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.