Depression: Illness or Spiritual failure?
Angry, frustrated and confused, I boarded a plane for Southern California. My dear friend and mother-in-law lay in a hospital bed with the shadow of death hovering. As I sat on the plane numb and expressionless. I cried, “Lord, where are you? Can’t you see my wounded heart?” I wanted to scream instead of cry, “LORD, I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!” I felt as though his face was shrouded from me.
This was one of the few times in my journey with God where I truly felt that I had been abandoned by Him. So many traumatic events had happened. Just two weeks earlier we had buried my grandfather–the spiritual rock of our family. I had had the privilege of caring for him and walking with him through his last days and now, just weeks after his death, I was possibly facing another. I felt as though the foundation of my childhood was being bulldozed.
It started with a diagnosis
My journey began early in the spring of 1997 when I was diagnosed with clinical depression. The long days and weeks of care giving for my grandfather had taken their toll. Blackness and despair sought to submerge me. The diagnosis of depression was difficult for me to digest. I could handle a diagnosis of arthritis or diabetes, but depression?
In my mind depression was for weak people and weak Christians who didn’t seem to have enough faith. I argued about the diagnosis with God, my counselor, my pastor and my doctor – all people who were trying to help me. “I am a visible leader, a Pastor’s wife. What will people whisper about me behind closed doors if they know,” I worried. The lies flooded my mind.
However, as my journey through depression continued over the next few years, I discovered that the depression wasn’t just from the losses I had experienced. Nor was it from my physical exhaustion. Rather, in part, it was from deeper issues that had been tucked away for years; issues that God was beginning to bring to the surface.
Depression is complicated
Some of those issues included false expectations and a warped perspective of needing to perform in order to be lovable. Those lies were actually destroying me and had plunged my spiritual and emotional being into the dark hole of depression. I started to learn that performance had a stronghold in my heart, life and ministry that God in his faithfulness desired to root out of me. Through my counselor I realized that the depression I was experiencing was a symptom of something deeper, something that I needed to face in order to be a whole person again.
My good friend and counselor helped me when she used this illustration: If I had a broken leg, would I lie on the sofa, not tell anyone and just hope it would heal? No! I would go to the doctor immediately to get treatment. The same must be true for depression. A person often needs professional, spiritual and medical help to overcome their extreme feelings of despair and hopelessness. Through professional help, they will be able to explore the root of what is causing the depression so they can once again lead a life of joy and fulfillment!
Depression and the church
Depression is on the rise in our culture and the church is no exception. As God has given me the privilege to minister to women across the country, I have found it to be alarming just how many women inside the church are battling chronic depression. Unfortunately, the church in previous years hasn’t done a very good job at encouraging and supporting those who suffer from depression. There are probably as many reasons for this as there are complications and symptoms of depression.
As Christians we so often struggle alone because of the fear of rejection, failure or being told, “If your faith was stronger, you wouldn’t be depressed.” (Believe it or not, similar statements were said to me!) I however, was blessed mostly to have a body of believers who came around and supported me. I thank God that the church is beginning to acknowledge that depression is an actual illness, rather then seeing it as a sign of weakness or spiritual failure.
The road to wholeness was a rigorous journey for me, but God gently reminded me over and over again that “this too shall pass.” In all, I suffered five dark years of clinical depression. Today, I look back on that season of my life and thank God for the healing and His faithfulness even in the midst of the darkness.
If you are dealing with depression, there is help available. Talk to your pastor about finding a counselor in your area. See you doctor. Ask for prayer. If you would like to talk to someone privately, use this form to request a mentor and someone will contact you.
Are you depressed? Do you feel broken by life? Take our free life lesson called “Built By Brokenness” and start on the path to healing.
How do you gain victory over depression?
This does not replace speaking to your doctor about any medical concerns you might have about depression but some people have found the following steps helpful in dealing with depression.
- Recognize that God is with you and has always been with you.
- Realize that He has a plan for your life.
- Relinquish control of your life to God.
- Replace negative thoughts with positive and truthful thoughts.
- Rely on God because He is at work in your life.
In order to take these steps, you will need the power that only the Holy Spirit can give. God wants to be our leverage in living, empowering us to feel better about ourselves, more excited about our future, more grateful for those we love and more enthusiastic about our faith.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has given you His Holy Spirit to help you live life according to His perfect plan. Why not pray this simple prayer and by faith invite Him to fill you with His Spirit:
Dear Father, I need you. I acknowledge that I have sinned against you by directing my own life. I thank You that You have forgiven my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now invite Christ to again take His place on the throne of my life. Fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled, and as You promised in Your Word that You would do if I asked in faith. I pray this in the name of Jesus. As an expression of my faith, I thank You for directing my life and for filling me with the Holy Spirit. Amen.