I had the opportunity today to give the first of three seminars on depression and faith to our church. It was a good experience, with a nice take up of people. But the aftermath always leaves me brooding. As a way of processing, here are three reflections on speaking in a Christian context about depression.
Whenever I give this seminar, and I have given it now in a few different churches, I am always struck by the take up. There is a feeling of Christians coming out of the woodwork to engage with the conversation. Could this be because depression isn’t being talked about in churches, when it needs to be? It is an important conversation.
One of my aims in teaching about depression to Christians is to underline the complexity involved in the experience, and especially the complexity involved in handling and dealing with depression as a Christian. For both sufferers and carers, Christian faith raises difficult tensions in our experience with depression. Yet Christian faith also resolves those tensions, though I believe not in a simplistic way. It can be all too easy to offer over simplistic answers, in our desire to help. But the conversation is complex, and needs care.
I love, in some ways, speaking about depression. It always feels a privilege to have an opportunity to share some things that the Lord has used to help me over the years, and it is always privilege to talk with others about their suffering. But doing so is always painful. It leaves me emotionally tired, and a vulnerable to attack. In the aftermath of teaching there is a greater sensitivity of heart and so greater susceptibility to bruising after such conversations.
But the conversation is always hopeful. Particularly because Christ is a comforter for the depressed. It is his compassion that I love to try and speak of, compassion grounded on his full humanity, whose power for believers comes from his full divinity. It is in order to access that compassion that I want to go on teaching about depression and faith.
Here is the end of a prayer that I ended my seminar with:
Continue the gentleness of thy goodness towards me, and whether I wake or sleep, let thy presence go with me, and thy blessing attend me…I have been sorrowful, but thou hast been my help, fearful, but thou hast delivered me, despairing, but thou has lifted me up. Thy vows are ever upon me, And I praise thee, O God.