Many Christians struggle with depression, yet receive little sympathy from their fellow believers.
They are viewed with a certain amount of suspicion – they must be harboring some secret sin or they’re failing to exercise faith. Otherwise, they’d be healed. When you feel like you are being judged, you won’t be likely to talk about your depression.
In his insightful article on depression, A Depressing Report About Depression, David Murray says that often Christians feel uncomfortable talking about being depressed, or seeking help because there’s so much confusion about depression:
“The vast majority of people know very little about the role of the brain in our thinking and feeling processes. I’m afraid that even many Christian counselors and pastors lack vital understanding of brain science, and especially of the role the brain plays in our spiritual lives…”
“Yes, of course, some depressions can be caused by sinful actions, thoughts, and feelings. But depression can also be caused by the “machine” that processes our perceptions, thoughts, and feelings breaking down and malfunctioning. Like the factory with a broken conveyor belt, it doesn’t matter how many high-quality raw materials you put into it, the goods are going to come out damaged until the machinery is fixed. You can press the switch as often as you want, but if the cable is broken you will remain in the dark.”
Another reason Christians are hesitant to talk about depression is hyper-spirituality.
“Although Christians with heart disease, diabetes, blood disorders, cancer, etc. do not think that it is unspiritual to seek and use medicines to relieve their symptoms and even cure their illness, many seem to think that there is some special spiritual virtue in suffering depression for months and years without any medical intervention. Their family and friends don’t usually see much super-spirituality in this approach!”
“And the next time someone tells you that taking medication for depression shows a lack of faith, or a lack of trust in God’s Word, ask to see their usually overflowing medicine and vitamin cabinets!”
Sadly, many years ago, when my wife began to struggle with depression, I didn’t understand it. I thought she wasn’t thinking right, wasn’t exercising enough faith. She was caving in by taking medication. Then I thought that maybe it was somehow my fault, that I was doing something wrong as a husband. Or maybe it was a demonic attack. But eventually, I came to see that our outward man is decaying, and that our brain is part of our outward man. If our bodies can develop diabetes, why couldn’t our brain develop problems?
The fury of a depression
When someone is depressed they are really suffering. I’ve heard the phrase “the fury of a depression,” and my wife has confirmed it. She’s told me that no one can know what it’s like if they haven’t experienced it.
It’s a sad thing if someone in their pain can’t talk with anyone about it. So the first thing to do is to listen. With sympathy and compassion. Be slow, slow, slow to offer solutions. There will come time later to explore possible physical and spiritual causes.