Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2013 Nancy Virden
To many, “Isn’t depression a spiritual problem?” may seem moot because they do not equate mental or biological conditions with spiritual ones. Others reject the causal brain chemistry theory of mental illnesses for the opposite reason. They believe all mental trials are spiritually based.
Comments from either of these groups do not help those who struggle with depression.
Our existence is three-in-one. Spirit, mind, and body are so interlaced that any illness of any one part affects the rest. Depression is a treatable physical, spiritual, and mental challenge.
Stigma ignores depression’s complexities. In some christian churches, this can translate into spiritual judgment which actually prevents a hurting person from coming to Christ or to fellowship for support.
6 truths about depression you may not know
(1) Depression is not simple or easy to overcome. It is a multi-faceted health issue. We can compare recovery from depression to long-term physical therapy in that an episode takes time, teamwork, and effort to overcome.
Lynne Canenta*, a therapist with over 25 years experience, told me, “God gives us insight into who he is so we can accept salvation. After that, it is a process. There is not a “zap” and we go from unhealthy thinking to healthy thinking.”
(2) Depression is not inappropriate for discussion. Sharing human struggles takes courage and faith. It sets an example for others to accept their brokenness as part of a normal spiritual walk. People realize they are not alone in their pain when we choose to be open and real.
(3) Depression is not a ploy for attention. Severe emotional struggles may naturally and temporarily turn one’s focus inward because pain washes out everything else. Imagine a woman who just broke her leg. Without pain relief her thoughts will center on it.
One of the worst experiences for people with depression is when someone ignores their cry for help, or judges them for talking about it.
(4) Depression is not without purpose. Whatever we suffer can result in renewal. For me, gaining fresh insight into matters of forgiveness, guilt, distorted thinking, healthy relationships, and more is an opportunity to step back from what is false.
As weird as it may sound, major depression and its treatment have ultimately been catalysts for my physical and spiritual healing. The Bible is clearer, and the love of God reaches my heart.
(5) Depression is not spiritual failure. Because depression numbs positive emotions and can slow cognitive abilities, a depressed believer may feel spiritually dead. That does not make it true.
Christ is always faithful. Even as my brain told me I had disappointed God, when his presence or love was no longer felt, it was trust in his promise that held steady. “Though your mother and father forsake you, I will never abandon you.” (Psalm 27:10). My desire to honor him remained even when I did not know how to function. Depression messed with my thinking, not my faith.
(6) Depression is not sin. I was asked, “Depression can be sin sometimes, right?” Feelings are never sin, they happen. We can only learn to manage them. Depression has physical components. One would not say these health issues are sin anymore than one would say the common cold is sin.
Depression by its nature distorts our thinking. Because of this, one’s sense of morality and inhibition may weaken as a potent need for relief rises. Are we responsible at that point for our choices? Absolutely. However, the sins of specific behaviors should not be confused with depression itself.
Love is patient
God teaches us change through our struggles. He has put no time limit on our learning. Let us accept believers who struggle with depression as equal participants in God’s grace.
Today’s Helpful Word
Psalm 119: 71, 72
“My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.”
NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, go to your nearest emergency room or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Help and hope can be yours!
*picture from qualitystockphotos.com