Depression and the Christian,

Is it hopeless?

Have you had a cold? Have you had depression? Do you know someone who would  say ‘yes’ to either of these questions?

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It is very likely you answered yes to at least two questions; and likely that you say ‘yes’ to all three. However, many folks will only fess up to the question about colds. Common colds are socially acceptable; even politically correct, if you will. But mention depression and we duck for cover.

You may well ask why these two very different subjects are being mingled? Good question and there are good answers.

Do note before going on, this topic is not at all in the typical hallelujah and praise content you might expect. It deals with tough issues and challenges we feel the Church and all Christians should be willing to face. We realize this subject might be considered edgy and be disturbing or offensive to some.

Depressed or a cold?

Let’s start with common colds. We all seem to get them; sometimes several a year. We feel bad, actually we feel lousy. None of the many remedies seem to really help. Colds make us miserable and helpless; and they can lead to more serious problems.

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Now, reread the last paragraph and replace the references to colds with the word “depression.” Surprisingly, colds and depression have a lot in common. Sufferers are miserable, feel helpless, can’t find anything that really helps, and, unfortunately, can progress to worse conditions.

In the same vein, it can be difficult to find the source of either. The cold virus seems to be everywhere. Depression can come from all directions and kinds of circumstances.

Complain or hide?

A cold is not embarrassing, not really so. We sympathize and try to comfort those with the virus, knowing we may be next. On the other hand, there remain stigmas connected with depression. Sufferers do not seek, and rarely receive, sympathy or support. It takes little thought to realize that a depressed person will worsen by hiding it or not receiving care from those around him or her.

Briefly stated, depression can impact anyone, any age, any station in life. It can range across a broad spectrum of about a dozen recognized

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types; from seasonal affective disorder, to postpartum, drug-induced, psychotic, bipolar, to major (or clinical) depression and others in between. Incidentally, major physical illnesses can trigger illness-induced depression.

It should go without saying that depression is serious business; so serious it should not be ignored. Depressed people require special care and attention; the kind that is unlikely to be had in a typical family, home or business setting.

Stigma, prejudice, ignorance

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One sad aspect of this malady is the reaction of others to a patient. Christians have a calling to tend to the suffering. From the Good Samaritan to Mother Teresa, the faith presents examples for us to follow. Social stigmatization is unnecessary and uncalled for among believers. A person enduring a severe depressive episode does not need others “piling on.”

The complex nature of causes for, and types of, depression should caution amateurs to be careful and avoid playing doctor. Without taking anything away from the power of prayer and spiritual support, God has provided specialists to deal with these illnesses. Just as we would not turn away from an oncologist for cancer, or cardiac surgeon for a heart operation, or an OB-GYN to deliver an infant, a specialist should be on board.

A note, one of the prompts for this article is news today of a military veteran being released from a VA facility and committing suicide a few hours later. Our social neglect and failure to provide  proper medical care for our veterans is appalling.

Churches are hospitals

Luke 10:25-37 is the account of the Good Samaritan, mentioned above. No Christian should have to be reminded of this. A stranger, from a different social group, was the only person to help an injured man who was ignored by his own. Matthew 25:36 lists the attributes Christians are to maintain, including care and attention for the sick. Depression is as serious an illness as any cancer, heart condition, or infection.

We sometimes describe churches as hospitals for the soul. Well, why would we neglect and ignore a brother or sister who was suffering any illness, be it physical, psychological, or spiritual. We are all of one family, we have an ordinance from Jesus Christ to care for each other.

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It is commonplace among the worldly people to pick and choose who will be cared for and who will be ignored and cast aside. Too often, seriously ill people are passed by because they are seen as deficient in character, being punished for their wrongs, or some other judgment by their peers.

God does not expect or accept this from Christians. Our denominations, churches, and congregations; as well as each of us as individuals need to be called out on this subject and held to an accounting. An element of our faith is that we, as individuals, not as organizations, will be judged on our acts and omissions.

The standard each of us will be help to is stated in James 4:17: “Therefore to him that knoweth to doeth good, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

What is a Christian to do?

There’s an old refrain, “I just don’t want to get involved.” Another says, “It’s not my problem.” Then, “Nobody can make me do anything I don’t want.” This attitude is greasing the rails on the world’s track to destruction.

Our Savior was hung on a cross because he did get involved; because he took on our problems; because he chose to do it. How can we ignore the words of Jesus and his sacrifice for us? What excuse do we have? If you or I was the patient, who would be there to help us through the difficult experiences of depression?

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Consider who you know that may be battling depression. There are many veterans from the Vietnam era and the Middle East conflicts who are suffering various kinds of depression and other consequences of their service. Likewise, nonmilitary people who have been exposed to all sorts of trauma; as well as victims of non-traumatic problems are likely patients. Many people in contemporary society are depressed for all sorts of reasons. The youngster who used to come to Sunday school, but has stopped, may well have some such condition. Also, that person in the next pew could be another victim.

We need to be called out, churches, leaders, individuals all have an obligation to lift up, minister, and tend to their brothers and sisters. The Lord expects it; we should consider it a privilege. And, if there is still any hesitation, we should remember any one of us could become a victim of depression.

 

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