Myths Some Christians Believe About Depression
The terms Christian and depression do not seem to go together. Christians are supposed to be optimistic, joyful, and full of hope right?
Tragic events such as the suicide of Pastor Rick & Kay Warren’s son and celebrities such as Robin Williams are bringing depression out of the closet and to be examined in the light. However, some Christians have strong opinions about depression. They feel that Christians should not get depressed and that this condition is a sign of spiritual weakness and lack of faith.
Depression is a state that can drain your energy, create burdens, and gnaw away at your mind. It crushes our spirit (Proverbs 15-13) and leads to hopelessness and despair. It is often a response to discouragement, grief, or emotional pain. When we are depressed, we tend to isolate ourselves. Unfortunately, we are often separating ourselves from people who could encourage us and correct any distorted ideas we may have.
Here are some common myths that Christians have about depression.
Myth: True believers do not become depressed
Unfortunately, many Christians do not take depression seriously. They think that people are weak and just need to “get over it” and pray more.
Christians who think Christians do not become depressed need to take a tour of King David’s psalms such as Psalms 6, 30, and 31. David provides graphic descriptions of physically wasting away, crying, not sleeping, and dark thoughts. He struggles with despair that his trial would never end. The apostle Paul has described himself has having great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart (Romans 9:2).
Depression is a complex condition with many causes, such as a chemical imbalance in brain, physical and mental exhaustion, past trauma, grief and loss, and emotional pain. Some people benefit from psychological help, therapy, and/or medication. In many cases, their depression is not their choice or their fault.
Myth: Depression equals a lack of faith
Some Christians argue that Christians should be able to reject depression by applying faith. However, many people who are definitely full of faith struggle at times.
Take the prophet Elijah for example (1 Kings 18). Here was a man so full of faith that he dared to challenge the prophets of the god Baal to build an altar on Mount Carmel and call on their god to light a fire on it and a sacrifice.
While the prophets of Baal called on their god, shouted, cut themselves, and danced around the altar, Elijah built an altar to God with a deep trench around it. The altar was doused with water that filled the trench.
Elijah prayed that God would show the Israelites present that He was the God in Israel. God sent a fire that not only burnt up everything on the altar, but licked up the water in the trench. Elijah took charge and ordered the deaths the prophets of Baal.
When Queen Jezebel heard what happened, she threatened to kill Elijah (1 Kings 19). The prophet fled and felt so blue that he asked God to take his life. God did not condemn Elijah for being depressed. Instead, God sent an angel to give Elijah food and drink and reassured him that he was not the only believer left in Israel.
In the past, God had ravens bring him food previously and miraculously increased the amount of food a widow could feed him (1 Kings 17).. God showed himself to Elijah and gave him specific tasks to accomplish.
In the same way, we may respond to stressful situations by becoming depressed no matter how much faith we have. We are all weak human beings who struggle with faced with trials and challenges. We can, however, pray to God and receive His comfort and reassurance that our difficulties are only temporary. He also sends us people to comfort and support us.
Myth: Depressed people just need to pray more
Some people pray more when they are feeling down, while others feel so discouraged it is difficult for them to pray. Prayer is a good thing and should be practiced by every Christian, however, we do not have the power by our own actions to fix ourselves. Only God can do help us pull ourselves out of the pit we are in.
Myth: Depression should not be acknowledged or talked about
This misconception is slowly changing, but unfortunately, many Christians still feel shamed into not talking about it. This can people stuck in their depression. Depression thrives in isolation.
Depression is mental not physical
Depression affects our physical bodies as well. We may have trouble sleeping or sleep too much. We may be worn out from crying and feel as physically sick as David did.
Myths and misconceptions about depression and mental illness in general have created a strong stigma. Depressed Christians feel guilt and shame as if their state was their own fault. They feel that they are sinning or lacking in faith.
They fear that other Christians will judge them as being weak and unspiritual, and unfortunately, their fears are often justified.
A 2014 study by Association for Psychological Science (APS) states that about 40 percent of people with serious mental illness are not receiving care, and many who start an intervention fail to complete it. APS identifies stigma as a significant barrier to treatment.
As Christians, we need to be proactive in taking steps towards overcoming depression.
Prayer: Praying is vital to the process of coming out of this condition. When we cry in prayer out to God, He comforts and encourages us. He also sends people into our lives that can support us on the journey out.
Bible study: The psalms of David are encouraging. In the midst of is despair, David had hope that his situation would change for the better.
Diet and sleep: When we eat a poor diet and do not get enough sleep, we are more susceptible to depression. Like Elijah, we need to take time out to eat and get proper rest.
Supportive friends and loved ones: Depressed people tend to feel isolated as if they are the only ones who struggle with these problems. When we are depressed, we need others to encourage us and listen when we need to share our burdens. They listen without judgement and keep our secrets. Church leaders and pastors may also be able to assist us. In some cases, professional counselling can also help address past trauma or emotional pain that are contributing to our condition.
Support groups: Talking about our struggles is an important step in our recovery. Support groups such as Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step Christian recovery program, and programs and groups offered by mental health services providers can also help. They provided safe, confidential environments.
Making life changes: Sometimes, life situations contribute to feelings of depression. Some jobs, for example, are unfulfilling and dead end. Some relationships may need to be reassessed and adjusted.
Medication: We take medication for physical illness, so why not take it for mental illness? Some depression may be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain and require treatment by a medical professional. Some people are dramatically helped by medication to treat their depression.
Hope for the future
Depression is only a temporary state. We may cry through the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). We can cry out to God for solutions to our problems and He will send his Holy Spirit to comfort us. We can always have hope for the future in spite of whatever challenges we may face.
Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. If depression interferes with daily living or is leading to suicidal thoughts, I urge people to seek professional help.