For the first teaching of our three-week series ‘Vous: Mental Health & You‘, Arnaldo Santiago Jr. teamed up with Dr Nicolette Maher to give a clinical and theological perspective on Depression (watch here). In this post, Arnaldo gives a guide to dealing with depression as a Christian.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). What does it mean for us when the season we are experiencing feels like deep darkness and despair? Where do we turn when all we feel is hopelessness?
One of the first steps towards fighting the darkness of depression is understanding its complexity.
We are complex creatures and the roots of our depression are never simple. Depression is often caused by more than disposition, personality, or genetics, though they all play a role. There may be physical/chemical, spiritual, or psychological roots, and more often than not there is a complex combination of the three.
We want to avoid providing simplistic answers to complex issues and so we need to look at the whole person and God’s whole world as we deal with depression.
Our hope is that God would bring a measure of healing to our bodies and minds, even as we wait for the redemption of the entire creation and renewal of all things.
As we await the redemption of our bodies, there are a few true things that we may need to hear:
1. You are not alone in the pit of depression
As we explore the Scriptures, we see others who have suffered from deep depression and an acute desire to end their lives. David (Psalm 38), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), Jonah (Jonah 4:3), Job (Job 3:11, 26), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20), Paul (2 Corinthians 1:8), and our Lord Jesus himself all suffered a dark night of the soul (Matthew 26:38).
Depression will lie to you and tell you that you are alone, leading you to become further isolated and less likely to seek help. But others have been afflicted and God in Christ knows what the darkness feels like.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
2. Depression is not a sin
Being depressed is not a sin. You need to hear that, over and over again in order to undo the false script that has been ingrained in us by a faulty theological framework, which dumps every weakness in the ‘sin bin’ as it were. Depression is an affliction that we should seek healing from via every avenue available to us by God’s good graces.
While being depressed is not in and of itself a sin, it is a result of the fallenness of the creative order. Sin has affected every part of our being, including our moral, cognitive, and affective faculties. The varied nature of depression means that there may be spiritual dimension alongside other causes such as circumstantial, psychological or physiological.
3. Depression is a mystery
Medical advances have brought us great insight into mental illness but there is still much mystery that surrounds the human person. This means that there are no easy or quick fixes. While we should pursue every avenue of healing we must understand there is no pill that will magically heal our depression.
Two things must be said together: the most faithful thing you can do as a believer is take your medication, if prescribed, while simultaneously submitting ourselves to the mystery and limitations that they and other forms of healing provide.
If you are someone who is experiencing some form of mental illness, please seek help. Visit a good GP and pursue a mental health care plan.
There will be seasons when prayer may be the last thing that you can do. You need to remember that even as we struggle to pray, the Spirit is interceding for us.
“For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
One of the graces in my life has been knowing the Spirit is praying when I cannot and that I can lean on the prayers of others. Every Moment Holy is a book of prayers that has given me language when language has evaded me.
5. Depression may cause you to want to abandon God, but will never cause God to abandon you
The feeling of being abandoned by God abounds throughout Scripture. The one time that we can know that this is true is found on the lips of Jesus (Matthew 27:46), and because this is true we can know that God will never abandon us.
In the darkness, answers—even true ones—can often fail us. Knowing someone is with us, solidarity, is what our hearts need when the darkness descends.
Depression and its attendant hopelessness can sometimes be too much to bear and we may feel like grace is no longer available for us. But what if depression is the doorway by which you can experience grace in ways unimaginable?
We come to learn that weakness is the path to true strength. God wants to meet you in the dark despair. He is with you.
If you, or someone you know, are considering self-harm or taking your life, get help immediately. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or go to Beyond Blue.
This content was originally published here.