Questions facing Christians with Depression
How does God view depression? If you are a Christian and depressed, what do you think about it? What has been the reaction of those around you? In the last ten years that we have been tackling these issues at Farnham Baptist Church, we find that most would answer at least two of these questions in the negative. Some would even question whether they are really Christians. How can a Christian be depressed?
Depression itself makes you feel an utter failure and because of the effect it has on your ability to relate to anyone, God himself feels a million miles away. You might conclude, therefore, that He isn't interested in you while you are depressed. Or, you may feel that God accepts your depression but your friends don't. In their attempt to get you back on the 'right track', they may encourage you to try pulling yourself out of it by doing this or that; read your Bible more, pray more - examine yourself to see what may be wrong. I have encountered someone who sought help in her church but was made to feel ashamed, another who was told she may be 'demon-possessed' and another who was led to question whether her commitment to Christ was real. These extra pressures can add to the stigma surrounding depression making it, in my view, often worse for the Christian sufferer than the non-Christian.
Yet God does not judge anyone for their depression. He alone knows what has happened in a person's life and the help they need. In my own experience of depressive episodes over the last 20 years, God has been my closest friend, leading me to the help I need and to times of complete dependence on Him to get me through. Out of this experience has come a desire to help other Christians find this help for themselves.
After much prayer, in 2007 I wrote Depressive Illness and The Christian. It is a short Bible-based course to help Christians see that God is for them in their depression, not against them - and to show that the Bible has a lot to say about the human condition and human suffering. The secular world understands humans as being mind, body and soul. The Bible reveals that we are spirit, soul and body, (1Thessalonians 5:23). We all have a human spirit which can be crushed, distressed or even broken - so when we examine Biblical truth, we find that God has answers that no-one else has. He can also begin to unravel and deal with the problem of depression whilst drawing us closer to Himself. One of my favourite promises from Him in my own struggle is, "I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel who summons you by name." (Isaiah 45:3). I may not always know where He is, but He always knows where I am and He alone can bring something good out of the darkness.
Bringing Christians together on 10 courses so far, has been a real privilege. Just realising that you are not alone brings an encouragement of its own. In fact, not only are you not alone in struggling with this illness, the truth is that depression is reaching epidemic proportions across all age groups. We have had people on the course as young as 19 and as old as 83. We need God and we need one another if the church is to make the kind of response which will glorify His name and bring hope to where it is needed the most. After all, Christians should be in the best place to receive help - not the worst.
To find out about the course, forthcoming dates and venue, click on the links above. I have also included my own testimony on how God has helped me through depression.