Depression isn’t a matter of faith

Friends, as a Christian woman, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say things like, “You’ve got Jesus, so you should be happy” or “this is just an attack” (which to me is only partly true), or the ever popular, “you just need to pray more” when dealing with my own struggle with depression as well as anecdotes from other family and friends who are also dealing with their own black dog. But here’s what I have to say about that. It’s crap. People who say those things certainly don’t mean to be ignorant or judgmental – but they are.

Here’s the deal with most forms of depression. It’s a brain chemical thing – not an issue of faith. What do most people need when they are chemically imbalanced? Medications. This isn’t to say that medication is the only answer. But it is a big part of the solution. In my deepest, darkest battle with my depression I struggled because as a person of faith I felt like I was a failure. I thought I must not love Jesus enough. Or pray enough. Or read enough scripture. Or <insert Christian thing we’re all supposed to do> enough. I must have angered God for Him to leave me so void of his comfort and presence. I must have sinned mightily for Him to abandon me and leave me so open to be attacked by the enemy. Again. Crap.

What I’ve learned is that depression is a complicated disease and one that is quite individual. No approach to recovery is a catch all. For myself it’s been the combination of medication, therapy and a deeper understanding and growing in my faith that has made the difference. For someone else, the approach could be all together different. The key here is to get help and if you’re a person of faith, not feel like you’re being punished by God. I believe God, like all parents, wants His children to be healthy and happy. He wants us to come to Him for comfort (and all too often we don’t). He doesn’t promise us a world filled with unicorns and rainbows, however. But He will help see us through any storm.

My revelations are my own just as my faith is my own. But I do get aggravated when I hear well-meaning Christian platitudes about depression because often they are rooted in shaming, demoralizing and humiliating the person suffering from depression. I know most of the time this is completely unintentional, but it happens. I long for the day when the Church can hear from a depression survivor and offer unfailing love and support instead of uncomfortable silence or patronizing catch-phrases. My prayer is that the more people open up and share, the more honest we are with one another, the better we can help one another heal – being the hands and feet of Jesus.


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