Can You Have Faith and Be Depressed?

30 minutes ago I stood in the line to checkout at a local grocer. I read the cover of People magazine illustrated with a photo of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. I thinks its tragic for anyone to suffer with depression or anxiety and then act upon their suicidal thoughts, taking their own life. Its terribly sad and I feel for them and their families.

I watched as my father suffered for at least 2 decades with clinical depression. Here was a man, my father,..a strong man,..my provider through most of my life up to that point in the late 80’s, who couldn’t shake it off. How I wished he could have.

Sometimes it’s a temporary condition due to some loss in life. That’s normal, even expected, as with a death, for example. Sometimes depression is a biochemical medical condition. It can’t be shaken off or washed away like dust. It is a long term illness requiring more than positive thinking and faith in God. Long term use of medicines, counseling and a long term plan of care may be needed.

There’s stigma associated with depression…at least it was greater than it is now. No one is immune, even Christians. There’s a record of the prophet Elijah who suffered a bout with it following an intense event and threat upon his life. Even Jesus Christ Himself suffered with such great anxiety in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to His trial, that He told the disciples He was in agony to the point He though He might die, and sweated blood-a real medical condition called hematodrosis, which can occur under great emotional anxiety/stress!

For those Christians who think all you need is Jesus and faith; I know many Christians, pastors/ministers who suffered, and some who will continue through the rest of their life…and they know God and walk with Him daily. Will God’s own people suffer this? Yes, they can. Is it a matter of not having enough faith? No, I don’t think so…often, no. Can God heal them? Sure. I think of it like this-many suffer with physical medical problems yet our Father God hasn’t healed them. Many instances are recorded where Jesus didn’t heal people, and some that He did heal had faith and some did not. ¬†Are any condemned for lack of faith? Don’t many with physical medical problems receive medical care long term, too, but are not thought to be without faith? Let’s not be judgmental when anyone isn’t healed, particularly with matters of the mind and heart. Having more faith isn’t always the panacea, otherwise why have any of us ever sought medical attention from a physician?

Six years ago I was invited to speak at a regional mental health conference as the only religious speaker ( and the afternoon keynote, to my surprise); the theme: Suicide Prevention. In preparation, I researched studies from the the World Health Organization and many medical journals to add with my biblical study. Research of secular studies indicated attending church, engaging in regular spiritual practices and faith in God were effective applied activities that actually helping to reduce suicidal ideation, I was glad to read, however they were not all what people needed only.

Be compassionate with any who experience this. Offer comfort. Love. Pray their hope in life and living is restored. I believed God cared deeply about Anthony and Kate. May God be a comfort to their families. The Bibles states that God is a very present help in time of need and that we can cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us. If you suffer with this, know He sees you and cares about you, and know help is  available and manageable relief is achievable.

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