Depression, even among Christians, seems to be rampant today; it’s as if some kind of emotional black plague has crept into the Church.
I read several blog posts and articles every day, but last week was strange; virtually every day I found myself reading posts and articles written by or about Christians battling depression. But by far the most heart-wrenching news of last week (regarding the impact of depression on Christians) wasn’t found on a blog or in a news article; it was a phone call from a close friend telling us about a friend that had committed suicide.
The young man that committed suicide was named Jordan and he was a very talented artist and musician and, more importantly, he was a Christian. (You can see one of his music videos here and his testimony video here). From what he says in the testimony video, Jordan had battled depression for most of his life, but he seemed to be winning his battle. I don’t know what occurred in his life that caused the depression to come roaring back; maybe only God and Jordan know the answer to that question. But, as someone that believes he is called to offer hope to the hurting, I feel that I must learn more about the enemies of hope. Whatever else depression is, it definitely qualifies as one of the greatest enemies of hope!
As I suppose it is with most people that are diagnosed with a terminal disease or going through other difficult trials, I’ve experienced some difficult days of depression. I don’t remember the order or the full impact, but I imagine to some extent I went through all of the so-called “Five stages of grief” (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). But I find myself wondering what it must be like when the most difficult of those stages, depression, IS the trial, as it was with Jordan and it is with so many others.
Despite having every aspect of my life turned up-side-down by ALS, I know little about the kind of deep and dark depression that Jordan suffered from. But, I know from reading the Bible and from my own experience as a follower of Christ, that Christianity offers genuine lasting peace, hope and joy. I wouldn’t be wasting my time typing these posts if I wasn’t convinced of this. Peace, joy and hope are definitely great benefits of the Christian life, but that’s not the “Good News” message that Christ commanded us to preach – Jesus didn’t suffer and die just to make us happy – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Timothy 1:15) Salvation is the good news.
I think this is an important fact because many “seeker friendly” churches preach a message of happiness and prosperity and, if Christians don’t feel happy and/or prosperous, they can feel un-Christian. I cannot help but wonder if the “feel good” gospel message might be exacerbating the feelings of depression among Christians.
The New Testament is an education in how to be Christ-like. But unfortunately this “Narrow path” includes trials and tribulation. My trial is ALS and for others it’s depression. As I said, I know little about that kind of oppressive depression, but I’ve concluded that it’s every bit as crippling to the soul as ALS is to the body.
I don’t feel qualified to offer spiritual advice to those suffering with this kind of depression, but I do have some general hope-building advice for Christians.
The early Christians “…were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching (reading the Bible…) and to fellowship (getting together with like-minded Christians), to the breaking of bread (church/taking communion) and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)
One of my blogger friends has suffered from depression for many years. She told me that when she’s feeling depressed, she doesn’t feel like reading her Bible, going to church, getting together with people or praying. This is exactly why doing these things is so necessary. We must do the things our soul (mind, will and emotions) doesn’t “feel like doing” to build hope in our spirit – so our spirit can “preach” to our soul. The spiritual part of us preaching to the mind, will and emotions, isn’t some kind of spiritual schizophrenia; I see examples like the following throughout the Bible; “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him.” (Psalm 42:11)
God also comforts us through other believers; I see examples of this throughout the Bible also. As you can see from reading verses like the following, even the Apostle Paul and the disciples dealt with depression; “…we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus…” (2 Corinthians 7:5-6)
Like most of you, I didn’t know Jordan, but, as you can imagine, his family is really grieving his loss so please pray for them – “…pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16)