Depression: Should It Exist for Christians?
Depression can be a “taboo” topic for many evangelicals. The proverbial white elephant in the upbeat and enthusiastic ministry world of modern and contemporary Christianity. Yet despite the religious fervor to never be caught without an optimistic and joy filled life... depression is a significant issue for most if not all who claim the name of Christ.
I would HIGHLY recommend you read a book specifically dealing with depression from a lifelong pastor who suffered with the same... “Walking on Water, when you feel like drowning” by Tommy Nelson / Steve Leavitt.
As a chiropractic physician and a pastor, I can hold my own on the merits of medicine, natural remedies and theology about the concepts of depression, faith and health. When those concepts crash into real life (husband, father, friend), I begin to notice the ragged edge between the critical ways of the Church and the known physiology of the mind and body. Here are three things I’ve found to be factors in depression.
3 Major sources of depression for Christians
1 - Depression can occur with a loss of perspective. (Spiritual)
When we take our “eyes off of Jesus” we can lose all perspective on God’s ability to redeem our mistakes, restore our losses and heal our hurts. As depression goes, this cause is very common and can simply come from a spiritual drift. This is the depression that church folks often get embarrassed to admit and will choose to simply avoid being around other Christians and the risk of rejection they fear when depression is openly admitted.
In some cases, mental destructive or violent depression can manifest with a spiritual oppression or evil in one’s life. For those more intense and serious issues in which something deeper is suspected, a combination of medical and spiritual counsel is strongly recommended. Especially with adolescents or anyone who is threatening harm to themselves or others.
2 - Depression can occur with physical and emotional exhaustion. (Fatigue – Physical Condition)
When we get overweight, underweight, exhausted, overcommitted and overwhelmed by a 16-hour-a-day schedule that includes raising small children, working full time, dealing with teens, school activities, church activities and relationships that are vital to us (spouse, family, church etc…) it’s no wonder we get physically worn out.
When our bodies are physically or emotionally stressed, we exhaust our adrenal / endocrine system to point of fatigue, and our ability to recover from long days and late nights is greatly reduced. If we don’t rest... the hormonal system can decline and crash creating a nasty cycle of lowered neurotransmitters and blood chemistry vital to our immunity, sexual health and metabolism. When these critical factors (naturally produced and maintained in a well-rested body) are reduced or exhausted, depression is a direct link or symptom of the body's need to recover. Not just a nap to recover, but a rebuilding of our physical and emotional bodies.
(Side note, the pastor in me reminds myself and you that the Bible actually warned us about this one... honoring the concept of a Sabbath day each week is a critical component to reducing exhaustion and thus depression)
3 - Depression can be completely inherited (genetic Neurotransmitter /Physiology)
Some depression is not the result of fatigue, exhaustion, spiritual drifting or overcommitment; it is in fact due to your parents or grandparents. Like diabetes or baldness, it’s a result of changes in the body’s ability to produce and or maintain the proper levels of chemistry in our brains. No one thinks it’s odd to take insulin for blood sugar, so why would we consider it a “failure” of a believer to need to take medicine for depression?
Finding a conservative and competent psychologist or psychiatrist is a huge relief for many pastors and leaders in the church. To find out that they had suffered from something treatable and not some major flaw in their faith or theology, takes huge and unnecessary burdens off their shoulders and devastating shame from their hearts.
For parents, mothers in particular... Depression is a not a four letter word. It is not a failure of your faith or some personal collapse of grace or lack of spiritual maturity.
If you’re suffering with depression, it may be time to talk with your pastor or family doctor in confidence to see if you need help. Whatever the primary cause of your depression, address it if you can and get outside help and counsel if you can’t. The bigger point is this... don’t push this under the rug. Depression can quite literally kill you or at the very least it will rob you of the full life God intended you to have.