This is Serious: a warning to christian counselors

There are people in my life who I really like, and enjoy the company of, who are involved in Christian counseling so please do not mistake what I am going to say as an attack against believers who care and want to help others deal with struggles in their hearts and minds. I believe that many Christian counselors truly do care and truly want to help people find helpful and meaningful answers to their struggles.

Having said that I would like to issue a word of caution: Christian counselors, you are dealing with incredibly serious matters, and the words you say and advice you give may have an impact far beyond, and far more serious, than you may know.

I am no expert on depression, so I won’t try to explain the way any of this stuff works, but I do know a few things from observation.

The first thing is that there are two types of situations:

  • The first is the one where people of completely sound mind are having a hard time dealing with something, in which case helping that person  understand whatever it is they are struggling with, assuming that person wants to make a change, will most likely result in helping that person overcome whatever their issue is: whether fear, sadness, anger or whatever.
  • The other type of situation is where someone struggles with something far more serious then your everyday pedestrian fear, sadness, anger and so on. This person is severely oppressed by darkness and sadness many times in spite of the life-situation they find themselves in. This person may not be able to think or pray through this darkness no matter how hard they try, no matter what advice you give, no matter how bad they want to change, no matter how much logic and truth contradict the thoughts and struggles in their head. This person may feel lost, hopeless, overwhelmed, overcome, overpowered, tired, weary, exhausted, empty, alone, afraid, confused, discouraged, defeated, useless, and maybe even betrayed and angry, and many times these feelings are directed at themselves, not others.

Another thing I know: we know much less than we think we do. If we aren’t humble and we don’t realize that things are much more complex than we can understand then we will tend to presume to know the answers to these struggles. Many of these answers are circular in logic (this is happening because you are sinning, if it doesn’t go away it means you are still sinning) and discouraging for the person who is already struggling with this heavy darkness in their minds. The truth is that we don’t understand all the details of how the human brain works, we also can’t even begin to understand God’s plans, intentions, or workings in the hearts, minds and lives of others. To presume we know these things, which we do when we give simple definitive answers, is nothing more than arrogant ignorance, and it can be incredibly destructive to someone who is already feeling defeated.

So, please, if you are a Christian counselor, or simply a Christian trying to help a friend, tread lightly, act in love, and humbly understand there is no way you can know the other person’s heart, mind, situation, and life. Confronting sin in a loving way is obviously an integral part of helping each other become more like Christ, but assuming some sin is the cause of a person’s mental health issues is unfounded and dangerous and could do serious harm to that person. As I stated at the beginning of this post, I truly believe many people who teach this and counsel this are well-intentioned, but good intentions are not enough when people’s very lives could be on the line. Be cautious.

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About Dan Allen

Just some guy trying to figure stuff out... View all posts by Dan Allen

28 responses to “This is Serious: a warning to christian counselors

  • Bobby

    I’ve been through nouthetic counseling training. As I have sought to put these things into practice, one thing I’ve found is that it is difficult to confront someone who is in sin with love without the centrality of the gospel. With depression, the sin usually roots back to unbelief of some sort. Even so, there are times when that unbelief is discovered, confessed and repented of and still the depression remains. If this is so, and the brother fully embraces the finished work of Christ in covering their sin (ie the depression isn’t because of guilt) then we should conclude that their grieving is necessary and rather than be on the offensive we should just be a friend and give them an ear to hear and a shoulder to cry on while God slowly frees them from the pain.

    • Dan Allen

      Bobby

      I appreciate your comment and the balanced approach you are trying to take here. I have a couple questions for you:

      First, like Skwirl asked, do you think depression is ALWAYS rooted in sin? When you say “With depression, the sin usually roots back to unbelief of some sort.” It sounds like the sin indicates that sin is always the culprit.

      My second question would be what if God does not free someone from their depression? Depression is something that many people struggle with throughout their lives.

      Thanks again for the comment and I appreciate your contribution to this conversation.

      Dan

      • Bobby

        Dan,

        I don’t know how to answer that. If I have opportunity to counsel, I don’t assume to be judge. Rather, I am confident in the assertion that scripture makes for itself being “profitable” and that through God’s Word we are all sufficiently equipped to every good work. So my place is to come along side and point to Christ. If the couselee is convicted of sin it is because they saw Christ, not because I tell them they are sinning. Of course, sometimes there is a necessity for rebuke but not with a brother who is struggling with depression. Second, God does what pleases Him. I can’t presume to know what that is. Sometimes we just have to continue to walk by faith knowing that his grace is sufficient.

  • Skwirl

    Bobby: Do you see sin as always being the cause? What do you think of more physical causes? Or even emotional causes that are traumatic rather than sin based?

    I can only speak from my own point of view, but in most cases of long term depression I’ve been able to have a deeper look into sin isn’t the root issue and I would agree with Dan that it’s extremely dangerous and careless to assume that it is.

    • Bobby

      Skwirl,

      think of a tube of toothpaste. The pressures of life (root causes) pish on us from the outside. What ever is within is what comes out. I wouldn’t say sin is the root cause of depression but *sometimes* depressive unbelief is how we respond. We must be careful not to confuse someone who is deeply grieving (non-sinful, healthy response) with someone who is in unbelief. I think that is the point of Dan’s post and it is a very important distinction.

  • Steve Scott

    Dan and Bobby,

    I don’t know Bobby, but his comment seems to reveal something about nouthetic counseling. I’ve not been trained in nouthetic counseling itself, but have been in circles where it’s influence is heavy. It seems that the first response of the nouthetic counselor, from Bobby’s comment, is to assume the place of being Job’s friends! Try to get at the sin first. Compassion is a last resort. Once the jury has cleared the person of all charges and suspicions, then we can be their friend. And what if God never “slowly frees them from the pain?” Then what?

    Dan, I can’t give a more hearty amen to your post.

    • Dan Allen

      It’s funny that you mentioned Job’s friends because that is exactly what I have thought the common “nouthetic” view of depression is exactly like, and let’s not forget what God had to say about Job’s friends.

    • Bobby

      Steve,

      although I don’t practice counseling the way it was taught in NANC class, I remember what they taught and your impression is light years away from their way of counseling. Think more along the lines of alot of listening, note taking, and homework comprised of Bible reading and exercises designed to build relationships coupled with lots of prayer. Then you would be a little closer 😉 it’s more like an intense discipleship program than a place before the throne of a superior.

  • Steve Scott

    Dan,

    There’s something else I wanted to add. “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” Proverbs 18:13. One issue I have with “counseling” in general is that almost by definition, the counselor being a specialist means that he doesn’t already KNOW the person intimately. And as you said in bold, “we know much less than we think we do.”

    A number of times I have received counsel from pastors and other leaders where just the counsel itself was very damaging and hurtful because they either didn’t know all the details or didn’t care to.

  • Dan Allen

    Bobby

    In response to all your comments I would simply ask: do you think that it is possible that there can be physical causes in the brain that result in depression? I ask this because your comments seem to imply there is always some kind of emotional or spiritual cause. Your comment to Skwirl seems to say that either someone has sinful depressive behaviors or is grieving. In your comment to me you say that the Bible has the answers, which I agree with, but again, at least to me, that implies that depression is primarily a spiritual problem. In your response to Steve you say that discipleship is the answer, again I agree (in a certain way), but this also seems to indicate that depression is rooted in the spiritual realm. I think the Bible and Discipleship are great ways to help people deal with depression, but in some cases, where depression may be caused by problems in the brain, this means learning how to trust God and continue on in spite of depression, these things are not necessarily cures for depression, particularly if you agree that physical problems in the brain can be the cause.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and taking part in this conversation. I believe that this is a very important subject to discuss.

  • Bobby

    Dan,

    if you’re aking me if I think depression should be categorized as a mental illness my answer is no. I think that this new classification in that order is a tool of Satan to steal away our hope. If depression is the result of our out of control chemical imbalances then that makes us victims with no responsibility in the matter. On the other hand, if depression is our response to our circumstances then that is something we can control, with the help of the Holy Spirit of course. I lean toward the latter because I haven’t seen any biblical evidence to the contrary and the success rate for overcoming depression via a nouthetic approach far outweighs the victories achieved through medication and analysis.

    I love the dialogue we are having. I hope my responses are clear enough to convey my thoughts. If you don’t mind my asking, why is this subject so close to your heart?

  • Dan Allen

    Bobby

    If you have read my post I wrote earlier today you already know that I do not agree with you. Having said that, let me clear up a few points: first, I do not believe that all struggles with “depression” are physical. Anyone would have a hard time dealing with the death of a loved one or the betrayal of a spouse so obviously those situations result in very complicated, very negative feelings that are not rooted in the physical brain but emotional response, secondly, I would say that even if you believe that physical problems are to blame for some cases of depression it does not mean that there is no responsibility on the part of the person to deal with it in a God-honoring way, and many people do, which is no easy task and is an amazing example of perseverance in the face of an overwhelming situation. A person with depression cannot control the depression; they can only control their response to the depression.

    With that cleared up, let me say that your line of reasoning scares me. Beliefs based on the end result of those beliefs are dangerous. Yes, if depression has physical roots then it would change the way that people understood responsibility and control, but the reality is that this has nothing to do with whether or not it is actually true. Simple observation that nouthetic counseling “works” isn’t a really good basis either, since I could easily give dozens of examples where nouthetic counseling did severe damage to people suffering with depression. The bottom line is that, at best, we can’t know that there are no physical causes for depression, so to completely write it off as a possibility is dangerous.

    I don’t really follow the “it’s not in the Bible” argument either since cancer, AIDS, schizophrenia, down syndrome, autism, the flu, brain damage, asbestos poisoning, carbon monoxide poisoning, led poisoning, mercury poisoning, tetnis, diphtheria, chicken pox, bubonic plague, measles, mumps, rubella, and about a million other physical illnesses/problems are not mentioned in the Bible, but are clearly real, and they were real before anyone ever knew about them, just like it is very possible that, even though we don’t know for sure now, depression having physical causes is possible. The Bible does not oppose this possibility. Let’s not put ourselves in the position of the flat-earth people or the people who opposed the heliocentricity of our solar-system.

    The reason I am passionate about this subject is because there are several people in my life who deal with this. I see their struggles and confusion and my heart breaks for them. Because of this it angers me when I feel these people are misled into thinking they are failures and that God is somehow displeased with them for something that is outside their control. They need hope, they need to know that God loves them and is there to care for them just like he cares for the person with cancer or paralysis. Putting depression on someone as a curse or punishment or, even at best, as the wages for a sinful lifestyle and mindset is incredibly heartless and dangerous and ignorant. I may be wrong, depression may not be connected with any physical problems, but in the end I would rather be wrong from my side than the other. Writing off the possibility that depression could have physical causes is irresponsible and dangerous in my opinion.

    Sorry that was so long. I don’t want to try and cause an argument. I really do appreciate the dialogue. Thanks for sharing your thought!

    Dan

  • tommyab

    being a family doctor, my point of view is somewhat more “secular” ….

    I believe that Dan is making a very good point in his article when he makes the difference between 1- life struggle, and 2- more deep and serious mental illness

    I strongly denounce simplistic view of mental illness issues.

    Saying: “there must be a sin somewhere in his life”… it’s, as Steve pointed out, being Job’s friend. Totally unuseful. For sure there is sin!! We sin all day long! You sin. I sin. They sin. We sin. There’s no point seeking for “that sin”!…

    Humanity is “under sin” (Galatians 3)
    As any disease or misfortune, mental illness is part of human condition.

    Seeking “the one” responsible for a situation is useful for justice institution… not for real life.

    For many serious mental illness, I would compare it to “precocious Alzheimer disease”. You take an MRI imaging of a schizophrenic patient, and it’s abnormal.

    For sure, it doesn’t remove individual responsibility: if I smoke weed as a teenager, I have more probability to become psychotic (schizophrenic), but is this teen fully responsible of his actions?? If I drink 24 beers each day, I may tend to become violent/depressed/homeless/delusionnal/etc… , if I live in sexual immorality since I’m a teenager, there is good chance I will be very depressed through all my life. If I was sexually abused as a kid, there much more probability that I will have serious personnality/addiction/suicidality/etc problems through all my life.

    I read somewhere that Christ died for what we were responsible for, and also for what we were victims of.

    “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
    ….
    But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.” (Is 53)

    We are always 100% responsible. Yet at the same time 100% victims. This is a huge paradox of human condition, and the christian (=Christ-like) answer is: “I will take it on me” … as Christ did. “I’m responsible, and you’re a victim”. Because He loved us first. Paul said he was the greatest sinner. Really?? The point I think is not that he “objectively” was the “greatest” sinner. The point is that I also should say that I am the greatest sinner…

    ___________

    Now with the issue of “hard times” (not real mental illness):

    When faced with struggles in life, I note that people are not equals. There is anxious people who barely deal with daily routine, and there is “strong” ones who seems to have endless energy and joy. Some may get depressed because their dog died (and will come to me to beg for that medical paper to get out of work for a week or 2… my daily work is really not funny sometime… ;)…, and some will go through loss of a child, cancer, amputations, divorce, lay-off from job,… and always be strongs. The ones who are strongs should not glorify in their “strenght” for it’s really a gift from God.

    In some ways though, one should not call himself a christian and always stay in defeatness and darkness. One should not wait to “feel” joy before rejoicing. Paul says “rejoice in the Lord” (Phil 4:4) It’s a command. It’s like the greatest command: don’t wait to love God with your feelings before actually starting to love with your actions/will/thinking/soul…

    A friend said to me one time: “don’t wait to know how to play basketball before playing it. You’ll learn to play basketball by actually doing it.”

    It’s the same for joy, and every other Holy Spirit fruits. It’s always at the same time fully the Lord’s job, but fully ours too. (another biblical paradox…)

    “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Phil 2:12-13

  • tommyab

    (… in the last paragraphs, I was talking about people not suffering from serious mental illness…. for to say to Job “just rejoice man… do it! ” would be just plainly cruel… not to say that Job was suffering from a serious mental illness but you get my point I guess…)

  • tommyab

    “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
    “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3

    finding a cause to everything has always been a deep human tendancy… even the disciples did it.

    Jesus never intended to put into question the ways of explaining diseases. Many “demons-possessed” of the gospels are clearly suffering from well-known diseases (epilepsy, kyphosis, deafness, etc). Jesus didn’t came to explain science to the people of his time. He was not interested in the “why-what is the cause” of the diseases. I would not even say that there is a bit of some “purpose” to disease. There is no purpose.

    There is only God’s grace who make goodness out of madness, out of evil. Not because evil is in someways “good”. Just because of God’s grace.

    Even in the horror of the suffering/pain God can reveal Himself to people, and many of them discover some parts of God, that we as “non-sufferers” will never know. And it’s never to others to point what would be the purpose of whatever suffering one may go through… that would be even worst that Job’s friends trying to find a cause…

  • tommyab

    … sorry for the fourth comment…

    just wanted to quote Steve:
    “There’s something else I wanted to add. “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” Proverbs 18:13. One issue I have with “counseling” in general is that almost by definition, the counselor being a specialist means that he doesn’t already KNOW the person intimately. And as you said in bold, “we know much less than we think we do.”

    A number of times I have received counsel from pastors and other leaders where just the counsel itself was very damaging and hurtful because they either didn’t know all the details or didn’t care to.”

    … and say the biggest AMEN that could possibly be!

    we are sooo prone to offer explanations, when in fact most of the time people just need presence, and communion. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Rom 12)

  • Adam

    Speaking a Christian family physician, that is employed at a conservative Baptist Student Health Center, I have grave concern about the direction of many of the above comments. First, I can tell you not all mental illness is rooted in Sin. We are all sinners and even the most obedient Christ followers fall from grace. Second, there is indisputable evidence that the brains of those that suffer from depression chemically are different than those whom are not depressed. Furthermore, different areas of the brain may respond differently in those depressed than those not depressed.

    One of the gravest harms brothers and sisters in Christ can commit toward those whom suffer from mental illness is to directly relate the depth of the depression or mental illness to one’s faith and relationship with Christ. For example, take a 85 year old man that has been on dialysis for several years, is confined to his home due to physical weakness, and thus often isolated from friends and family. Now this same gentleman loves the Lord. He prays nightly for over 75 different individuals in his life. He sings Hymms nightly with his wife for entertainment. He also suffers from depression due to his chronic illness. The biggest sin we as brothers and sisters in Christ is to tell him if his faith was deeper than God would heel his Kidneys and his depression. Clearly this is not true.

    The same goes for a young college student that is suffering from depression. She leads a women’s small group. She is engaged to be married to a future pastor. She loves the lord and attends worship daily. However she is struggling to find her way in life. She isn’t sure about her career choice. Her parents expect her to graduate in 3 years instead of 4 to save money (her older siblings were able to do this) She has not yet been able to secure employment. Her sister died last year tragically as did her grandfather she was quite close with. She suffered an injury that ended her career as a soccer player. She also suffers from depression. Her mother tells her that if her faith was stronger she certainly wouldn’t have this affliction.

    These people would clearly benefit from an anti-depressant in addition to counseling. They both have strong faith and believe the Lord will deliver them, but that doesn’t make it easier to get out of bed tomorrow and live their life. Telling these people their Sinful lives and lack of faith is the cause of their depression is much more likely in my experience to prolong their depression. Additionally, it may even worsen their depression to the consideration and attempt of suicide. (I have personally witnessed this occur in more than one person.) As brothers and sister our goal should be to love and support these people. To give them Christ’s words of encouragement and to show them empathy. If you are not a medical professional guiding these people away from medicine is akin to a new believer preaching a sermon on the trinity….they have no business doing so and are likely to have an extremely shallow understanding of the problem….thus likely to not guide the congregation in the correct direction….if you ask me that is the tool of satan, not medications!

    • Bobby

      Adam,

      just for clarity’s sake I want to point out that your examples would accurately represent someone who offers counsel from a Word Of Faith (speak it into existence) perspective. Word Of Faith is foolishness and the examples you give are great to the effect of pointing out how damaging that is. On that thread, I haven’t seen anyone here advocate WOF and since I am the only one here speaking from a nouthetic perspective, I assume your grave concern is in response to my comments. Let me assure you, I am just as grieved by the lack of love and truth demonstrated by the “counselors” in your examples as you are. As I said before, that is NOT a nouthetic approach.

      • Dan Allen

        Bobby

        I would say aside form the kidney healing reference this is essentially what I have gathered as the solution from the mainstream nouthetic guys (Jay Adams and crew). Depression demonstrates a lack of trust in God, a sinful response to bad things in life, which will be resolved by a deeper faith and trust in God. The article by Jay Adams that Stephanie linked to in her comment states that the solution to depression is to “do as you should” in faith that in obeying God he will make you “doldrums” go away. So according to Jay Adams faith is the cure for depression, but as you pointed out, this sounds very WOF minded, so I would ask how different this line of thinking is from WOF? what if you”do as you should” and the depression doesn’t go away as Jay Adams said it would? Where does that leave the sufferer of depression? Much worse off I would guess.

      • Bobby

        I read the article and I didn’t see what you are describing. The way I read it, Jay describes depression as being so overcome with your feelings that you neglect your responsibilities. In this frame, the only solution to getting past your feelings is to go on about doing the things you are responsible to do even if you don’t feel like it. It’s not about making yourself feel better, it’s about being obedient. Again, depression isn’t the feelings we have it is how we respond to those feelings. This is different from WOF because faith isn’t the cure to ovecome feelings, faith frees us to be obedient regardless of how we feel. If the feelings never go away, that doesn’t mean the sufferer or God has failed. As they remain obedient (keep their responsibilities) the opposite is true, they are overcomers through faith in God’s providence. The difference between defining depression in a way that is about our responsibilities as opposed to our feelings is of vital importance.

      • Dan Allen

        Bobby

        What you are saying seems much more in line with reality then what I read in the article. I guess much of the confusion is over how exactly we define depression. You say faith frees us to be obedient regardless of how we feel. I completely agree, but you also say that depression is not the feelings, but the way we respond. That is not how I am defining depression and that may be causing some confusion. The way I understand depression is the feelings and thoughts themselves. Some people are attacked by extremely negative thoughts and feelings, many times in spite of their situation in life and their normal mood and behavior, often, even in spite of their own rational thinking. When I refer to depression this is what I am talking about. The person, like all of us, is responsible for the way in which he responds to those feelings and thoughts, but the thoughts and feelings themselves are beyond his realm of control. For Christians struggling with depression who have learned to serve and love God and others while continuing to have those thoughts and feelings I cannot even imagine the spiritual maturity and faith in God that takes. Many times though that does not take away those feelings and thoughts which is why I would define depression the way I do: the person continues to suffer, but learns to obey and follow Christ through the suffering. I guess if you define depression as your reaction to those thoughts and feelings I would ask what you call those extremely abnormal thoughts and feelings. I think I have made it clear that I am not talking about pedestrian sadness or even true grief, but something much worse, much more irrational, and much less circumstantially explainable. Jay Adams may define depression as you have here, but in his article he never even alludes to the fact that you may obey God and grow in faith and still live in constant battle with overwhelming and uncontrollable thoughts and feelings. He states at the end of his article “You now know what to do to get out of depression” without saying anything about the constant and very difficult battle that it really is. It’s as if the clouds rolled away, the sun came out, and a rainbow is showing overhead, but unfortunately that is not at all the way it works for people who truly struggle with depression.

        I appreciate the openness in our conversation and your willingness to hear from other perspectives. I know I have found the dialogue very helpful and encouraging.

        Dan

      • Bobby

        I wouldn’t define it much different than you have. Abnormal thoughts and feelings fall into the same category as other outside pressures like job loss, death of a loved one, conflict in relationships, or physical/emotional abuse. Even as I say that they seem different as well in that the thoughts and feelings come from within, sometimes without outside causes. Still, they are outside of the will and as you say “uncontrollable” just as the other pressures I mentioned are beyond our control.

        the reason I am so careful to distinguish between depression as our response as opposed to our thoughts and feelings is because it is our response that we have control over and are responsible for. Our response can be either sinful or obedient. Our feelings cannot and should not be categorized as such unless it is clearly our heart attitude that is informing our emotions. That is not what we are discussing though. We are discussing thoughts and feelings that seem to come from nowhere and are debilitating, even as we struggle and perservere against them. It would be a grave and heartless mistake to call such things sin or to teach that they will finally and totally go away through faith and obedience. No, faith and obedience will keep us from spiralling downward into deeper darkness by avoiding the temptation of falling into an unbelieving sinful response that leads to even more (now sinful) thoughts and feelings and so on and on it goes. That downward spiral of sinful responses leading to more and more is how I would define depression. The thoughts and feelings you describe would fit more into the realm of temptations which, of course, we are not responsible for. Do you see the difference?

      • Dan Allen

        Bobby

        It is amazing how sometimes simply clarifying definitions can be so helpful in seeing where the other person is coming from! I think that we are largely on the same page on this issue, with some variations in terminology and definitions. While I found myself largely in agreement with your previous comment the only thing I would question is your classification of “The thoughts and feelings you describe [(depression as I would define it)] would fit more into the realm of temptations.” I think that depression can certainly create an opportunity for a person to be tempted to disobey, lose faith in, or be angry with God, just as cancer or a spouse’s infidelity might do the same, this doesn’t make the depression itself a temptation. As you stated earlier in your post “Abnormal thoughts and feelings [(depression as I would define it)] fall into the same category as other outside pressures like job loss, death of a loved one, conflict in relationships, or physical/emotional abuse.” I think this better describes those thoughts and feelings which certain people have and are not in control of. If depression (the thoughts and feelings) really has physical roots, even if it doesn’t, but still comes from “outside the person” so to speak, then I think it would fit better in the category of environmental pressures than temptation. That may be too picky but I think it is an important distinction.

      • Dan Allen

        Bobby

        I also wanted to let you know that I strongly agree with what you said about the spiral down into darkness. I think of depression like Peter’s experience on the stormy sea. There is a raging storm with violent waves. When we place our faith in Christ we can walk on top of it without fear, but when our faith falters it is so easy to sink to the depths at the blink of an eye. I realize my last comment was a point of disagreement, but I wanted you to know that was not all I saw in your comment and I felt like you described the spiritual dangers of depression quite well. That is why it is so important that we stand with these people who are constantly walking on that sea while many of us can sit comfortably in the boat. One thing I constantly wonder: if I suffered with depression would I have the faith in God to continue to love and follow him? I think people who do show a great example of faith and trust in a God who they must continually lean on in a way that the rest of us may never understand.

      • Bobby

        surely those who perservere through darker valleys than we may ever face are a light and a beacon of faith. Their example of endurance through suffering is to be commended and imitated, not condemned and minimized.

        as for your bit of disagreement, isn’t every “environmental pressure” potentially a temptation?

  • Dan Allen

    Tommy and Adam

    I appreciate your very helpful contributions to this conversation. It is very encouraging to hear from people, like yourselves, who are knowledgeable on this subject. I think that you both present a very balanced and helpful approach to helping people dealing with depression. Your thoughts on the subject shine your faith in Christ, but deal with the real gravity of depression. Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I know it has been very helpful to me to read what you have both said.

    Dan

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I want to thank you all for your comments, thoughts and knowledge on depression and explaining your positions on biblical teachings of faithfulness and trust in Christ.
    I am a lay person, who has studied the bible momentarily compared to the writers in this thread. However, I have lived past years consumed with shame for my sins; which ultimately lead me to a path of depression. I also know that the only change in me is through Christ who loved and died for my sins. With this said I did seek out counseling both secular and Christian for depression. The one thing that stands out to me is that the Christian counselor was far less loving and put all ownership on me and my sinful life . Hence, I felt more overwhelmed with quilt and much more ashamed; it made me take the position of being punished, God was punishing me and now my whole family suffers. In looking back I spent far too many years in a very harmful/hurtful relationship because of shame for wanting it to stop, and being responsible and the cause for this very abusive relationship that I found myself in. The secular counselor helped me in a way to better understand that taking all the guilt on was destructive and ridicules. Yes, I certainly had some responsibility however all of the bad/hurtful things that were happening was not just God punishing me. I found that I did not have a physical disease but much more a spiritual battle was taking place. The Christian counselor did not help me in any way because he did not show love he just simply judged. It was getting on my knees and crying and sometimes screaming out to God that ultimately relieved me of my depression. God spoke to my heart and told me to be still. God was right; He did show me the direction I should take. I personally did not have to take medication for my depression, this was a spiritual matter. However, the lack of love from the Christian counselor hurt me more than helped me (and I am speaking of several years). The lack of judgment from the secular counselor made me realize that the truth remained in my understanding of what caused my depression, and ultimately it was leaning solely on my creator and not men to get to the point where I could cry out to Jesus and be lead to where I needed to be to help not only myself but my family.
    I am sharing this with everyone as I think it is an example of the topic of your conversation. I do realize you folks are much more educated and the arguments that are being made are far beyond my own understanding; however, my experience does reflect some of the examples.

  • Conversations on Depression | Called Out In Kansas

    […] Dan over at Ekklesia in Southern Maine (SoMe Ekklesia) had a series of posts on depression:  This Is Serious, Through:  Not Out and Clarity.  The series ended up sparking an in depth discussion of […]

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