“True believers don’t suffer from depression.”
His false statement rang in my ear like a noisy gong– and then hung in the air like smoke, waiting to be cleared away. I wasn’t exactly sure how this conversation had started, but one thing led to another and I here I was with this visitor and a small group of men and women discussing the existence of depression among Christians.
It would have been a hard conversation for anyone to have, but for me it was even harder still. Because little did this visitor know that I was only now emerging from the terrible pit of depression myself. Little did he know, that for me, this conversation was personal, because I’d felt like I’d just been to hell and back. Little did he know that my heart had wrestled, and my body had collapsed under the pressure of depression. But that Jesus had held me the whole way through.
As a professional Counselor, this was a conversation that I was glad to be a part of. For over a decade I’ve worked with men, women, children and teens, struggling with mild to severe depression. I’ve seen first-hand the pain and paralysis it can bring. But more so, I’ve experienced it in my own life. I know the sinking quicksand that can drain your body, burden your heart, and eat away at your mind.
It breaks my heart to hear the myths and lies that Christians believe about depression - and the shame that can be felt surrounding this topic. As I’ve interacted with more and more people on this topic, I’ve noticed that there are a few false ideas that continue to be perpetuated among believers.
Depression Is a Faith Issue
Like the visitor had falsely said, “true believers don’t suffer from depression.” I think this is the worst of all the lies, because not only is it false, but it’s antithesis of the entire message of Christ. As believers, we are never promised a pain-free, disease-free, struggle-free life. But we’re promised a Savior, A Comfortor, and a Friend. I look back at the hardest moments I have faced with depression and I see Jesus right by my side. I remember crying out one night and feeling all alone, and just then - God’s presence overwhelmed me in that moment. Just when I needed it the most. Depression has nothing to do with lack of faith, in fact, for me it has been the catalyst for even deeper faith. Because some days, in the hardest moments, faith was the only thing I had.
Depression Can be Prayed Away
I prayed more during the days and months of my depression than I ever did in my entire life. But my depression didn’t magically disappear. I believe in prayer, and I believe in a God who can heal all things; in fact, I genuinely believe it was HIS hand that lifted my depression. But freedom from depression requires prayer AND treatment. Whether in the form of support, therapy, or medication, as believers we have to have a “next steps” approach as we interact with people struggling with depression. God has given us wisdom, and loads of research, to help us understand the multi-faceted disease of depression. It’s time for us to pray - but to also be prepared.
Depression isn’t Physical
Just as we would never shame a cancer patient or a diabetic for their hurting bodies, we need to shift our perspective to see depression as a struggle of the brain. Only then will we be able to treat it in a proper way. Depression is a disease of the body, that in turn impacts our emotions, our thoughts, and even our spirit. There are many causes to depression and whether it’s rooted in trauma, hormones, or stress- it almost always effects our body. Our perspective of depression needs to change so that we can learn to embrace and support those in it, instead of pushing them away.
Depression Shouldn’t Be Talked About
Though I still see hints of this myth among Christians - I am grateful to see this myth slowly dying in the Church. There is no shame in feeling depressed and we should learn to talk about it, to preach about it, and to sing about it when it’s all said and done. Scripture is filled with passages of men and women who have struggled through the pit of depression and their response was to cry out! And crying out is always the first step to healing, because depression is a disease that THRIVES in isolation. It wants to pull us into the prison of loneliness, where it can break us down in weakness. By talking about depression, we slowly begin loosening its grip, allowing us to move in the direction of treatment, of support, and of healing.
My deepest prayer is that as a body of believers, our attitudes would shift and our hearts would change as we work through this important issue. May we create an environment where we embrace those who are struggling and in pain, rather than push them away. May we learn to be transparent, but more so, to accept the transparency of those around us. Because at the end of the day our weakness will always, always, always point us to the one who can make us strong. And isn’t that what Christianity is really about?
About this time last year, I wrote about the Darkness of Depression and The Christian Response after the heart-breaking suicide of Pastor Rick & Kay Warren’s son. This tragic event caused a ripple effect of awareness in the body of Christ, and has opened the doors to some really meaningful conversations. May God continue to change our hearts and open our minds.
Article ran originally on truelovedates.com. Used with permission.
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about love, dating, and relationships. She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!