Continuing on from my previous post, I wanted to talk about the Christian view of depression. You see, very recently I faced complete burnout and ended up going to the doctor only to discover that I was on the high end of the depression scale. It never occurred to me that I was depressed or burnt out because I have lived a balanced life and followed all of the steps I wrote about in my book Hope’s Journey. It did not even cross my mind that the series of difficult situations that I have faced over the past two year had actually worn me down! I am a survivor – I just get on with things.
Thank goodness for a good Christian friend who had the boldness to confront me and encourage me to see my doctor. She recognised the symptoms as she too suffers with depression but she also understood that as Christians, admitting to depression is the hardest thing.
So why do I keep mentioning Christians, what makes it different for a Christian? Well, first of all we are always told how the ‘joy of the Lord is our strength’ and how we can ‘do all things through Christ who strengthens us’, etc. We are taught that ‘nothing is impossible with God’ and that we don’t have to suffer with sickness and disease because we have a God that heals us. I believe all these things to be true, I really do. But because of all these wonderful promises that we have as Christians, those of us who suffer with illness are often looked down upon. Not always, but often. In some circles even a common cold would indicate a lack of faith or sin! That is only in extreme cases though. When it comes to mental illnesses and depression it is often assumed to be something even worse or demonic. Again, there are cases when this is true but mostly it’s not the case. With all this pressure and assumption in the church it makes it worse for a Christian at times. Too many Christians suffer in silence at church with things such as depression. There is a great deal of shame for us and even a feeling of failure. We feel like we did something wrong or didn’t have enough faith. I want to put an end to this as it’s difficult enough coping with depression or illness of any sort without having shame and judgement to deal with too.
Does God heal physical and mental illness? Yes. In fact Jesus died on the cross to release this healing power to us. Do some people not get healed? Yes. I have no idea why or how it works but there can be many reasons. Do I still trust God for healing? Absolutely. However let me tell you my story. When the doctor recommended antidepressants I felt a great sense of relief. Firstly I was labeled and that actually made things better. It made it better because what I was dealing with became clear and also it made me feel less bad as a person. Before I was labeled I thought all my crying and shouting at the kids and general grumpiness was simply me being a really terrible person. When he told me I was depressed I realised that it wasn’t me, it was an external problem, which did not affect my identity.
Secondly, I felt relieved at the thought of going on antidepressants, even though I had spoken so harshly against them in times past. I was relieved because I finally felt like I was getting some help, that I could take a break from the constant struggle and just relax and let the little pills do the work for me. Sounds ridiculous I know! But that is how I felt and that is exactly what has happened. At first the pills made me a little nauseas and headachy, but after a week I started to feel lighter and cried much less. It seems that what I hoped for actually happened – the pills did do the work not me! After about 20 years of working hard at managing depression I finally gave in a took a break.
I am not suggesting everyone run out and get antidepressants if they are a little sad. I recommend reading Hope’s Journey and finding the balance in your life. Hope’s Journey is a great little book for prevention and cure as well as for supporting others through depression. My case was beyond Hope’s Journey. I have had about two years of intense struggles of different sorts, one after the other. I have had to grieve, deal with loss, cope with my son’s diabetes diagnosis and various other struggles that I have not spoken about publicly. As soon as I felt I was coping with one issue another major things would come up. I coped as best I could and moved on. During the struggles I started a business which took off instantly and also continued to lead our church through some very rough waters with my husband. The result was that I coped and continued to cope and never got to come up for air. This resulted in depression.
Is it my fault? No. Did I do something wrong? No. Life just happened. Will God heal me? Yes. He will either stretch out his mighty hand and touch me or he will use the antidepressants. Right now I don’t mind which was as long as I feel better.
What I did to encourage myself and stop feeling guilty about my situation was that I reminded myself that some of the great Christian leaders of our time have also suffered with depression. Steven Furtick and Perry Noble have openly shared their journey – and for that I am so grateful as they have made it less of a taboo subject in the church today. Even Elijah – the great prophet of the Bible had to deal with depression as well as many others. My motivation for sharing my struggle with you is to continue the fight against the mindset that people have about depression, especially in churches. Please share to encourage others and to stop the condemning lies from spreading. Let’s increase our faith and be a church or power where we see regular healing but at the same time let’s not make people feel small on our journey to see God move in divine power. Life happens. We can’t understand it all but let’s do a good job with what we can understand.
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