If you’ve ever struggled with depression (or if you’re in the thick of it now), you are not alone. That’s not a cliched statement to make you feel good...statistics show that more than 120 million people in the world today struggle with depression and anxiety. That’s no small number.
Thousands and thousands of people in all kinds of churches around the world are battling mental illnesses of all kinds, so why aren’t more of our churches talking about depression?
Aaron Loy recently wrote an article for Relevant that began like this: “I am a pastor and I struggle with depression.” How’s that for a bold statement? That’s the start of a message that shines light into the darkness.
I appreciate honesty like his. We teach kids Sunday school songs like “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart,” and with those words comes an illusion that Christians are happy all the time because they know Jesus. The numbers go to prove just how false that is-- Loy shares that “the number of people diagnosed with depression increases by 30% every year.”
Hearing a pastor confess his struggle with depression is refreshing. It reminds us not all Christians are always happy, and that we aren’t somehow missing the point of the Bible if we feel depressed. Loy’s statement is an open door for the kind of conversations we need to have more of in our churches today: honest, real, clear.
Loy shares four powerful truths for those (including himself) who struggle with depression:
- You are not alone. The numbers show that. Statistics can feel cold and impersonal, but each of the 120 million people estimated to be struggling with depression and anxiety is a real, living, human with a heart, a family, passions, hopes, and fears. They’re all as real as you. We are all in this life together.
- Your faith is not broken. Loy shares several examples straight from the Bible of people who struggled too. “David made a habit of saying things like, “My bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. I am worn out from groaning. All night long I flood my bed with my tears” (Psalm 6). Jonah grew so angry with God that he wanted to die (Jonah 4). Jeremiah thought his life so void of hope or value that he cursed the day of his birth (Jer 20:14-18). Elijah was so ridden with anxiety that he begged God to end his life (1 Kg 19:3-4). Despite their struggle, each was hand picked by God to be used in unique and extraordinary ways.”
- God is for you and He offers to walk with you. Matthew 11:28-30 is like a balm for weary souls: “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.”
- Depression is not just a spiritual issue. “It is also a physiological one that can affect even spiritually healthy people in debilitating ways,” Loy says. “If you are a Christian who struggles with depression, don’t make the mistake of thinking if you just pray enough, claim enough, repent enough, or believe enough you will be cured. That may be part of the solution, but you may also find you need to treat the issue medicinally and therapeutically as well. Each is a gift and an expression of God’s grace.”
When we have honest conversations about depression and anxiety like this, we are helping to change the dynamic in our churches and culture from one of shaming to one of understanding and accepting. May we all find extra measures of grace as we seek to love each other well in the midst of hard and heavy circumstances.
If you are struggling with depression or anxiety of any kind, I encourage you to reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or church leader. You are not alone in this, and you do not have to go through it by yourself. The journey ahead may be long, but all you need to do is take one next step. The Lord will sustain you.
If you’re looking for more practical ways to combat depression, Margaret Ashmore of the Association of Biblical Counselors shares a helpful list of ideas here.
Publication date: February 18, 2016
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com