Why The Church Should Not Overlook Depression
I have attended church pretty much all my life, and in some Christian circles, the word “depression” appears to be nonexistent. It’s as if Christians are supposed to be immune to such deep, lonely and sometimes dark emotions and thoughts. We gather together, week after week, and put on a façade that says “We are just so joyful in Christ! Praise the Lord!” yet many people leave to go to their homes and are broken and the very opposite of the character they portray on a Sunday. I believe this should not be the case. I believe no one should have to pretend to be happy in the very place where they should be receiving support, love and encouragement.
I speak from experience, as I was struck by depression at the age of 15. I became so tangled up in darkness and such deeply sad and lonely thoughts. I felt unable to speak about the issue with anyone at church when I was hearing things like, “God is good. Be grateful for life. In Him there is Joy.” In truth, I was feeling the complete opposite. Depression was not commonly spoken about and because of this, it was a difficult topic to bring up. I became more and more entangled in depression which carried on for about five years. I became suicidal during this time. At the lowest points, on two separate occasions, I overdosed. I did eventually find healing and restoration in Christ, upon meeting a mentor who actually addressed and spoke about the issue and helped me to address it. As I speak now, there are occasional days or periods of time when I do feel depression, but nothing near to the previous severity.
Depression is something that can happen to anyone regardless of race, gender, age, upbringing or occupation. When it is not spoken about, it creates such a stigma that anyone who does feel that way cannot open up and speak about what they are going through. This just leads to the depression worsening with the possibility of suicide. This means we could lose people who could have been saved if they could merely talk to someone. I do not say depression should be spoken about so it can be glorified in any way or seen as something that is impossible to conquer. I say it should be spoken about so that it can be exposed and dealt with.
Having been through the worst of it and come out the other side, I began to realize even more how unspoken it is. I find when I open up about what I went through — and occasionally still do — it helps other people feel like they can open up, too. It helps take away any type of shame or guilt attached to feeling depressed. The Bible tells us to pray for one another and also to encourage and comfort one another, and I believe this cannot be done if we are not completely truthful with one another.
I believe the Church has a huge role to play in dealing with depression. People often come to church looking for something — be it hope or wholeness or comfort. If the church cannot speak about such common issues, people will not want to stay, and so many people can be left dealing with the complexities of depression alone when it does not have to be that way.
I encourage anyone (Christian or not) struggling with depression to speak up about it. You can make a difference in the topic being spoken about. Through sharing your story and struggle, you encourage someone to be open about theirs. This is how the battle with depression can be won. Don’t hide it – expose it!
Follow this journey on Finding His Light.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Unsplash photo via Daniel Tseng.