Text Box: GOSPEL LIGHT - WOMAN TO WOMAN - May/June 2000
Written By: Judy E. Denby
What would happen if you were diagnosed with diabetes or cancer, and were told by your Christian brothers and sisters that it was all because your relationship with God wasnít strong enough? I would hope and expect that you would waste very little time in setting them straight, pointing out their ignorance and educating them as to the medically accepted reasons for the disease. Now, suppose you were told by your doctor that you were depressed? This is sometimes a touchy subject for Christians, and unfortunately in many cases people with emotional problems have already been judged and condemned by other Christians. I have talked to women about this, and their response is almost often one of two; either they accept the judgment and resolve to work on their relationship with God (as one woman told me, ďOnce I get right with the Lord this will go away.Ē), or they seek treatment and go about trying to get better, while never actually telling anyone about it. They thus deprive themselves of the support and prayers of those whom they need most, all to save their dignity and avoid having others question their spiritual worthiness. Itís a difficult situation, and one in which I found myself a few years ago. 	
First, letís clarify depression. Many people will say, ďIím depressed right nowĒ, never actually thinking about what they actually mean. Sometimes itís a temporary sadness or grief, related to a particular circumstance, which is totally normal and accepted as a part of life by everyone. We canít be joyful about everything all the time. Sadness is a normal part of life. The depression of which I speak, however, goes much deeper. Sometimes it is brought on by a tragic or life-changing event, sometimes by trauma the person has suffered in the past, but often there is no apparent cause. One day you just wake up and canít get the energy to get out of bed, for example. That doesnít go away, and is followed by day after day when you wonder if life is worth living. You distance yourself from family and friends. You can sleep 23 hours a day and nap in between, or you find you canít fall asleep at night and then wake up after only a few hours and toss and turn for the rest of the night. You lose interest in the things that used to bring you pleasure. Sometimes people with depression cry frequently, sometimes not at all. The worst part is that you know you should be happy. A little voice inside your head can list all the reasons why you should NOT be depressed, but you still feel it there, dragging you down and threatening to drag you under. 
Most doctors and therapists now accept that depression is caused by a mix-up of the chemicals within the brain. Something goes wrong with the chemicals that God designed for your body to use to stay emotionally well-balanced. As I said above, it can come from something that has happened in the recent or distant past. Hormones can play a part. Even something as common as not getting enough sleep can cause depression in susceptible individuals. But if there is one point I want you to remember, it is that depression IS NOT necessarily caused by a failure in your relationship with God. I believe that depression is caused by sin in that we would not have to deal with it had there not been the original fall in the Garden of Eden. There is also an element of our own sinful nature that may cause us to reject God and that break in our relationship with Him can certainly lead to depression. But the fact is that the strength of our relationship with God may have nothing to do with the onset of depression. It was that way in my case, when I was diagnosed and treated while working with a Christian organization years ago. My relationship to the Lord had never been stronger, yet I found myself in counseling and on a medication for a few months. The hardest part of it all, to me, was that I felt I could not confide in anyone around me. People had already seen another person in the organization treated for depression, and after listening to their comments about that situation, I was afraid to admit that I had a problem too. It was, in fact, through helping this other individual that I had realized that I could benefit from treatment for depression, and it got me to make that all-important first phone call. Finally God laid it on my heart that I needed to come clean, to tell my story to those around me and face their judgment, if necessary, secure in the knowledge that I had done nothing wrong to deserve or bring on this problem. People were kind, to my face, but I have no idea what was said behind my back and I really donít care. An interesting note is that I did not ever tell my family, because I knew how they would react. It was no secret that they shared the opinion that anyone with emotional or psychiatric disorders of any kind just needed to ďpull up their sockĒ and through will power alone, if they had enough of it, they could overcome the problem. Maybe someday Iíll come clean with them too.