Anna Lisa gave me permission yesterday to repost her post on depression, since her blog is protected. I thought a lot of people needed to see it. Too often people think that Christians should not be depressed, because it must mean they aren’t giving it to God. Hogwash.
Granting Grace to the Depressed
(by Kerry S. Doyal, Pastor Grace Evangelical Free Church)
“Real Christians'” don’t get depressed, do they? If we have enough faith and obey enough, we will avoid despair, lasting discouragement and emotional struggles, won’t we?”
“Isn’t it a bad testimony to admit to being depressed? Aren’t the depressed just being self-centered? Isn’t taking medication for depression an insult to God, a ‘cop out'”?
These, and many other questions, reflect a lot of confusion and wrong assumptions about depression, a true medical condition that is often confused with discouragement. They will overlap, to be sure, but treating clinical depression as mere discouragement can be fatal or damning.
Admitting you are depressed can be hard enough. Admitting it for a Christian can be even harder, given our various expectations of one another. Admitting it as a Pastor? As my friends in Brooklyn say “Forget about it.”
With all due respect to “da bums from da Borough” we lived in for three years, I admit it – I am someone who deals with depression. Understand, I am not currently deeply depressed or in despair. However, depression is an ongoing medical need that I face and seek to manage.
An honest reading of scripture puts one face to face, or soul to soul, with many who fought depression’s deep claws. Many of the Psalms, including ones written by King David himself, reflect a darkness of soul, undeniable feelings of despair and hopelessness. How else would you describe these kinds of inspired statements:
“My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears”. Psalm 6:3, 6
“Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide Yourself in times of trouble?” Psalm 10:1
“How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and everyday have sorrow in my heart?” Psalm 13:1, 2 (NIV)
Depression is a misunderstood, often mistreated problem. It can be serious, causing almost paralyzing effects or it can be temporal and cured by a string of sunny days or better health. Suicide, social withdrawal, escaping into drugs and alcohol and lack of energy are just a few of the possible results of depression.
Depression can be brought on a variety of factors: life crisis (death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job), spiritual factors (an assault of the enemy, sinful behavior), physical / chemical imbalances (postpartum blues, salt deficiencies, brain chemistry or “wiring” troubles), or unknown reasons.
To simplistically say all depressed people should just “look for the bright side of things” or “get off their pity pot and help others” or “confess their sin” is not only unwise, it can be damaging to someone, adding guilt to their despair – hardly gracious. There is already enough unnecessary shame attached to depression.
Be sure, depression must be handled by a core faith in God. Despite one’s feelings, the facts of God’s word are still true. One is prudent to follow the “Weeping Prophet,” Jeremiah’s example in Lamentations 3:17-26 (hint, go read it).
As one seeks help with clinical depression or deep discouragement, one should kick-start your soul by disciplining yourself to remember who God is and what He has done (Psalm 103; Isaiah 40; Eph. 1:3).
Often, one may need to go beyond that and share their hurts with others, seeking help and support. If it persists, one should seek help to deal with possible chemical needs and / or “stinking thinking.”
I assume we still believe that the Fall of Man (Gen. 3) disturbed everything, including our body’s natural balance. We readily accept this with other medical conditions (cancer, diabetes, and congenital deformities) but dismiss it as excuse making for depression. That is bad theology!
Anyone who has ever drank coffee for a lift or taken aspirin for pain knows that chemicals can alter one’s mood. Why can we not allow that levels of serotonin, hormones or many other chemicals can have an emotional impact on us as well? Such biological causes cannot be fixed by a mere attitude adjustment or exercise, though that may help tremendously.
We are reminded that God exalts the humble and humbles the exalted (1 Peter 5:5-10). Jesus said that a bruised reed He would not break or a smoldering wick He would not put out (Matt. 12:20; Is 42:3). May God continue to be the lifter of our heads (Psalm 27:6; 30). Let us seek greater honesty and humble vulnerability with one another and help if needed.
Here are some other scriptures that can be of help to those in depression or despondency: Matt. 11:28, 29 & 12:20, 28:20; 2 Corin. 1:1-10; 12:7-12; Phil. 4:5-13; Psalm 55:22, 23.
Your sharing of your struggles may be a “backward encouragement” to others – help rooted in weakness, not strength (see 2 Corin. 12:8-10). May God meet you where you are today and do for you what only He can do, even if it includes medication.
I trust my confession is an encouragement to many. I step forward trusting God with this risk to my reputation. After all, what kind of pastor takes medication for depression? All I can say is, this kind. And through it, God has had mercy on my soul.
TRIPLES with EMMA