We Christians often over-spiritualize depression and neglect the very real physical needs of a person caught in depression’s grip. On the other hand, non-Christians tend to focus too much on the physical aspects of depression and neglect spiritual health.
The church tends to have trouble talking about depression because it’s messy and uncomfortable. But this is something that’s not going away. More and more people who show up on Sunday Mornings are struggling with this very real issue. However, when people sit in church pews, the atmosphere isn't usually conducive to people admitting they have a problem and asking for help. Instead, everyone tries to appear as perfect as possible. Coming to church has nothing to do with who you actually are but rather with how you appear.
Depression can be caused by guilt. Sometimes the weight of our downfalls and sins can cause us to grieve and mourn to the point of depression. Depression can also be caused by the difficult circumstances of our lives. Life can get so hard that it makes us depressed.
Depression can also be the result of a physical illness. Sometimes the circumstances of our bodies can cause us to become depressed. I’m talking about synapses misfiring and chemicals becoming imbalanced. I’m talking about diseases within our bodies. This can be the most difficult cause of depression to wrestle with because you can’t quite put your finger on the reason you are suffering. You’re simply suffering.
Depression is an emotionally unhealthy condition that needs to be addressed often with the help of a healthcare professional. It's important that we know the symptoms and signs that you may be an emotionally unhealthy Christian.
The Top Eight Signs of an Emotionally Unhealthy Christian
taken from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete ScazzeroP
1. Using God to Run from God
- Create a great deal of “God-activity” in order to avoid difficult areas in my life God wants to change. You're in trouble when I . . .
- Pray about God doing my will, not about me surrendering to his will
- Demonstrate “Christian behaviors” so significant people think well of me
- Use biblical truth to judge and devalue others
- Make pronouncements like, “The Lord told me I should do this,” when the truth is, “I think the Lord told me to do this”
- Use Scripture to justify my sinful patterns instead of evaluating them under God’s lordship
2. Ignoring Anger, Sadness, and Fear
Most Christians are taught that almost all feelings are unreliable and not to be trusted. It is true that some Christians follow their feelings in an unhealthy, unbiblical way. It is more common, however, to encounter Christians who do not believe they have permission to admit their feelings or express them openly. This applies especially to such “difficult” feelings as fear, sadness, shame, anger, hurt, and pain. And yet, how can we listen to what God is saying and evaluate what is going on inside when we cut ourselves off from our emotions?
3. Denying the Impact of the Past on the Present
You are under the delusion that because you've accepted Jesus, your old life is no longer in you. Your past before Christ was painful. and you want to forget it. You never want to look back. Life is so much better now that Jesus is with you. You think that you are free.
However when you really look at your life you realize that the things you do look a lot like what you saw when you were growing up. You have the same mannerisms as your parents or guardians. Even though you have been a committed Christian for years our way of relating to situations and others mirrors more of your background than the way God intended for his new family in Christ.
The work of growing in Christ actually demands we go back in order to break free from unhealthy and destructive patterns that prevent us from loving ourselves and others as God designed.
4. Doing for God Instead of Being with God
Work for God that is not nourished by a deep interior life with God will eventually be contaminated by other things such as ego, power, needing approval from others, and buying into the wrong ideas of success and the mistaken belief that we can’t fail. We become “human doings” not “human beings.” Our experiential sense of worth and validation gradually shifts from God’s unconditional love for us in Christ to our works and performance. Our activity for God can only properly flow from a life with God.
5. Spiritualizing Away Conflict
Perhaps one of the most destructive myths alive in the Christian community today is the belief that smoothing over disagreements or “sweeping them under the rug” is part of what it means to follow Jesus. Jesus shows us that healthy Christians do not avoid conflict. His life was filled with it! He was in regular conflict with the religious leaders, the crowds, the disciples—even his own family. Out of a desire to bring true peace, Jesus disrupted the false peace all around him. He refused to spiritualize conflict avoidance.
6. Covering Over Brokenness, Weakness, and Failure
The pressure to present an image of ourselves as strong and spiritually “together” hovers over most of us. We feel guilty for not measuring up, for not making the grade. We forget that not one of us is perfect and that we are all sinners.
The Bible does not spin the flaws and weaknesses of its heroes. Moses was a murderer. Hosea’s wife was a prostitute. Peter rebuked God! Noah got drunk. Jonah was a racist. Jacob was a liar. John Mark deserted Paul. Elijah burned out. Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal. Thomas doubted. Moses had a temper. Timothy had ulcers. And all these people send the same message: that every human being on earth, regardless of their gifts and strengths, is weak, vulnerable, and dependent on God and others.
7. Living Without Limits
We were taught that good Christians constantly give and tend to the needs of others. We aren't wasn’t supposed to say no to requests for help because that would be selfish. The core spiritual issue here relates to our limits and our humanity. We are not God. We cannot serve everyone in need.
Why don’t we take appropriate care of ourselves? Why are so many Christians, frantic, exhausted, overloaded, and hurried? Few Christians make the connection between love of self and love of others. As Parker Palmer said, “Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.”
8. Judging Other People’s Spiritual Journey
This has always been one of the greatest dangers in Christianity. Sadly, we often turn our differences into moral superiority or virtues. By failing to let others be themselves before God and move at their own pace, we inevitably project onto them our own discomfort with their choice to live life differently than we do. Like Jesus said, unless I first take the log out of my own eye, knowing that I have huge blind spots, I am dangerous. I must see the extensive damage sin has done to every part of who I am—emotion, intellect, body, will, and spirit—before I can attempt to remove the speck from the eye of another (Matthew 7:1–5).
For more information about Pete and Emotionally Healthy Discipleship go to www.emotionallyhealthy.org or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.
Here is how I end my sermon;
If you are depressed or think that you are depressed or headed toward depression keep these things in mind.
- Denial Doesn’t Help It Hurts.
- We can’t do life alone
- We Must Address What’s Broken on the Inside of Us
I know there are some people who still have trouble with the idea that someone who is truly a follower of Jesus could struggle with depression. If that’s the case for you, I would simply encourage you to read your Bible—and not just the uplifting stories but also the parts where it gets so real and raw that we squirm a bit.
If you know that you are depressed, think that you are depressed or headed for depression seek professional help. Look for a Christian mental health professional but if you can’t find a Christian professional, find and go see a mental health professional anyway.
I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or trained counselor so I urge you to not try to deal with depression yourself without the help of a trained professional.