It is of particular concern to me when I meet a teen boy or girl who is struggling with depression. It just makes me so sad to know the battle that is being waged, and how unexpected it is for a lot of kids and their families.
Because I work in a Christian counseling office, I usually ask sometime early in our work together about my clients’ spiritual relationship with God. One of the things that confuses them is that they have often been taught that a good Christian doesn’t experience depression. Feelings of strong guilt grow along with the depression, and it’s one of the first things we need to discuss.
It is so damaging, no matter a person’s age, to be told that he just needs to get right with God, just needs to trust the promises of God. The implication, then, is that he is NOT right with God, that he has NOT been trusting God. The feelings of despair will continue to grow if this negative pattern of thinking is not confronted with the truth of God’s Word.
It is true that there is always a spiritual piece in depression. David, whose Psalms often reflect the struggle he had with depression, made it clear that he knew when he had sinned against God, and he wept and repented, and sought for restoration. I am not overlooking the possibility of sin lurking in a person’s heart, but I also know, from walking with my own husband through a terrible depression, that he did search his heart, begging God to show him if there was some hidden sin.
The truth for a lot of people who experience depression is that they are worn out, body and soul. Exhausted. Often, their personality type is that of the melancholy, who is an analytical, detail-oriented perfectionist who easily falls into feeling of guilt and even shame when things don’t go perfectly. These thoughts and emotions can lead to insomnia, or to a need to sleep ALL the time. Slowly, the person’s supply of the “feel-good chemicals” created in the brain and the gut become depleted, and a serious depression follows.
Treatment, to be the most effective, needs to address body, soul, and spirit. Proper diet, hygiene, exercise, maybe medication, and good talk therapy to help replace the negative thinking patters with positive, biblically-based thinking all work together to bring the person back to normal. Done well, therapy gives him tools to recognize negativity and take steps to turn it around.
It is so important to encourage, not to scold. To focus on positives, not to preach. To use prayer as a positive force, not an opportunity to lecture.
Starting with my husband’s experience, and all during the 17 years since I started working in this field, I’ve seen dozens and dozens of depressed believers who feel they’re the most sinful people on earth. I’m so thankful to have a different understanding of the whole subject now, and to be able to offer help and hope.
I love my job.