Friday, April 18, 2008

Proverbia-The Naked Soul 3

One final thought on this topic. No one would think it odd if I posted that my wife had recently been diagnosed with cancer and I was soliciting prayers. However, folks would be perplexed if I posted that she had been recently diagnosed as an alcoholic. And the difficulty here is that many Christians think of Depression or similar other mental disorders as more like the alcoholic than cancer.

An alcoholic, in biblical terms, is a drunkard. He has a self-inflicted wound. While there may be a host of pastoral issues that need to be dealt with, at the end of the day, it is he, himself, that pours down the booze. It is primarily a spiritual problem, even granting that certain people are more susceptible to this particular problem than other people. I think that is true of all spiritual problems. We are unique and our besetting sins are unique.

But when one contracts cancer, we see this as simply a result of dwelling in a fallen world. We give sympathy, care concern. We recognize that it is not their fault. We look for answers from whatever corner we can find them, pastoral, prayer, medical, alternativie, experimental. We know we are in the presence of something that is powerful and it is fairly easy for us to admit our frailty in dealing with the issue.

I am saying that Major Depression is more like cancer than alcoholism. In fact, I don't think it is like alcoholism, at all. The mind is complex, and the chemical reactions in the brain are also complex. Relatively little is known about this. We need to be wise both in the way we think about it, judge others about these things, and the way we treat it.

People with cancer also have a difficult time dealing with life. Many, even Christians, begin to despair of life to rid them of their suffering.

Let us have equal care and compassion for those who suffer in their mind. If there are easy pastoral cures, then Amen. But if we are in over our head and need to admit it, then let us do so and pursue help that is really helpful. When the depressed person begins to make some basic headway on the physiological issues, then it makes sense to jump in with pastoral care, particularly trying to help them make sense of their trial in light of God's Word and sovereignty over all things.

1 comment:

Gregory Soderberg said...

Hello, Sir:

Our prayers are with you all. God has certainly laid an extraordinary amount of suffering on your shoulders. You should know that you and your wife have been, and continue to be, a source of great encouragement to others.

I've struggled with depression over the years, and am still trying to figure out how to combat it. Much of it seems tied to sin, but there also seems to be more going on. God is good, and it hasn't been an issue lately.

I'm comfoted, though, that other great Christians have struggled with depression. Here's a link from John Piper, talking about Charles Spurgeon. He suffered greatly, both in circumstances, and with severe depression.

This link is to a Dutch Reformed book. I haven't read it, but it's looks helpful. Amazon also has some other books about spiritual depression which are suggested on that page. I hope they might be helpful.

Your proverbs are also quite inspiring (and convicting to a young man!)