Monday, June 12, 2006

Spirituality-Can a Christian Have Depression?

There may come a time where through no fault of one's own, a darkness envelops the soul, leading it into an abyss that seems all consuming. Where the soul thirsts for some relief but there is none to be found, and though you struggle to keep up appearances soon the wall crashes down and one is left, to themselves.

Among Christian communities there is the belief that 'real' Christians don't suffer depression and if they do, the depressed person is then told they 'lack trust in God's Goodness' or that they are 'being punished by God'. These comments arise not out of a willingness to hurt but from ignorance, one is reminded of Job's friends who also said the same thing to him.

Depression is an illness that can strike anyone anywhere and at anytime. It is as if a creeping fog is slowly gaining ground and though you try and remain as busy and as upbeat as you have always been, soon the fog is at your shoulder till one day you awake and see only the fog. You lose interest in everything around you including your family, the things you once loved to do now seem anathema. It is as if you were on an escalator that only goes downward and cannot be reversed and neither can you jump off, you find yourself trapped.

A person who is suffering depression is not insane, if anything many patients who are suffering some form of depression can be their own worse enemy mainly because of their sense of perfectionism. Without knowing it they have made a life where they must be 'perfect' and try and maintain a veneer of control over themselves and those they feel responsible for. They are in essence creating a jail where one day the doors will be locked shut and they can no longer get out. Not all depressions are the same, as in cases of bereavement or when family and friends betray your trust. In many cases though depression is a self imposed exile from your own inner dictatorial approach to life and how you wish to be perceived.

During these times of the deepest darkness a soul will ever know, all seems as if it were meaningless, your prayers feel as if they were 'rising up to thin air', you feel no sense of God's Presence or that He is hearing your cries for help. Soon follows the cry 'God where are you and why is this happening to me'? Or more poignantly 'God why have You abandoned me when I need You most', and God remains....silent.

Depression can also be as silent killer as many feel to ashamed to admit they have a problem and where the joy they once took for granted has all but disappeared. As Christians many feel that they cannot speak of this particular illness lest they be thought a 'bad Christian' this is because once again that dictatorial voice is ruling their minds. It matters not what others think it matters much to own up to one's illness and thereby begin the long haul back to the life you once loved and enjoyed.

As a Christian one should always seek out your doctors advice when depression takes hold of your life, but also as a Christian one should also seek the counseling of a wise spiritual director. It is most important that you choose a spiritual director who specializes in this illness such as depression or anxiety disorders and also where one can feel safe in exposing what lay within the inner sanctum of your soul. Therefore it is crucial that when choosing a spiritual director you choose someone who can be a soul friend to yourself and who will be non-judgmental.

During the midst of the depression you will often feel that though your soul wants to sing again, it feels as if it were trapped in the deepest pit of molasses which is dragging you down to its murky depths, and the struggle against this uneven tide exhausts you both mentally and spiritually. This is where a good spiritual director can guide your darkened soul to once again glimpse the light if only for a second, and though you may also need to take medications in order to control the chemical imbalance within your brain one must not forget the spiritual imbalance which affects the soul.

Often times medical doctors will only concentrate on your physical and mental well being and give scant regard to your spiritual well being, hence the need of a spiritual director. There is no easy cure for severe depression as the key to your own wellbeing lay within you dormant. It takes true courage to wake up and face the blackness of another day where though your body is alive your soul feels dead and the tired mind longs to simply sleep forever and not wake up.

It is at these times that one must impose mental discipline, the only way out of severe depression is the ingredient of mental discipline and the acknowledgement that you cannot be all things to all people. When a soul is so immersed in darkness the only voice it hears is one of self criticism and self negation, this inner voice must be stilled and it is the sufferer who must impose sanctions on this most vicious enemy. Rather than 'run with this inner critic' one must exorcise it by imposing restrictions and disciplining your own mind to cease to think in this particular pattern.

This is also where prayer and reading small verses from the Bible will help in the recovery process. Even though the person 'feels' as if its prayers were going into thin air, the Bible states differently and it is this that the soul must cling to. Not on its own reasoning's which have gone awry but on the Promises of God alone! As it says in Mathew, "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." Also in Psalms we read these comforting verses, "Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too. If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea, Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast. If I say, "Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light" -- Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one. You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works!" When a soul is immersed in a darkness that not even a star from the sky could pierce its blackened depths, kind words, helpful gestures nor prescriptions will do the work that God can, for though a soul may feel abandoned by God, Scripture which is the Promise of God tells the soul different.

This is why mental discipline is crucial and why a person who is suffering through this agonizing illness needs a mature and wise spiritual director, for only God through persevering prayer and trusting in God's Word can heal the tormented and anguished heart of the sufferer.

There is no easy answer as to why individuals suffer from depression but there is a cure, but one cannot heal themselves. For anyone who is suffering depression do not suffer in silence when your soul is screaming for help. To seek help is not weakness it is the first step towards your healing...take that step one day at a time...

Peace of Christ to you ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment