This is similar in topic to yesterday’s post. You may notice me blogging about this topic somewhat regularly for awhile, it is something that I feel is seriously misunderstood, and that misunderstanding is causing a lot of undue and overwhelming pain for people already struggling with a terrible darkness in their lives.
As I stated yesterday, I think a lot of Christians have good intentions when they approach the subject of depression. They want to help this person get better. It would be a bit absurd to think that the goal of these counselors is to hurt or harm this person who has come to them for help. I think that this very desire to want to help the person can be one of the biggest reasons that depression is misunderstood and false guilt is piled on top of the already very difficult situation the person is dealing with. The reason I feel this way is because when there are no answers we sometimes want to find one, and sometimes we want to find one so badly that we will take anything that comes along, no matter how unsound or incorrect.
The most common “cure” for depression presented by the Christian counseling group is “faith in God.” It is understood by some that depression is the result of a lack of trust in God. If the person would just trust God and know that he was taking care of them they would feel the joy of the Lord and overcome the anxiety and darkness. I think this reasoning is very flawed from a misunderstanding of both faith and depression.
First it is important to understand that faith is not going to make the problems in life go away, it will simply allow us to deal with those problems. Faith gets us through our struggles, not necessarily out of them. The Apostles had pretty serious faith. That faith led them to follow Christ in spite of persecution. That faith also led most of them to their deaths. As I read through Bonhoeffer I see the same thing. He died at the hands of the Nazis. He had faith. That faith led him to oppose the evils of Hitler and the Third Reich. It led him to a a failed assassination plot, and it led him to prison and death. Faith is an amazing thing. it helps us see that God loves us and is taking care of us no matter what we are going through. It allows us to be willing to give everything up to follow him. It allows us to know that no matter what we face, we are loved by Him and through his strength we can carry our crosses until we are taken home. To imply that faith will save us from danger, trails, and struggles is completely contrary to the definition of faith.
Secondly it is incredibly important to understand that depression is not simply sadness or guilt or fear. It is oppressive and overwhelming and uncontrollable. It would be simple to say to the average person, “hey, don’t be afraid of what the boss will do to you, because you can trust God.” It is not the same for people struggling with depression and anxiety. Many times the fears are completely illogical. Many times the person knows their feelings are completely illogical. Many times the feelings and fears that the person feels contradict everything about their personality and outlook on life. You can’t treat depression as if it is simply sadness or fear. IT ISN’T.
So what is the answer? I have no idea, but I do know that faith is vital to the person struggling with depression, not as a way out, but as a way through. Faith is what will enable someone to hold on to hope even when they feel completely empty and destroyed. It is what enabled people like Martin Luther and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to follow God even though they struggled with the darkness of depression. Faith is not the cure for depression, but it is the power to go on through depression.