A blog reader writes:
“My problem is, I form friendships but after a while my Christian
friends decide that I am, in fact, too much of a burden because my
depression never goes away (2.5 years of taking medication which all
proved treatment-resistant and now I am out of medications to try.) I
have lost friends forever for this specific reason. This is not just my
guess – that was the reason they gave me. Now I have lost trust in
telling people the truth of my story and the help I may need, I don’t
even bother to ask for non-specific prayer.
I’m fighting a losing battle and though I know the Ultimate Winner, I’m exhausted from the years of no relief.”
The church has always been uncomfortable with emotional or mental illness. The first thing God wanted to say to man and have it written down and recorded for ever was “if some is suffering and depressed and even complaining about God, comfort them and don’t suggest that, if they were just as godly as you, they wouldn’t be suffering” ( JOB is the oldest book in the Bible.)
Many of my patients find troubling comfort in listening to christian radio because they find teaching and worship and testimonies from people who have gone through the valley but are now on the mountain top–praise God! So the message is that godly people don’t suffer depression, or if they do it is temporary and leads to better testimonies. What about those who suffer longterm?
When I was a young doctor, our medications were far less helpful. I would look at a young person and tell them that the Elavil had a 40% chance of working and then a 20 % chance of pooping out and a 100% chance of making them fat. We are better now at helping the depression but far worse at supporting those who do not respond and struggle with ongoing depression. If that is true about the medical field, it is even more true about the church! The church does reasonably well at worship, OK at teaching and poor at being real and supporting each other in the struggles of life. Whether pain, depression, job, or family, many struggles are longterm, even lifelong.
So what to suggest?
It is better to walk with the church, screwed up as it is, than to walk alone.
Also I suggest that you consider the ultimate act of worship. Now this act is radical and unreasonable from the world’s perspective,but I have personally witnessed it’s benefit in my own life and that of others.
1.Thank God for the struggle even for depression.
2.Thank God that the battle is his and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you to rest in him despite the illness of depression.
3. Ask God to use your feeble efforts to bless others.
I recall one person who 1.finally responded to an antidepressant, 2.was discharged from the hospital, and 3. the government promptly pulled the medication off the market and 4.she relapsed and we had tried all the alternatives.— Finally she said to the Lord, ” You don’t have to take away my depression I am even going to thank you for it, but please use my life to bless others.”— That week she was allowed to lead two friends to salvation and talked another friend out of getting a divorce and go to counseling instead. She called me in a panic. “Does that mean God will never cure me?” I told her that I could not answer that, but at least he was using her.
Another old lady from my church was almost blind, was lame, and constantly hallucinated old revival hymns. She kept asking God to heal her or take her home to heaven. I told her that if she kept that up she would live to 120. Elijah and others have asked God to just kill them and he never obliged. When she said, “Lord you don’t have to heal me but please help me to witness to the caregivers that enter my room-he did! Now with the first one God led us to a new approach that worked and with the second he let her minster for a few weeks then took her home.
It seems to me that when I submit to his sovereignty, telling God that he may fix me or give me grace,and thanking him for the struggle; one of two things will happen 1. God will fix me so that I will have the energy to serve, or 2. He will give me sufficient Grace to please him despite the misery.
He did the former for me when I had my claustrophobia but the latter in regards to my never fitting into the church. I don’t know, but suspect that if he made me so that I fit in then I would no longer fit his plans for me.