Facing depression together

A few weeks ago I bought this MiniZine from Matthias Media and I finally made time to read it over the weekend.

It has 2 excellent articles on depression, one from a sufferer describing his experience and the difference the gospel makes to those who struggle with Depression & Anxiety.

The other (by Mark Baddeley) is titled ‘Dos and don’ts when dealing with the downcast’ and is an excellent starting point for those who haven’t suffered from depression and find themselves not knowing how to best help those who do. There were 2 things that struck me particularly – probably because I’ve done such a bad job in past.

So if you’re strong and you’re faced with someone weak, your job is to bend down, get down where they are, and lift some of the burden and carry it for a bit. It isn’t to say, “Cheer up mate! Things aren’t as bad as you think. Be strong and trust God.” That is the perennially instinctive thing to say, and it is so because it is cheap.

It is the same kind of love that says “Be warm and well fed, and, by the way, God loves you” when faced with a homeless person. It costs nothing, but just tries to fix the problem quickly in order to remove its challenge to love that person in their concrete situation. It is like the person who intervenes in a supermarket to give the upset child that lolly they’ve just been denied. That person doesn’t care about the child’s welfare; they just want to stop feeling bad because the kid’s upset. The person who really loves the child did something costly and told them ‘no’ when an easier path was clearly open. In biblical terms, such cheap ‘love’ is ‘hate’ that has simply learned to ape its betters. It is faith that is dead, but dead before rigor mortis sets in.

Carrying the burden will look different for different people, but usually it means letting the weak person talk frankly about their life at the moment—listening rather than offering solutions, allowing them to suck some of your emotional energy away, and giving them some of your excess, even if it puts you in the red for a bit.

And

The priesthood of all believers means that I am your priest and that you are mine at the same time. I can be an instrument of the grace of God to you, and you can be one for me. I can pray for you and you can pray for me.

There are times when I can stand before God on your behalf when your faith fails you and you need someone to do for you what you cannot do for yourself, but what you so desperately need to have done. Like the four friends of the paralytic, we can carry the crippled, rip open the roof and present our friend right in the presence of the throne of grace (Mark 2:1-12). And like in that account, it might not always be entirely clear whose faith was the instrument for the grace of God to operate.

What does such faith operating on behalf of someone else look like? It is faith that is active, doing what that person would do if they could do it, and doing it in such a way that it overflows and feeds them.

So rather than encouraging them to pray, you pray for them, and as best as possible, try and express their feelings and perspective to God, and hand the problem to God. Do that with them present. Acknowledge and give dignity to their downcast experience by articulating it in prayer. By doing that, you implicitly show that it is not the final word.

So rather than calling on them to trust God, give them a reason to trust God. Just talk about how great and good God is; how his mercies are ever renewed; how we don’t have to muster up faith to get access to his grace; how he holds us up even as we trip and fall; how the Father who gave up his eternally loved Son for us when he and us were at each other’s throats is a Father who is really there for us now that we are his children. Just talk about God to them—as though that is life itself. And don’t finish by saying, “So buck up and trust him, okay?”; finish by saying, “He’s on your side; he’s going to carry you through this, however bad it gets”. Sometimes it’s okay to just declare the promises of God and not ask for any response in the short-term.

According to a 2007 national survey, there are around 1 million adults and 160,000 young people in Australia living with depression. This is roughly 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 8 men (info from beyondblue.org.au).

Depression is an issue that is going to effect each of us in some way so I highly recommend these articles as a great place to start understanding it better and learning how to care for those around us. You can buy a paper copy here or PDF here. Mark Baddeley’s article can also be read online here.

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God, depression and hope?

Resurgence is doing a series on God & Depression based on Psalms 42 & 43.

I was very excited when I saw the first post – I love the Psalms and I think they tap into human emotions so well. I think the Psalms are a great example of how to express emotions in prayer to God. I particularly think they are helpful for people with depression.

Psalms 42 & 43 are great examples of this so I love that Resurgence are doing this series. However this comment in the latest post concerns me

We cannot live without hope, but there are countless things to hope in. Much of our depression may come from misplacing our hopes as we place too much hope in things which are not God. The Psalmist takes a look at what he has been hoping in — a revealing and convicting thing to do. We will find we need to repent for having our hearts set on things other than God, and in this way, bringing depression on ourselves. [emphasis mine]

This statement might be true for some people but not for everyone. And it seems like terrible advice to give to someone who is dealing with depression – surely telling them they need to repent of their depression (which is what they will hear you saying) is only going to make things harder for them. As for ‘bringing depression on ourselves’ – this is not the case for everyone. Depression is a medical illness for some and needs to be seen and treated as such.

I have read Psalms 42 & 43 over and over. I see no repentance expressed here. But what is beautiful is that 3 times across these Psalms the psalmist express his distress and immediate follows with the statement that his hope is indeed in God, his saviour. That is exactly the turmoil of depression – knowing that we have hope is God but feeling nothing but turmoil and an utter lack of hope. This problem needs grace, love and patience but not repentance.

Why am I so depressed?
Why is this turmoil within me?
Put your hop in God, for I will still praise him,
My saviour and my God.          (Psalm 42:5,11 & 43:5)

 

 

Dr Lloyd-Jones on Spiritual Depression

Having thus described [spiritual depression] in general we can now proceed to state some of the general causes of the condition. First and foremost I would hesitate to put – temperament. There are, after all, certain different types of people. I wonder whether anyone i surprised that I put this first? I wonder whether anybody wants to say: When you are talking about Christians you must not introduce temperament or types. Surely Christianity does away with all that, and you must not bring that kind of consideration into a matter like this? Now that is a very important objection and it must be answered. We begin by saying that temperament, psychology and make-up do not make the lightest difference in the matter of our salvation. That is, thank God, the very basis of our position as Christians. It does not matter what we are by temperament; we are all saved in the same way, by the same act of God in and through his Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is our answer to psychology and to the criticism of Christianity that often results from a study of psychology. Let me make this clear. It does not matter what your background is, it does not matter what temperament you may happen to have been given in this world, all that does not make the slightest difference in the matter of salvation. We do not recognise such a thing as a ‘religious complex’.We glory in the fact that the history of the Church proves abundantly that every conceivable type of temperament has been found, and is still to be found today, in the Church of the living God. But while I emphasise, with all my being, the fact that temperament does not make the slightest different in the matter of our fundamental salvation, I am equally anxious to emphasise the fact that it does make a very great difference in actual experience in the Christian life, and that when you are trying to diagnose a condition such as that of spiritual depression, it is something with which yo should start, it is something to put at the very beginning.

In other words, as I understand Biblical teaching about this matter, there is nothing which is quite so important as that we should without delay, and as quickly as possible, get to know ourselves. For the fact of the matter is that though we are all Christians together, we are all different, and the problems and the difficulties, the perplexities and the trials that we are likely to meet are in a large measure determined by the difference of temperament and of type. We are all in the same fight, of course, as we share the same common salvation, and have the same common central need. But the manifestations of the trouble vary from case to case and from person to person. There is nothing more futile, when dealing with this condition, than to act on the assumption that all Christians are identical in every respect. They are not, and they are not even meant to be.

*****

Here, then, is the point at which we must always start. Do we know ourselves? Do we know our own particular danger? Do we know the thing to which we are particularly subject? The Bible is full of teaching about that. The Bible warns us to be careful about our strength and about our weakness. Take a man like Moses. He was the meekest man, we are told, the world has ever known; and yet his great sin, his great failure was in connection with that very thing. He asserted his own will, he became angry. We have to watch our strength and we have to watch our weakness. The essence of wisdom is to realise this fundamental thing about ourselves. If I am naturally an introvert I must always be careful about it, and I must warn myself against it least unconsciously slip into a condition of morbidity. The extrovert must in the same way know himself and be on his guard against the temptations peculiar to his nature. Some of us by nature, and by the very type to which we belong, are more given to this spiritual disease called spiritual depression than others. We belong to the same company as Jeremiah, and John the Baptist and Paul and Luther and many others. A great company! Yes, but you cannot belong to it without being unusually subject to this particular type of trial.

God & Depression

The first in a series from Resurgence on God & Depression, from Psalms 42 & 43.

Lost sense of God

The writer of Psalm 42 is a musician and leader in the Jerusalem temple who has somehow been cut off from his home, his friends, and his occupation. Being away from the temple, for him, is being away from God, so he pens a song to express his deep grief.

He starves without the presence of God, which used to be the hallmark of his life as a full-time temple servant. His life is nothing without it, in the same way that life is nothing without water.

This is not because he is unusual — he is exactly like us. The only difference is that he knows what he’s craving.

Read the first post here.

See the series here.

 

R U OK? Day

From headspace.

Staying connected with others is crucial to our general health and wellbeing and can help stop little problems turning into big ones. Feelings of isolation and being alone are major contributing factors to mental health and social issues. Regular, meaningful conversations can protect those we know and love.

It’s so simple – in the time it takes to have a coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life.

Read about it here.

Then ask someone you care about ‘R U OK?’

An election first

I’ll admit that I’ve never been much into politics. Which was partly ignorance and partly apathy. But recently I’ve realised how important this stuff is, especially for Christians (I know I’m a little slow) and so I’m trying my best, with lots of help from others, to get informed and interested.

So today I voted – hopefully it was a relatively informed vote (baby steps right? ;) ). And for the first time ever I voted below the line on my Senate ballot!

A side note – I’ve been disappointed with the fact that the funding of Mental Health care seems to be bit of a peripheral issue in the election hype. I’d love to see this change and for our government to take this seriously. So I’m looking forward to writing to my House of Reps member (once I know who it is) to make sure they know the electorate of Lindsay cares about this issue!