If you have followed my blog posts over the past six months you know that I have published post after post on Christians and depression, anxiety, worry, and suicide. It’s my belief that there is an epidemic of behavioral, and mental health issues in the church that we a not addressing as I believe God would have us to do. The church has not treated behavioral and mental health as it has other illness. For some reason the church considers cancer, diabetes, hypertension, pneumonia, flu, and even the common cold, illnesses that it’s okay to talk about and seek professional help, along with prayer, for treatment and healing. We almost never say that the reason for these illnesses is a lack of faith or trust in God.
At the same time when someone comes to us saying that they are anxious, stressed, depressed, or “God forbid” feeling suicidal, we point them to scripture and telling them that if “you really, really, believe you will not or can’t be anxious, or depressed, or considering suicide, so just pray and claim the promises of God.
Isaiah 26:3 NKJV You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
I Corinthians 10:13 NKJV No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
The church has a problem talking about depression because we somehow believe that Christians should not get depressed and talking about it can be uncomfortable because we don’t know a lot about it.
Because there has been a prohibition of talking about certain things or not expressing our feelings when we are hurting in certain areas is like “putting lipstick on a pi”, so to speak. We are masking how we sometimes hurt so we don’t get help. Some old time preachers and old time mothers talked about the church being a hospital... well if you can’t talk about your sickness what kind of hospital is it. Is it only one that deals with the common cold or a stubbed toe and not anxiety, depression, or suicide?
If you can’t bring your deepest problems to the church because you are afraid of what others may say where people have to pretend that “..there lives are picture-perfect”. There are two problems that result. 1) the issues or problems will sooner or later come out and either they will result ns gossip or the leadership will tell them not to come back until the problem is handled or 2) then can’t take the pressure of trying to put up a false face for the church so they drop out.
“When we meet Christ, we are saved from the penalty of sin, but we do not escape the effects of sin --whether that’s our own sin of other people’s sin or simply the broken world we live in. Church is the place where we need to go for healing not the place to pretend that we’re perfect. It shouldn’t be the place we run from when we feel overwhelmed it should be the place we run to. That is where Jesus will meet us and change us.,
It is true that prayer and reading and claiming the promises of God can help in relieving anxiety, or easing thoughts of suicide but to make those statements without listening to the anxious or the suicidal can cause them, if the symptoms don’t ease right away, to believe that they somehow don’t have the right kind of relationship with God and if the church can’t help why bother. The result can be desperation causing people to leave the church and in the worst cases suicide.
The following is an article from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention website.
Depression, anxiety, and the church: A pastor’s wife tells her story of hope
By Tiffany Marshall Leigh Ann Marshall
Since the garden, our world has been thoroughly and profoundly broken from the introduction of sin. This brokenness affects every part of our lives, from who we are, how we act, how we work, and how we relate to one another, to natural disasters and physical illness. As evangelicals, we are quick to see this universal bodily brokenness in cancer and heart disease, but when we approach mental illness, often our first response is to assume a lack of faith or inward transformation of the gospel. Why is this?
My family is no stranger to mental illness. Genetics have certainly played a huge role as three generations of my family, including myself, have been affected by depression and anxiety. Out of all of us affected, my mom's depression and anxiety has certainly been the most severe, particularly in the past few years. What has made this particularly hard is that she is a pastor's wife.
More than 18 percent of Americans struggle with depression and anxiety, but the stigma and shame still holds strong in the church and even stronger for those who hold roles in ministry. I recently sent her a few questions in hopes her story will encourage you or someone you know walking a similar journey.
Tiffany Marshall: When did you first start struggling with depression and anxiety?
Leigh Ann Marshall: I have struggled with diagnosed clinical depression for almost 30 years. The first time I sought professional help was in the early 1990s.
TM: What have been some of the factors that have amplified your depression and anxiety in different seasons of your life?
LAM: I was sexually abused by an older teenage boy when I was a child. I suppressed the abuse until I was a young adult. I believe this was the root of my anxiety and depression. My depression was managed for many years on low dose depression medications under the supervision of doctors. Over the past few years, there was an accumulation of factors that caused my anxiety and depression to resurface more severe than ever. We moved twice to two different states in a period of 13 months. My husband’s pastoral job changed twice in that period of time. In addition to that, I began to lose a large business that I had built from the ground up for over 19 years thinking it would be part of our retirement plan. I also went through a very severe physical illness during that 13-month period of time.
TM: How was this most recent season of depression and anxiety unique? What brought it about?
LAM: In November 2014, I spent 19 days in an ICU for sepsis, a very severe illness that more times than not, causes one to lose their life. Almost every major system in my body was shutting down due to an infection from a minor surgery for kidney stones. I ended up being on a ventilator for eight of the 19 days. Rehabilitation, including learning to walk again, took several months.
Just as I was getting physically stronger, my husband was called to another church, and we moved once again. My business began to decline even more rapidly as I was not able to work to keep things moving in a positive direction. I started to feel like a failure and was not sure how to handle the rapid decline of something I had put blood, sweat, and tears into for 19 years. I also felt like a failure as a pastor’s wife. I have always known the importance of being a helpmate for my husband, but it was all I could do to get to church, and then once I was there, I found it very difficult to engage with people.
Very soon, I began to slide into a deep depression that ultimately led to my decision in early 2017 that it would be better for everyone if I simply took my life. By God’s grace, I was in counseling and revealed this plan to my counselor. Thankfully my husband took this seriously and checked me into a facility for a week to get the help I needed. It was while I was in this facility that I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The doctor informed me an illness as severe as my sepsis, coupled with a lengthy stay in ICU, could produce PTSD. I slowly began recovering as my doctor discovered my medications were out of balance and found the right medications for me.
TM: What has helped you out of this most recent bout of serious depression?
LAM: As someone who has battled anxiety and depression for almost all of my adult life, anxiety and depression are things I will most likely always battle with at some level. The factors that contribute to my illness are several. There are chemical imbalances (physical), as well as emotional and spiritual factors. I know, therefore, that I must battle the struggle on several fronts.
As I have mentioned, getting my medications balanced and accurate was a big step in the right direction. I am grateful God directed my steps to get me to the doctor who is right for me. He does an amazing job of listening to me and keeping my medications where they need to be.
I also continue to see a Christian counselor. I believe this is important because over a lifetime of handling stress in an unhealthy way, he has helped me see other ways of dealing with difficult situations in a healthy way.
My family (especially my husband) have been supportive of me as I have walked through this. It is important for those you love to see clinical anxiety and depression as an illness. If I had any other chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart disease, people would understand it has to be treated. In the same way, people must understand mental illness is a very real disease. My family has supported me in that way.
I would certainly not want to leave out the spiritual aspect of this battle. Satan wants to destroy us. He will use any and all tactics to see us taken down. This certainly includes the battle of the mind. It has been important for me to continue to press in to God and my walk with him. I have Scripture and words to some of my favorite worship songs around my home. I see them everywhere I go. They remind me of where my real strength lies. When I am weak, I know God is shown to be strong.
TM: How did your role as a pastor's wife make this recent season harder? Why do you think that is?
LAM: When you are a pastor’s wife, you want to be strong around others. Expectations on pastors can be unrealistic. I was afraid if people in our church found out what I was really going through, they might think I was not a strong Christian or my faith was weak. We had not been at our current church long before the severe season of anxiety and depression set in. “What would others think if they knew their pastor’s wife was contemplating suicide?” I felt trapped with no place to turn for help.
TM: What can the church do to help church members affected by mental illness? (Personally or a loved one)
LAM: We must get past the stigma that somehow mental illness is a taboo subject. There are people sitting in our pews every week that are hurting and afraid to admit it or seek help. If we can bring mental illness into the light in our congregations, this will go a long way toward helping those who think they are the only ones or that other Christians will not understand.
We must educate our people. Our church has a strong partnership with a counseling ministry in our area. We lean on the professionals in this ministry to help educate our people on the real causes of mental illness as well as giving them help.
My husband recently preached a series of messages on discouragement and depression. With God’s leading, I shared my story on a Sunday morning as he completed the series. As hard as this was, it has opened healthy dialogue among our people. Many have reached out to me for help. They now know if the pastor’s wife can publicly share about her struggle, this is a safe place to go with their struggles.
We encouraged people to not ignore symptoms in the lives of those they love. They may just need someone who cares to reach out to them and keep gently nudging them until they get the help they need.
Because of the overwhelming response to my story, we are looking at ways to further educate our people and keep this conversation alive in our church. We want to be seen as a safe place that offers the real hope only found in Jesus Christ.
This has been such a hard season for my family, but we have also seen God’s grace so clearly. The Lord has used this to bring our family closer together, and it has made each one of us more thankful for the time we have together. We have a common faith in Christ that has helped us through this season, recognizing the broken, giving grace to each other when needed, and ultimately trusting in his sovereign and good purposes on the hard days. I know there are many other families out there that are walking through similar seasons without the hope of the gospel, and I pray the church rises up to meet them with good news in their moments of need.
Editor's Note: The following prayer is from the "Suicidal Thoughts" presentation to the Church of Divine Guidance Thursday Night Prayer Line.
“Father, in the name of Jesus, I come before You, confessing my need for You, and crying out to you from the bottom of my heart. Lord, You’ve said that you are near to those whose hearts are breaking and that you give grace to the humble. I humble myself before you now…I cast down any pride or self-justification that I would hide behind, and I present myself to you as I truly am–weak and helpless and despairing of my very life. I know there is no other Rock but You, and I turn to You with all of my heart. Father, please forgive my sin! I open myself up to receive Your cleansing, Your healing, Your forgiveness, and Your faith, hope and love into my being. I receive your love as a river, washing over the dry wasteland of my emotions. I see that in Your river there is life, and that every place your river touches in me is revived. I cast all my cares, my sorrows, my disappointments into that river and I let the current of Your spirit carry them far away. I believe You, when You say that You think good thoughts about me, and that Your plans are to give me a future and a hope. I believe You when You say that You knew who I was even before my mother conceived me–and that You wanted me to be alive on the earth right now. Thank you for giving me life! Thank you for working all things in my life for good! Thank you that I can call on your Name and You will be near me. Thank you for bearing all my weaknesses and diseases on the cross, and healing me, spirit, soul and body.”
Note - If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts and tendencies, please get help. Don’t try to face this on your own. There is hope and healing, and there are many who will journey through this trial with you. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) at any time day or night 24/7, to talk to someone who understands. Or go online at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ for more information and help.
Editors Note: Continual things come and go, like arguments or rain. Continuous, on the other hand, is nonstop.
I live in Southern California near Thousand Oaks where just a few days ago there was a mass shooting in which twelve people including the shooter (who took his own life) and a Deputy Sheriff were killed. Just a few days later, in this same and adjacent areas in Southern California, and areas of Northern California fires, fanned by high winds. destroyed homes businesses and many people died. Several of these fires continue to burn as I write this post.
Many have and will continue to experience grief over these losses of loved ones, homes, and other things. There is the initial shock and immediate grief of the loss but, that's just the beginning of the process. There will be times, even years after the loss, where you see or hear something that reminds you of that person, place, or thing and you will experience thoughts of joy or sadness. It's all part of the process and it's necessary. One of the toughest parts of grieving a loss is that grief often is layered and continual...it doesn't hit all at once.
When it comes to death of a loved one, a divorce, or a severed relationship with a life long friend, the initial loss is the relationship...then as the weeks go by, they realize it changes many of their other circumstances and relationships...then they realize how the loss is affecting any children, or other relatives and friends, even finances.
The pain is a process it’s very heartbreaking...and frustrating.
God has the ability to bring us deep peace. As we keep our minds on God, He is faithful to give us peace that is unexplainable.
Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Isaiah 26:3 NKJV You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
If you know of someone who has recently lost their home and/or other things of sentimental value due to a fire, or other natural disaster, divorce, financial reasons...or if you know of someone who has lost a loved one through death or severed relationship, perhaps a divorce, reach out to them today. Bless them through the love and resources God has blessed you with.
Isaiah 32:17 NKJV The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.
Proverbs 11:25 NKJV The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.
Editor’s Note: In an interview with The Christian Post best-selling author and singer Sheila Walsh has shared how her battle with depression and suicidal thoughts allowed her to experience the power of Jesus — and why the Church must "wake up" to the number of pastors struggling with mental illness. This post is the full content of the article written by Leah MarieAnn Klett and published October 29, 2018.
Best-selling author and singer Sheila Walsh has shared how her battle with depression and suicidal thoughts allowed her to experience the power of Jesus — and why the Church must "wake up" to the number of pastors struggling with mental illness.
Walsh, an internationally-known speaker and Bible teacher, recalled to The Christian Post how, twenty-six years ago, she checked herself into the psychiatric ward of a hospital. She was diagnosed with clinical depression, a devastating condition affecting more than 16.1 million American adults.
"At the time, I was serving as the co-host of The 700 Club show on Christian Broadcasting Network," she said. "I knew how to put on a good face and isolate myself from people. I was surrounded by people, a ministry leader, but so desperately lonely and depressed. Up until that point, I'd based so much of God's love on me getting everything right. When you end up in a psych hospital, that platform has been pulled from beneath you."
While at the hospital, Walsh said she was overwhelmed with a sense of God's presence in the midst of her pain. She cried out, "I never knew You lived so close to the floor."
"There was such a profound sense of, 'The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,'" she said. "So often, that's what depression feels like. You feel as if you've been crushed. But in those times, that's when you can experience the presence of the Lord. When things go wrong, we feel as if God has left us or doesn't hear us, but I am learning that even in the darkest places, God's timing is perfect and His presence is promised."
Walsh draws from her experience with depression and mental illness to share eight simple, practical steps to help women move forward one day at a time in her new book It's Okay Not To Be Okay: Moving Forward One Day At A Time.
"After opening up about my own struggles, so many women reached out to me asking for advice," she said. "This isn't a self-help book; it's a God-help book. I don't think self-help is help at all. I wanted to share eight things I've learned in my own life to help others move forward."
One of the most important steps in her journey, Walsh said, was daring to have "gut-level, unedited conversations with God."
"We have this head knowledge that God knows everything, but there's something so healing about pouring your heart out to God, telling Him everything," she said. "We think we have to use certain words, we have to be respectful and careful with God, but what I've discovered, just as the Psalmist David did, that our honesty invites the nearness of God's presence."
There's this "incredibly damaging" misconception in the Church that believers shouldn't struggle with mental illness, Walsh contended.
"So often, when people are already hurting and struggling, we shame them, we make them feel as if there's something wrong with them," she said. "We tell them there's a lack of faith or trust in God, we tell them to pull themselves together. But, it's not a lack of faith; it's a lack of chemicals in your brain to be able to function well."
"I've had way too many conversations with spouses or parents whose child committed suicide because they were told within their church they don't believe in medication; they're told, 'We'll pray for you,'" she continued. "That makes me desperately sad, because mental illness isn't curable, it's treatable. Medication corrects the chemicals in your brain, allowing you to function well and be who God created you to be."
Pastors and ministry leaders, Walsh contended, are particularly susceptible to burnout, depression, and mental illness — and the Church needs to "wake up" and support those in leadership positions amid what she referred to as an "epidemic."
We have this skewed idea of what it means to represent Christ; we think we need to look like the Good News," she said. "We don't. Jesus is the Good News. We need to simply begin having this conversation, acknowledging that this is an issue. We need to be telling our pastors, 'Please don't be ashamed, please don't give up — help is available.'"
Still, the Church has made "great strides" when it comes to the issue of mental health, Walsh said, pointing to the ministry of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, who lost their 23-year-old son to suicide several years ago.
"From their unspeakable grief, the Warrens have done so much good," she said. "Their son, Matthew, was a darling boy, but he suffered so deeply from depression. Rick and Kay have such a phenomenal ministry and are leading the way in helping other churches understand mental illness."
Walsh said that one of her favorite quotes comes from theologian Charles Spurgeon, who suffered from extreme clinical depression
"Sometimes, his depression was so severe, he couldn't be on the pulpit for a whole month," she said. "Still, he said, 'I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the rock of ages.'"
"When you understand the life of the man who said that, it's much more profound to me," she continued. "He learned to be grateful for the darkness that plagued him, because it threw him to the arms of Christ."
The author hopes her book will change the stigma surrounding Christians and mental health — and encourages readers to "fall more in love with Jesus."
Editor's Note:. In the past six months my church family, my own family, and several friends have gone through and are still going through the loss of loved ones. The cause of death has run the gamut from natural causes, to suicide, even murder. They and we are all grieving in different ways. Some of us cry, others question God; some of us wonder if there was anything we could have done differently; some of us try external aids like alcohol or drugs (both legal and illegal). One of the big issues grief and the grieving process is the inability to sleep. In this post our guest blogger Sara Bailey gives us great advice for dealing with our sleeplessness while we grieve.
The Best Advice for Managing Sleeplessness Following the Loss of a Loved One
By Sara Bailey
Losing someone you love impacts your entire life, often making it difficult to get through your days and nights. When you’re unable to sleep during bereavement, it can make you feel even worse. Instead of tossing and turning, take some simple steps to improve your sleep.
Loss of a loved one and lost sleep. Even if you never experienced insomnia before, the loss of someone you love can mean losing sleep. You might lie awake, sifting through memories and emotions, or staring at the ceiling feeling empty. Insomnia in the wake of loss is actually not unusual. Some studies reflect a link between sleep and grief. Basically, it’s a vicious circle. People struggle to rest when they are grieving, which in turn, exacerbates their grief and makes it harder to sleep. Focus on the Family points out grieving is an entirely personal journey, and there is no right or wrong path, nor is there is a certain time frame for grief. Even Jesus wept with grief, but when you can’t sleep well, it inhibits your ability to heal from your loss.
Examine your environment. Your bedroom surroundings can play a key role in how well you sleep. Make it a point to keep your room dark, cool, and quiet. You might try some aromatherapy to help you rest and relax. Vanilla and lavender oils are known to be helpful with getting a good night’s sleep, calming your body and mind. Some people benefit from sleep-assistive devices. There are hybrid machines that monitor your habits and incorporate sound and light to help you fall into sound slumber. There are even “smart” sleep masks that analyze your sleep patterns to help you snooze. Another idea is to change up your bedroom. Now might be the perfect time to invest in a new mattress. A new bed could help you achieve some closure and make you more comfortable for sleeping. If you decide it’s time to replace your mattress, consider ordering a bed in a box. Once delivered, a bed in a box is far easier to move to the right room than a traditional mattress. It can be maneuvered through halls and around tight corners with minimal hassle, which is particularly important if you’re trying to manage it by yourself. You should also select a mattress that suits your sleep position to help optimize your comfort.
Sleepy and synchronized. Getting into a routine can help synchronize your body with a healthy sleep pattern. By going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning, your body begins to expect that routine—allowing you to fall and stay asleep more easily. Changing what you do in the hours before bed can also be helpful. For instance, looking at your cell phone, tablet, or television right before bed can actually trigger you to feel more alert. Those electronics emit a blue light that is counterproductive to sleeping. Getting in some physical activity can also help, especially if you work out early in the day. Exercising offers bonus benefits as well, helping to lower your stress and anxiety levels, and releasing feel-good chemicals in your brain. Avoid late-day exercising, though, since the boost might keep you awake at night.
Rethink your eating habits. Many people are comfort eaters, and while that might feel good in the moment, it’s important to be conscientious about eating a nutritious diet. Psychology Today explains nutrition plays an important role in supporting your mental health—and you are going through an especially difficult time. Certain foods can help lower your risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns, while at the same time boosting cognitive function. Include fatty fish, whole grains, leafy greens, and yogurt in your meals. There are also some foods you should avoid eating before bed. Steer clear of spicy foods, dairy products, and sugary foods at bedtime since they could interfere with your sleep.
It’s important to get sufficient sleep for your well-being. Change your environment and habits to encourage better slumber. Rest in the palm of His hand and know that in time, you will heal.
To contact Sara email her at email@example.com Visit her website The Widow Net
Psalm 4:8 (NLT2) In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.
Psalm 127:2 (NLT2) It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.
Proverbs 3:21-24 (NLT2) 21 My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them,22 for they will refresh your soul. They are like jewels on a necklace.23 They keep you safe on your way, and your feet will not stumble.24 You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly.
'There is nothing in the world more excellent than man, nor in man than his mind, particular attention should be given to the welfare of the mind; and it should be considered a highest service if we either restore the minds of others to sanity or keep them sane and rational... One ought to feel great compassion for so great a disaster to the health of the human mind, and it is of utmost importance that the treatment be such that insanity be not nourished and increased.' Juan Luis Vives ( Spanish scholar and Renaissance humanist. His beliefs on the soul, insight into early medical practice, and perspective on emotions, memory and learning earned him the title of the "father" of modern psychology).
The church has pioneered ministry in child education, poverty, homelessness, social equality, physical health and disability, but we have largely abdicated any responsibility for mental well being. Our absence in the mental health space only generates even more stigma and suspicion over the origins of clinical mental health problems.
Here are six sigma often connected with mental in the church. The six conversation statements are what is often heard by Christians when they approach other Christians, often leaders. These kind of statements cause many to not talk about their struggles resulting in tragic endings. Many others just leave the church altogether with the feeling that their struggles are their own fault and that they have somehow let God down and they are suffering the consequences.
1. The Trust Conversation: "As you learn to trust God more you will find that your anxiety will gradually fade away."
What the mental health sufferer hears: "My mental health problem is a result of my lack of trust in God, and it will disappear as I go deeper in my faith."
Anxiety disorders impact people with a deep trust in God and are not related to the strength of a person's faith. Anxiety issues also fluctuate over time and need long term management. They tend not to improve on their own but through awareness, medication, talking therapy and self-help strategies.
2. The Self-Indulgent Conversation: "Lots of biblical greats such as Job and Elijah were depressed. The key thing to remember is that they didn't pander to their depression, but got on with the ministry God had called them to."
What the mental health sufferer hears: "It's not OK to be self-indulgent and be impacted by my mental health problems. I need to ignore my pain and get on with what God's calling me to.
God never criticizes people suffering with depression in the Bible, indeed he does the opposite; he comforts them and meets their needs. Dealing with emotional pain is not self-indulgent, any more than dealing with physical pain is. We all need to offer and receive the comfort of God without qualification: that's grace!
3. The Personal Cross Conversation: "We all have our own cross to bear, for you it may be your mental health issues. The good news is that in heaven there will no more weeping or gnashing of teeth."
What the mental health sufferer hears: "I am never getting any better this side of heaven. God is responsible for me carrying this cross. Life is hopeless this side of eternity."
We can identify with the suffering of Christ in our sufferings, but these are not fixed God-ordained things. Mental health issues, like physical disabilities, provoke suffering but also creativity and gifting. They do not define our identity or reflect the sum of our struggles. We can live life well this side of heaven with mental health problems.
4. The Undermining Mission Conversation: "The enemy is using mental health issues to make the church inward-looking. As long as we are being introspective, we are losing our effectiveness in mission."
What the mental health sufferer hears: "Mental health issues are a weapon of Satan to stop people meeting Jesus. As long as I am talking about mental health, I am undermining the gospel."
Jesus was the ultimate pastoral leader who loved the hurting and broken like no other. He calls us to 'take care of the sheep' with the same care and love that he demonstrated. Supporting people with mental health problems in the church is fulfilling the spirit of the Beatitudes and the Great Commission. It is the very thing that will make our message heard in a skeptical world.
5. The Already Healed Conversation: "You have already been healed of your mental health problem, now you just need to agree with the healing that you have received.'
What a mental health sufferer hears: 'Your disobedience is keeping you ill."
Sometimes we need to choose the behaviors that we have decided for in our minds. However, this is not the same as choosing a healing. Mental health recovery is not about disobedience, but it is sometimes about courage. No one with the 'flu is being disobedient by feeling unwell, equally no one with depression is disobedient by feeling low. Let's not confuse healing steps with the healing itself.
6. The Medication Conversation: "Medication is OK, but you haven't been called to rely on it forever. You need to step forward in your faith journey so that this crutch is no longer needed."
What the mental health sufferer hears: "Medication is a weak alternative to real recovery. I should get off it as quickly as possible so that I can do this recovery right.'"
Medication is a valid, necessary and often essential part in mental health recovery. It is neither less virtuous nor effective than other sorts of treatments, in most cases. Just as with conditions like diabetes in physical health, many psychotic illnesses will require a life-long medication regime. This is wholly good and right and should be actively supported by the Christian community.
We carry a huge responsibility to use our words and actions to encourage and not hurt. While we may disagree over the causes and treatment options we can no longer allow ignorance to inform us.
It has also been the experience of many in the church that depression is 'laziness', anxiety is a 'lack of trust' and that mental health problems can be resolved by greater 'obedience to Christ'. That attitude prevails even though the Bible includes many examples of people in scripture, even some of our spiritual heroes who exhibited signs of depression.
Job 3:11, 26 NIV“Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb? I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
Numbers 11:14-15 (NLT2)14 I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy!15 If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”
1 Kings 19:3-4 (NLT2)3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there.4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
Jonah 1:12 (NLT2) “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”
Jeremiah 20:14, 18 NIV Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?
Psalm 13:1-6 NIV How long, Lord ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord's praise, for he has been good to me.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NLT2)8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.Even
Mark 14:34-36 NIV “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Luke 22:44 NIV And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
Not to mention Charles Spurgeon or Charles Wesley's lifelong battles with depression, or Martin Luther's wrestling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and anxiety. There are many others who appear to have had serious and enduring mental health issues, including Florence Nightingale (bipolar), William Cowper (depression) and John Bunyan (OCD).
The Word On Depression: Three Bible Passages
Jo Swinney in Christian Today
One of the most commonly stated reasons people with mental health issues struggle with church is the relentlessly upbeat tone from the pulpit and the song sheet. God has triumphed over sin and death and so will you! Praise the Lord! When you are already feeling like an abject failure, being reminded of the absence of joy in your salvation can take you into deeper darkness.
When did you last deliver or hear a sermon on Lamentations or Job? Have you lingered at the end of Jonah lately, or gone past the beginning of Acts where it's all new and exciting to the bit where they start being martyred and fighting with each other? King David wrestled with doubt and despair; Hannah, the mother of the great priest Samuel was utterly distraught by the long years of infertility (1 Samuel 1:7–10); and the apostle Paul at times 'despaired of life itself' (2 Corinthians 1:8). If we are not addressing the full range of human experience in our preaching and our sung worship, it is not because the Bible doesn't give us material to work with.
Here are three passages which weave together the twin realities of agonizing suffering and the goodness, mercy and love of Emmanuel, God with us.
Even the best of us: 1 Kings 19
The story of Elijah is a powerful affirmation that God sees, uses and cares for us, even when we are at our lowest and most broken. The biblical picture of humanity has not been photoshopped and things get pretty blurry, chaotic and dark at this juncture, even as the glory of God flashes, flames from heaven illuminate the sky and false gods come crashing down.
Elijah lived in the northern kingdom of Israel under King Ahab who, with his wife Jezebel, led the people into idolatry. Elijah is one of the greatest prophets and miracle workers in the Old Testament – he stopped the rain for three years, raised a widow's son to life and parted the Jordan.
In 1 Kings 19 Elijah is fresh from a literal and metaphorical mountain-top experience on Mount Carmel – a stand-off with 450 prophets of Baal ending in a mass acknowledgement of the superiority of the God of Israel, fire from heaven, and a bloody massacre. He runs from the scene, faster than a horse, and then collapses; spent and miserable. This giant of the faith is afraid (19:3), suicidal (19:4) and exhausted (19:5). Depression, anxiety and mental anguish are not signs you are a bad Christian.
Christians can be the worst at knowing how to help and what to say in the presence of a depressed person. Do they need to repent of sin? Perhaps God will heal them miraculously after a heartfelt prayer or two? The help God gives Elijah here is simple: food and water (19:6 -8), his presence and calling (19:11), and someone to keep him company and share his workload (19:15-21).
Elijah's effectiveness for God doesn't end under the lonely broom bush. There is more to be done and God plans to use Elijah to do it. People with shoddy mental health can wonder if they have anything to offer. They have and they need to hear that loud and clear from the pulpit. Preaching on this passage is one of the ways you can get the message across.
Worshiping from the bottom of the pit: Psalms 42 and 43
Two questions: Can we worship when we are depressed, angry, in pain, despairing? And if we can, what does that look like? How do we do it? Psalm 42 and 43 give a resounding yes in answer to the first question, and show that with suffering comes the potential for deeper, more intimate worship.
Here we have a man who feels the absence of God painfully in his experience of suffering. Rather than accept the reality of the void, he throws himself into the pursuit of God's presence: 'My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?' (42:2). If we are able to understand our need as being primarily for God (as opposed to alcohol, human acceptance, more money, or the other things we can use as temporary comfort) then our suffering has the potential to deepen our relationship with him.
Second question: How do we worship in sadness? Let's look at the characteristics of the psalmist's worship in these two psalms. What stands out most vividly is his honesty. The author of these psalms is an example of breath-taking honesty. He is at rock bottom, tearful, downcast, disturbed, feeling forgotten and oppressed and even in physical pain. All these things he brings into his song. God can take it. We might sometimes feel we need to put on a brave face to God. Many of us are taught to begin our prayers with a thank you. That might be good practice, but it can lead to pretence. It is acceptable to be real, and actually it is a bit absurd not to be, given that God knows the state of our hearts better than we do. If we start from where we really are, the process of communing with God may well move us to somewhere different, but for that to happen we must be relating truthfully with him from the outset.
The psalmist also worships reverently. He never forgets who God is, and his awe and respect for God infuse the psalms. He calls him 'the living God,' 'the mighty one', 'the God of my life', 'God my rock', 'God my stronghold.' When we worship in sadness we mustn't let our sadness obscure the reality of God's greatness and majesty.
And he worships hopefully. He remembers the goodness of God in the past. Psalm 42:4 says'These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One'. In 42:8 he acknowledges the comfort of God in the present: 'By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me' and shored up by these thoughts, he has confidence to ask for God in 43:3 to 'send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me, let them bring me to your holy mountain'. I know that without doubt all of us will have evidence in our lives of God's faithfulness and love and presence. It is a good practice to bring these to mind regularly, and to let them give us confidence to ask him to help us through times of trouble.
Lastly, he worships with discipline. He takes himself firmly in hand, and commands himself to 'put your hope in God', (43:5) to continue to praise him whatever the reality he faces, and however much the evidence seems to point to God's abandonment. There are times when we will have to worship out of obedience rather than an overflow of joy and love. God remains the same, and he is just as worthy of our adoration and worship when we are sad as when we are joyful.
The long view: Revelation 21:1-5
One of the most biting satires ever written was the 17th-century French philosopher Voltaire's novel Candide, in which the eponymous hero continues to declare 'all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds' in the face of extreme and mounting evidence to the contrary. False hope is no hope at all. Drowning people have no use for platitudes – they need something to hold onto that will stop them sinking beneath the water. The desire to comfort is commendable, but make sure the comfort you offer has substance. Some will never in this life be well, dogged to their death by debilitating depression, perhaps at their own hand. Some relationships won't be restored. Some grief will never fade. All might not be for the best and suggesting it will be is unhelpful at the least and has the potential to undermine faith in a good God.
This is not to say there is no comfort to offer. The Bible is as much as anything a story of comfort: the story of a God who sees and hears and rescues. God is with us in deep waters and fiery furnaces (Isaiah 42:3). He gives us sustenance in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:5). He knows what it is to be abandoned, betrayed and in physical and emotional agony (Matthew 27:46). His Spirit brings incomprehensible peace (Philippians 4:7).
And then there is the Great Hope, the final redemption, the eternal joy and wholeness and glory of heaven. This is what makes the story make sense. This is why we press on, one foot after another, day after day as best we can.
Most people today won't have read much apocalyptic literature. We don't have an intuitive feel for how it works and so it can be confusing or alienating. The book of Revelation is a riot of colours, images and pronouncements that scholars and lay-readers alike have struggled to interpret over the centuries, but we are poorer without it and it deserves its place in our canon.
Writing to early followers of Christ undergoing unimaginable suffering for their faith, John's vision of heaven is a reminder of what the world will be like under the complete reign of its king, when 'the old order of things has passed away' (Revelation 21:4). As Paul wrote, 'For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known' (1 Corinthians 13:12). The reality of God's kingdom is for today; his presence is a current reality. But there is more to come, so much more. Hold up this hope from your pulpit. Preach on heaven. Call your hearers to engage their imaginations and their hearts in what God has 'prepared for those who love him' (1 Corinthians 2:9). There will be an end of all suffering – we just need to hold on a little longer.
Depression Is A Real Medical Illness
Each day men and women diagnosed with mental disorders are told they need to pray more and turn from their sin. Mental illness is equated with demonic possession, weak faith, and generational sin.
Although depression may be the most well-known and widely understood mental illness, it's still mostly hidden within the church. It’s something that just because we don't discuss it much doesn't mean it's not a significant problem. Ten percent of American adults suffer from depression, and more than 38,000 people die by suicide each year. Plenty of the people represented by these statistics will be sitting in church next Sunday morning.
As Christians, we typically approach the subject of depression and mental illness completely wrong. We may think that a person simply isn’t connected enough with God, or that they could easily get over their depression if they really wanted to. However asking a person to be or think more positively when they are suffering from depression is like asking an injured bird to fly. Of course the bird would like to fly, but they can’t.
Unfortunately, as science has proved time and time again, people cannot simply snap out of clinical depression. That’s exactly the disease of depression: being stuck in a negative loop of emotions, thoughts, and feelings that you can't brush aside. It is not a failure of the person, and God knows this.
Depression is a Real Illness
Asking Christians that are suffering to stay positive doesn’t work. In reality, this only tears down the person down even further, because they likely have already tried to do that. If they had the will, motivation, energy to be happier, they would. Depression drains all of that from those it plagues. Such demands or advice, in fact, end up making the person feel guilty, and more miserable, since they understand what needs to be done, and everybody around seems to be able to do it, except that they can't, since it's not in their hands.
You would never tell someone with cancer to calm down, it will heal on its own, get over it, or that it’s all in their head. That would be completely irrational. Clinical depression is as real as any other physical illness where you will need to reach out for help. It requires professional doctors, constant effort, and an emphatic approach from a loyal support system.
God Supports Them
As with many uncomfortable situations, our first reaction is to flee, to ignore, to hope someone else tends to the issue, or to wait for it to pass. However, every example of Christ shows just the opposite; He was present, fully engaged, always had time for people and deeply cared about the individual. We can do the same.
Matthew 9:35-36 (NLT2) 35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
God has His arms reached around each Christian that is suffering from depression, and supports them through this difficult time. God understands that the depression is not the fault of the person. The person’s sins did not cause their suffering, for example. God is not punishing them with this disease in any way.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT2) 16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
If you are having trouble accepting the disease of depression, there are some steps you can take to be more Christ-like. Acknowledge your own fears about depression and other mental illness, and take them before God. Many of our most natural reactions to mental health problems are based in fear. Maybe we have a fear of possibly having to suffer from depression sometime in our own lifetime, or we’re scared by trying to help others we might fail. Most of these fears are irrational. Ask God to make you a bold and wise person and to remove fears that are not based in reality.
Isaiah 41:10 (NLT2) Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
One other major issue in the church is simply ignorance. Get some basic education, and learn to watch for symptoms of depression and warning signs that someone is considering suicide. Consider yourself at the front lines of mental-health care. Most people are going to turn to friends and family first to discuss the pain they are feeling, rather than go straight to a psychiatrists or general medical doctor.
Whatever you do, if someone decides to confide in you about their mental health struggles it’s important not to judge. Even if what they are saying is a result of their damaged emotions and flawed thinking and doesn’t make much sense, don’t criticize them. Never tell someone they shouldn't feel the way they do, or that what they feel is wrong, or that what they are doing, saying or feeling is contrary to Scripture. They feel badly enough already. In the future there may be a place for that, but in the depths of depression, a person needs love, reassurance and support, not judgment. Allowing a person to feel heard and understood without being judged is a powerful way to make them feel loved.
John 13:34-35 (NLT2) 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
When we see a church member that is depressed, we might have good intentions by encouraging them to become more positive but in reality that is pushing the problem to the side. Our love for another person in pain must be expressed by our empathy, our willingness to listen, our words and our demeanor. We must watch what we say and realize the negative impact it can have on others, even if we don’t fully understand what they might be going through. Next time someone brings up the topic of mental health, seek to understand and to help, instead of brushing it off as a non-issue.
Galatians 6:2-3 (NLT2) 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
Some content for this post is from Why Telling Christians to "Get Over" Their Depression Doesn't Work by Megan Bailey you can read the original post here. Scriptures inserted by Faith The Evidence.
Every time something bad happens, a disaster, a death, an illness, or a financial catastrophe, many people either ask “Why would God allow this to happen” or why did God do this”? Why are we struck with a debilitating illness in the prime of life, why does one of our children die young, or why do we lose a job right after we sign a big mortgage? What about facing foreclosure because we haven’t been able to find a job? Why is your spouse stricken with a chronic illness ending in death? When these things happen in succession we search for answers.
When things happen that don’t appear to make sense, or go against what we think is good, we Christians say God did it or allowed it. I’ve heard that very thing more times than you think. We say that God does or allows bad stuff because we don’t understand how a God that we believe loves us, can allow us go through situations that stretch our abilities as human beings to handle or understand.
When it gets to this point we need to be reminded of the promises of God from His Word.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
That means He’s with you in the good times and the bad times.
Hebrews 13:5 NIV Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Psalm 34:19 NIV The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;
That sounds good, however when troubles lingers and even more trouble comes we may start to wonder if anybody hears or really cares. When it gets to that point we need to be reminded that God who made those promises that we read before, really does love us.
1 John 4:7- 11 NIV Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
That says that God really does loves us.
He’s also left us some reminders of that love,
Reminder #1 Creation
The creation itself should remind us of how all powerful God is. It is also evidence that He exists. The very fact that he created the universe and then allowed us to be masters over the earth should remind us that there is somebody out there who is bigger than we are.
Romans 1:20 (NLT)20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
These things about God’s creation remind us of how big God is, His faithfulness, and proof that He loves you.
Reminder #2 The People We Meet
God uses what we may consider chance meetings or encounters to benefit us later. God had plans for you before you were born. There are no mere coincidences. You’ve never met anybody by accident. Like the prophet Jeremiah
Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT) “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
Psalms 37:23 NLT The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
Think about some relationships that you had when you were in school. Not those where you stayed in close contact but people that you haven’t seen for years or have never seen ever again, maybe a teacher, a coach, or just another classmate. Think about the impact on you and your life of something they said, an introduction to someone else, or an example you follow today.
When you doubt whether God cares about you and loves you think about the people that he has placed in your life over the years. If I just sit and think back about some of the difficult and stressful times I’ll remember somebody doing something, or saying something or giving me something, seemingly out of the blue that helped get me through. That wasn't just a coincidence that was a reminder that God loves me.
Reminder #3: Jesus - The Greatest Reminder
Jesus is the greatest reminder of all of God’s love. When we realize that God gave His Son Jesus so that He could pay the ransom for mankind and take the punishment of sin we know that God loves us. Jesus came and willingly laid down His life for us.
Psalm 34:17-18 NIV The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Matthew 11:28-30 NIV “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
When you wrestle with anxiety and stress especially in situations where you have no control remember all that He went through for you. Remember the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, the humiliation at His trial, the beatings and finally His crucifixion. It looked as if He had no control over any of this but on the third day He rose from the dead to show that God never lost control. Jesus is the Greatest Reminder that God loves you and He understands what you are going through, because He experienced the same kinds of suffering we experience.
Hebrews 2:14-18 NIV Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
A Savior Who Understands
Dr. Charles Stanley
We do not have a Savior who’s isolated in heaven with no idea what it feels like to have human struggles. No, our Lord left the glories of heaven behind and added humanity to His deity. He temporarily gave up the use of some of His attributes, applying them only as the Father directed Him.
Jesus understands precisely how we feel because He went through the same types of situations we do. Though details of our lives may not match His, the experiences and feelings are alike. Let's look at several examples of how He identifies with us:
Misunderstanding: People constantly misunderstood His claims to be the Son of God.
Rejection: He was unappreciated by the ones He came to love and die for.
Pressure: Crowds surrounded Him, begging for help and demanding His attention.
Exhaustion: He experienced all the weakness of humanity.
Loneliness: At Gethsemane, when He needed human companionship the most, His closest friends fell asleep.
Temptation: Satan hit Him with every imaginable type of attack and temptation.
Hatred: Religious leaders despised Him.
Injustice: Though Jesus lived a sinless life, He died a criminal’s death.
Pain: He suffered the excruciating pain of scourging and crucifixion.
Whatever you’re going through right now, remember that Jesus knows how you feel and sympathizes with your pain and weakness. He may not remove the anguish or change your situation, but He’ll always give you the grace to resist temptation, endure suffering, and grow in spiritual maturity.
Taken from “Our Savior Understands” by In Touch Ministries (used by permission)
In an interview for The Christian Post, JD Greear, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, and pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, had shape criticism for the church about the way it deals with depression. Over the past several months I’ve written extensively about Christians and depression. You can read those posts here.
The way that the church has dealt with depression in the past is the same way that it has dealt with other difficult subjects like sex and money. We just don’t talk about it. Because the church culture says that now that we are in Christ everything should be perfect in our lives. If it’s not, then there is something wrong with our faith. Because of that people with real issues never talk about them and never deal with them.
Because there has been a prohibition of talking about certain things or not expressing our feelings when we are hurting in certain areas like money or sex we often putting lipstick on a pig so to speak. We are masking how we hurt so we don’t get help. I use to hear some old time preachers and old time mothers talking about the church being a hospital well if you can’t talk about your sickness what kind of hospital is it? Is it only one that deals with the common cold or a stubbed toe and not drug addiction or sex addiction, or depression?
The church has a problem talking about depression because we somehow believe that Christians should not get depressed. Talking about it can be uncomfortable because many of our church leaders don’t know a lot about it so we in the church don’t talk about it.
The fact is that we do have people who are depressed and with other issues who never talk about them. The church should be a place of healing but it is often a place of cover up. When people don’t address their issues what happens is somebody eventually finds out and it becomes rumor and gossip, the leadership finds out about it and asks that they step down from leadership or leave until the problem is solved, or they just leave because they can no longer keep up the charade.
The following is the full article from The Christian Post article written by Stoyan Zaimov, Christian Post Reporter | Oct 2, 2018 4:17 PM
JD Greear Criticizes the Way Churches Treat Depressed Christians; Explains What Believers Need
*Bold emphasis mine
Megachurch Pastor J.D. Greear has criticized the positivity-only way some churches handle depressed Christians, explaining that believers need to know God is with them through their pain.
"Sometimes, I think we can be too quick with our answers in church: 'Are you feeling sad? Life got you down? Well, that can't be from God! Just pop on some K-love, 'cause everything in the Christian life should be positive and encouraging all the time,'" Greear wrote on his website Monday.
"But when you are experiencing depression, you don't need a quick encouragement. You need a God who walks through pain with you," he added.
Greear, who's the pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, referred to biblical figures that have faced much suffering and depression, such as the prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:1–8.
Lamentations 3:1-8 NIV I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord ’s wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones. He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead. He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. (Scripture insert mine)
He suggested that some Christians can relate to the feeling of having "no light, no hope."
"Maybe you've also felt like God is not listening — or, even more, you wonder, 'God, are you behind this terrible circumstance? At the very least, you're not doing anything to stop it,'" he wrote.
He added that while people do like positive Scripture content, such as "still waters and cups running over and lions lying down with lambs," but there is a reason why God put the book of Lamentations in the Bible, despite its depressing nature.
Greear warned that many believers "have gone through dark chapters and thought the same things as Jeremiah, but they've suppressed those emotions, telling themselves, 'Real Christians don't ever feel like this.'"
Greear said that the prophet Jeremiah was a real Christian, as was 19th century Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon and Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, and they went through dark, even suicidal periods in their lives.
"Can you see you are not alone in your thoughts? The greatest Christians in history were not those that God delivered from all pain and misery but those He delivered through their pain and misery," the megachurch pastor noted.
"He is ready to walk with you through the darkness and do the same for you."
The Summit Church has been looking closely into issues relating to Christian depression and mental health. Brad Hambrick, who serves as pastor of counseling at the megachurch, argued back in August that it's possible for a Christian to both be spiritually healthy and suffer from mental health issues.
After listing several conditions and mental obstacles Christians might face in life, Hambrick added: "When I say that a Christian can be spiritually strong and still experience mental health challenges, someone can be a devout Christian and have a persistent struggle with these aptitudes/skills; a struggle that is only moderately improved through the best available interventions (Christian growth or therapy) and will not be ultimately remedied until Heaven."
In my sermon and Bible Studies on depression I say that we have unrealistic expectations or others. “We should stop asking God to change the other person, because He won’t in most cases, but ask Him to change us and our attitude”. If we are always concerned about the way others interact with us, always maintain a victim mentality, and always blaming others we will never walk in the victory that Jesus promises (read my post “Do You Have A Victim Mentality”).
This is for a very dear friend of mine.
A Prayer For Healthy Boundaries
By Debbie McDaniel
Life is precious. Yet all too often, we may find that much of our time is spent around negative, toxic people, draining the life right out of us. Sometimes they’re co-workers, friends, or sadly, even family members.
God never intends for us to spin our wheels, waste our days, trying to make others happy who can never be happy. Because in reality, it doesn’t depend on us. It’s not up to you. They may want you to think it does, as if you possess the power to improve the value of their existence, but that’s not a burden meant for you to carry.
God’s greatest desire is to set us free. And sometimes what propels that change is for some brave soul to be willing to say, “Stop, no more.” One who will choose what is better, and learn to set boundaries that will protect and limit the control an unhealthy person might be placing on another’s life.
Sadly, when we look deep into the mirror of our souls, we may realize that we are the ones who have some unhealthy tendencies that God wants to change. Today’s a good day to stop wasting time in toxic patterns of living. For he has better in store for us.
He can accomplish great things through your prayers. He can move mountains. He can change hearts. Anything is possible through his great power. Understand that though it is never up to you to make someone different, he’s set you in their lives for a purpose, for a reason.
He loves you, he cares for you, and he has good in store for your future.
“So If The Son Sets You Free, You Will Be Free Indeed” (John 8:36).
Lord, Protect Me From The Abuse And Harm Of Toxic People. I Know You Desire To Set Me Free—Free From The Hurt Of Others, But Also Free From My Own Sin And Bondage In That Sin. Help Me Have Eyes To See Toxic Behavior Around Me And In Me… And Give Me The Strength, Courage And Resilience To Break Free From That Toxicity And Choose The Path Of Life. Thank You For Always Protecting And Guiding Me Lord. Thank You For Always Being Good, Gracious, Kind And Loving. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.