Christians are uncomfortable with depression

I, along with many others are saddened by the suicide of the much beloved actor Robin Williams. There is shock, confusion, and plenty of explanations to go around. As it turns out Williams was battling with depression and various addictions for some time. Many Christians are quick to point out that worldly success does not bring happiness. Many will conclude, “this is what you get when you turn your back on God.” However, in my reading through various reports on his suicide a different reality caught my attention. One particular headline said, “his energetic appearance hid what was going on inside of him from even his closest friends and family.” A man much loved by others, did not feel loved to share the depth of his pain with anyone. That headline caused me to stop and think about Christianity and depression.

If in a secular world where antidepressants are widely available and encouraged, where psychologist are waiting to tell you that it’s not your fault and that you are better than you think, and people still hide their depression, how much more in Christianity? Christians are uncomfortable with depression, particularly in their midsts. I think frankly many do know now how to deal with it, nor how to respond to someone who is dealing with depression. There is a stigma against “being depressed” in the Christian conscience. And from a certain perspective this is understandable and expected. How can we who have the glorious truths of Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15 as our reality struggle with depression? We, who’s hope is heaven, who are in right standing with the King, who have the Holy Spirit even contemplate being depressed? But this does not change the reality that many are depressed in the Christian Church!

There are many reasons for why Christians get depressed and why we are uncomfortable with the whole topic. But I have a very different goal in this post then to address them. I simply want to ask a question, “do we as Christ’s church have an environment of love that allows those dealing with depression (or any other sin) to have freedom and encouragement to share their burden with us?” Or, “do we by our actions and cookie cutter answers shun and and shut down those who need help?” Our friendships and local churches must be places of refuge for the hurting soul, not mere factories of answers.


The Final Ascent

The moment for which every Christian longs eloquently captured by John Bunyan in his Pilgrims Progress:

“Now you must note, that the city stood upon a mighty hill; but the pilgrims went up that hill with ease, because they had these two men to lead them up by the arms: they had likewise left their mortal garments behind them in the river; for though they went in with them, they came out without them. They therefore went up here with much agility and speed, though the foundation upon which the city was framed was higher than the clouds; they therefore went up through the region of the air, sweetly talking as they went, being comforted because they safely got over the river, and had such glorious companions to attend them.

The talk that they had with the shining ones was about the glory of the place; who told them that the beauty and glory of it was inexpressible. There, said they, is “Mount Sion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect.” You are going now, said they, to the paradise of God, wherein you shall see the tree of life, and eat of the never-fading fruits thereof: and when you come there you shall have white robes given you, and your walk and talk shall be every day with the King, even all the days of eternity. There you shall not see again such things as you saw when you were in the lower region upon earth; to wit, sorrow, sickness, affliction, and death; “For the former things are passed away.” You are going now to Abraham, to Isaac, and Jacob, and to the prophets, men that God hath taken away from the evil to come, and that are now “resting upon their beds, each one walking in his righteousness.” The men then asked, What must we do in the holy place? To whom it was answered, You must there receive the comfort of all your toil, and have joy for all your sorrow; you must reap what you have sown, even the fruit of all your prayers, and tears, and sufferings for the King by the way. In that place you must wear crowns of gold, and enjoy the perpetual sight and vision of the Holy One; for “there you shall see him as he is.” There also you shall serve him continually with praise, with shouting and thanksgiving, whom you desired to serve in the world, though with much difficulty, because of the infirmity of your flesh. There your eyes shall be delighted with seeing, and your ears with hearing the pleasant voice of the Mighty One. There you shall enjoy your friends again that are gone thither before you; and there you shall with joy receive even every one that follows into the holy place after you. There also you shall be clothed with glory and majesty, and put into an equipage fit to ride out with the King of Glory. When he shall come with sound of trumpet in the clouds, as upon the wings of the wind, you shall come with him; and when he shall sit upon the throne of judgment, you shall sit by him; yea, and when he shall pass sentence upon all the workers of iniquity, let them be angels or men, you also shall have a voice in that judgment, because they were his and your enemies. Also, when he shall again return to the city, you shall go too with sound of trumpet, and be ever with him.

Now, while they were thus drawing towards the gate, behold a company of the heavenly host came out to meet them: to whom it was said by the other two shining ones, These are the men that have loved our Lord when they were in the world, and that have left all for his holy name; and he hath sent us to fetch them, and we have brought them thus far on their desired journey, that they may go in and look their Redeemer in the face with joy. Then the heavenly host gave a great shout, saying, “Blessed are they that are called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb.” There came out also at this time to meet them several of the King’s trumpeters, clothed in white and shining raiment, who, with melodious noises and loud, made even the heavens to echo with their sound. These trumpeters saluted Christian and his fellow with ten thousand welcomes from the world; and this they did with shouting and sound of trumpet.”