When my freshman year roommate in medical school confided in me that she suffered from depression and had once attempted suicide, I remember feeling apprehensive. We often fear what we do not understand, and even today, some 40 years later, we still don’t completely understand depression; there is still a lot of uneasiness among people when mental illness is spoken of or experienced.
Some years later, I experienced some of what my roommate had suffered. I know the Lord presented this to me to teach me several things. I knew I wasn’t “crazy,” but I also knew I could not overcome the deep despondency I was experiencing. Through this I learned to not fear mental illness so much and also gained empathy with others experiencing the same. God showed me how smug and judgmental my attitude had been toward those I had deemed to be “crazy people.”
It also helped me reach out to my patients (I was an OB/GYN for 25 years, now retired) who were suffering depression or other forms of mental dysfunction. It gave me more credibility with my patients and enabled me to help them realize that there should be no stigma to treating such disorders. I would tell them, “If you had pneumonia, you wouldn’t hesitate to take an antibiotic. If you have a chemical imbalance in your brain, don’t hesitate to take an appropriately-prescribed treatment.”
The Lord used doctors and medication to relieve my depression, but it was a process. I remember yearning to feel “normal” again and relating to Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14). I remember a conversation with God in prayer, “Oh, Lord, my life and even my worship have become nothing but dry bones!” Ezekiel 37:3 reads “[The Lord] asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.’ “
The Lord spoke to me through His words to Ezekiel in verses 5-6: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
I took this as a promise from God, and it kept me looking up while the healing proceeded. Yes, he made my dry bones live again by breathing His breath into me. Moreover, He used my experience to help others. Yes, He is the Lord, indeed!
For more on the struggles with our thought life and mental health issues, check out the eight part series entitled ‘Captive‘ based on 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Marilyn is a retired OB/GYN and member of the Study With Friends Ministries advisory board.
Suffering from depression is one of those illnesses that are so hard to see and able to hide. My husband and I both suffer from depression. There are days that it is so hard to even wake up and move or even trying to do every day activities. I was raised in a home that I couldn’t express what I was feeling or even talk to anyone. As a result I was convinced that I was crazy and started to push people away. It took years to even realize what I was feeling. I agree that this walk is not to be done alone that the enemy will take a foot hold and whisper lies. I fell very deep this past year having thoughts of taking my own life. God truly saves he never left me he shows me and keeps working with me to walk in his promises. Some days are harder then most but knowing that I have a God that knows me and still loves me gets me though. Depression is day by day its is a hard journey to recovery. I take medication since my brain doesn’t produce the proper chemicals. Im thankful that God uses people to be his hands, eyes and ears.
Pam, I think Marilyn’s comments are spot on and just want to second her thoughts. I, too, am a Christian suffering from chronic anxiety that is treated with medication. I wrote a blog telling a little bit about my experience. If you would like to read it, you can search “Clean Socks” on this site. But more to the point, I will be praying for you. I don’t know why some of us are afflicted with mental illness just like I don’t know why some of us are afflicted with physical illnesses. God can and will get you through this difficult time as you continue to rely on Him. I don’t know if God wants to teach your small group friends through your experience, or if He wants you to find a different small group but I am sure that He will show you. In the meantime, appropriately prescribed medication and counseling together are the most effective treatment. I encourage you to find a Christian psychologist or other qualified therapist who can help and support you if you haven’t done that yet.
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17-18
Thank you for your prayers and kind words. I do have good doctors helping me and and very blessed for that. I’ve just been frustrated with my Christian friends that have held to the beliefs that I outlined in my original comment. They feel they back it up with the many scriptures that tell us not to worry and not to be anxious. Where I see those scriptures as reassurances they inturpret them as commands. My spirit isn’t convitited so that’s the end of it for me but I wish they understood.
Hey Pam, me again. I just talked to my daughter Sofia, who is 13 and also deals with anxiety. I asked if there were any words she wanted to share with you and she wisely reminded me that community is everything. She says it helps her a lot to have fiends to talk to who are Christians who also deal w this. Someone who can understand the balance between how God calls us to manage our thoughts (2 Cor 10:4-5) and when we just can’t. You are experiencing the opposite of that support, but if you can seek out someone or a couple folks who can understand what you are coping with, it could be a great blessing to you. Either way you are not alone. Many of us and certainly many more in the church overall do struggle with depression and anxiety. It’s real and it’s painful. You are not alone.
God bless your sweet Sophia! Thank her for her wise words
Thank you for this! I struggle trying to explain depression and anxiety to those in my small group at church. They keep saying that it’s a sin of idolatry because I must value the thing I have anxiety over more than I trust God. It’s very painful. It’s like telling someone with cancer that if they had enough faith they wouldn’t need chemo.
Hi Pam. I am so sad to read this. I wanted to reply right away. I feel the pain in your words. I am so sorry that you have experienced this with your church family. Please try to remember that they are imperfect people and I will pray that you can give them grace, though I know when you are hurting that’s hard to do. I also wanted to affirm you that depression and anxiety are valid, medical issues. We recently did a Bible Study series called ‘Captive’ which you can find under our ‘Bible Study’ tab at the top of this page. We tried, over several weeks of these broadcasts, to find the balance between those thoughts we CAN take captive through the strength of Jesus Christ, and when it’s time to seek help. I hope that the series will be useful to you as you work through this. Meantime, I have reached out to some of our team here to ask them to pray for you and comment here too. We are here for you, even when you have trouble finding others who understand. Please stay in touch. You can email us too at [email protected]
Marilyn Franzi says
Oh, Pam, Why do we Christians do that to each other? We now understand, at least, that much depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain. Anxiety may be the same. Just like hemophilia is caused by the lack of a certain clotting factor. Is that a sin of idolatry? God put us together, piece by piece, gene by gene before we were ever born (see Psalm 139–I LOVE this Psalm!). He can also fix anything that is broken in us, his fallen creatures. But we cannot know the mind of God. God does not choose to heal everyone, and that may be because our diseases and our responses to them serve a much greater purpose in God’s plan. We cannot begin to understand His omniscient, omnipotent plan and how He is working all things out for the good of those who love Him. But it takes great trust to accept what God allows in our lives and to allow Him to be glorified through it. As I tried to convey in my blog, one of the things God did to me through depression was give me empathy and compassion. Before I suffered, I wanted to just take depressed people by the shoulders and shake them till they got happy. It just doesn’t work that way, does it? And God hit me over the head with it until I realized how unkind and uncompassionate my attitude had been. Some 20+ years later, I still take antidepressants. I thank God for how they help me. I thank Him for what He has taught me through my experience, humbling as it may be. So, with all due respect to your friends, their statements are not from God, but from Satan. They are Satan’s lies, so don’t believe them. May God be glorified through your trials. And may His will be done in your life and mine!
I don’t think for a moment that my small group means to be hurtful. They simply don’t understand. I’m glad they have never experienced true depression or an anxiety attack but it’s so difficult to explain it to someone who no experience. I know they are truly trying to help me be as godly as possible. I pray that He will use me in some way to help them understand for the next person they know with similar needs.
Hi Pam, thank you for sharing and allowing yourself to be vulnerable with your online community of friends. We are definitely praying for you (as Holly said). Your struggle is real and because it’s not a physical pain for others to see, their encouragement can be a discouragement. Praise Jesus you know Him because He does know your struggle and is with you every moment. I am all too familiar with the reaction form friends, Christians and otherwise, when I share that depression took residency in me when I was 15. I am now almost 50 and still struggle. Praise God for my salvation, my psychiatrists, the companies that make medication and for a strong network of family and friends I can talk to when depression is overpowering me. That network took me a long time to cultivate and I am still tilling the soil.
Scripture had many verses to cling to and one that keeps me from tipping over the edge is Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” God is fighting all your battles, Pam. Trust in Him.
Thank you for your kind supportive words. I pray that God uses us both in amazing ways for His kingdom.