Showing posts with label Christian and Depression. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian and Depression. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Depression and the Christians : 2 - The Complexity

(These series of 6 messages on "Depression and the Christian" are also available on .pdf, .mp3 and video formats which can be downloaded from the website of Sermon Audio )





Last week we began the study of depression by considering eight reasons why the Christian should study this subject. This week we would like to look at how the Christian should study depression - with what attitude and in what spirit the subject should be approached.

We will here propose two principles which should condition all our thoughts and the expression of them in studying depression.


Firstly, let there be an absence of dogmatism. Where the Word of God is dogmatic the preacher must be dogmatic. He must clearly and boldly declare God’s Word with all authority. He must have no hesitation or equivocation. He must not make mere suggestions or proposals. He must pronounce, “Thus saith the Lord...”

Unfortunately, Christian preachers and writers have often taken a dogmatic attitude into areas where the Word of God is not dogmatic. One such area is that of mental illness. In researching these addresses, I have been frequently shocked by the almost ex cathedra infallibility assumed by Christian writers and speakers when writing or speaking about mental illness. This dangerous dogmatism often reflects not the principles of the Word of God but their own prejudices and experiences.

It must be admitted that confident, sweeping dogmatic certainty appeals to the writer or preacher, and also to the hearer who craves simplicity in a confusing world. However, it is highly damaging in this complex area of mental illness which requires careful, balanced, and sensitive thinking and speaking.

When we look back on the treatments which used to be offered for bodily diseases we shudder with horror at the frequently crude and unsuitable advice and potions which were confidently given to patients. With the advances in medical research such advice and medicines now look ridiculous. It is very likely that in the years to come, with increased research into mental illness and also increased understanding of the Bible’s teaching, that much of the confident certainty which presently masquerades as biblical or medical expertise will then also look ridiculous, cruel, and even horrifying.

In our study, and in our contact with those suffering from mental illness, let us avoid unfounded and unwarranted dogmatism; and let us study, listen and speak with humility and an awareness of our own ignorance and insufficiency when faced with the complex and often mysterious causes and consequences of mental illness.


There are three simplistic extremes which we should avoid when considering the causes of depression. Firstly, that it is all physical. Secondly, that it is all spiritual. Thirdly, that it is all mental. Let us examine these three propositions in turn.

1. Depression is all “physical”

For many years, the foundational presupposition behind the largely drug-driven solutions offered by many doctors and psychiatrists has been that depression has purely physical roots – one of which is that of chemical imbalances in the brain. And, if the presupposition of a physical cause is correct (chemical deficiency), then the prescription of antidepressants (chemical correction) is a logical conclusion. This is often called the “medical model”. It can also be called the “drug-treatment model”

There is, undoubtedly, much scientific evidence to support the “drug-treatment model”. Studies have shown that the brains of depressed patients have a different chemistry compared to people with good mental health. To put it simply, the brain needs chemicals to move our thoughts through the brain, and when these are depleted, as they often are in cases of depression, then the whole process slows down, or even stops in certain areas.

Obviously, the “drug-treatment model” or the “all-physical model” for depression is supported by those who wish to deny the existence of a non-physical, or spiritual element to human beings. However, there are Christians who also take the “drug-treatment model” approach. An example of this is found in the book Broken Minds by Steve and Robyn Bloem. Steve is a Christian pastor who has struggled with serious depression throughout his ministry. His book, co-written with his wife, gives a deeply moving account of his lifethreatening battle with mental illness. There is no book I know of which gives such an honest and hard-hitting insight into the pain and distress which the mentally ill and their families have to endure. If you wish to increase your sympathy and compassion for sufferers and their loved ones, then this heart-rending and tear-jerking book is for you.

However, the book’s greater usefulness is limited by the adoption of the purely “drugtreatment model” approach to causes and cures. As we have said, there is unquestionably a physical element to most depressions, often requiring medication. And, in Steve Bloem’s case, there would appear to have been a very large and serious physical problem, which required necessary and life-saving medication. However, it is far too big a step to move from this to proposing the “drug-treatment model” as the only model in every case, and medication as the only solution to every case. In this complex area, it is a big mistake to use one’s own experience as the “norm” for everyone else.

In some ways, the Bloem’s “all-physical” position is understandable. For far too long, Christian writers and speakers in this area have been over-influenced by the Jay Adams extreme position of “all-spiritual” in both causes and cures (see below). However, we must not over-react to one unhelpful extreme (“it’s all spiritual”) by going to another (“it’s all physical”).

2. Depression is all “spiritual”

This extreme position takes two forms. We shall look at the first briefly, as it is not so common in our circles, and then we shall look in more detail at the second. Thirdly, we shall consider the rare situations when depression does have a sole spiritual cause.

a. Mental illness is caused by demonic possession and therefore exorcism is required

This idea is associated with some Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches which place a large emphasis on “spiritual warfare”. The “spiritual warfare” movement takes the view that mental illness (just like alcoholism and immorality) is usually due to the demonisation of the believer – either demonic oppression or possession. The “treatment” therefore is to effect “deliverance” from or expulsion of these demons.

As we have already highlighted, there is substantial scientific evidence that connects mental illness with physical causes, a fact confirmed by the success of medications in relieving many of the symptoms.

Hopefully, such dangerous views and practices will eventually be swept away by the increased knowledge of medical research, just like advances in research and increased education of the public eventually swept away the once-common view that epilepsy was caused by demons.

b. Mental illness is caused by sin and therefore rebuke, repentance and confession are required

This idea is widespread in the Evangelical church, largely as a result of the writings of the American Christian counsellor, Jay Adams, and those who follow him.

We shall, firstly, summarise Adams’ approach. Secondly, we shall highlight the strengths of Adam’s reasoning, And, thirdly, we shall look at the weaknesses.

(i) Summary

Like the Bloems, Jay Adams’ approach is founded on his own personal experience of mental illness, in his case as he encountered it at two treatment centres in Illinois. He summarised his experience-based conclusion as follows:

“Apart from those who had organic problems like brain damage, the people I met in the two institutions in Illinois were there because of their own failure to meet life's problems. To put it simply, they were there because of their unforgiven and unaltered sinful behavior”[1]

On the basis of this he argues in another place:

“The hope for the depressed persons, as elsewhere, lies in this: the depression is the result of the counselee's sin.”[2]

If this diagnosis is correct, then we would expect the logical prescription to be “rebuke and repentance”, or counseling with a view to conviction and conversion, and that is exactly what we find in Adams’ writings. He describes his counseling method as “nouthetic counseling”. The word “nouthetic” is from the Greek noun nouthesia and verb noutheteo, to admonish, correct or instruct (Rom.15:14).

Following on logically from Adams’ belief that bad feelings are the result of bad actions, is the usual nouthetic remedy of, “If you do right, you feel right.” If you get depressed because of sinful behavior, then, obviously, you get better by righteous behavior.

(ii) Strengths

Adams was reacting against the humanistic view which explained sinful addictions like alcoholism as “sickness”, or which attributed immoral behavior to one’s genes, and so tried to remove people’s guilt feelings by encouraging them to deny personal responsibility for their actions and simply accept themselves as they were. Adams’ emphasis on the need to accept personal responsibility in these situations was very much needed.

Also, Adams’ approach is correct and pastorally useful in situations where the problem is everyday mood swings and simply “feeling down”. There are times in all of our lives when, often in response to difficult personal situations, we allow ourselves to wallow in hopeless self-pity and slip into blaming everybody else for our problems. At such times, nouthetic counseling is exactly what we need. We need to be confronted with the sinfulness of our reactions and to be encouraged to get on with our daily duties and responsibilities.

In addition, though he has gone too far in saying “mental illness is all spiritual”, Adams has shown the need for the spiritual dimension of mental illness to be addressed, and therefore has secured the role of Christian pastors and counsellors in treatments.

Finally, though we disagree with Adams’ argument that depression is almost always caused by sin, we must accept that sometimes, as a result of depression, people can adopt unhelpful attitudes and sinful behaviour patterns which should be sympathetically addressed and corrected.

(iii) Weaknesses

While Adams is to be commended for giving an important place to personal responsibility, he greatly errs in placing all responsibility on the patient.

The fundamental weakness of Adams’ approach is that he fails to appreciate the significant difference in kind between bad moods or short-term depressions of spirit, which are sometimes sinful and to be repented of, and the far deeper kinds of “depression” which have far more complex causes than the sinful choices of individuals. When comparing “feeling down” with “depression”, Adams says:

“This movement from down (not depression) to down and out (depression) occurs whenever one handles down feelings sinfully (thus incurring guilt and more guilt feelings), by following them rather than his responsibilities before God.”[3]

In Broken Minds the Bloems comment, “This is not Christianity, but the good old American pioneer, self-sufficient spirit.”[4]

To always put all the blame for depression on the individual is wrong, damaging and dangerous, as it can only increase the feelings of guilt and worthlessness. Such mistaken views have been around for a long time. Almost 150 years ago the depressed Charles Spurgeon said:

“It is all very well for those who are in robust health and full of spirits to blame those whose lives are sicklied or covered with the pale cast of melancholy, but the [malady] is as real as a gaping wound, and all the more hard to bear because it lies so much in the region of the soul that to the inexperienced it appears to be a mere matter of fancy and diseased imagination. Reader, never ridicule the nervous and hypochondrichal, their pain is real; though much of the [malady] lies in the imagination it is not imaginary.”[5]

Let us, for a moment, allow that Adams’ diagnosis is correct in some situations. Here is a person who has major depression as a result of his sinful handling of down feelings or his sinful reactions to difficult life events. A knock-on effect is that his brain chemicals are now imbalanced and his thought circuits are malfunctioning. He is at the bottom of the black hole of depression. He cannot do and he can hardly think. The last thing he needs is a preacher telling him to repent and shouting down the hole, “Do right and you will feel right.” He needs someone to shine a light and throw down a rope. Medicine can play this role. It can restore the chemicals required to help a person think. And then, if required, repentance can take place.

As we noted above, the nouthetic counseling movement grew out of a frustration at the way in which secular doctors and psychiatrists squeezed Christian pastors and counsellors out of any role in the treatment of mental illness. However, in the valiant and commendable attempt to secure a much-needed place for Christian pastors and counselors in the treatment of mental illness, the nouthetic counseling movement has often gone to the opposite extreme in attempting to exclude doctors and psychiatrists from the treatment process. In both cases the sufferer is the one who loses out.

A much more balanced view is reflected in the book I’m not supposed to feel like this:

“Being a Christian does not inoculate us from the possibility of experiencing anxiety or depression; many Christians have experienced quite severe depressive illnesses. This is true in the same way that being a Christian does not prevent you from becoming ill or falling victim to crime or assault.”[6]

Finally the Adams remedy of do right and you will feel right fails to address the faulty thought processes which have contributed to or have even caused the depression. Such superficial behavioristic solutions will often fail in the long-term.

c. Mental illness can sometimes be caused by sin

When a Christian becomes depressed, the first conclusion he usually jumps to is that the cause is spiritual, that his relationship with God, or poverty of it, is all to blame. While almost every depressed Christian will feel that their relationship with God is all wrong and all to blame, this overly-self-critical feeling is usually one of the fruits of depression and, therefore, is usually wrong. It is important for the Christian in such situations to doubt, question and even challenge the accuracy of their feelings as they rarely reflect the facts.

Having said that, however, it is important to acknowledge the occasional possibility of a primarily spiritual cause. The Psalms of lament describe the depressed feelings of the Psalmists which were usually no fault of their own. However, we do have Psalm 32 and 51 which clearly link the traumatic physical and mental symptoms of depression with David’s sins of murder and adultery.

In later addresses we will examine how to decide if depression has spiritual causes or simply spiritual consequences. However, I agree with the general stance taken by the authors of I’m not supposed to feel like this, that we should, in general, reassure Christians suffering with depression that most often their damaged spiritual relationships and feelings are not the cause of their depression but the consequence of it.

3. Depression is all mental (“in the mind”)

“It’s all in the mind” can mean two very different things. Some people who say it, may be correctly identifying the seat of the depression – the chemical imbalances in the brain. However, most people who say it are incorrectly alleging that the depression is a fiction, a delusion, something made up. Usually implicit, and sometimes explicit, in this view is the idea that the depressed person is someone with a weak and fragile mind.

Charles Spurgeon, who suffered from frequent deep depression and anxiety, and who could hardly be accused of mental weakness, addressed this fallacy in the quote we looked at previously. He said:

“Reader, never ridicule the nervous and hypochondrichal, their pain is real; though much of the [malady] lies in the imagination it is not imaginary.”[7]

Mental illnesses, such as depression, afflict the strong and the weak, the clever and the simple, those of a happy temperament and those of a melancholy temperament. Never was the caution so much needed, “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor.10:12)


Let us try to recognise the exceeding complexity of mental illness and resist the temptation to propose and accept simple analysis and solutions. Just as no two hearts are identically diseased, and just as no two cancers are the same, no two mental illnesses are the same in cause, symptoms, depth, duration and cure. Therefore, we must avoid making our own experience the norm for others.

The body, the soul, and the mind are extremely complicated entities and the inter-relation of the physical, the spiritual, and the mental is even more complicated. Unravelling the sequence of what went wrong in a depressed person’s brain, soul, or thoughts is usually a humanly impossible task. Analysis of the mental, physical, and spiritual contributions to the situation is equally difficult.

Consequently, the prescription of solutions is often a matter that takes much time and even trial and error. There are no quick fixes. For Christians there will need to be a balance between medicine for the brain, counsel for the mind, and spiritual encouragement for the soul. Recovery will usually take patient perseverance over a period of many months, even years.

Great care is therefore required in coming to conclusions about our condition or that of others. We finish by underlining our two main principles. Avoid dogmatism and seek humility. Avoid extremes and seek balance.

[1] Jay Adams, Competetent to Counsel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), xvi

[2] Jay Adams, Christian Counselor Manual (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), 378.

[3] Jay Adams, What about Nouthetic Counseling, 4 n.7.

[4] S & R Bloem, Broken Minds (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005), p187.

[5] Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 3 Vols (Newark, Del.: Cornerstone, 1869), 2.132

[6] C Williams, P Richards, I Whitton, I’m not supposed to feel like this, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2002), 33.

[7] Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 3 Vols (Newark, Del.: Cornerstone, 1869), 2.132.

All 6 articles on Depression and the Christian:

  1. The Crisis
  2. The Complexity
  3. The Condition
  4. The Causes
  5. The Cures
  6. The Carer

Depression and the Christian : 1 - The Crisis

(These series 6 messages on "Depression and the Christian" are also available on .pdf, .mp3 and video formats which can be downloaded from the website of Sermon Audio )





Perhaps you clicked on the link to this video out of desperation. Perhaps, like many Christians, you are secretly suffering with a mental illness – maybe depression, or maybe panic attacks – and you have tried many remedies but are growing no better, only worse. Or perhaps someone in your family is suffering in this way and you just don’t know how to respond or help. Or, maybe, you are a pastor who feels helpless when confronted with mental illness among the sheep of his flock.

Whatever your reason for clicking, I hope you will find something in this series of addresses which will either help you in your suffering, or which will help you in ministering to the suffering.

In this introductory address we shall consider the question, “Why study depression?” In the second, we will ask “How should we study depression?” Thirdly, we will look at “What is depression?”. And, in subsequent addresses we will begin to look in detail at the different approaches to helping people with depression. We will look at what the sufferer can do, what the carers can do, and what the Church can do.

Before we go on, perhaps you are asking yourself what qualifies me to speak on this subject. That is a valid question, which I will answer in four ways.

Firstly, let me make clear that I am not a medical doctor. I have, however, checked all the contents of these addresses with an experienced medical doctor who has first-hand experience in treating many patients with mental illness.

Secondly, I have been a pastor for 11 years in the North West of Scotland, both in Wester Ross and the Outer Hebrides, areas with some of the highest rates of mental illness in the world. While I do not consider myself to be an expert, I have had multiple contacts with people who suffer from mental illnesses. This also means that my motivation in making these videos, and my methodology in producing them, is not academic but is highly practical. I desperately want to help sufferers and those who minister to them.

Thirdly, I have had close and painful experience of depression, anxiety and panic attacks among friends and some of those I love most in this world.

Fourthly, I believe that God has given me a burden to speak on this subject, a burden which I cannot ignore any longer. And, I trust, with the God-given burden will come the God-given wisdom to speak in such a way that will minister to God’s suffering people.


Mental illness is a term that covers a large number of complex conditions. So, before we proceed any further, I would like to state what aspects of mental illness I am going to focus on in this series of addresses. The area I am particularly concerned with is the most common mental illness – depression. As anxiety and panic attacks are also very commonly associated with depression (so much so that doctors are increasingly using the term “depression-anxiety” when referring to depression), we will look at these distressing conditions also.

But firstly, why should we study this subject, depression? Here are eight reasons.

1. Because the Bible speaks about it

There are numerous Bible verses which refer to depression and severe anxiety – its causes, its consequences, and its cures. The Bible does not address every cause, every consequence or provide every cure. But, as we shall see in later addresses, it does have an important role to play in the treatment of Christians who are suffering from depression and anxiety.

It must be admitted that the Bible never states that “Bible Character X had mental illness,” or “Bible Character Y was depressed.” However, it does frequently describe men and women who manifested many of the symptoms of depression and anxiety. In some cases, it is not clear whether these symptoms reflect long-term mental illness or simply a temporary dip in the person’s mental health, which everyone goes through from time to time. For example, symptoms of depression/anxiety can be seen in Moses (Num.11:14), Hannah (1 Sam.1:7,16), and Jeremiah (Jer.20:14-18; Lam.3:1-6). In these cases it is difficult to say whether the symptoms reflect a depression or a dip. Martin Lloyd-Jones argues from biblical evidence that Timothy suffered from near-paralysing anxiety.[1] A more persuasive case for depressive illness can be made for Elijah (1 Kings 17:7-24), Job (Job.6:2-3, 14, 7:11), and various Psalmists (Ps.42:1-3, 9a; Ps.88).

“The Psalms treat depression more realistically than many of today's popular books on Christianity and psychology. David and other psalmists often found themselves deeply depressed for various reasons. They did not, however, apologize for what they were feeling, nor did they confess it as sin. It was a legitimate part of their relationship with God. They interacted with Him through the context of their depression.”[2]

Another significant verse is Proverbs 18:14, “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” The human spirit can help people through all kinds of sickness. However, when the healing mechanism is what needs healing, then even more serious problems arise.

2. Because it is so common

1 in 5 people experience depression, and 1 in 10 experience a panic attack, at one stage in their lives. An estimated 121 million people suffer from depression. 5.8 % of men and 9.5% of women will experience a depressive episode in any given year. Suicide, often the end result of depression, is the leading cause of violent deaths worldwide, accounting for 49.1% of all violent deaths compared with 18.6% in war and 31.3% by homicide.

It is also common in Christians. Indeed, these days there would appear to be an epidemic of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks among Christians – both young and old. This is at least partly because of the depressing state of the Church and of the Nation. Every few days there is discouraging news about Church splits or problems, and Christians backsliding or falling into temptation. Then there is the secular and anti-Christian direction of the Government as it continues to dismantle the Judeo-Christian laws and standards that our civilisation was built upon, and as it attacks and undermines family life. On top of this, there is the relentless audio-visual misrepresentation and persecution of Christians through the print and broadcast media. To top it all there seems to be an unceasing diet of bad news on the international stage, with wars, terrorism, and “natural” disasters ever before us.

In these conditions, it is therefore little wonder that Christians react adversely, and get depressed and anxious about themselves, their families, their Church, and the world they live in.

3. Because it impacts our spiritual life

We might say that there are three main elements in our make-up that affect our overall well-being: our body, our soul, and our mind (our thoughts). These are not three watertight and disconnected entities. There is considerable overlap and connectivity. When our body breaks down, it affects our spiritual life and our thinking processes. When our spiritual life is in poor condition, our thoughts are affected, and often our bodily health and functions also. It is therefore no surprise that when our mental health is poor, when our thinking processes go awry, that there are detrimental physical and spiritual consequences.

The depressed believer cannot concentrate to read or pray. He doesn’t want to meet people and so may avoid church and fellowships. He often feels God has abandoned him.

Moreover, it is often the case that faith, instead of being a help, can actually cause extra problems in dealing with depression. There is, for instance, the false guilt associated with the false conclusion, “Real Christians don’t get depressed.” There is also the usually mistaken tendency to locate the cause of mental illness in our spiritual life, our relationship with God, which also increases false guilt and feelings of worthlessness.

4. Because it may be prevented or mitigated

Many people have a genetic pre-disposition to depression, perhaps traceable to their parents’ genes, which increases the likelihood of suffering it themselves. However, even in these cases, knowledge of some of the other factors which may be involved in causing depression can sometimes help prevent it, or at least mitigate and shorten it. Others, with no genetic pre-disposition to depression can also fall into it, often as a reaction to traumatic life-events. And, again, having some knowledge of mental health strategies and techniques can be especially useful in preventing or mitigating and shortening the illness.

One great benefit of having some knowledge about depression is that it will prevent the dangerous and damaging misunderstanding which often leads people, especially Christians, to view medication as a rejection of God and His grace, rather than a provision of God and His grace.

5. Because it will open doors of usefulness

Increased understanding of depression will make us more sympathetic and useful to people suffering from it. This is taught by the converse truth in Proverbs 25:20, “As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.” If we saw someone fighting for life in the midst of a freezing blizzard, the last thing we would do is take his coat away. Such an action would be cruel and heartless, and could easily lead to death. But, says the Bible, similar dangerous heartlessness is displayed by the person who tries to help their depressed friend with superficial humor and insensitive exhortations to “Cheer up!”

In later videos we shall look in more detail at what friends and carers should say and do for those suffering with depression and anxiety. However, the general rule is that those who listen most and speak least will be the most useful to sufferers.

6. Because it is so misunderstood

“Being depressed is bad enough in itself, but being a depressed Christian is worse. And being a depressed Christian in a church full of people who do not understand depression is like a little taste of hell.”[3]

As we all know there is a terrible stigma attached to mental illness. This is the result of widespread misunderstanding about its causes, its symptoms, and the “cures” available. Some of the misunderstanding is understandable. Unlike cancer or heart disease or arthritis, there is no scan or test which can visibly demonstrate the existence of depression/anxiety. It is a largely “invisible” disease. We want to be able to point to something and say, “There’s the problem!” When we can’t, we often wrongly conclude, “There is no problem!” Or, if we are Christians, we may, usually wrongly, conclude, “My spiritual life is the problem!”

This misunderstanding is addressed in the excellent book, I’m not supposed to feel like this (a book written by a Christian pastor, a Christian psychiatrist, and a Christian lecturer in psychiatry). Near the beginning of the book, they summarise what they believe and what they do not believe about depression:

“What we believe: We believe that all Christians can experience worry, fear, upset and depression. We also believe that being a Christian does not prevent us or our loved ones from experiencing upsetting and challenging problems such as illness, unemployment, or relationship and other practical difficulties.

What we do not believe; Although at times we all choose to act in ways that are wrong and this can lead to bad consequences for us and for others, we do not see anxiety and depression as always being the result of sin; neither do we

believe that mental health problems are the result of a lack of faith.”[4]

It is absolutely vital for Christians to understand and accept that while mental illness usually has serious consequences for our spiritual life, mental illness is rarely caused by problems in our spiritual life.

7. Because it is a talent to be invested for God

Like all affliction in the lives of Christians, mental illness should be viewed as a “talent” (Matt.25:14ff) which can be invested in such a way that it brings benefit to us and others, as well as glory to God.

Dr James Dobson, the Christian psychologist, observed that “nothing is wasted in God’s economy.” That “nothing” includes mental illness.

Mind over Mood, while not written from a Christian perspective, illustrates the possible “benefits” of depression thus:

“An oyster creates a pearl out of a grain of sand. The grain of sand is an irritant to the oyster. In response to the discomfort, the oyster creates a smooth, protective coating that encases the sand and provides relief. The result is a beautiful pearl. For an oyster, an irritant becomes the seed for something new. Similarly, Mind Over Mood will help you develop something valuable from your current discomfort. The skills taught in this book will help you feel better and will continue to have value in your life long after your original problems are gone.”[5]

It is usually broken people that God uses most. In Passion and Purity, Elisabeth Elliot

quoted Ruth Stull of Peru:

“If my life is broken when given to Jesus it is because pieces will feed a multitude, while a loaf will satisfy only a little lad.”[6]

8. Because we can all improve our mental health

Most Christians try to take preventative (and curative) measures to enjoy good physical health and spiritual life. However, there is less consciousness of the similar effort required to maintain or recover mental health. There is much less awareness of the biblical strategies and sound mental techniques that can be used to achieve good mental health, which obviously has beneficial consequences for our bodies and our souls.

I have never been diagnosed with any kind of mental illness. However, like most people, and especially like most ministers, I have had low points in my life. My thinking processes have gone wrong, causing times of mild depression, and anxiety.

What I now know about improving and maintaining mental health, and what I hope to communicate in later addresses, would have greatly helped me in these low periods. What I have learned is helping me on a daily basis to overcome disappointment and handle stressful situations without my mental health suffering as much as before.

As I look around me, and especially as I look around the Church, I can see many people who have not been diagnosed with depression, and who are not disabled with it, but who are experiencing long-term, low-level depression/anxiety which is having its own knock-on effect on their bodily health and the spiritual lives.

I believe that it would not be too difficult for them to learn some sound strategies and techniques which will improve mental health, and consequently their bodily and spiritual health.

In the next video we will consider the attitude and spirit in which we should study depression.

Dr. David P Murray served as the Pastor of Lochcarron Free Church of Scotland from 1995 to 2000, and then of Stornoway Free Church of Scotland (continuing) from 2000 to 2007. In August 2007 he accepted a call to be the Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

[1] M Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1965), 93ff.

[2] S & R Bloem, Broken Minds (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005), 204.

[3] J Lockley, A Practical Workbook for the Depressed Christian (Bucks: Authentic Media, 1991), 14.

[4] C Williams, P Richards, I Whitton, I’m not supposed to feel like this, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2002), 10.

[5] D Greenberger & C Padesky, Mind over Mood, (New York: Guilford, 1995), 1.

[6] E Elliot, Passion and Purity, Power Books (Old Tappan, NJ.: Revell, 1984).

All 6 articles on Depression and the Christian:

  1. The Crisis
  2. The Complexity
  3. The Condition
  4. The Causes
  5. The Cures
  6. The Carer

Videos and mp3 messages on Depression and The Christian

Dr. David P Murray produced a series of 6 video messages on "Depression and The Christian" which I found to be most enlightening, encouraging and balance in its view. I was personally greatly helped by his messages on this series. These video messages will enable Christians who are suffering from depression to understand a little about the pain and suffering God is allowing them to go through in depression. It will gives some hope and guides on how to get better. These video messages will also help to educate the family, friends, and church to understand a little about the pains and sufferings someone with depression has to go through, the possible causes and cures, and how best to relate to such a sufferer so as to be of maximum benefit and help to him/her and not cause more hurt.

These messages are also available in .mp3 and .pdf formats. They are free for download on the website of Sermon Audio. I highly recommend them. I have reproduced the .pdf message into my blog under "Depression and The Christian".

The 6 lectures are on:

  1. The Crisis
  2. The Complexity
  3. The Condition
  4. The Causes
  5. The Cures
  6. The Carer
Dr David P Murray served as the Pastor of Lochcarron Free Church of Scotland from 1995 to 2000, and then of Stornoway Free Church of Scotland (continuing) from 2000 to 2007. In August 2007 he accepted a call to be the Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.