Can A True Christian Be Depressed?

If you are a true Christian, will you ever despair? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The church has been sorely lacking when it comes to issues of mental health, at least here in the West. It’s a subject that’s very relevant to my wife and I seeing as we both have Aspergers and she has Borderline Personality Disorder on top of that which comes with depression. We are sadly disappointed by how the Christian community usually handles the problems.

This isn’t to say that all of them are like that. My wife and I both attend a Celebrate Recovery program which is an excellent program when it comes to these issues. I encourage Christians struggling with things like pornography and such to go find a Celebrate Recovery.

Too many Christians instead start looking down on a Christian struggling with depression. We can ask if a Christian should be depressed and if they should be depressed over what they are depressed over, but to ask if a Christian should be depressed is a strange question. After all, our Lord was said to be a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering and you can go through the Pauline epistles and regularly find Paul talking about his pain for the churches and what he was going through.

Not only that, when they confess that they are depressed, then we don’t help them often. Instead, we say things that make them feel worse. What do I have in mind? Well….

“You must not have a lot of faith.”

“You must be dealing with some sin.”

“Have you repented of everything?”

“Christians are supposed to have joy.”

“Your prayer life must be lacking.”

“Go read the Bible and pray.”

“Maybe you need a demon cast out of you.”

“Good Christians don’t get depressed.”

I am sure I could add many more. The problem with these is they don’t really take the time to listen to what is going on with the person. The whole philosophy seems to be that we can’t have a depressed person in our midst. I mean, it would be absolutely awful if people realized people in the church have struggles and weaknesses.”

There could even be some truth sometimes to some of these. For instance, sometimes if someone is depressed, it could be because of sin. At that point, we need to work with them and see what it could be and once they ask forgiveness for it, leave it there. Many women can be depressed after getting an abortion and many men after encouraging the women to do so. When this comes out, let the church be the place of forgiveness and then bring it up no more.

We also need to realize that many times we can’t control our feelings as much as we would like. Feelings and emotions come and arise and sometimes we don’t have anything to do with them or know what causes them. Sometimes I can experience some sadness and I don’t know why. It just happens. I try to move on.

That being said, we have much more control over what we do than we realize. Getting depressed isn’t necessarily a choice, but choosing to engage in self-harm or isolation or something of that sort is. I’m not saying it is an easy choice, but it is a choice.

There have been some times where I have had to have my wife hospitalized due to depression and those are tragic times to me. When those times come, I really don’t want to do anything and I have to push myself to do the blog or any apologetics. Whenever I get the chance, I visit her in the hospital, and sometimes I have been very concerned.

There are hospitals out there that do not have good treatment for their patients and the cleanliness and such of the hospital is quite poor. I am left thinking that we wouldn’t put up with this for our physical hospitals. Why do we give our mental hospitals the sort of leftovers?

There are many organizations that people support for physical health such as cancer and other diseases, and we should. Mental health often seems to get the shaft. Many times when we think about mental health? People who do things like mass shootings. As soon as one of these takes place, mental health issues are brought up. It seems foreign to people that sometimes people do evil not because of mental problems, but because they’re, well, evil.

If someone comes to church and we hear that they have cancer, we have a prayer vigil and such, and we should. We don’t seem to treat mental health issues the same way. It’s okay to have cancer in the church. It’s not okay to have depression.

This is especially relevant since many who struggle with this can after some time possibly wrestle with suicide. How can it be we let this happen and yet people are scared to come to the church and talk about these issues? Can you imagine someone struggling with depression being scared to talk to Jesus about it in His earthly ministry? By the way, His earthly ministry hasn’t ended. We’re supposed to continue it, and if people don’t want to come to us when they would to Jesus, we are doing it wrong.

Part of the Christian life is ups and downs. We will all have them. If we want to ask about why someone doesn’t have joy when they have Jesus, let’s ask ourselves first. I sometimes wonder why I can seem to get excited about many more things in my life than about Jesus.

If we ask how a Christian can struggle with depression, let’s ask how they can struggle with pornography or gluttony or greed or anything else. All Christians have some sort of struggle. If you are reading this as a Christian, you have a struggle. The sin that seriously tempts you might be something I don’t get bothered by in the least. Perhaps you couldn’t walk past a bar without being tempted to drink alcohol. I have zero temptation there, but maybe you’re less tempted with pride than I am. We all have something.

I’m also definitely not opposed to Scripture and prayer, but there’s a danger in treating them like a magic charm. “Go and read Psalm X and you will feel just fine!” You can get great comfort and encouragement, but it doesn’t mean the problem goes away.

We should also definitely be encouraging therapy for these people who struggle, but when they come to you with a struggle, they don’t really usually want you to do something about the problem. If you can, great, but one of the best things you can say is absolutely nothing. Just listen. Give a hug. (By the way, I encourage women to share with women and men with men. It’s way too easy for any emotional closeness like that to turn into sexual closeness that it shouldn’t.)

There’s also no sin in taking medication for this. If there is something going on with the brain, this isn’t wrong. Medication can’t be the cure-all and consistently, therapy does better than medication, but it can be an aid. Christians struggling with depression don’t need the added weight put on their shoulders of being told they’re deficient in Christianity due to having depression or taking medication.

Your church has people in it that are hurting greatly. Please always keep that in mind and be willing to be a listening ear and a friend. Do something simple for them. Just taking a friend in need out to lunch might seem small, but it could mean immensely more to the person who gets it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Guns And Mental Illness

What is really responsible when a mass murder takes place? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many of us spent our Valentine’s Day celebrating time with that special someone in our lives. I managed to use Amazon credit to get my Princess several gifts and we went out to dinner together at a nearby Subway. Our day was special and we shouldn’t deny that, but there were plenty of people that didn’t have a special day.

Some girlfriends never got to have that evening date with their boyfriends and vice-versa. At least one teacher was killed and if he was married, he didn’t get to spent Valentine’s with his wife. Several parents might have had to cancel plans because they suddenly had to go and identify the bodies of their children they never expected to lose.

And for many of these people, Valentine’s Day might never be a day of happiness again.

If there is one word that could be used to describe what happened, it is evil. This isn’t a post though about the problem of evil. Plenty has been said about that and often by people much more equipped than me. This is about another topic in relation to it.

One of the first things I noticed in listening to the news is that it was immediately said that this shooter (Let’s not mention his name people. The victims were people worth knowing about, but not this guy) was mentally ill. Perhaps he was. I do not know for sure, but usually, that seems to be the first assumption. There had to be a mental illness.

The problem is this is said before any facts are known and second, it paints with too broad a brush. I called in to a local radio show yesterday to talk about this and the host did agree with me. My wife and I both have Aspergers. She also has PTSD and bipolar and hallucinations, but we are not the kinds to go shooting up a school.

Technically, we each have a mental illness, but we’re both functioning members of society. The problem is mental illness is way too vague. Consider if I told you that many people die of physical illness. That is true. Cancer and various diseases are physical illnesses. Does that mean when you have someone who has the common cold you’re going to have a prayer vigil around their bed to make sure they don’t die of the disease?

It’s also false to just assume someone has a mental illness and that was the cause of their behavior. After all, that would have to be it. Right? I mean, surely a person in their right mind would not do something like this?

People in their right minds do things like this. Why? Because people are sinners. We all have some evil in us. Some of us just don’t do anything to stop what we have. Some of us seem to relish it and celebrate it. If that’s the case, it will take more than just medication. The reality is if someone is bent on doing evil, they will do evil, and no amount of laws will stop that.

For those of us in the mental health community unfortunately we are all painted with this broad brush when the term is thrown out there without any explanation. People have honestly thought before my wife and I could be threats because of Aspergers. Not only that, but then you ask people to encourage and support those with mental health issues and who could they be thinking about? Those people that they see on TV who shoot up schools.

Could it be that the actual problem is that word that no one wants to use? Could it be that sin is the problem? Of course, the media doesn’t like to use the word sin. We don’t like to admit that some things could be wrong often because that could get into our personal lives.

Some things are evil though. Sometimes, it’s we who are evil. It’s not an imbalance in the brain. It’s one in the heart.

If someone is mentally unstable enough to kill someone, which can happen, we do need to deal with that, but we also don’t need to just assume it was some mental condition and if the person’s brain was in right order, this would never happen. We all do wrong things and it would be so nice to always blame it on brain chemistry, but it doesn’t work. We know it. We are responsible. We bear the blame.

Pray for the people left behind by this tragedy and especially for the families of those who have lost loved ones and yes, even for the person who committed this vile act that they will find forgiveness in Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Whatever Happened To Sin?

Are we missing a more theological side to strife in our country? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Another shooting has happened, this time in Oregon, and it looks like the shooter was especially wanting to target Christians. Now there are a lot of debates going on about gun control and such. I have my own opinion, but I don’t really want to talk about that. My blog is not meant to be about politics, but I would like to consider another angle to this whole situation going on. On a friend’s Facebook today I think one of my friends said what summed it up for me. “That was one evil dude.” Yes. Yes he was, and the sad reality is that it looks like in our society we’ve lost the real idea of what evil is.

You see, we live in a society that proclaims being tolerant and non-judgmental and accepting of other positions. When we talk about evil, too often we just refer to disagreement with someone or not making a wedding cake or something of that sort. Whatever your opinion of those, it’s hard to think that that really compares to murdering several people in cold blood. When 9/11 struck, evil did very quickly become a word we used more often. Yet unfortunately, we seem to have a collective short-term memory and we forget about the tragedies that strike us and try to explain what went wrong in someone’s heart to make them commit murders.

For instance, some people are talking about mental health. To an extent, I agree with them. We need to be taking mental health seriously. If you have cancer or Lou Gehrig’s Disease or Cerebral Palsy or some other physical condition, you can often find an organization pretty easily that is working to raise awareness. Think fast! What organization do you know of that is nationally recognized and known by many people that works for depression?

Do you have a hard time thinking of one?

Now there are of course some mental conditions with awareness out there. My wife and I both have Aspergers which puts us on the autism spectrum and there is indeed Autism Awareness Month. Somehow depression has slipped under the radar and it is a quite common occurrence here. Dare I say it, but the church is even worse. You see, we have this idea that in the church, you shouldn’t be depressed. You should be living a life of joy constantly. Have we forgot that our savior is described as a man of sorrows familiar with suffering? He went to the cross for the joy set before Him. He learned through suffering. Suffering and rejection were not strangers to the life of Christ and if your idea of how your life is to be is constant happiness, then Jesus is a sorry example of how you should live because His life was filled with stress and sorrow. The people that should have accepted Him the most rejected Him the most. This includes His own family!

By the way, that family would have also known about His miraculous origins and they still were ashamed of Him.

If someone has a chemical imbalance in their head, well they have a chemical imbalance. I’m not at all saying don’t pray for them in that. God can heal such an imbalance of course. I am saying don’t treat it like a stigma. For some people, this could be the cross that they have to learn to carry. We should also note that there is a difference between having depression and being depressed. I often tell my wife as well as others that you cannot choose how you feel. You can choose what you do with it even when that is admittedly hard. How many nights have I put my head down on my pillow wanting to sleep with a problem looming over my head and I have to try to focus on what I know of God and Christ through Scripture and reason? It’s not always easy. It takes active effort. Sorry, but I’m really skeptical of people who describe their lives as a life of joy. Is there joy in knowing Jesus? Of course. There’s also suffering in walking in a post-fall world.

Sadly, how many people do you know who have depression would want to share that fact in church? Hardly any. Church should be a major safe haven for people who are depressed. Many of us would be more open going to the neighborhood bar and pouring out our griefs to a bartender. You could be more prone to talk to an absolute stranger on a plane or subway about your troubles before you’d go to a church. When the world says the church is full of judgmental people, let’s be honest and admit that sometimes they have been right in what they’ve said. Could it also be many of us want to sweep under the rug the idea of other people being depressed because that means we can avoid dealing with our own internal problems?

And if this is something from a chemical imbalance, what about people who feel like pariahs for other reasons? How many people have confessed to abuse, especially sexual abuse, and then received the message that they were responsible for their abuse somehow? Or even worse, have the claim just dismissed? Of course some claims are false, but they should all be considered because these are real people we’re dealing with. Fortunately, there are many churches that are providing safe havens, such as giving programs like Celebrate Recovery to help with this bizarre realization that Christians actually struggle with sin. (Yeah. Really. No joke. Who would have imagined?)

The church is to be the body of Christ and represent Jesus on Earth. If sinners are afraid to come to you, there’s a problem, because they weren’t afraid to come to Jesus.

That having been said, while we should not ignore mental conditions, we should not act like everything is a mental condition. A mental condition could make something more likely to happen in some cases, but it does not necessitate it. After a school shooting that took place once, and I think it was the Sandy Hook one, my father-in-law went on Facebook in response to someone on his page talking about the shooter being said to have Aspergers and treating Aspies like a threat. My father-in-law spoke about how my wife and I have Aspergers and we’re not like that at all and the thought that she or I would go into a school with a gun and start shooting is just ludicrous.

Some people don’t need a mental condition to do evil. They have another problem. It’s one we all have called sin, and this is a problem we don’t really do much about.

In speaking that way, we could be making a drastic mistake.

We need to be clear that when we look at the evil, we don’t think it will go away just with medication or therapy. There is no pill you can give someone to turn them into a sinless person. Believe me, I wish there was. I wish there was something that would be “If you take this, you will no longer worry about the future.” “If you take this, you will be totally unselfish with your spouse.” “If you take this, you won’t be tempted to look at other women.” “If you take this, you will not have greed when it comes to money.” It would be nice, but it’s not there. The problem is not a problem of the wrong chemicals flowing. The problem is you and I are fallen sinful human beings and we do the behavior of fallen and sinful human beings.

Can therapy help with some of that? Absolutely. I’m not opposed to Christian therapy and I myself have partaken of it before in the past and today, while I do not see a professional therapist, I have a band of mentors and a band of listening ears because I have my own problems in this life and I need help dealing with them and I’ve had to learn the wisdom of reaching out and seeking help. Therapy will not help all of it because our therapists also have the same problem. Our therapists are fallen and sinful human beings.

What do we need to do then? Diagnose the root issue every time. Somewhere, there is still sin. Even if you have a mental illness, there is still sin. When it comes to the behavior my wife and I can exhibit as people on the spectrum, I tell them that we have an explanation, but not a justification. Do we need to change our behavior a number of times? Yeah. We do. Is there something in us that can explain why we behave the way we do at times? Yeah. Is there still something wrong in what we do at those times? Yes. Yes there is. That something is called the sin itself. There is some place in us where we still actively chose the wrong thing.

Could it be that if we got to the sin issue, we could change much of the woes of our country? Note this is more than getting people to know Jesus as their savior. (And no, this is not getting into Lordship salvation. This is not about whether people are saved but as to how seriously they are taking their following of Jesus.) There are a lot of people that get converted to Jesus and are thus babies in the faith and sadly, spend their lives as children. They do not grow and mature in their Christian walk at all. They are still fed baby food from their pulpits and never get to eat meat. There is not enough awareness about what God has to say in our lives. People want to come to a knowledge of God, but where are they getting it from? Too many are getting it from their feelings and personal experience instead of being people of Scripture. (It’s so amazing that so many of us who are Protestants and don’t like the idea of the Pope claiming to speak for God somehow think that our emotions are absolute pathways to the divine.)

This might sound outlandish, but could it be that what we really need in our churches is discipleship? We need to know what it means to be a follower of Jesus. How many of us if we’re struggling in our marriage will have no objections to going to a marriage seminar to learn how to be a good spouse? How many of us would have no hesitancy in going to a seminar our workplace wants us to go to in order to learn how to be a good employee and do sales well? How many of us realize if we want to have a job in a credentialed field, we need to go to college and get a degree that will take years?

And yet when it comes to following Jesus, we think that all just comes naturally. (In fact, following Jesus should tell you to be careful about what comes naturally.)

Could it be we need to examine ourselves and look for what is described as the sin that so easily entangles? Note also that word. Easily. It’s easy to fall into sin. It’s easy to feel imprisoned by it and feel there is no escape, and if we think deliverance will come through a feeling, we are sadly mistaken. We need to let the sacred truths of Scripture penetrate our hearts and shine within us to expose what’s not good in us. Is that painful? Yep. Is it something we hate? Yep. I have had enough of my own prayer times where I’ve had to look at what’s in my own heart and frankly, not really liked it, but oh well. That’s the only way you grow in Christ. It’s not going to be sunshine and roses.

And you know what, most of us aren’t in danger of shooting up a school. Yeah. That’s true, but we can hate our neighbor in our hearts. What does that mean? It means that if we could get away with it, we would. Many of us won’t have affairs in our marriages. That’s true, but we do lust after others. What does that mean? It means that if we could get away with it, we would. We have our own sins that we do fall into. We have various objects and activities we get addicted to, and not even bad things. Food and sex for instance are good things, but they are not meant to be idols and they can never satisfy entirely. Some of us can struggle with greed in the church. Many, especially those who are leaders, and I easily include myself, can struggle with pride. These are still sin as well and these need to be dealt with.

By all means, have the discussions when these events happen about what needs to be done in the political field. Have the real discussions that need to be had on mental health, but Christians need to in the midst of these discussions not miss the most important one. We need to have a discussion on sin and what it means then to be a follower of Jesus in a world of evil where we are supposed to be spreading the good news that Jesus is King.

Sin is real. We can put any other label on it, but it will not change sin, and there are people dead today who shouldn’t have been because of sin, and there is evil we are committing today that we shouldn’t be because of sin. Deal with what’s out there, but each of us will give an account before God of what we’re doing as well. We can’t be willing to deal with the world if we’re not cleaning up our own house first.

In Christ,
Nick Peters