Today’s Church has been beset with numerous challenges. Few have been so distressing as the problem of depression. Good people are weighed down with their own depression or perplexed about that of friends and family members. In some sectors of the Church, this is complicated by a stigma associated with depression. Sin ultimately causes depression, it is assumed. And the conclusion follows that good Christians don’t get depressed.
To counter these notions about depression, David P. Murray has written an incredibly helpful book entitled, Christians Get Depressed Too. Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, has encountered depression in ministry and personal contexts enough to be both well versed on the topic and sensitive to the need for sound resources. The book he has written is intentionally short: since “depressed people cannot read hundreds of pages.” (pg. xi). It serves as a resource for caregivers as well as a source of hope for the depressed who consciously decide they want to get better.
Murray explains what depression is and what it signifies. He counters the approach which assumes as a default that behind most bouts of depression lie hidden sin problems. The picture is much more complex than that, he claims. He exposes the faulty thinking patterns which often contribute to depression, and finds examples of such thinking, and even the depression which results, in the lives of people in Scripture. In defense of the physiological nature of much of depression, Murray appeals to Puritans such as Richard Baxter.
On the role of medicine, Murray finds two unhelpful extremes: too much dependence on medicine, and the aversion of any use of it at all. Along these lines, he says:
Treating a depressed person with medication is often no different from giving my eight-year-old daughter one of her many daily injections of insulin for diabetes. I am not merely alleviating symptoms, but addressing the cause–depleted insulin due to dying or dead cells in her pancreas. And if she is lethargic, weepy, or irrational due to low sugar levels, I do not ask her what commandments she has broken or what “issues of meaning and relationship” she has in her life. I pity her, weep for her, and thank God for His gracious provision of medicine for her. (pg. 64-65).
This is not to say, Murray merely refers Christians suffering from depression to their local psychiatrist. Rather, he offers an abundance of help from the Scriptures on how to correct thinking patterns and learn to receive even depression as a gift from God’s very hand. He points to a little remembered passage where Scripture says, “God left” Hezekiah, “that he might know all that was in his heart” (2 Chron. 32:31). Murray elaborates:
This is not an objective leaving, but a subjective leaving. God withdrew Himself from Hezekiah’s spiritual feelings so that he lost his sense of God’s presence, protection, and favor… But God had a wise and loving purpose in this…. Sometimes… [God] may wisely, temporarily, and proportionately withdraw the sense of His favor and presence to remind us of our state without Him and to lead us to greater thankfulness and appreciation for Him. He may do this… by lovingly afflicting our brain, disrupting it’s chemistry and electricity, just as He does when He lovingly afflicts one of His dear children with epilepsy, or any other disease. (pg. 65).
This small book of 120 or so small-sized pages, will prove an immense help to both caregivers and those suffering from depression. It is a primer on depression and in it, Murray offers a careful list of recommended resources, for those looking to continue their study of this topic. The book’s attractive cover, and handy, almost “pocket” size, make it an ideal book to giveaway to friends dealing with this issue. I’ve already loaned or given out copies of this inexpensive book, and plan on using this as a resource for years to come.
You can read the preface and first chapter online here. Then consider purchasing a copy of this book from any of these fine retailers: Westminster Bookstore, Christianbook.com, Monergism Books, Amazon.com or direct from Reformation Heritage Books.