I stumbled across Ed Welch’s book Depression: A Stuborn Darkness, while looking for a resource for a good friend who was struggling with depression. I ordered the book for my friend, but it looked so interesting that I figured I would read it myself. I am not, character-wise, inclined to depression; pessimism? Yes. Depression? No. Of course this does not mean that I will never struggle with depression, there are plenty of scenarios that might lead me there: the death of someone close to me; health struggles; financial struggles; life circumstances, all of these things can lead one into depression, which is why I think it is wise to read through books like this even when one is NOT struggling with depression at the moment. Indeed, it might be better to read it when NOT struggling with depression because it sounds like when one is depressed (depending upon the severity) one is not I inclined to do much of anything, least of all, trying to understand one’s depression.
I think the most interesting thing (through chapter three) that Mr. Welch has said is that depression ought to be understood as a type of suffering (I have come to agree with him). Too often we view depression as a malady to be “fixed,” rather than as suffering to be endure. Someone who is depressed (we think) needs to “do” something so that he will no longer be depressed because a depressed Christian is a lousy Christian (so the thinking goes). This attitude would include half of the psalmists as depressives who need to get their spiritual walk in order (Ps 42 and 43 come immediately to mind).
As Mr. Welch puts it:
It is common for spiritually mature men and women who feel depressed to think that they are doing something wrong. After all, Scripture is filled with words of joy and happy hearts. When they aren’t feeling happy, they feel that they must be missing something or that God is punishing them until they learn some hidden lesson.
Yep. I think that sums up a lot of Christian thinking quite well.
Mr. Welch’s sort of summary statement is: With all the debate about the causes of depression, it is easy to miss the obvious: depression is painful. It is a form of suffering.
It is this concept of depression as a form of suffering that has been firing my thinking lately. I believe it has profound implications for how the church understands and helps those who are depressed.