So it’s about time I post some free psychiatric advice, right? Well not exactly. You see, sometimes things aren’t that simple when we are dealing with depression. I’m not sure why, but when it comes to mental health related conditions, we change our vernacular. We say things like “delivered” or “set free”. I don’t often hear people asking to be “delivered” from hypertension. I know they are different, I’m not too myopic to deny that things affecting how we interact with those around us are categorically different than high blood pressure. But still, why is it that we view depression as a moral failing? or something that should be immediately resolved?
Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not advocating for depression. Lord knows, helping people struggling with depression occupies 90% of my time. What I am saying is, that we need to ask the right questions about depression, and strive for perspective. Rather than citing faith as a mallet to drive our agenda forward, instead understand that it is a vehicle to please the Lord (Heb 11:6). Faith is not about coercing God into giving you something you want and more about trusting Him to provide for everything He has purposed. One mindset leaves you frustrated and viewing God as stingy, and the other leaves you satisfied and excited about what happens next.
Being rid of depression is rarely an overnight proposition. Shedding ourselves of our preconceived notions about depression (and anxiety) can bring hope in an otherwise dark time. Let’s dispel some myths about depression.
Myth #1 “I just need to be strong” This represents the enduring belief that experiencing depression means you are weak, or unable to deal with stress. On the contrary, some of the strongest, most capable people in history have endured depression. David, Elijah, and Job are some key examples of those who experienced depressive episodes, but came through them changed and used by God in a more powerful way than before.
Myth #2 “medicine is a crutch” I file this one under the “greater things” category. More on that in a moment. Medicine is a tool, one that can bring healing and relief. There are times when medicine is necessary, and times when maybe it isn’t. That should be between a person and their doctor. By that I mean, it’s no one else’s business. As to the “greater things” I mentioned, medicine (and not just medicines for depression) can be a miracle themselves. Jesus told his disciples that they would do greater things than He did. That’s a tall order, since he healed people and brought people back to life. But consider this, 2000 years ago, your only hope to be healed of any number of debilitating and potentially lethal ailments, was to be in Galilee at the right time and the exact right location, to be healed by Jesus. Today, a simple dose of penicillin can cure what would have been terminal in that day. Ordinary means can achieve divine outcomes, when we have the faith to accept non miraculous healing.
Myth #3 “a person in depression has unconfessed sin” Um, no. At least not a majority of the time. Now if you complain of depression, but it stems from financial ruin due to you supporting unrepentant drug abuse . . . then maybe I can agree that your “depression” is due to sin, but this really falls under the law of natural consequences. But if depression is present without such apparent sin, it’s not a matter of God smiting someone until they repent. Jesus himself indicated that such was not the case, when speaking of the man blind from birth. He stated this happened, not due to the sin of the man or his parents, but that God may be glorified. This sentiment is repeated almost an absurd number of times in the book of Job. Job is repeatedly accused of unreported sins by his “friends”, but the Lord is clear; there is no sin issue. Job is afflicted that God may be glorified and Satan can be defeated.
Myth #4 “if you have more faith when you pray, you’ll be delivered” Wrong again. While Jesus does tell people repeatedly it is according to their faith that they have been healed, He never tells someone the opposite. In addition to that, we have to understand what is meant by “have more faith”. Jesus didn’t heal people because they really believed he could . . . like a lot. He healed to glorify the Father and to establish his identity during his earthly ministry. The faith people had in Him is what pleased the Lord, not the magic formula that caused God to decide to heal them. God absolutely heals people today, but we’d be wise to understand, that it is according to His plan and purpose that it happens, not because we figured out some formula to get what we want from God. If you want to know more about people who had amazing faith, read Heb 11. You’ll be impressed by the list, but should also note that all of them died before seeing the fruit of what they had faith for.
Myth #5 “you need to come against the devil/demons afflicting you” Probably not. Am I saying that no mental illness is a direct demonic affliction? No. Am I saying that it is much more likely to be a physical, neurochemical brain disorder? Yes. The Devil convincing the world he doesn’t exist may be his best trick, but his second best may be convincing well meaning Christians that they are a breath away from demonic possession at all times. Be careful of this myth. If you are seeking after God and have not added an entry way to demonic forces, odds are you don’t need an exorcism.
There’s a lot more I could say on this subject, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll stop here. I would point you to a couple of messages. Spoiler alert, the following was a message I was invited to give to our local church http://www.nccstl.org/sermons/sermon/2016-12-11/a-sound-mind, and the second is a message from a life giving church in Omaha http://discoverlifegate.com/messages/god-hangups/why-doesnt-god-cure-mental-illness-or-stop-suicide/. Both of these messages approach this subject. I invite you to give them a listen/view when you have time.
If you are dealing with depression, I hope that this post has been the encouragement I intended it to be. I know there are a lot of hard opinions about this subject, and there are room for all them. I pray you’ll have grace with me in areas you may disagree. Finally, if you feel you are dealing with depression, and this struck a cord with you, speak with someone who cares about you, speak with your pastor and if needed speak with your doctor.