I suffer from depression.
I also go to counseling and take anti-depression medication.
I first started getting symptoms in 2006 when I began working on my church plant. I first went to counseling for it in 2008. I went on medication during the winter of 2009, but went off of it in Spring 2010. I began taking medication again in June 2012 and have been taking it regularly ever since.
I know people who have depression but they are afraid to get help. They think they can fix it on their own, yet they continue to spiral downward.
I know others who go to counseling and are on medication for depression, but they hide this from everyone in their life because of the shame it brings them.
Why do we do this? Why can’t we talk openly about our depression? What are we ashamed of?
Clinical depression is a chemical imbalance in your brain, and often is hereditary. If you had a broken leg, would you be ashamed to go to the doctor? Would you pretend it wasn’t a problem? Would you try to toughen up and fix it on your own? Good luck with that.
Since I’ve been diagnosed with depression, I try to be open about it, especially in Christian circles. The generation before mine looked at depression as something you had if you weren’t tough enough to hack life on your own strength. Going to a psychologist was for crazy people, and taking medication was for the craziest of all. In Christian circles, depression has been looked at in all sorts of convoluted ways. Some chalk it up to unconfessed sin, some to a lack of faith, and some go as far as saying it’s from demon possession. These convoluted outlooks on depression are enough to fill anyone with fear and shame, bottling it up rather than seeking the help they need.
The reality is, life is full of stress and struggles. Ministry is full of stress and struggle. Stress and struggle bring depression. It’s not exactly rocket science.
There is a phrase out there you may have heard: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Some of you may even think this is found in the Bible. Well I have a newsflash for you, this phrase is not in the Bible and in fact, is a load of B.S.
Understand that the first step of salvation is going to God and saying: My sin is more than I can handle. I can’t fix my sin problem. Will you help me? Will you fix this for me?
This is how you receive Jesus’ forgiveness for your sins. It’s how you are saved. It’s what Ephesians 2:8-9 means when it tells us we aren’t saved by works, but by God’s gift of grace. It’s saying we are weak and we need God’s strength. If you can’t admit you need help, you can’t receive grace. So why do Christians believe this truth and trumpet it loudly, yet are unable to translate this concept into the rest of life? Into how we are to deal with depression?
Elijah is one of my favorite prophets because we get to see past the surface and into the raw reality of ministry leadership. 1 Kings 18 chronicles one of the most amazing ministry victories in the Bible (fire coming from heaven, proving Elijah’s God to be the real God and the prophets of Baal to be wrong). In 1 Kings 19, we find Elijah so filled with depression after this victory, he is praying that God will take his life.
The Apostle Paul confesses the daily pressure of his anxiety for all of the churches (2 Cor. 11:28). And in my life where there is anxiety, there is depression.
Spiritual giants of the Bible suffered from depression. I suffer from it. I’m more than willing to talk about it because I want to help others be freed from the stigma and fear surrounding it. Seeking help for our struggles is the basic ingredient in the recipe of spiritual maturity and Christian community. Talk to your Christian friends and leaders about your depression, go to professional counseling for your depression, and if need be, take medication for your depression. In the same way your broken leg needs medical treatment, your depression may as well. Lose the fear, lose the shame, and most importantly, lose the stubborn pride. To receive healing you need to take the first step of admitting that you need it.
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