in a deep state of depression at some stage of their life, some earlier than others. Related to this, is the lack of motivation and dissatisfaction we feel about our life. I’m no expert about the extent of this problem, but I know of too many people who are on anti-depression medication. I also think that many people who are seemingly functioning normally and appear to be happy and satisfied to most onlookers, are in reality deeply dissatisfied with their life and struggle to keep themselves going every day.
This problem of depression and dissatisfaction can affect people at all stages of life, and I believe it can occur multiple times throughout our lifetime. I also believe that everyone has dealt with this condition at some point in their life, and have had to come up with some sort of solution, some more successfully than others, to keep them going on in their life. For me personally, I was a teenager when I faced this problem.
Okay, so here’s the initial problem: People are depressed and dissatisfied with their life and have no motivation. The next step is to ask the question, “Why are people depressed, dissatisfied and unmotivated?”
As I have stated, I have faced this problem myself and I have thought about it for a long time. My conclusion (my answer to “Why” number 1) is that this problem is the result of people not having a clear understanding of their purpose in life. With no clear purpose or meaning in one’s life, all becomes vanity; all of their efforts and labor are in vain. King Solomon said it thousands of years ago:
“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher (Solomon); Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes, but the earth abides forever.” Ecclesiastes 1: 2-4
By the way, one of the first songs that I had written on my guitar was related to my identifying with this feeling of vanity. The chorus of the song states: “Is all my labor just in vain? Can someone free me from my pain, or will my whole world just trickle down the drain?”
This problem is directly related to a person’s world view, which deals with the deeper questions of life such as, “who am I, what is my purpose, why was I born, where will I be after I die?” Everyone must face these questions and come up with some answers that form their world view or philosophy of life.
Following this line of thinking, my analysis concludes that the next question (Why #2) is something like this: “Why do people not clearly understand their purpose in life?”
The understanding of our purpose in life is directly related to our belief about the origin of human life here on earth. People have two choices with which to establish their view of human origin: the most popular in our current western culture is the idea of the universe originating from a “big bang” that occurred millions of years ago, and then life resulting from a series of evolutionary progressions that caused life to evolve from the molecular level to human beings; this is known as the theory of evolution. The second choice considers this universe and all life on earth as being created by a superior being; this view is known as intelligent design, stating that our world was created by a master designer of superior intelligence (i.e. God).
Those who choose to believe that the theory of evolution is the true explanation for our origin, then see their purpose as being a part of the progression of the evolutionary process. It has been my experience that the purpose resulting from evolution is too vague to contribute to the resolution of our dissatisfaction and resultant depression. Being one in billions of people involved in a random progression of life over billions of years with no clear and definite conclusion, and supposedly controlled by an unknown “force”, results in uncertainty and confusion. The vanities of life that King Solomon referred to are still apparent and are unresolved with this view. Nothing is new under the sun, and all thing end in vanity. This view does more to fuel our anxiety than to resolve it, and this leads to depression.
Obviously, my choice has been the latter (and hopefully yours also). I’m convinced that the intricacies of our bodies, as well as other animals and plants, and the beauty of the world around us, did not happen as a random process; there must have been some intelligence behind their design. There are many books and documentaries that explain this in more detail if you need to be convinced further. One recent documentary is called “Is Genesis History?” and is available on Netflix. Another excellent documentary is called “God of Wonders” and may be available on YouTube if you search for it, but can also be purchased on the Berean Call website. Here’s the link: https://www.thebereancall.org/.
With this knowledge about our origin being from a Divine Creator, we can now look closer at our question: “Why do people not clearly understand the purpose of their life?” I believe there are two answers to this. The first is that they have chosen to believe in the theory of evolution as the source of all life. Although I could pursue this further, I would rather pursue the second answer, that people have accepted the belief in a Divine Creator, since I believe that most people reading this have accepted as truth that we were created by a Divine Creator. Although some people believe in a Divine Creator or Intelligent Designer, it appears that many still don’t understand their purpose in life, so we need to look into this further. Many have not received the answer to this problem regarding their purpose in life from the Superior Creator God that they have come to believe in, so this is still a problem.
Following this path of reasoning, we now come to our next “why” question (Why #3): If there is a Divine Creator who has created the universe and all life that is in it, why is He silent? Why doesn’t He reveal Himself to us and give us direction and explain why He created us and for what purpose. Why don’t we hear a voice from heaven or see this Creator God with our own eyes?
My answer to this is that God has revealed himself in the Bible. And God in His wisdom has chosen to not reveal Himself physically to all humans, but instead to reveal Himself exclusively to the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, in the past, culminating in the coming of the Messiah, who was the “Word made flesh”, or the human representation of the Creator God. This revelation has been recorded in the Bible for all to receive, but it requires faith, that is, believing without seeing God physically.
“Jesus said to him(Thomas), ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ ” John 20: 29
This has been my personal conclusion as I have been convinced that the Biblical record from the writings of Moses to the record of the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is the true representation of the Creator’s message to His creation. We learn from the Bible that we were created in the image of God and were purposed to serve Him, to honor and glorify Him, and to bring pleasure to Him. Included in this purpose is a special relationship where God becomes like a Father to us, and we can enter into a type of friendship with God. Jesus came to reconcile our relationship with God so that we can enter into a direct communication with Him and become a part of His family.
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3: 16-17
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ,..” 2 Corinthians 5: 17-18
The next question that arises is why people don’t fully understand their purpose, even though we have embraced God as our creator and have recognized and believe in His revealed Word, the Bible. It seems that we become confused about our condition in this life, even though we have been reconciled to God. The next question we may ask is “If a loving Creator as revealed in the Bible is our source of life, why is my life so hard? “ or “Why is there evil, pain, and suffering with the final condition death?” Would you agree that this is confusing even to Christians?
Condensing this, we come to the next question – Why #4: “Why did God create us in a world where life is very difficult and ends in death?” As Christians, the answer to this should be very clear, but I am afraid that for many Christians it’s not clear or it has faded into the background and has not become a part of our thinking and world view as we walk through our life. This was the case for me for a long time.
We must look again to the Scriptures to find the answer to this. The truth is that God did not originally intend for us to be in this world as it is today. We should, in fact, recognize that we don’t belong here. Adam and Eve were created in a world that had neither pain nor suffering, nor was there a need for rigorous work to survive, nor was there death. Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God, choosing to believe the serpent’s lie that they could become like God if they ate the forbidden fruit, caused a curse to come upon this entire world and the human race. Additionally, Satan has somehow been allowed some control in this world as a result of this sin. Legally, it seems, he has the right to influence and garner some control or authority over this world through spiritual means.
As Christians, we must recognize that we don’t belong here and as children of God we have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven, or in the future heaven and earth that will be restored at the second coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. For now we are aliens and strangers on this earth, temporary residents who are just passing through on our way to a better place. This understanding helps us to cope with the pain and suffering and evils of this present world. Also, we look at death as a welcome event. Paul, the Apostle, said it like this:
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” Philippians 3: 20-21
“For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1: 21
This truth of having a future in a new heaven and earth that will be completely different than our current cursed world system resolves the problem that was defined by King Solomon of the vanity of vanities. As Christians we recognize that the next world that God has preserved for us will be beyond our comprehension and will be without the curse. We will have an existence that will satisfy and complete our lives, with no negative impact. It will be the full, abundant life that Jesus spoke about! (See John 10:10 quoted at the start)
Our final question (#5) should be this: If we have come to belief that we were created by the living God who also created the universe and all that is in it, and that He is the loving and holy God that has been revealed in the Bible. And if we believe that this world has been cursed and placed under the control of the devil and his forces until the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, when we will be transformed and join in His glorified condition, then why are we depressed? How can we be depressed if we really believe this? Is this a reality in our lives? Why would any hardships or trials dampen our joy in this amazing reality of eternal life with Him in a future new heaven and earth?
“For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 31 – 39
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.” Philippians 4: 6
“Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new,’ and He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’ And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.’ ” Revelations 21: 5 – 7