Can Christians suffer from depression?

I am aware this is a topical subject at the moment, particularly in the light of such cases as the suicide of Rick Warren’s son Matthew recently. Before you read on it might be helpful to know that I will not be able to give you an unbiased opinion on the matter having suffered from depression myself.

I believe there is a difference from having a case of the blues for a few days and a full-blown case of depression. The one you could eventually perhaps talk yourself out of or be talked out of, the other is completely the opposite. Whether you believe that depression is a chemical or hormonal imbalance or simply a natural response to a tragic set of circumstances, depression is no respecter of persons. It can strike at any time. Rich, poor, celebrity, unknown, old, young, Christian or non-Christian. People who would say otherwise are people pleasers or partial truth speakers.

It is true to say that in most cases there is some sort of trigger that seems to set it off but not always. My own bouts of depression were baby related or supposed illness related. There seems to be a school of thought that godly men and women cannot be affected. This is categorically untrue. A person’s position in life does not protect or safeguard them from going through such things. In fact, if you look at the bible and some of the characters of the Old Testament particularly, we see indications of depression in both Job and King David’s lives.

Some Christians would tell you that it is wrong for Christians to be depressed, that it is a result of sin, or looking away from God, or being self-indulgent or not having enough faith. This is rubbish. My husband often says that the problem with the illness of depression is that there are no outward symptoms of it, unlike a broken leg where you can see the actual injury. Therefore some Christians do not believe in it. This is terribly unfair. Yes, as Christians we have God on our side and we can reach out to Him in prayer etc but the trouble is many of us leave it too late and by then there is no quick fix, not that I believe there is one anyway.

All I know is when I was at my lowest God felt far away. The huge black pit I felt I was in was too deep to climb out of. It is an awful way to feel and something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I would have done anything, taken any pill to make myself feel better. Believe me, no one wants to feel that way.  It is not something you can persuade yourself out of.

It grieves me to the core that we can look at our fellow Christians and think we have a right to judge them . That saying about not judging someone till you walk a mile in their shoes has a lot of truth in it. People that are depressed need love and support, not criticism and gossip. Sometimes it can take such a small thing to tip you over the edge. Also telling a depressed person they shouldn’t be feeling the way they are then piles on feelings of guilt too, and they have enough to cope with already.

I feel Pastor’s and leaders are in a particularly vulnerable position because they lead such stressful lives and have so many plates to spin. A recent survey I read(can’t remember where unfortunately) indicated that 70% of Christians(it may have been just Pastors) will suffer from depression at some point.

If all this is not painting an attractive picture of God then I apologise. There is no doubt He is able to heal someone from anything including depression but the harsh fact is sometimes he seems to allow such things for His own purpose. Not because He is unjust or uncaring though. Indeed He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The reality is we live in a broken and fallen world and original sin has consequences. Just because we are Christians does not make us immune to trouble. Jesus said ” In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world”. Not you might have trouble but you will!

Sometimes it seems, for all of us, life just sucks and a quick, Get over it, pull yourself together is not helpful.

I am blessed to be the other end of the tunnel now but I’m not naive enough to think I will never experience it again. I do recognise the warning signs now though. We need to be real and deal with life the way it is and not how we would like it to be. It will never be perfection this side of Heaven.

Life is messy and hard and frustrating but there are some beautiful rainbows in the midst.

Till next time.

PS I have not given advice on how to overcome depression because I feel  unqualified, I can only speak from my personal experience.