Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Depression: Christians Aren't Immune

I have been struggling with anxiety and depression off and on since October. The past two months have been the worst. God has graciously answered my prayers for strength when I've been needed by my family, and I've been able to keep facilitating Bible studies. However, I recently had a mild panic attack. At my husband's insistence, I talked things over with my doctor, and though I am medication-sensitive, next week I'm going to start taking a small dose of Zoloft to see if I can tolerate the medicine. I have not gotten to the point of this woman in the article below, but I have certainly been there--back in 2003. I don't want to let things go that far again. Still, in my heart, I wanted to know if I was doing what God wanted me to do. So I prayed and prayed just this morning--getting up at 3:43 am. I left my quiet time knowing He heard me and that I needed to wait for His answer. Around 7:00, I was looking online for the next Bible study I will facilitate when God put this article before me. I believe this is His answer to my prayer for reassurance I'm doing the right thing regarding taking medication.


Christians Aren't Immune to Depression

by Victoria York on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Recognize that seeking professional help and trusting God can go hand-in-hand.
In the Winter of 2006-2007 during an especially sorrowful and stressful period, I plummeted into a mental state unlike anything I've experienced before or since. This was not simply a case of the blues. I lost all interest in the activities that constituted life: engaging with people, writing, enjoying recreation, being productive in my career, and daily rituals like grocery shopping. The moment I woke, I longed for bedtime -- for escape -- and yet I couldn't sleep.
Nausea, confusion, and exhaustion plagued me. Smiling was impossible in the face of intolerable sadness. Pulling myself out of bed each morning was torment. The thought of continuing in such blackness for one more hour, let alone one more week, was unbearable as I struggled to "keep it together." I dreaded social situations. The sound of conversation and laughter among my coworkers became foreign to me, until I couldn't recall what either one felt like. I knew I'd laughed and conversed thousands of times, but now it seemed ludicrous and utterly impossible.
Worst of all, although God hadn't left me, the awareness of His presence that I'd always enjoyed had vanished. One evening, I mentioned my struggle to someone who was spiritually sound and whose opinion I valued. "I can't feel God," I said. "This sadness is devouring me, and I can't find Him, no matter what I do."
My friend answered, "There's got to be some kind of sin in your life if you feel separated from God. Examine your life and try to figure out where you've gone wrong."
My friend meant well, but he had inadvertently kicked me when I was at my lowest. His words didn't make sense. Even though I couldn't feel God, I knew I hadn't turned my back on Him. And somehow I knew He hadn't deserted me. My friend simply didn't realize that believers aren't immune to the horrors of clinical depression. Like many Christians, he mistakenly assumed that being a Christ-follower insulates a person against depression. This notion is so prevalent that many Christians feel too guilty and embarrassed to discuss their struggles. They forget that not even the spiritual giants of Scripture were immune to this type of suffering. Think of Elijah, who went from great victory into deep depression, or David, who expressed his pain in Psalm 6:6: "I am weary from my groaning; with my tears I dampen my pillow and drench my bed every night."
One Friday afternoon, my despair became so suffocating that I asked a girlfriend (whose husband had suffered mental illness) what was required to check oneself into a hospital, just in case. All hope, joy, pleasure, and light had ceased to exist for me. I begged God to give me a moment's assurance, some sign, but the nothingness continued. It was sheer grace that allowed me to hang on until Monday, when I finally called my doctor and dragged myself to his office. I remember feeling bewildered as I watched the woman across from me in the waiting area peruse a magazine and smile pleasantly at a nurse. How could she be so carefree? How was she untouched by the desolation that had swallowed me?
The next hour changed my life. After I described my symptoms to my doctor, he asked about my circumstances and then ran some tests. His conclusion: My depression was the result of years' worth of nearly continual stress, compounded by recent occurrences. Quite simply, I had drained my body of serotonin, the "feel-good" hormone. He prescribed a medication that would give me a bit of relief and allow me the time to "refill my tank." Within four months, I was off the medication. Finally, I was laughing and living again.
Can depression be a sign of disobedience? Yes, it certainly can. But it can also be caused by medical or chemical issues, mental or physical exhaustion, and so on. Can God heal us in an instant? Yes, He can and often does. But if you're in the "waiting stage," don't assume God is displeased with you. Talk with God about how you feel and listen to His voice of truth. Feeling separated from His presence does not equal being separated from His presence. Feelings can be very unreliable. Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself while trusting that you completely belong to the Father. Recognize that seeking professional help and trusting God can go hand-in-hand.
Above all, remember that if you are a believer, your standing with God has not changed. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. For "not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!" (Rom. 8:38-39).

This article is courtesy of Mature Living magazine. 


Kimberly Obrien said...

This is a wonderful article and I have learned not to worry about what others may think. I have Christians in my life right now that think taking medication is unnecessary if you pray hard enough. I am telling you that through prayer and the help of my medical doctor, I am taking Zoloft as well. It is not a weakness. It is a medical condition and God is not going to judge me for getting help. I am so blessed that I found your blog!

Joni said...

Thank you for your comment, Kimberly. 😊