#WorldMentalHealthDay: Erasing the stigma and shame for Christians with depression
It’s one of the most taboo subjects in the Christian community, yet with depression affecting more than 19 million Americans each year, 12 million of them being women (According to Mental Health America), I am willing to bet that at least half of them are filling the pews of churches everywhere.
You will likely never know that the sister you sit next to week after week during worship service suffers greatly with depression, because there really isn’t an open, safe, non-judgmental space within the church world for revealing such sickness.
I recall my time of dealing with depression as the worst years of my life. Overall, I was down, dark, desolate, and disconnected every single day. I was alive, but dead inside, all while faithfully attending church and operating in ministry. Monday through Saturday, I wore depression like a cloak, but when Sunday came, I put on my saved, sanctified, Holy Ghost filled, and fire baptized face so that no one would know my truth, because the Saints ain’t got no business being depressed.
I remember this one time I desperately needed help, I needed someone to tell me that I wasn’t cursed or less than a Christian because of my struggle. I went to this sister in Christ, who was a friend at the time, and confessed my sickness. I poured my heart to her about how I felt suffocated by depression and how most days I just wanted to die. Her response to me was, “Girl, that’s a demonic spirit! Pray that mess off you and snap out of it! You’ll be fine.” What I basically heard her say is equivalent to, “Uh-Uh, we don’t do that over here in holiness!” It didn’t matter that I told her I played a suicide plan over and over in my head on a daily basis, her resolve was that Christians just don’t do that.
Needless to say, I walked away from that conversation feeling even worse, and I vowed to keep my struggle with depression a secret.
It has always baffled me that when a sister shares her cancer diagnosis, the church will fast and pray on her behalf, send the care team to assist her with daily duties as she undergoes treatment, and then have a whole praise break when she shares her testimony of healing, but offer only a “You’ve got to learn to take those thoughts captive” to the woman who reveals she struggles with depression. I will never understand why sicknesses are categorized and compared within the Christian community or why depression sits at the top of the non-approved illnesses for believers.
There is little to no support for those suffering with mental illness, because in the minds of most who are outside looking in, being depressed is a choice.
But it's not a choice. It's a sickness. I mean, who chooses to be sick? Depression is psychological bondage, a mental attacker, and, in many cases, a murderer. And so many are trapped, not because they choose to be there or don't want to get out, but they are held hostage, just like a body held hostage by physical sickness. There is no difference.
The majority of the Christian community doesn't like to acknowledge depression as sickness, though; they sadly mark it as weakness. But that doesn't change the fact that countless women have suffered, are currently suffering, or will suffer with depression. It is real, and the refusal to address it doesn't make it not exist. I've been there, so I know its reality.
If you're struggling in this area, know that you neither are you alone, nor does it make you any less of a Christian. God still loves you and has good plans for your life. So, don't be ashamed or feel like something is wrong with your walk with Christ because you can't seem to "shake it off and pack it under your feet." While I wholeheartedly believe in the power of God’s word, prayer, praise, and worship, I also understand that God doesn’t manifest healing in our individual lives the exact same way. Some may be able to simply pray and overcome depression, and some may need more extensive help. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with either.
I was much too ashamed to seek professional help, so I am thankful for God’s supernatural healing. But, listen, do not be afraid to seek the help YOU need. If that's therapy, get it. If that's medicine, take it. If that's spiritual counseling, seek it. Whatever will help you cope, maintain, and ultimately heal, pursue it. With over 50% of suicides being the result of depression, don’t you dare allow anyone to shame you from seeking help.
Yes, God is the source of our healing, but He has also graced professionals with wisdom to be an added resource.
To those like me who have survived depression, you are among the most resilient of people. Your strength is both admirable and astonishing. Your survival is to be celebrated.
To those still in the fight, you are more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37). You will overcome, because Jesus overcame the power of sickness in His resurrection. You will survive, because the Greater One lives within you (1 John 4:4).
One of the beautiful things about God is that He understands our struggles, and because He understands, we can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Take your struggle with depression to the Lord and seek Him for guidance that will lead to your healing (Proverbs 3:5-6).