Through: not Out

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.

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About Dan Allen

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

7 responses to “Through: not Out

  • Bobby

    Dan,

    Faith is always the way through and it is our only hope as a way out even though it may not come as soon as we hope. I see your concern and I applaud you for speaking out against the many who bring words that lead to death in the hopes of doing good. It is edifying for me to read your words on this topic. I’ve been meditating on it the last couple of days. The email notifications weren’t working so I’m playing catch up on the last post as well.

    • Dan Allen

      Bobby

      Thanks for the encouraging words. I think it is important to know that “it may not come as soon as we hope” may mean not at all in this life. Do we have the faith to deal with that possibility? God’s grace is sufficient.

  • Stephanie

    Your words are so beautiful and encouraging. You are very special, Dan. I am blessed to call you “mine”!

  • tommyab

    “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.”

    amen.

    Eli asked God to kill him
    Job too
    David wrote many prettey dark psalms
    Jeremiah never had anything happy to write.

    I wonder what I would as christian if I would be crushed by depression. Maybe I would isolate myself for sometimes, and read psalms, and ask God why.

    I know many very anxious christians, who are still anxious, but who learned to hope in the Lord only.

    Some people very close to me spent litterally years to just hope that the Lord would return today, because they were feeling so bad.

    … maybe it’s not so much “faith in the Lord” that will “cure us”, but more to still “hope in the Lord” despite everything.

    by the same faith some “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, …. whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. … There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.” (Heb 11)

    living in a “we ought to fix it and be happy” culture, we tend to think that faith always bring results in this life. Sometime no. Sometime it just gives the strenght to survive.

    …..

    another thing that I think could help some depressed/anxious people is sometime get a project out of their own concerns/obligations. To learn to say no. To learn to do only what is necessary. (how much stress some people have just to satisfy people around them… and those people are usually never satisfied…) I’ve found that many depressed people get better when they are appreciated. It may for many to work with kids or mentally retarded people, who are usually not judgemental.

  • Conversations on Depression | Called Out In Kansas

    […] 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 depression, especially as it […]

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