I heard about a conversation between two individuals in which one was telling the other about his lack of motivation at work, feelings of malaise, no energy, no desire to do things he normally loved, and paralyzing anxiety when faced with a stressful situation. The man’s friend responded, “you’re depressed” to which the first individual replied, “I’m a deacon in my church; I’m not supposed to be.”
Are Christians never supposed to be depressed? Is there something wrong with the faith of a Christian who finds himself or herself caught in a web of anxiety and depression?
Christians, especially Christian leaders, are supposed to “have it all together.” They are supposed to be shining examples of joy and happiness because of God’s love inside them. Depression in a church leader sounds like an impossible contradiction.
And yet, it happens.
It’s prevalent among Pastors. An article in the New York Times (Aug. 1, 2010) states that 75 percent of pastors report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
Congregations are full of Christians suffering depression as well. The World Health Organization states that 15 percent of the population in developed countries suffers from depression. That’s a very high statistic. More than one in ten people sitting in the pews any given Sunday could be depressed. Many seek no treatment.
Is there something wrong with these people?
No. The pressures of life, especially long-term stress, can cause anxiety and depression. Pressures from finances, relationships, careers or conflict can bring on depression in some. Others are prone to brain chemistry that lacks either serotonin or dopamine. A lack of serotonin causes anxiety while a lack of dopamine causes feelings of sadness and malaise.
Being depressed does not mean a Christian’s faith has faltered. It is not sinful to be depressed nor is it a sign of weakness. Depression is a real condition caused by many different biological and environmental issues.
Don’t suffer alone.
Go to your pastor. Go to the doctor. Seek help from a mental health professional.
Depression can be managed with help. Christians are called to bear one another’s burdens. Instead of increasing the burden of those suffering from this debilitation, let’s help each other overcome through the love of Christ as expressed by His people.
If you know someone who is depressed or if you are depressed, find someone who can help and don’t give in to the lie that “we’re supposed to have it all together.” We don’t.
Rob Morton is minister of First Christian Church Middlesboro. Contact him at [email protected]