Faith and Family — Dealing with depression: ‘Depression does not change your status as a child of God’ Pathways counselor sayscomment (0)
November 14, 2013
By Mandi Kessler
Pathways Professional Counseling
"If God loved me, I would not be depressed. I am depressed, so God must not love me.”
This is the kind of circular thinking that has disheartened many believers who seek counseling. However, it is simply not true. Instead it is the type of negative self-talk that leads people down a path toward isolation and deeper depression.
Many great Christian writers, theologians and biblical figures struggled with feelings of depression. Charles Spurgeon wrote and spoke often of his depression. The great hymn writer William Cowper was often in despair. He even had to seek mental health treatment, and it was there that he heard the gospel. Martin Luther’s experience of frustration, which led to him throwing his ink well at the devil, is legendary. In the Bible, we read of Job, who sat in sackcloth and ashes in grief over his situation. Several of the Old Testament prophets lamented that God should let them die.
Depression can have many causes. For example, it is normal to experience depression after the death of a loved one or as the result of a relationship conflict. Survivors of physical, sexual or emotional abuse often face depression later in life. Sometimes, however, depression may be a side effect of a medication, including drugs used to treat common illnesses like high blood pressure. In some cases, genetics or hormonal changes can increase an individual’s risk of depression.
Just as the causes vary, the symptoms of depression also can vary greatly from individual to individual and from culture to culture. The spectrum of symptoms may be confusing to the person experiencing them. In one person, depression may be marked by frequent crying spells, but in another, it might be expressed as angry outbursts towards one’s self or others. Symptoms may include physical complaints such as body aches, lethargy or insomnia. Difficulty concentrating is another common feature.
The truth is that depression affects many different people from many different walks of life, and in every person, it takes a different form. It may be chronic and constant, a short-term response triggered by a traumatic event, or something in between. Similarly people experience different symptoms and different self-talk associated with their depression.
No matter what depression looks like for you, it is very real and is not something to take lightly. Depression has real causes, and there are many helpful treatments available. Those treatments include research-based behavioral strategies that help change destructive patterns of thinking. While these basic changes in behaviors may look like a simple cure for sadness to some, they are not “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” approaches. Behavioral therapy, sometimes in combination with other forms of therapy, including medication, can be very effective in helping an individual cope with depression.
Recovering from depression can seem like an insurmountable mountain to the person who is suffering, but those individuals should be encouraged that there are many options for treatment.
Do not hesitate to see your physician in order to address any physical ailments that may be causing your symptoms. Doctors are able to help with physical causes for depression, and professional counselors are able to help with spiritual and emotional causes.
Whether you or a loved one are affected by depression, it is important to remember that God created us as unified beings, so depression may affect our body as well as our spirit. As mentioned above, depression often tricks us into believing lies about ourselves and others. It is helpful to have someone who can speak truth into our despair. A counselor can see where our thinking has gone askew and may help facilitate the development of healthier ways of thinking and acting.
Most importantly, do not isolate yourself or feel that you are not a “good enough Christian.” Depression does not change your status as a child of God, but it may be used by God as a refining fire to conform you more closely into the image of His Son.