The Gospel Coalition



If you want to instigate a lively discussion amongst thoughtful Christians, just bring up the issue of clinical depression. Is it a legitimate diagnosis? What are its causes? However we conclude these debates, many in our churches struggle to deal with life, and they're desperately seeking help.

Jeremy Pierre, professor of biblical counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastor of member care at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, recently sat down with TGC's Mark Mellinger and explained that depression shouldn't surprise us, given what we know about sin and our need for full and final redemption. Indeed, the hope of eternity breaks in and shines the light of Christ into our day-to-day struggles.

[audio:http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/files/2012/05/Pierre.mp3]

Download the interview.


Comments:

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Steve Bloem

June 9, 2012 at 08:06 PM

Thanks Mike,
I still feel your strong Nouthetic bias coming straight at me. Why are you so zealous about disproving mental illnes as a result of faulty brain chemistry? Why do you make the distiction between Alzheimers, dementia always. I know you distance yourself from Adams and like Welch who is a neo-nouthetic but I will send you a free copy of our book, Broken Minds Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You're Losing It. Just send me your address, camimovement@yahoo.com Thanks Mike.

Patrick Day

June 6, 2012 at 08:17 PM

Charles, I am well familiar with Tom Wootton's Depression Advantage and his other writings on depression. He has a suite of courses I took on Bipolar In Order, which can be found on www.bipolaradvantage.com. and I am now a member of Tom's educational team for Outcome-Based Education for Bipolar and Depression. You can find me and other members of the team at http://www.bipolaradvantage.com/AboutUs/EducationTeam.php. Like others represented here in this discussion, I am a follower of Jesus Christ, yet my strong faith did not exempt me from depression. Religious people who say, "if only you had more faith, you would not be depressed," have no idea what they are talking about. I point out Charles Spurgeon, David Brainerd, and the saints in Tom's book to say that spiritually solid people have been afflicted with depression, and the same is true today. I believe in a holistic approach to depression - the healing of body, soul (meaning mind, will, and emotions), and spirit to bring about a triumph over depression. Too many people focus on just one of these, to their own peril.

MIke

June 5, 2012 at 08:04 AM

Hey Steve,

I think prescribing antidepressants in some cases, can be one of the most passionate, caring things we can do. On the other side of the coin, meds in general are way over prescribed. Obviously all people are different, but once a clinical depression diagnosis is provide, it can either help or provide the person with a license to give up hope. My comment above was strictly addressing chemical imbalance testing. You mentioned, “It has been proven by genetic markers, by twin adoption studies, by blind controlled studies and will continue to be proven.” It is hard for me to determine if you are arguing for CI testing in general or just depression. If this is related to CI testing, please point me to a valid resource, which shows the lab result and provides me with the exact test determining CI.

Regarding the society argument, I do not think this is a valid argument for proof. When looking at the physical effects on the mind, there are areas I am sure we would agree on and others we would disagree on. As far as Adam’s, I would be a couple steps away from his perspective. I do think Ed Welch has done a good job in this area in his book, Blame it on the brain. There are a million topics here and way too much to write on a blog comment, but I think the distinction between being influenced vs. determinative would cover multiple area in this conversation. This distinction resolves some of the tension, clearly not all (i.e. I cannot counsel a person out of Alzheimer’s, dementia …).
Thanks for the comment,
Mike

MIke

June 5, 2012 at 07:12 AM

Hey Tim,
Thanks for the exchange. I am glad to hear your ultimate hope is rooted in our sovereign king. We are never hopeless, but have a Lord who can help us and will one day make all things new.
Thanks again for interacting with me.
Mike

Al

June 5, 2012 at 06:06 AM

@Mike - my experience is that you can think quite rationally in one way but there's a complete disconnect between feelings and rational thought. So I can be sitting in 'blackness' incapable of being rational functionally whilst my brain tells me this is ridiculous - somehow there is no 'bridge' to walk over to what my head tells me is the reality. It defies description really.
I'm glad you are asking questions about this Mike - the more Christian counsellors who understand this properly from a biblical and psychological perspective the better.

Al

June 5, 2012 at 03:47 PM

Thank you Vittoria.

vittoria-blue

June 5, 2012 at 01:28 PM

Very well said!!!

Blessings,Tom :)

vittoria-blue

June 5, 2012 at 01:24 PM

Blessings!

vittoria-blue

June 5, 2012 at 01:19 PM

Mental illness runs in families. Genetics play a role. Six of us are undergoing medical treatment. Of those six, four are Christians! Two tried, unsuccessfully, to commit suicide and three have been hospitalized.

I'm not one of them, but I can vouch for their struggle within. My mom was irrational all her life. She was bipolar and an absolute nightmare until her death in 2006. Not only did I grew up clinically depressed and with sporadical mood swings, but had to deal with her insanity while growing up. I didn't understand the reason behind my despair or rage fits until I sought professional help. It all made sense once I was evaluated and began treatment.

Blessings!

vittoria-blue

June 5, 2012 at 01:16 PM

"Be gentle with those who are suffering depression. If you can discourage them out of it then they probably never had clinical depression in the first place."

GOD BLESS YOU, AL. :)

vittoria-blue

June 5, 2012 at 01:14 PM

People who don't suffer from mental illness WILL NOT and CANNOT comprehend it, BUT
it's irresponsible to dismiss its seriousness without fully understanding what's at stake and its consequences, Mike.

MIke

June 4, 2012 at 12:52 PM

Tim,
Since you mentioned, “If only" is not a good litmus test for what I feel on a daily basis” in order to discover what you hope and trust in. I am interested in hearing the exact steps you would advocate beside meds, diet, and exercise to come out of depression. Also, what would you ask/counsel to unveil spiraling thoughts/false ideas… from a person who is struggling? Another thing that interests me is, based upon your understanding of medical depression. Would you provide counsel, if so, what would say?
Thanks,
Mike

MIke

June 4, 2012 at 12:34 PM

Steve, the interview was short, not every area of depression was covered. Your comment addressed areas that were not said, not what was actually communicated.

tim

June 4, 2012 at 12:23 PM

An exceptionally disappointing perspective on clinical depression.

Clinical depression is not "to be expected." Having a bad day is to be expected, but clinical depression is not just having a bad day. Let me be clear: this interview is not discussing clinical depression.

I know: I have suffered from chronic clinical depression for years (both an unsaved & a Christian psychiatrist have diagnosed it). Idon't even bother talking about it with my Christian friends anymore because I'm tired of hearing "expert" advice like this. Think about it: Not everyone who commits suicide does so simply because bad things happen to us.

"If only" is not a good litmus test for what I feel on a daily basis - even with my meds and Bible studies. Unless by "if only," you mean "if only sites like TGC wouldn't pander to shallow soundbites disguised as relevant responses to profoundly debilitating conditions."

Starke, Pierre, and Mellinger likely have never experienced genuine clinical depression, so frankly, they can be excused for their naivete. What TGC needs to do is find some people who've walked in shoes like mine to talk about this. Unfortunately, most of us have already been burned by such poor reactions to our condition from fellow saints, we're not likely to expose ourselves to further ridicule by publicly discussing it!

Steve Bloem

June 4, 2012 at 12:08 PM

I was quite disappointed by the interview. He mentioned the biology of some depression and then never touched it again.
He also blurred the lines between spiritual depression and clinical depression. Depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, panic are all medical diseases.
When I am clinically depressed, I can't eat, sleep or have a sex drive. These are what are known as vegetative functioning’s and argue for the disease model. A question I have; Is Dr. Hamilton a Nouthetic Counselor? A good book that deals with these issues at length is Broken Minds Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You're Losing It (2005) Kregel Publications.
My wife Robyn and I are co-authors of the book.
Rev. Steve Bloem

tim

June 4, 2012 at 09:07 PM

Mike, having said all of this, I still appreciate you digging around for a better perspective on all of this.

I understand that some people who may be diagnosed as clinically depressed may simply be avoiding some sin issue that needs to be dealt with, or they're simply too narcissistic. But in those cases, I would say that it's more likely these people are more "depressed" than "clinically depressed."

Some people have chronic clinical depression, which is what my diagnosis has been (twice). There's always room for a miracle, of course, but coping each day can require almost as much faith as believing for a miracle.

I've heard of Nouthetic counseling, and there may be a place for it in this dialog, but frankly, I'm skeptical that it's just another form of pop psychology with a Biblical twist.

Still, again, thank you for your interest. Not taking this video at face value is a good thing.

Steve Bloem

June 4, 2012 at 07:51 PM

Mike,
Come now. Most persons in society (for some reason not Nouthetic Counselors) acknowledge the disease model.) It has been proven by genetic markers, by twin adoption studies, by blind controlled studies and will continue to be proven. Don't worry, you can't blow off the medical advancements.
A host of people throughout the world realize that these clinical mental illnesses are biological. You use the same argument as J. Adams. Again, please read my book Broken Minds Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You're Losing where we take time to refute Adams argument. I am sure you believe in Sola Scriptura. Do you have a vested interest that antidepressants should not be promoted?

Steve Bloem

June 4, 2012 at 07:39 PM

By all means but what we don't say or ask about in an interiew is very telling and important.
Steve

Tom

June 4, 2012 at 04:45 PM

Two words: Charles Spurgeon. One of the greatest men of faith and one of the greatest preachers in the English language wrestled with deep depression his entire life. Don't tell me he just needed to answer "If only I had _____ ..." question.

This interview reveals a scarily superficial understand of depression and faith.

tim

June 4, 2012 at 03:16 PM

Mike, people like me don't "come out" of depression like we're phasing in and out of a bad mood. I'm IN a depressed state 24/7. It's what I live with and fight against all the time.

MIke

June 4, 2012 at 03:10 PM

Hey anonymous, you mentioned, “Without any formal training or license it is probably best to avoid it.” Since you brought it up, my masters, certifications and formal training in counseling provide me a platform. Nonetheless, this is not needed to comment on a blog. Sorry, I don’t think I am off here.

Anonymous

June 4, 2012 at 02:58 PM

Since every one has experienced sadness or discontentment they mistakenly think they can relate to clinical depression. As a result everyone is an armchair psychiatrist determining what is best for everyone else.

Giving advice to people suffering from depression may have the opposite effect of your intentions. Without any formal training or license it is probably best to avoid it.

MIke

June 4, 2012 at 02:48 PM

Tim, I 100% understand and can relate to what you are saying. Trust me; we are not missing one another (At least from an experiential stand point). This is why I highlighted/mentioned asking these questions after coming out of depression to prepare/prevent the next episode. As far as asking these questions, you definitely seem to be rationally interacting with me, so this would be the time to think through these questions.
Hope this helps,
Later,
Mike

tim

June 4, 2012 at 02:36 PM

I'm still not sure we're connecting... the clinical depression I have does not allow for self-analysis. If you're squatting on the floor with your arms over your head, or you're curled up in a fetal position on your bed, with utter blackness crippling your soul on a bright, sunny day, you're not in a position to evaluate things rationally. Even trying to describe this to you is beginning to freak me out.

MIke

June 4, 2012 at 02:26 PM

Hey Tim,
When I mentioned diet, I was refereeing to healthy eating in general (my bad, I was unclear). Before I reply, I want you to know that my comments are not theoretical. While I was never diagnosed (never went to the doc) if I did, I am 100% sure at that time I would have received the label of clinical depression. Just wanting you to know where I am coming from prior to my comment.

You mentioned, “In fact, if you can identify what's making you depressed, chances are, you don't have clinical depression” but also went onto say “The ONLY counseling that has ever worked for me...is a basic study on the grace and sovereignty of God” and also “Asking the Holy Spirit to help you "take every thought captive" is probably the broadest counsel I can suggest.” One of the first questions a doc will ask to determine depression is if you have lost hope (along with other areas). I noticed your first statement was hopeless, followed by real hope and the counsel of renewing your mind as your main point of counsel. This is where the questions “If only I had” or “How are you viewing God at this point” or “What do I desire at this moment” come into play. I understand there can be a numbness during these events and answering these questions can be difficult. However, for someone struggling, it maybe better to ask these questions when the depth of depression is not overwhelming. Basically, these questions will help unveil what “triggers” and begins the progressions that leads one into depression. I.E. am I fixated on self, my-desires, my-interest, my-dreams, lack of dream, what is not taking place, what I think should take place, how I perceive others view me, self-absorption, self-hate (still focusing on self)… Understanding these areas and replacing them with the text is part of the renewing of the mind. While I would not rule out meds in some situations, as you mentioned, the renewing of the mind throughout the gospel is the greatest counsel and hope we can give. I think this is what Mark was hitting on in his video.

tim

June 4, 2012 at 01:47 PM

First, although meds, diet, and exercise do help with clinical depression, some of the more common meds actually prevent patients from losing weight. So "diet" and "weight loss" may work against each other, especially if the patient already has a sinful lust for food (which is another problem the American church hasn't addressed well).

At least for me, there's nothing for which I could trade depression to make me "feel" better. That's what most "experts" who've never had clinical depression don't understand. If you're depressed because you can't see your grandkids more often, that's not clinical depression. In fact, if you can identify what's making you depressed, chances are, you don't have clinical depression. If we could identify what we're "missing," or not properly valuing from a Biblical perspective, wouldn't "fixing" clinical depression be fairly easy?

The ONLY counseling that has ever worked for me - and I've had 5 therapists - is a basic study on the grace and sovereignty of God. I don't FEEL improved, but I pray that the Holy Spirit would convince me mentally of God's presence and help. Unfortunately, this type of therapy only works after I've been struck by a precipitating incident of panic, so after a while, I've begun to live in fear of those precipitating incidents. For me at least, that's what has frozen my life around me. The meds I take (which I've now learned may contribute to Alzheimer's - great!) help to mollify my everyday emotions, so that I'm on more of an even keel.

Asking the Holy Spirit to help you "take every thought captive" is probably the broadest counsel I can suggest. But of course, that's easier said than done - whether a person has clinical depression or not. There's a greater sense of urgency when you have clinical depression, however. Suicidal thoughts haunt me daily, as I suspect they do for many people in my situation.

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charles nelson

June 3, 2012 at 09:49 AM

There is a book by Tom Wootton called The Depression Advantage about depression from a spiritual point of view. It looks at the lives of famous Christians throughout history who dealt with the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of depression and how they were able to use depression to deepen their relationship with God. Is anyone familiar with it?

Andy

June 3, 2012 at 06:23 PM

As far as this being a pastoral issue, most pastors don't seem equipped or feel competent to actually counsel their depressed congregants or work alongside them as they get help from counsellors. And then once your meds have you balanced again enough to be functional, your depression drops completely off the pastoral radar as being an issue even worth discussing or keeping in touch with.
Meds have (for me) balanced out my moods and kept my thinking safe for ~4 years. I've done a lot of work changing my thinking and how i see myself, but if i forget to take my meds on the weekend, it is scary how fast the floor drops out from beneath me in my thinking.

Kirsten

June 2, 2012 at 10:15 AM

I agree with much of what you said. I too, a Christian who has no hope at times, have finally accepted the chemical side of my depression. Yes, there are rival hopes and yes, at times I do need to reorient. But at times, I also have no "If onlys" except for "if only Jesus would come back or I would die."

Ryan Kelly from Desert Springs Church has 2 sermons I found to be excellent on this subject.

http://www.desertspringschurch.org/messages/Date/MAR_04_2012.php

http://www.desertspringschurch.org/messages/Date/MAR_18_2012.php

Al

June 2, 2012 at 06:39 PM

In my experience non Christians see it more holistically than a physical condition alone and it is rare for medication alone to be seen as the answer, usually counselling is also recommended. As some depression does have an external trigger/cause it is very unwise to ignore that possibility and rely on medication alone. That is just my experience though and your experience may well be different - maybe I was just fortunate in the medical folk I came across.

When I said it finally ended, I meant I started to recover - thank you picking me up on that, I didn't phrase it well. I should have said the diagnosis for me was the turning point - the key that unlocked the door for me. For the first time ever I could make sense of my illogical feelings or absence of feelings - I was able to legitimise how I was. Crucially I stopped blaming myself - prior to that I was blaming myself for having such a wrong attitude which didn't help at all and pushed me ever further down. Having a diagnosis also enabled the people around me to respond appropriately to me as they could understand me better. For example, my family enabled me to have more time and space to myself instead of crowding me with what were their (in ordinary circumstances,perfectly reasonable and normal) demands which helped a lot. It was if my burdens had been lifted off my shoulders - I was encouraged to look after my needs just as if I had a broken bone - and I was never made to feel ashamed or sinful about it.

The doctor offered me medication and counselling but he also told me to try to do what used to make me happy as well. Because I was only suffering from moderate depression I decided to go the counselling route to begin with and began doing what used to make me feel good whilst I waited to see a counsellor. I gave myself a limit of a month and if I hadn't improved a little by then I was going to take medication as well. In the end I started slowly recovering so I never even saw a counsellor or took drugs. That is why I see the acknowledged diagnosis as the start of the resolution for me - the whole recovery probably took about 8 months. This won't work for everyone though - I suspect I climbed out of it relatively easily because the depression was caught early on so a deeper manifestation of it was avoided.

For me, the spiritual effects of being depressed are the hardest to deal with - to feel so far from God when you desperately want Him is appalling. That is why it is so important that Christians respond appropriately - so much damage is inflicted when guilt is laid upon you that it becomes even harder to get up from underneath it. Mark did mention physiology but that was not really dealt with and some of his comments seemed to reflect someone who really did not understand what it is like to be depressed. I would have found his question 'If only...I would feel better' ridiculous. My only response at times would have been 'If only I no longer existed I would feel better.' That is how bad it can seem to a sufferer of depression and as a Christian you know you shouldn't feel like that which just increases your despair.

There is a very big difference between sadness and being down and having clinical depression - if you've been there then you will know what I am talking about. If you haven't then you won't really appreciate the difference - it may seem similar but it's not. It's another world and one I hope never to visit again.

Mike

June 2, 2012 at 06:08 PM

Vittoric,
I agree that there is a physiological side to depression in some cases. However, I wanted to highlight something you mentioned. You point out that “once you understand it's a chemical imbalance in your brain that NEEDS to be stabilized, period.” Not sure if this is a field you have dug into, but the four chemicals in the brain are Serotonin, Norepinephrine, Dopamine, and Gamma-aminobutyric Acid, or GABA. However, there are no determinative test, i.e. urinary neurotransmitter testing. The urinary track does not cross the blood/brain barrier. A chemical imbalance being the cause of depression is only a hypothesis. The result and conclusion of these test is based upon a conversation with a therapist that will then provide a determination if you are “imbalanced.” Note, this is a conversation, not an actual medical test that shows a lab result of actual chemical levels. Even in the area where a patient undergoes a PET scan the result showing the activity should not be surprising. Off course emotions, highlight certain hemispheres of the brain. In the same regard, a flexed mussel and a relaxed mussel will show different results under a scan. Not trying to blow off the current medical advancements, but the modern discoveries are certainly not conclusive, nor embraced by the entire medical profession.
Mike

Mike

June 2, 2012 at 05:38 PM

Hey Al,
Mark mentioned that depression was linked to physiology at times. Most non-Christians have taken a reductionist approach focusing on the body alone and turn to drugs to resolve it. If they also provide counseling, within their own system they are admitting that the root cause is more than physical. Mark seemed to advocate both, physical and spiritual; but focused on the spiritual. Could you clarify what you meant by, “finally it ended when I was properly diagnosed .” I am intrigued how a diagnosis alone could resolve depression in the way you are describing it. Maybe there were more steps in your recovery, i.e. medication and counseling.
Mike

[...] an interview over on the Gospel Coalition on depression which you can listen to [...]

[...] answer questions on Thinking theologically about depression: It’s causes and cures, at this here or by clicking [...]

Al

June 2, 2012 at 03:07 PM

Scarily superficial. Anyone who has true clinical depression (ie properly diagnosed by a medical professional) knows it to be beyond questions of 'If only....'. If this is truly what most of the Christian world believes about depression then my heart goes out to those Christians who are suffering from what is a physical condition that impacts on every aspect of your person - spiritual, emotional and physical.

Depression hits for all kinds of reasons and the most alarming cause is - nothing at all. You have a great spiritual life, wonderful family, loving spouse and your work is going well then suddenly you are plunged into a long dark tunnel with barely any light at the other end. Numbness is a good way of describing it - your head tells you what you should be thinking, the life you love (you know you must do because reason tells you that you would be crazy not to) is a desert, a wasteland - the way you feel makes no sense at all.

For those of you out there reading this - take heart. There is a way out but you need sensible people around who will not condemn you in any way at all, who support you and who don't listen in order to prescribe personal scripture for you. If you haven't got them then find some or go to your doctor. This is as real as a physical illness - one day tests will probably show brain changes/chemical alterations to explain it and people who treat depression as something that is your fault for succumbing to despair are going to look pretty stupid.

I've had depression several times - finally it ended when I was properly diagnosed with it and the way I had felt for long patches over the years at last made sense. Weirdly, despite having some dire things happen to me in the 6 years, since diagnosis and recovery, I have never had it again - major stress and worry yes but never that terrible plunge into the bleak landscape of nothingness.

In that peculiarly painful place Jesus walked with me - sometimes hard to find and just out of sight but I caught enough odd glimpses to keep me from completely giving up. I will always be grateful that I never entirely lost sight of Him but I have friends who went much deeper into the abyss and lost sight of the Light completely.

What did I learn from having depression? I learnt much about the gentleness of our Saviour - never once was I admonished or disciplined - just loved back into being once more. Loved by God and by my unbelieving friends and by my fabulous understanding church family - gradually I pulled through back to good mental health.

Be gentle with those who are suffering depression. If you can discourage them out of it then they probably never had clinical depression in the first place.

vittoria-blue

June 2, 2012 at 02:42 PM

Ditto!

I'm a christian who suffers from depression, but my pastor is a doctor, therefore, understands the medical implications and the seriousness behind a disease that's not different from diabetes or cancer once you understand it's a chemical imbalance in your brain that NEEDS to be stabilized, period.

He once told me: "always look up and while you're at it, hold on tight to our Lord with one hand and with the other hold on to your doctor and your medications."

God bless my pastor! God bless you! God bless all!

Patrick Day

June 10, 2012 at 02:34 PM

Depression is a confluence of conditions involving the body, soul, and spirit. By soul, I mean mind, will, and emotions. To only concentrate on the body often means taking medications to mask the symptoms. To only concentrate on the soul (psychotherapy)neglects the realm of the body - as in different conditions, like a thyroid out of whack or a chemical imbalance of the brain - and may possibly let a condition go on way too long without proper treatment. The spiritual realm, to me, is the cornerstone of triumphing over depression, but to only concentrate on the spiritual brings up such irresponsible beliefs that if only a person had more faith or properly confessed his/her sins, then a cure would come. As someone else mentioned, how would anyone want to face Charles Spurgeon or David Brainerd or King David and many saints throughout the history of the church, and say to them, "Oh, if only you had more faith. Oh, if only you could seek forgiveness for your sins."

Body, soul, and spirit, these three, and the greatest of these is spirit...but ignore the other two to your own peril. You can follow my blog, www.triumphoverdepression.org, to find out more about these matters.

Will Mitchell

June 1, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Thank you for this! Is there a text Transcript of this interview available anywhere?

MIke Parks

June 1, 2012 at 08:46 AM

Jeremy, that was a great interview! Short and packed with solid gospel answers. I enjoyed hearing your comments about depression being a full or partial loss of hope. Then utilizing the x-ray question “If only I had ______ I would feel better.” Helping others understand where they have misplaced their trust/hope in something/someone other than Christ is excellent counsel to lead them back to the cross.

Steve Cornell Cornell

June 1, 2012 at 07:05 PM

I especially appreciated the point about inviting people to tell you their "If only...."

In “The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sadness Into Depressive Disorder,” Alan V. Horwitz and Jerome C. Wakelfield, suggested that standard criteria for diagnosing depressive disorder does not adequately distinguish intense normal sadness from biologically disordered sadness. Their aim is to offer a critique of what they view as the “over-expansive psychiatric definitions of disorder.” They offer extensive insight for distinguishing “sadness due to internal dysfunction” from “sadness that is a biologically designed response to external events.”.

The chapters exploring the anatomy of normal sadness and the failure of social sciences to distinguish this kind of sadness from depressive disorder should be required reading for all medical and psychiatric professionals -- as well as all counselors.

Depression always involves some degree of emotional and spiritual dimension. On the emotional and spiritual levels, it seems important to stress the need at times to discourage the discouraged. It may sound strange to talk of discouraging the discouraged, but one of the New Testament words for “encourage” can also be translated “admonish.” Sometimes when we are discouraged we need admonishment. Discouragement is a frame of mind and an emotional response to it.

The word “courage” is part of the word discourage. Discouragement is a “dis” on courage! As was pointed out, it’s a loss of courage, hope, or confidence. It is captured similarly in the word disheartened— a loss of heart. A word about "taking heart" is a good word of admonishment! Encouragement should aim to bring strength to others—giving them courage, hope and confidence. It’s usually in the form of verbal affirmation, comfort, and exhortation.

We need encouragement as part of the cure for discouragement. But sometimes our need is not merely to hear words of positive reinforcement. Getting out of the fog of despondency often requires a little loving admonishment. Caring friends will cross this line with us as they sense we need a better perspective.

But more importantly, like the psalmist we need to send this word to our own hearts. Lloyd-Jones spoke so well to this: see: http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/spiritual-depression/

[...] interview with Mark Mellinger. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

Anonymous

June 1, 2012 at 02:43 PM

Much of the Church doesn't believe Depression is a real disease. A disease that includes serious consequences like suicide and divorce. A commonly held myth in the Church is that faithful Christian's shouldn't get depressed.

While I appreciate this conversation and agree the rival hopes are often the root cause of depression and that identifying them helps to minister to the individual I am disappointed that they did not discuss the medical and chemical aspect of depression from which many suffer. In regards to depression, the Church tends behave like Christian Scientists: "If you have Jesus you don't need medication".

As a Christian who has struggled with depression I avoided getting medical attention for far too long because I intellectually understood that "if I have Christ, I shouldn't be depressed". It wasn't until I combined my months of Christian counseling with the correct medication that I started to recover.

The shame associated with depression means we don't talk about it in our small groups and we don't hear about it from the pulpit. I felt like this discussion, while not trying to be "Pollyanna" still gave the "Sunday School" answer that perpetuates this problem in the church: If you're depressed it's because you don't have Jesus in the right place - get reoriented. We wouldn't say that in regards to any other disease - why do we say it about this one?

Edit: I found Tommy Nelson's interview here particularly helpful in regards to Christians & Depression: http://tinyurl.com/clm9c2x

Ex-Depressed

July 26, 2012 at 02:32 PM

Like others, I was disappointed by this interview.

I think it had good intentions, and attempted to open the discussion of what depression means to the church. I think it has some positive ramifications, as it does say that depression is not alien to the Christian.

Unfortunately, he touches on depression in a very limited way - understandable, perhaps, given how short the interview was, but it should have been longer. This is a big conversation, and sound bites will never be sufficient. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he does not address major clinical depression at all, but rather dysthymia, a related but different form of depression.

I struggled with depression for a while, and let me tell you, it is some scary stuff. It is not just "feeling down" or hopeless. Your mind is trapped in this black morass. I experienced symptoms like memory loss, memory blockage, minor aural and visual hallucinations, delusions, and other less-than-pleasant things. In my case, this ended up being a purely physiological circumstance; prayer and Scripture helped me to get through it, but they didn't do a thing to make it go away.

I know this sort of thing is a bit heavier than the depression they want to talk about. I don't know how many times I was told that it was "spiritual warfare," a sentiment that I think is now demonstrably false - for some sort of demonic presence to withstand prayer but be chased out by a drug defies even supernatural reason - or that I needed to pray about it or read the Bible more. These people simply did not understand depression.

Again, as much as I appreciate the intention and attitude behind this interview, it can unfortunately be summed up as a misrepresentation of depression responded to with a trumped-up Sunday School answer. Depression is something that we need to think long and deeply about. So long as we approach it with an attitude as superficial as "Well, people with depression don't have hope, and we do have through the cross, so, obviously pointing them to Jesus will make their depression go away!" we will be incapable of reaching just about anyone with depression.

Treated as the glimmerings of a first salvo in a discussion on depression, I can appreciate this interview. Should it seek to be a self-contained response to the depression epidemic, however, it is woefully insufficient.


And just for the record, I do agree with the point that meds are over-prescribed. I think my situation was clearly physiological, but when someone is saying "I have depression because my boyfriend and I broke up six months ago and I still feel sad over it," then, uhh, meds aren't really the answer there.