Most reading this will have either gone through seasons of depression themselves (including anxiety and panic attacks), or walked through those seasons with friends or family members. In fact, David Murray in his fine book Christians Get Depressed Too, states that one in five people experience depression, and one in ten experiences a panic attack at some stage in their lives.
Though I have not personally experienced depression myself, I know many who have. And when on a medication intended to prevent migraine headaches several years ago I experienced significant anxiety symptoms. That better helped me to understand what those who suffer from depression, anxiety and panic attacks are going through.
I have been greatly helped by David Murray’s work on depression through his HeadHeartHand blog and his book Christians Get Depressed Too, which I recently read for the second time.
Below are helpful resources from Dr. Murray and others, to help those who suffer from depression and those who are walking alongside them.
- Book Review of Christians Get Depressed Too
- 25 Helpful Quotes from David Murray’s book
- Resource list to give you help and hope
Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray. Reformation Heritage Books. 112 pages. 2010.
David Murray writes that his hope is that the reader will find something in this short but helpful book that will either help them in their suffering or that will help them in ministering to the suffering. Murray argues that some Christians do get depressed. He looks at why and how we should study depression. He then defines what depression is and the different approaches to helping people with depression. He then looks at what the sufferer, caregivers and the church can do. The book contains a brief explanation of the condition, the causes, and the cures for both the sufferers and the caregivers. He provides a helpful list of some additional books on depression that are more comprehensive and exhaustive, and also an appendix on the sufficiency of Scripture.
Murray writes than an amazing one in five people experiences depression, and one in ten experiences a panic attack at some stage in his life. He states that an estimated 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression, with 5.8 percent of men and 9.5 percent of women experiencing a depressive episode in any given year. Of great concern, suicide, sometimes the end result of depression, is the leading cause of violent deaths worldwide, accounting for 49.1 percent of all violent deaths compared with 18.6 percent in war and 31.3 percent by homicide.
Murray writes that it is absolutely vital for Christians to understand and accept that while depression usually has serious consequences for our spiritual life, it is not necessarily caused by problems in our spiritual life.
Murray looks critically at Jay Adams’s extreme position of “almost always spiritual” in both causes and cures in his nouthetic counseling movement and in the modern biblical counseling movement. That view states that depression is caused by sin; therefore, rebuke, repentance, and confession are required. This idea is widespread in the evangelical church. On the positive side, Murray writes that Adams has shown the need to address the spiritual dimension of mental and emotional suffering. In doing so, he restored the Bible’s central role in counseling and secured the role of Christian pastors and counselors in treatments. The author states that while Adams is to be commended for giving an important place to personal responsibility, he errs in placing all responsibility on the depressed patient. He writes that his main concern with the nouthetic counseling movement is its assumption that behind almost every episode of depression is personal sin. Regrettably, the author states that the modern biblical counseling movement still uses language that supports this conclusion.
Murray writes that it is important to acknowledge the possibility of a primarily spiritual cause to some depressions, pointing to biblical examples from the Psalms, specifically David in Psalm 32 and 51. But he suggests that we should assume the same default position with someone suffering from depression as with someone who has a physical ailment. That is, we should assume that their depression is a result of living as a fallen creature in a fallen world rather than assume that the person has caused his suffering by his personal sin.
He writes that we need to recognize the exceeding complexity of depression and resist the temptation to propose and accept simple analyses and solutions. He writes about a balance between medicines for the brain, rest for the body, counsel for the mind, and spiritual encouragement for the soul. Recovery will usually take patient perseverance over a period of many months, and in some cases, even years.
He writes that in some people, there is very likely an inherited genetic tendency to depression. However, there is almost always a providential trigger involved to some degree. He states that perhaps the most obvious symptoms of depression are the depressed person’s unhelpful thought patterns, which tend to distort his view of reality in a false and negative way, adding to his depression or anxiety.
Murray provides bodily symptoms of depression with biblical citations, which includes disturbed sleep, tiredness, weight fluctuations, digestive problems, loss of appetite, bodily pain, choking feelings and breathlessness. He looks at five triggers of depression: stress, psychology, sin, sickness, and sovereignty.
For the believer, Murray writes that however strange it may seem to you, God wants you to go through this depression—so look at it positively, not negatively. We should look at what the Lord wants us to learn from it? What can we gain from going through it?
Murray writes that when a Christian becomes depressed, there are often painful spiritual consequences, such as a loss of assurance. As a result, depressed believers then jump to the conclusion that there is also a spiritual cause (usually their own sins or hypocrisy or failures of one kind or another). But he states that just as it is usually wrong to think that there is a spiritual cause for cancer, it is also wrong to think of depression this way. As for non-Christians, depression in the Christian is often caused by stressful life events and lifestyles or unhelpful thought patterns.
Murray writes that if you are depressed, the first question you must ask yourself is, “Do I want to be made whole?” He states that you have no hope of recovery from depression unless you want to recover and are, therefore, prepared to play your own significant part in the recovery process. He states that one of the most common contributory factors to depression is wrong and unhelpful thoughts.
He provides some practical things you can do to help address the spiritual consequences of depression. We can accept that being depressed is not necessarily a sin and indeed is compatible with Christianity. However, he does state that a Christian’s depression may be the result of some specific sin or sins. If that is the case, the sin is to be repented of and we should seek God’s pardon for the sin and God’s power over the sin.
He provides helpful areas for caregivers to consider when they are trying to help a depressed person get better.
Murray states that it is important that we learn about depression in order to avoid the common mistakes that laypeople often make when dealing with the depressed and in order to be of maximum benefit to those who are suffering.
We should feel free to encourage depressed people to have a more realistic view of themselves by highlighting their God-given gifts, their contributions to the lives of others, their usefulness in society, and, if they are Christians, their value to the church.
Dr. Murray tells us that the more we understand depression, the less likely it is that we will say hurtful and damaging things. He states that it is important to realize that there are no easy answers and there are no quick fixes in dealing with depression. It usually takes many months, and in some cases even years, to recover.
The author includes some recommendations on additional books on depression that will be helpful to the reader.
25 Helpful Quotes from Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray
Here are some helpful quotes from David Murray’s fine book Christians Get Depressed Too:
- The depressed believer cannot concentrate to read or pray. As she doesn’t want to meet people, she may avoid church and fellowship. She often feels God has abandoned her.
- The general rule is that those who listen most and speak least will be the most useful to sufferers.
- There are three simplistic extremes that we should avoid when considering the cause of depression: first, that it is all physical; second, that it is all spiritual; third, that it is all mental.
- For far too long, Christian writers and speakers in this area have been overly influenced by Jay Adams’s extreme position of “almost always spiritual” in both causes and cures
- To put all the blame for depression on the individual is wrong, damaging, and dangerous, as it can only increase feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
- The nouthetic counseling movement grew out of a frustration at the way in which secular doctors and psychiatrists squeezed Christian pastors and counselors out of any role in the treatment of mental illness. However, in the valiant and commendable attempt to secure a much-needed place for Christian pastors and counselors in the treatment of mental illness, the nouthetic counseling movement has often gone to the opposite extreme in attempting to exclude doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists from the treatment process. In both cases the sufferer is the one who loses out.
- My main concern with the nouthetic counseling movement is its assumption that behind almost every episode of depression is personal sin. Regrettably, the modern biblical counseling movement still uses language that supports this conclusion.
- Too often, language is still used that would lead most readers or hearers to think that all depression is caused by personal sin, that medication is always a sinful response to depression (treating only superficial symptoms), and that repentance of heart-idolatry is always the cure.
- I agree with the general stance taken by the authors of I’m Not Supposed to Feel Like This, that we should, in general, reassure Christians suffering from depression that most often their damaged spiritual relationships and feelings are not the cause of their depression, but the consequence of it.
- Depression afflicts the strong and the weak, the clever and the simple, those with a happy temperament and those of a melancholy temperament.
- There are usually no quick fixes. For Christians there will often need to be a balance between medicines for the brain, rest for the body, counsel for the mind, and spiritual encouragement for the soul. Recovery will usually take patient perseverance over a period of many months, and in some cases, even years.
- Perhaps the most obvious symptoms of depression are the depressed person’s unhelpful thought patterns, which tend to distort his view of reality in a false and negative way, adding to his depression or anxiety.
- Everyone feels sad from time to time, but depression-related sadness is overwhelming and long-term.
- Because of your distorted view of yourself, you feel your life is worthless. Indeed, you may feel your life is just a burden to and a blight upon others.
- (Those who are depressed) may start doing things that make them feel worse, like staying indoors, drinking alcohol, or pushing away people who care.
- Depression is often divided into two main categories—reactive and endogenous. Reactive depression is usually traced to some obvious trigger, perhaps a stressful life event or unhelpful thought patterns. Endogenous depressions are thought to be organic or biological in origin. It is the name usually given to depressions that seem to have no obvious external trigger, and they are often traced to genetic predisposition.
- Much of the increase in depression and anxiety today is largely the result of an unbalanced lifestyle where people are, on the one hand, working too hard and spending too much and, on the other hand, are exercising, resting, and sleeping too little.
- Non-Christians may be depressed because of their sin, in which case the cure is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Sadly, many depressed unbelievers are being treated with chemicals when what they need is conversion.
- Blaming our depression on our sin is not only often wrong, it is also harmful. It is harmful because it increases false guilt and deepens feelings of failure. It also makes depressed Christians seek a spiritual solution to a problem that may actually originate in the body, life events, lifestyle, or unhelpful thought patterns.
- Now we will look at some of the cures. However, before we do so, we must ask the depressed person a vital question: “Do you want to be made whole?”
- Christians are obliged to challenge falsehood and distortions of reality, especially when they find them in themselves.
- It is imperative, therefore, that we learn about depression in order to avoid the common mistakes that laypeople often make when dealing with the depressed and in order to be of maximum benefit to those who are suffering.
- We should feel free to encourage depressed people to have a more realistic view of themselves by highlighting their God-given gifts, their contributions to the lives of others, their usefulness in society, and, if they are Christians, their value to the church.
- The more you understand depression, the less likely it is that you will say hurtful and damaging things.
- If you suspect someone is considering suicide, then you should sensitively and wisely ask the person if he is thinking along these lines and if he has already made a plan.
Resource List to give you Help and Hope
Session from the 2013 Ligonier National Conference on Christians Get Depressed Too. In this session based on his book Christians Get Depressed Too, Dr. Murray offers help and hope to those suffering from depression, the family members and friends who care for them, and pastors ministering to these wounded members of their flock.
Christians Get Depressed Too Films. These 35-40 minute films present five Christians with five very different stories of depression and of how God gave them hope and help to recover.
Depression. Dr. Murray describes depression, then analyzes its causes and cures in this 45 minute message
The Three Most Common Causes of Depression Dr. Murray shares from his years of counseling the three most common causes of depression.
Book Recommendations and Articles. Dr. Murray shares recommended books and a number of helpful articles on depression.
Below are a few books that I have found helpful on depression, anxiety, worry and discouragement from other authors:
- Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for Those Who Suffer from Depression by Zack Eswine
- Anxious for Nothing by John MacArthur.
- Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
- Deserted by God? by Sinclair Ferguson
Are there other resources related to depression that you have found helpful? Please share them with us.