Depression and the Believer

Hold on, this is going to be a long one, but worth the read and a very important subject.

I use to consider my self a pretty knowledgeable person. I’ve never been very “academic, but when it comes to common sense, I have loads. I’m great at parties for recounting stories and useless facts. I’ve always been good at games like Trivial Pursuit and can dominate quiz shows. I think in general, human beings tend to be somewhat arrogant about our vast knowledge, and we seem to think that we are the most advanced creatures that ever existed. If that’s true, why do we still have no cure for the common cold? I’m just saying. If I’m being honest, I too have allowed this kind of thinking to creep into my life. I don’t need to go to a medical doctor who has spent years and years studying the human body. I can diagnose myself and fix whatever ails me with vitamins, juicing or an oil. I know that the Dr. told me I need to listen to what he said, but I know better than him. I don’t need to listen to the advice of those much, much wiser that I, I can make all my decisions on my own. I am the only counsel I need. I don’t need to educate myself about biblical principles for raising my children. My “motherly instinct” should be enough. The list can go on and on of ways that my arrogance has taken over in my life. Most of these affect only me, so I am the one who has to deal with the consequences of my actions. Unfortunately, sometimes my arrogance can spill over to other people. I don’t know what makes me this way, although, I’m pretty certain its sin and pride. I seem to know better that others and sometimes even God, what they should do. I also have been the recipient of this behaviour. I can’t count the number times that I have started a sentence with, “You should,” as if I magically have the answers that seem to be eluding everyone else. Lucky you! You have me here to solve all your problems.
As believers, we have an even worse habit, in my opinion, of redefining what is sin and what is not, as if we know better than God himself what should be considered sin. We take things that are a matter of preference or things that we don’t really understand and turn them into our own legalistic approach to the gospel. Drums should not be played in church, they are worldly. The only true translation of the Bible is the KJV, even though it only exits in English. Too bad everyone who doesn’t speak English! Tattoos are wrong. Women should not cut their hair or wear pants. You should home school your children. There are many more, but one that I have become very familiar with recently is, Christians cannot struggle with depression and anxiety.

My husband and I have been serving on the mission field for the past 14 years. They have not been an easy 14 years, but I am very thankful for all that the Lord allowed me to witness Him do over these years. We served in France for 10+ years and then made a move with the same mission board to Quebec to serve for 2+ years. When I started out in ministry, I was pretty young and naive. I had just been married for 9 months when my husband Rob and I moved to mission field. I had never been married before nor had I ever been a missionary before. Everything was new. The language, my new role as a wife and missionary, the culture all were different from anything I had ever known. It was not easy. Parts of it were wonderful. We had an amazing staff of young families that I simply adored and adore to this day. Over the 10 years that would come, I would have successes, joys, laughter, tears, heartbreak, failures and many, many challenges. I would also, unknowingly, walk slowly into a deep depression coupled with anxiety and PTSD.

I am here to say one main thing. I am a child of the one True God and I suffer from depression. Since being diagnosed with depression, I have heard many different responses from people. Some people are understand and say they are sorry. Some are confused and don’t understand why I would struggle in that way when they look at my life. Some go so far as to say that as a believer I cannot have depression and be right with God. I am here to say that this statement is 100% inaccurate.

I walk with my God and I struggle with depression. I truly believe that there are many believers today that have these same struggles, but are fearful to come forward due to the stigma associated with the church and depression. We are currently part of a ministry of First Baptist Church Woodstock, GA called City of Refuge. It’s a ministry designed by my pastor, Johnny Hunt, whose goal is to provide critical care for wounded and fallen ministers, giving them a safe and loving environment in which to rest and heal. Pastor Hunt says,

“Christians are sometimes the worst about shooting their own wounded and then leaving them in the field to bleed to death.”

I completely agree with this thinking. How shameful that the last place our brothers and sisters in Christ want to turn is to us for fear that we will ostracize or rebuke them.

As I began this journey of healing and rest, I was struck by the number of people, men and women, who contacted me to express their own struggles in the same area. They were surprised by my openness to talk about this problem and the lack of shame I have in people knowing. This fact made me very sad. As I walk this path, I can tell you that it’s a very difficult road. It’s lonely and scary and sometimes too much to bare. God has blessed me by allowing me to be a part of this ministry and to be surrounded by a loving and supportive husband and my family near by. It makes me wonder how other people have walked this path alone and why!!?

As the body of Christ, we should respond the way our body reacts when we are injured. It’s very interesting to study the way the body responds to injury. According to a team at Columbia University this is what happens when our bodies have and injury:

“The moment you cut or tear a blood vessel, the body’s Superheros of Healing spring into action. Here’s how healing works:
• First comes vasoconstriction — blood vessels leading to the wound tighten to reduce the flow of blood to the injured area.
• Platelets (triggered by enzymes leaked from the torn blood vessel) rush to the scene. These sticky blood cells clump to each other and then adhere to the sides of the torn blood vessel, making a plug.
• Clotting proteins in the blood join forces to form a fibrin net that holds the platelet plug in place over the tear, and in just a few seconds or minutes (depending on how bad the scrape is), BLEEDING STOPS, thanks to coagulation! The fibrin plug becomes a scab that will eventually fall off or be reabsorbed into the body once healing is complete.
Once bleeding has been controlled, the next step is stopping infection:
• The blood vessels that were constricted now dilate to bring white blood cells rushing to the scene. White blood cells engulf and destroy any germs that may have gotten into the body through the open wound.
When the enemies of blood loss and infection have been vanquished, the body turns its attention to healing and rebuilding:
• Fibroblasts (cells that are capable of forming skin and other tissue) gather at the site of injury and begin to produce collagen, which will eventually fill in the wound under the scab and create new capillaries to bring oxygen-rich blood to the recovering wound.
• Skin along the edges of the wound becomes thicker and then gradually migrates (or stretches) under the scab to the center of the wound, where it meets skin from the other side and forms a scar (about three weeks after the initial injury).
• Scar tissue will become stronger and fade gradually over the next several years as more collagen is added, but will only have about 80 percent of the strength of the original skin.
Not all wounds heal equally. Generally speaking, more serious wounds take longer to heal.”

 

The body quickly jumps into action and attacks the site of injury not only to heal, but to protect from further complications. The body does not stop until the injury is fully healed and the site has been fully regenerated. As believers, we are one body with many members.

1 Corinthians 12:12-27 says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts,[b] yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honourable we bestow the greater honour, and our representable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.”

This passage of Scripture in context is speaking about spiritual gifts and how these gifts are given by the Spirit, individually, as He wills. Paul was trying to help the believers understand that there were no gifts that were more important than the others. All gifts were given by the Spirit and for the benefit of the whole body. The Body cannot function unless all its members are functioning according to their purpose. Along the same line of thought, however, if one of those members suffers, the body suffers (v.26). Why then do we as believers have the tendency to say, “This part of my body is not functioning correctly, lets cut it off and let it die!”. A body cannot function that way. No, we should rush to the affected area and immediately act. The affected area should be able to expect the body to respond in this way.

My prayer that we can destroy the misconceptions and false beliefs that surround the church and depression. I pray dear one who is struggling with depression, anxiety or trauma that you are not alone and I am walking with you. I pray dear church that as you read, you would take the time to pray and ask the Lord to open your mind and heart to the truth about such a prevalent problem in our body.

May the Lord give us understanding.

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