I have seen a couple of blogs about depression recently. I would not presume to get into the theological discussions about it since my few official classes in bible were many years ago. In any event, that is not what my purpose is here. What I am after is to get a glimpse of God’s perspective on the subject. There were a number of comments, rather painful even to read, from folks whose depression was met with demands to snap out of it, or worse yet guilt trips. I personally think it should be a red flag any time someone accuses another of having too little faith. I believe there is a verse saying that God has given each of us a measure of faith. In my experience, when you question that, you tear down their faith, instead of building it up.
Why on earth would anyone want to sow doubt and confusion in another believer, particularly one who is struggling? Hard as it can be to talk to a depressed person, remember it is harder for them. I do know about depression from personal experience, though thank God I had good friends who would listen to me, offering a compassionate shoulder from a fellow struggler trying to walk the path to life. And I too once had someone question my faith, over something else, not my depression. The encounter was negative in many ways that affected my life for years afterward. I came to see it as a spiritual attack, not originating with the person who said the words. And what are spiritual attacks, but attempts to divert us from the path or to neutralize our effectiveness in ministry? Are we not all ministers in some way, in the body of Christ?
How then can we help our brothers and sisters who are struggling with depression? Can we be quick to hear and slow to speak, especially if we are prone to correction? It may be that there are underlying issues that the person is not free to speak about. My guess would be that it would help immensely if people would first pray for wisdom before giving advice. I would however, ask them if there is anything they are grieving about, because depression is a normal stage of the grieving process. It is a problem if it continues too long, but I would have to ask my MFT friends what constitutes too long. In any event that would be a wonderful starting point.
Next, I tend to check on whether they are getting omega 3 fatty acids in their diet. We all need these, that is why they are defined as essential. Stress and grief would tend to deplete them and often either making an effort to eat fish twice a week, or taking supplements will gradually shift the brain chemistry in a positive direction. Often it takes a couple of weeks to notice an intial improvement. Of course, for the seriously depressed, medication may also be in order. I personally like to avoid medication side effects where possible. Nutrition supports the body’s natural production of serotonin, while medicine changes the way it is processed and eliminated in the body.
After the physical side is improving it may be helpful to address the thought processes involved in depression. There are self’-help books out there that may be useful to some, others may need to talk things out with an encouraging friend and still others will need professional help. But generally those who have therapy do better in the long term.
In the case of many of us, a three-pronged approach is needed. My friends and I have discovered that our most difficult struggles often have a spiritual side as well. Praying scripture can be enormously helpful here and also commanding the depression to leave. All Christians have that authority, and you will not know until you try it if it will help. Some may need assistance from those trained in inner healing. But certainly bring God into it with the understanding that His will for you is life and healing.