Actually, this is very, very old news. If you’d rather not read the whole article, here is a quote from it on something that I’d like more people to realize, along with another comment below it:
Charles Spurgeon, who himself wrestled throughout his life with depression, described it well: “Causeless depression cannot be reasoned with, nor can David’s harp charm it away by sweet discoursings. As well fight with the mist as with this shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness … The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back.” He had a category for causeless depression, depression that shows up through no fault of one’s own.
So did Martyn Lloyd Jones. He preached a series that later became a book on the topic, known to us as Spiritual Depression (Eerdmans, 1965). He warned Christians of the temptation to over-spiritualize conditions like depression, writing, “Many Christian people, in fact, are in utter ignorance concerning this realm where the borderlines between the physical, psychological and spiritual meet. Frequently I have found that such [church] leaders had treated those whose trouble was obviously mainly physical or psychological, in a purely spiritual manner; and if you do so, you not only don’t help. You aggravate the problem.”
It seems Martin Luther had a similar category too. Speaking of his own struggle with depression (and the use of medicine in his own day) he said, “When I was ill…the physicians made me take as much medicine as though I had been a great bull…I do not deny that medicine is a gift of God, nor do I refuse to acknowledge science in the skill of many physicians. But take the best of them, how far are they from perfection?…When I feel indisposed, by observing a strict diet and going to bed early, I generally manage to get round again, that is, if I can keep my mind tolerably at rest. I have no objection to the doctors acting upon certain theories, but, at the same time, they must not expect us to be the slaves to their fancies.” Luther had a category for depression that is mostly physical in cause and cure.
In other words, Christians with much less understanding of mental health than we have seemed to have a better grasp of it than we do.
–Sammy Rhodes, Tangled Up in Blue: Depression and the Christian Life
Even today many church leaders don’t trust what Lloyd-Jones and others had to say. He had such great insight and as far as I know, he didn’t even deal with chronic depression himself. I suppose along with God’s grace, being a formal medical doctor and an astute pastor was enough for him to develop a keen sense of these things.
After the news of Robin Williams, plenty of people who’ve never really been depressed have waxed… something, trying to explain exactly what happened and use the opportunity to promote their point of view and get hits on their blog, or retweets on their Tweeter, or be liked on their Facebook.
- Russell Brand: Robin Williams’ divine madness will no longer disrupt the sadness of the world | The Guardian
- Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray