A pastor once explained that depression and anxiety are like an unwanted visitor that keeps ringing your doorbell. You can tell them to leave, you can try to ignore them, you can even refuse to open the door, but they’re still there.
I couldn’t agree more with his statement.
As someone who has struggled with these issues for as long as I can remember, I find myself talking to various friends and sometimes total strangers about this topic. One thing I see often, however, is the lack of understanding they may have from their religious communities. Unfortunately I can relate to them about this too. Although I currently attend a church that takes mental health issues very seriously, I didn’t always have a church that understood (or wanted to understand). It hasn’t been until I left my “Religious” upbringing (you can read more of my testimony here Why I stopped pretending to be a Christian. ) that I have started to attend churches that understood the science behind depression as well as what Scripture says about mental health.
In today’s “thinks” I want to talk about depression as well as how I have come to understand it from a Biblical perspective. I would like to add a disclaimer before I begin. If you or anyone you know is feeling as if they may harm themselves or feel suicidal urges, please seek help immediately. Your life is valuable, and its valuable to me. It won’t hurt my feelings one bit if you have to stop reading because you feel triggered either. I want you to be safe. That means more than anything to me.
What is depression?
The clinical term for depression is the following:
The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterizes major depression can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms. These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide. It is a serious illness caused by changes in brain chemistry. Research tells us that other factors contribute to the onset of depression, including genetics, changes in hormone levels, certain medical conditions, stress, grief or difficult life circumstances.
Pretty lengthy description, I know!
As you can see, there are a lot of scientifical (No, that is not an actual word) factors that go into your brain and how it processes things. Just like your entire body would feel excruciating pain if you had a kidney stone the size of a pin head, your mind can feel completely off-center (or depressed) just by a few hormones and chemicals out of place.
What does scripture say about depression?
A pastor once said this:
“There are some Christian’s theology that is Genesis 1:1, God Created, and John 3:16, For God so loved. Then they close the book say, ‘Amen’, and that’s as far as their theology goes. They’ve missed everything in between.” -Louie Giglio
I’ve personally been on a journey of reading the Bible for myself to try to understand God’s heart. It’s been so interesting to find things that I was taught incorrectly as a child. One of those things I’ve found interesting are the passages that talk about depression and mental health.
Elijah the prophet had suicidal thoughts
But he himself (Elijah) went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
1 Kings 19:4-5
Jesus needed emotional comfort
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Should we talk about depression in church?
It’s not very often that you see a Precious moments doll or A little golden book Bible story talking about depression or mental illness. While that is something that may not sell at a Hallmark store, we’ve treated mental health in our church culture the very same way.
We want to talk about the “Joy of the Lord” and sing “He has made me glad”, but we don’t want to talk about the sister who is struggling with suicidal thoughts.
What if it becomes a “stumbling block” to someone?
People won’t “get saved” if they realize Christians are depressed.
It’s not a good “selling point”, for Christianity, you know?
And to that, I have to say this.
The people and testimonies that lead me to my faith in Christ where not the ones with the fake smiles that looked down on others for struggling. It was the people who were not afraid to be real about their hardships and openly talked about what God was bringing them through.
So is depression the just “The Devil”?
While depression alone may be a psychological issue, I have no doubt that it can contribute to spiritual warfare. Thoughts of shame and guilt for having mental health struggles are not of God. You will never find in scripture where God desires for someone to live a life of regret. Our struggles do not make us “less Christian” they make us human.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
The passage above is one of the most famous writings by the Apostle Paul, but probably one of the most misquoted. I say that it’s one of the most misquoted because of the last verse. As long as I can remember, I have heard people quote this as “I am weak, but He is strong.” Although this is a line from a famous children’s Sunday School song, you will not find that phrase once in the Bible.
If we read it as it is, it shows us that it is ok to acknowledge our weaknesses because it actually makes us stronger. If we misquote it (as may have), we take away one of the most powerful lines in Scripture as well as create a stigma that Christian’s can never show their “weaknesses”.
Some speculate that this “thorn in the flesh” was his eyesight, but Scripture never clarifies what exactly he was referring to. However, it can be applied to those of us who struggle with mental health.
I hope today’s “thinks” was an encouragement to you. If you are in any way struggling with mental health, please know that it’s ok to seek help. It doesn’t make you a “bad Christian” for admitting that you are human.
Thanks again for hanging out with me today! Please feel free to leave me a question or a comment. I am doing a Facebook live Q and A event on my @happythinks.joydaehn page today (10/27/2017) at 5pm CST. I’d love to see you there!
See you soon!