*This whole blog will be referring to severe and lasting clinical depression. I am not discussing the occasional bad mood or grief we experience through the bumps of life. I'm talking about the kind of depression that consistently disrupts day to day living through anxiety, worry, fear, etc.
The main thrust of the argument here is that ever since the Fall, the human body has been plagued by illnesses and sickness and God, in His grace, has given us medicine as a way of alleviating those issues. When you have a cold, you swallow some Robitussin or Ni Quill without a second thought. The cold is a physical problem that is in no way caused by your faith and can and should be treated by physical medication. Similarly, your brain can have sickness as well. It can be affected by Alzheimer's or infections and those should be treated with medicine. Likewise, it can get a little haywire and be chemically imbalanced which leads to depression and this too should be treated with medicine. Just as you would not tell a cancer patient they should have more faith and there cancer will go away, you should not tell someone who is depressed that more faith is the answer. Depression is not due to a weakness of faith but a physical problem with a physical solution.
- Modern research has shown a link between brain chemicals/hormones and depression and has shown that medicine can help overcome depression
- This is an argument from logic and comparing depression to other illnesses. It relies on the assumption that depression is similar to other illnesses. This may or may not be true.
- There is no direct biblical support that medicine can or should be used to treat depression. Obviously, this silence can be attributed to the fact that this level of medicine was not around in biblical times. Yet still, it cannot be said that this view is directly supported by the Bible.
The main thrust of the argument here is that being depressed is the opposite of having things like peace and joy which are spiritual matters that should not be sought through medication. The Bible tells us to turn to God on numerous occasions to receive peace and joy. It is argued then that turning to anything else, like anti-depressants, shows a lack of faith and can even be considered idolatry. Depression itself is therefore seen as a weakness of faith and it is sinful for a Christian to turn to medicine to overcome depression.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. -- Galatians 5:23
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -- Philippians 4:6-7
"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." -- Matthew 11:30
- Scripture does clearly indicate that inner joy and peace result from walking with God in faith.
- This view fails to address the clear link that has been shown between physical factors such as brain chemistry, genetics, and even diet with depression. These links seem to indicate that depression is at least partially a physical issue.
This view attempts to strike a balance between the first two views.
According to this view, depression is mostly a spiritual issue as seen from the biblical passages. Joy and peace are things that we can only truly find in Jesus. In large part, depression occurs when a person is basing their sense of security or sense of identity on things other than Christ. When those things falter or are brought into doubt, depression can ensue. While depression ultimately stems from a problem with faith, it is something that even godly people will struggle with. Even Elijah became depressed to the point of wanting to die (you can read about it in 1 Kings 19 and in this blog entry of mine). His depression was due primarily to not trusting God with the future. We all struggle with various issues of faith and we all have areas of faith to grow in.
At the same time, depression is not completely separated from our physical bodies. Studies have shown that diet can affect our mood and that various medications can balance chemicals that cause depression. This should be no shock to us. Our physical bodies affect our moods and thoughts all of the time. When a person doesn't get enough sleep, they are more grumpy and even sad the next day. When a person drinks a bunch of caffeine, they are on edge and over excited for a while. In fact, when Elijah was depressed, God made him address the physical issues first by making him sleep and eat well before even giving him any counsel (again see 1 Kings 19 or my former blog entry). Physical things that affect our physical bodies are very much linked to our mood and spiritual side.
This view proposes that a depressed person should focus primarily on the most important underlying issues which are the spiritual ones dealing with finding your identity and security in Christ. If this person is suffering so badly from depression that they are unable to make much progress in this way even with help, then medication, diet, sleep, etc. can assist in bringing the person's body to a state of health that allows the person to make progress with their spiritual issues. The goal is to eventually grow to a place where the person is able to manage their emotions without the medication at all.
- This view incorporates the Scriptures mentioned in view 2 and recognizes joy and peace are spiritual issues
- This view incorporates modern research which shows that depression is linked to physical health and bodily chemicals
- Personally, this view fits best with my own experiences of loved ones and friends who have battled with depression
- It can be argued that this view is straddling the fence rather than making a decision
- Passages such as Philippians 4 do not mention any form of medicine or even counseling in order to gain inner peace, but only mention turning to God in prayer and thanksgiving.
For those of you who struggle with depression or know someone who does, it is very important to remember that God is sovereign and good. We don't know why God is allowing you or a loved one to go through depression, but we do know that His plans are always for the good of those who love Him and will mature us if we let them. This isn't an easy pill to swallow by any means, but choose to trust that God will only allow you to endure this for a reason and that He is able to get you through to the other side.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.-- Romans 8:28
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -- James 1:2-4
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. -- 1 Corinthians 10:13
If you are struggling with depression, please don't go through it alone. We weren't meant to be on our own but in community. Please talk to someone and ask for help. You might be surprised just how many people love you and desire to help! Also, don't forget to vote for next week's Theology Thursday topic at the top right of the site!