Depression and Christmas
- Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The "Holiday Blues," anxiety and even depression affect many people about this time of year. To some, remembrance of pleasant childhood memories now gone forever contrast with today's unpleasant realities. Issues such as family strife, unemployment with financial constraints, loneliness from prior losses of loved ones, isolation, unrealized expectations and even family gatherings with tension from estranged relatives may contribute to sadness and despair. The time of joy, cheer, wonderful family reunions and the enjoyment of deep, meaningful relationships just doesn't exist for many. Personal circumstances mock "It's a Wonderful Life."
But unfortunately, feelings of hopelessness and despair occur at any time of year for others. Unrelenting depression haunts the souls of many Christians day after day after day with nothing to blame, no clear cause and no sudden discovery of the underlying problem.
As a Christian medical doctor, I care for many committed Christians and have heard what follows.
She described her symptoms to me. She felt down, had no joy in formerly joyful activities, wanted to hide in her bedroom and pull the covers over her head, cried at anything and nothing, constantly barked at her husband and children and had considered suicide. She found simple chores impossible. Fellowship became painful to endure. Prayer became a hollow exercise. She searched her life for unconfessed sin and confessed it all. Worship meant talking with congregants after the service which took all her effort. She cried as she spoke. She tried everything her friends recommended; get out more, pray more, study the Bible more, exercise, take the latest nutriceutical, eat organic and even, "snap out of it." Nothing helped. I prescribed an anti-depressant for her.
Depression is the word in the church that must not be spoken. Those taking anti-depressants may find themselves stigmatized by pastors, elders or church members. I've had patients forbidden by husbands and elders from taking medicine for serious depression. I've had many Christian women take anti-depressants secretly, fearing the backlash waiting them should the church or their family find out.
I've heard some pastors rage from the pulpit, "We've given up God for a happy pill! Instead of depending on the power of God and the truth of his word, we've become the Prozac generation! Doctor's pass out depression pills like candy!" Perhaps you've heard sermons like that as well. Few conditions generate more controversy in the evangelical church than depression.
The word "depression" does not appear in the ESV translation of the Bible, but the Bible certainly addresses sorrow and despair often with vivid descriptions.
Even in David, the man after God's own heart, speaks of his despair. In Psalm 88:3-9, David writes,
For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.(ESV)
David also wrote,
"Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. Psalms 69: 1,2. (ESV)
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