People suffering with depression are often misunderstood. Perhaps this is one of the most important reasons we should study depression that David Murray lists in his great resource, Christians Get Depressed Too. He begins chapter one by listing 8 reasons why we should study this complex issue. We have looked at 5 of them already:
- Because the Bible speaks about it
- Because it is so common
- Because it impacts our spiritual life
- Because it may be prevented or mitigated
- Because it will open doors of usefulness
Today we examine this reason why we should study depression: Because it is so misunderstood:
Being depressed is bad enough in itself, but being a depressed Christian is worse. And being a depressed Christian in an church full of people who do not understand depression is like a little taste of hell.
~John Lockley, A Practical Workbook for the Depressed Christian, (Bucks: Authentic Media, 1991), 14
Doesn’t that quote just stop you cold in your tracks? It should. It did me. Why is the Church not a safe place for suffering people? I know, that I, as a pastor, have really struggled with opening up and letting people know that I am struggling with depression. And it is precisely for this reason. People who do not understand the complexities of depression, or think they do, make it hellish for the suffering Christian.
Murray rightly states that there is a terrible stigma attached to depression – both in the Church and in society. Much of the stigma is a result of the misunderstanding. And much of the misunderstanding is actually understandable. Depression is largely an invisible disease. We don’t see it’s crippling effects so much. People don’t break out in a rash, need a sling or a wheelchair. And since we cannot point to a problem, we wrongly conclude there is no problem. Add some form of chronic suffering (pain, fatigue, fibromyalagia, etc) into the mix and there is great misunderstanding due to the lack of an observable problem.
Often this is where Christians conclude that the depression is really a problem with our spiritual lives.
…we do not see anxiety and depression as always being the result of sin; neither do we believe that mental health problems are the result of a lack of faith…
~Chris Williams, Paul Richards, Ingrid Whitton, I’m Not Supposed to Feel Like This (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2002), 10.
Murray rightly concludes:
It is absolutely vital for Christians to understand and accept that while depression usually has serious consequences for our spiritual life, it is not necessarily caused by problems in our spiritual life.
Chance to Interact: What do you think? Where have Christians “missed it” in ministering to suffering brothers and sisters? Where is the Church doing well?