Tag Archive for 'Depression'

An Excellent Article on Depression

This article by Todd Pruitt is good enough to post a link to by itself:

The Hard Apprenticeship of Sorrow

Breaking News: Depression Doesn’t Always Have a Cause

Tangled Up in Blue: Depression and the Christian Life – Reformation21

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.

Also see:

Spurgeon on Depression

I note that some whom I greatly love and esteem, who are, in my judgment, among the very choicest of God’s people, nevertheless, travel most of the way to heaven by night.

–C.H. Spurgeon

I don’t mean to murmur, but it doesn’t seem that this is the prevailing attitude nowadays.

I was going to leave it at that, but I remember what I also found earlier today on David Black’s blog. It’s a quote by Terry Waite, but I want to include Prof. Black’s commentary.

Whenever I discuss the Greek word apostolos with my students, I always ask them to translate the word, not just transliterate it as “apostle.” Students usually suggest “personal representative,” “messenger,” or “ambassador.” I tell them that my personal favorite is “envoy,” and I usually mention the name Terry Waite as an example. If you recall, Waite was the British hostage released in 1991 after five years of solitary confinement in Lebanon. Waite was not held captive simply because he was a British citizen, however. Terry Waite was serving as the Envoy of the Church of England at the time, a high and honorable position. As an apostolos, he represented in his person the power, prestige, and authority of the entire Anglican Church.

But there’s another side to this story. In addition to being an envoy, Waite was a remarkable Christian theologian. When asked how he had survived all those years of solitary confinement, he said:

I have been determined in captivity, and still am determined, to convert this experience into something that will be useful and good for other people. I think that’s the way to approach suffering. It seems to me that Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. What it does is enable you to take it, to face it, to work through it, and eventually to convert it.

Wow. Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. I wonder how many Christians, besides me, need to learn this lesson? Today Becky has had excruciating pain. Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. Her body is gradually weakening. Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. I want you to pause right now and ask yourself whether your Christianity is anything like Terry Waite’s. Fortitude is integral to Christian living. I say this as perhaps the softest man who has ever walked this earth, a pampered American free of poverty and, for the most part, pain. My task is to avoid suffering at all costs. Convert suffering into good? How impossible that sounds! But for the Christian, only scars produce lasting sanctity. I know this intellectually, but I want to run and scream whenever I face problems. Leveraging suffering for good — this is actually something I know very little of, but I want to learn how to do it.

You better be joyful, or else…

Based on the biblical teaching, I would go so far as to say that it is the Christian’s duty, his moral obligation, to be joyful. That means that the failure of a Christian to be joyful is a sin, that unhappiness and a lack of joy are, in a certain way, manifestations of the flesh.

–R.C. Sproul, Can I Have Joy in My Life?

First off, I like R.C. Sproul and think he’s a great teacher.

But I think this can lead to being judged in a bad way. For those who deal with chronic depression, it may be near impossible, while still being a genuine Christian who is working out their salvation. I deal with that, and am able to feel joy, but you may not see it. Will people judge me because of this? There are also periods in one’s life when they don’t feel joy. Hopefully they will have the hope that they will have joy, as the Psalmists did, but even hope can be hard to come by at times.

I don’t have the book, so I don’t know if there’s context that would change what it sounds like as it is. But the quote is out there.

I would balance this with some quotes from Good News for Anxious Christians by Philip Cary, which I do have. Forgive me for any typos, and let me know.

The terrible vulnerability of our feelings is particularly evident in the psychological affliction we call depression, who’s victims are unable to feel joy or any strong emotion. [I wouldn’t call myself a victim.]

The idea that Christians are supposed to have a deep inner joy all the time is a terribly cruel notion. The idea itself is what’s cruel: it turns the people who wish to comfort the afflicted [better term] into tormentors. They want to help their suffering friends get the joy back, but in the process, they insist that their friends accept the underlying idea that it’s not normal for Christian life to experience deep suffering of the heart. So in addition to their suffering, their friends are wounded by the suggestion that their affliction is due to some failure in their Christian life–as if there’s something wrong with Christians who have a cross to bear.

[T]he promises of Christ can be turned into slogans, so that instead of promising that suffering shall come to an end–as the Cross of Christ leads to resurrection–the message is that suffering is unacceptable. [That’s what the afflicted may perceive.] What also happens is that Biblical exhortations such as the apostle’s words, “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Phil 4:4) are turned into a kind of a command, even a kind of condemnation. Instead of inviting us to joy, they demand that we be joyful, or else.

Coincidentally, I came up with the subject line for this post before I typed out the quote.

In the book I wrote this: “For people who say this [you must always be joyful]: are they also never anxious (Philippians 4:6) or praying continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) as Paul also ‘invites’ us to do? Take out the plank.” And while you’re at it, don’t ever be anxious. It’s a command.

I realize this is a tough issue, and I think both of these authors aren’t as dogmatic as they sound.

I believe that we can always be joyful in what Jesus has done for us on the Cross, as I’ve written about in the past. (That post is important for how I feel about experiencing joy.) When there is deep suffering though, especially if it’s chronic, even this can be very difficult. Also, as I alluded to above, some of us have what’s call a “low affect” where we don’t show much emotion, even though we may feel it (and can sometimes lead to it spilling out, which can be embarrassing). I’ve had people try to get me to smile–“Oh come on, you can smile [dumb joke here]”, and I just don’t feel like it. I’m not a puppet who is going to make someone feel better because they don’t like the idea that someone can be afflicted in that way. It scares them. Or they just want me to feel better because they care, but don’t understand. I suppose the former what is a little cynical.

D. Martin Lloyd Jones, in his book Spiritual Depression (which I read as a library book, so I’m paraphrasing), wrote that part of the reason non-Christians aren’t as attracted to Christianity as they could be is because they don’t see joy in them. I think he wrote something about there being an epidemic of glum Christians. But he also acknowledged that there are those who experience chronic depression for a variety of reasons. He was only addressing the truly spiritual aspect of it, if that can even be divided from other factors. He was way ahead of his time (and the Puritans even more so, by hundreds of years), and I think he had the right balance.

This post is at about most people’s attention span, including mine, so I better end it here. I just wanted to hopefully give some perspective and balance to this very difficult subject. Let’s be careful out there, whatever your spiritual, emotional and physical health may be.

Depression and Suicide from a Christian Perspective

To me, suicide is almost an unmentionable word because it’s such a horrible thing. It’s in the news now because of pastor Rick Warren’s son. We can’t ignore it because it does happen and because if we do ignore it, we could miss the signs of someone wanting to kill themselves and not intervene when we might have been able to help. They’re not thinking rationally–which I’ve experienced myself, as have many of you–and we may be able to help them to think more objectively.

At the same time, there are many people who live with a tremendous amount of guilt because they felt that they should have intervened and didn’t. The responsibility goes to the person who ended their life–and who probably hid the signs well–and not the person who felt they could have done something. People who are intent on going through with it aren’t going to let others know about it.

These two links contain a plethora of information. I know that I just posted a page with links on Dealing With Depression (and the last link is very good if you haven’t seen it), but I think it’s important enough to post more that I’ve recently found.

Depression & Suicide Articles, Devotionals & Current Events News
at crosswalk.com

Suicide, Mental Illness, Depression, and the Church – Justin Taylor
– covers it from all angles with all kinds of resources

Depression is something that affects me on a daily basis, and suffering is something written about here fairly often. For those who want to read more on that topic or if you know someone who does, and would like quotes, Scripture, reading material etc., you can see the old Suffering Christians blog, which has very organized Categories, and also go to the Suffering category here in the right column.

Also see:


Around the Web: Dealing With Depression

I’m saving the best (below) for last. It was originally written in 2009 so you may have seen it. It’s written from a Christian perspective (of course) and may be of more benefit for those who aren’t depressed. It’s rather cathartic in a way for those who do deal with depression and comforting to see that others go through exactly the same things. David Murray (see below) says, “This is one of the best short articles on depression I’ve ever read.”

HT: David Murray who wrote Christians Get Depressed Too (and the third link above)

The Lessons of Job and Depression

I know I’ve been writing a lot about mental illness lately, but this is so good I have to pass this on. It also goes against the Voddie Baucham type preaching where he feels he knows what mental illness is not, and preaches outside of Scripture on it. For those who need more Biblical encouragement from someone who’s not a coddler, here is a quote and a link to the article, which I highly recommend reading, at the end. It’s also a good mini-lesson on one facet of the book of Job. This would go along with Two [Three?] Views of Mental Illness | Scripture Zealot

The lessons of Job are manifold but it seems that a few rather stand out: this is acomplicated, fallen, evil world; Christians can expect to suffer – hey, we all die in the end, no matter how jolly we might feel at points in the interim, so we had better get used to the idea; Christians are no more exempt from depression than they are from cancer or strokes; and the idea that these things are necessarily linked to our lack of faith, to our personal sin, to our outlook on life, or, indeed, to anything intrinsic to us, is nonsense and unbiblical. A pastoral theology which has not grappled with the whirlwind and the speeches of the last part of Job is sub-biblical; and preaching which does not take these things into account is not biblical preaching. One might add that perhaps one of the key lessons of Job (and the Psalms, for that matter) is: it is OK to be depressed. It is horrible and grim and dark. But it may not be your fault, any more than cancer or a stroke are your fault. Above all, it does not mean that you are forgotten by God, even if God only ever seems to come to you in the whirlwind; and, finally, it does not mean that you will not participate in the glorious resurrection when all the travails of this world will be definitively left behind.

Carl Trueman, Any Place for the God of Job?

I’m Frustrated With Everything

I’ve been frustrated with quite a few things this past week but they haven’t really gotten me down. Then today the deeper depression switch got flipped on (Bipolar) and everything felt much worse, with a sinking stomach, dark feeling and thinking things like, “I’m frustrated with everything.”

I happen to be reading the little book Christians Get Depressed Too, which is better than I thought it would be. I’ve been at this a long time and have been working on my thinking for many years, although physical type stuff is always there (yes, always) too. “I’m frustrated with everything” shows me that I’m engaging in false extremes as the book puts it. I think I call it all or nothing thinking but that might not be the best term.

So how do I work this out Biblically? Obviously I’m not frustrated with everything in the whole world but more importantly, not nearly everything in my life. I’m not frustrated with my wife or cats or a whole bunch of other things. So I’m magnifying my frustration. I can think about 2 Cor 4:17 to put it into perspective.

2 Corinthians 4:16b-18 GW
Though outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly we are renewed day by day. 17 Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine. 18 We don’t look for things that can be seen but for things that can’t be seen. Things that can be seen are only temporary. But things that can’t be seen last forever.

(By the way, this is one of the many great things about Scripture memory.)

The frustration won’t last forever, it’s not that bad in these cases and I need to see things from a godly spiritual perspective and take refuge in Him. I need to think more about the things that will last forever and less about the temporal (Col 3:1-3). Easier said than done.

For now, the sinking, dark feeling is still there but the switch will get flipped again and the depression will be more moderate as it usually is. (For me it’s chronic.) The improvement in thinking will help the mental aspect of it hopefully and help me to persevere (James 1:2-4) for when the bigger things come along, which they will.

Comments welcome.

Article on Depression

Hope for the Depressed by Ed Welch

Be sure to see the number 2 at the bottom of the page for the second part of the article.

HT: Justin Taylor