One of the helpful things for many of us during lockdown has been hearing different people courageously talk about their experience of depression. Depression describes an experience that affects how we feel physically (e.g. loss of appetite, feeling tired and restless), emotionally (deep sadness) and relationally (tendency towards isolation).
Here, is Sam Harms who is one of our church members describing his first encounter with depression. I was particularly struck by his point that we often fail to talk about the spiritual dimension to depression and yet if we experience relational dissonance during depression, that can include our relationship with God.
Sam describes what such a feeling is like and takes us to Psalm 130 to show that God’s Amazing Grace is the beautiful answer to this.
His point about the spiritual dimension is important for three reasons.
First of all, because if we forget that depression can affect us spiritually, we miss out on something essential. It may be terrifying for many people as they have an unexplained sense of distance from God causing a crisis of faith and descent into a spiral of despair. Others may judge too. And yet, the cause of this experience may be something medical. A person is subjected to false guilt and shame when what they primarily need is medical intervention and emotional support.
Secondly, because if we forget that depression has a spiritual dimension, we may miss the point that one way in which sin can affect us is through depression. This will include when we are sinned against, when we are let down by poor spiritual leadership and when we ourselves are in sin. As I said above, we must not jump to the assumption that sin is the cause of the depression but nor must we ignore that it can be a cause or factor. If we forget that then we may lose sight of the power of repentance, confession and forgiveness to bring true spiritual comfort.
Thirdly, because not only can the spiritual dimension be a cause and an affect of depression but we may miss that it can be at least part of the cure, even when depression is not caused by sin and even when distance from God is not a symptom. Many of us have experienced the healing power of prayer, Scripture and the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit in the midst of our despair and darkness.
I hope you find Sam’s testimony helpful and encouraging. I certainly did.