Thursday, April 4, 2019

Can Christians Get Depressed? by Candice Sue Patterson

I hate drama. I’m a firm believer in not airing dirty laundry in public. Some garments aren’t meant to be everybody’s business. But for the sake of this post, I’m going to step out of my follow-the-rules comfort zone and get REAL today.

First, introductions. I’m a sucker for cheesy Hallmark movies. I’m fascinated with love, the many forms of it, and the different circumstances in which it can grow. I’m a glass-half-full kind of person. In a “fight or flight” situation, I like to find a solution and hit the problem head-on. Since love and problem-solving are the essence of a romance novel, it makes sense that’s what I write.

I was also raised in church from the day I was born. Throughout the years, I’ve heard a few debates about Christians and depression. Some folks question whether or not depression in a Christian is real, and some feel Christians should never get depressed. I’m naturally a positive person, so despite having close loved ones who suffered from depression, these discussions never directly affected me. I didn’t get too involved.

Then several years ago, something happened that rocked my world. That one event seemed to start an avalanche, and for the next five years I went through things that in “my world” were catastrophic. Remember, I like to hit problems head-on, so that’s what I did, one after the other. I felt like I was handling it all fairly well, all things considered. Finally, finally, the dust and debris from the avalanche began to settle and through the haze, I could see glimpses of sunlight again. I took a deep breath. We were finally on the other side.

Slowly, life returned to a new normal. But I wasn’t. My body felt heavy, like a weight was pressing down on me from the inside. I lost interest in many of the things I enjoyed doing. I mostly wanted to stay home and not have to be around many people. I was tired. Strange physical symptoms started popping up, stumping the doctors. One day I looked in the mirror and noticed I’d gained a lot of weight. Turned out I wasn’t handling everything as well as I’d thought.

That’s when I recognized it for what it was—depression.

I forced myself to continue my daily routine, read my Bible, pray (though some days it wasn’t more than an uttered groan), attend church, follow through on my commitments. I thought about seeing a counselor. I considered talking to the doctor about medication. I did neither. Deep down, I knew it was my body reacting to such a wild ride. That it wasn’t a permanent thing and eventually I’d be okay. Worse, I felt guilty. I’m a Christian whose faith and hope lies in Jesus. Though I didn’t understand why I’d had to go through all we had, I knew God had a purpose. So why were my body and mind reacting this way?

So, can Christians get depressed? Yes, they can. As I read and studied the Bible, I realized I was not alone. Some of the Lord’s closest followers battled depression. Let me show you.

King David

When Saul sought to take his life, he struggled with depression (imagine being on the run for years from a person trying to kill you). After his adultery with Bathsheba and the death of the child that relationship produced, David struggled with depression. In time of war, after battles had been fought and won—and some lost—he struggled with depression (perhaps some form of PTSD). Read the Psalms. You’ll find verse after verse where David pours his heart out to God, begging and groaning, detailing the emotions and the physical symptoms that take a toll on his body.

Moses

Moses is best known for petitioning Pharaoh to let God’s people out of bondage, and then leading approximately three million Hebrews out of Egypt to the Promised Land. From the moment God made His will known to Moses, Moses focused on his inadequacies and questioned whether God had chosen “the right man for the job” (paraphrase). The journey through the wilderness was grueling and exhausting, and despite God showing his amazing greatness along the way, the people still chose to complain, disobey, and turn to false idols. Imagine Moses’s heart as a pastor to see the people act this way after all the wonderful things God had done. “I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.” (Numbers 11:14,15) Moses is basically saying, “It’s too much to handle. If you love me, kill me.” Sounds like depression to me.

Job

After losing all of his children and all of his material possessions, his marriage fell apart and he suffered severe physical ailments. During this time, Job’s friends certainly weren’t a comfort or a help. With all he’d gone through, I think depression was inevitable. Job speaks of his grief plainly throughout the book of Job.

Jesus

Though he was one-hundred-percent God, he was also one-hundred-percent man. The Gospels tell of His mental and physical condition during His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane the eve before He died on the cross. He knew what horrific things would come to pass. He was in such mental agony he sweated blood! Yet, He knew it was His father’s will, and thus endured it.

So, if I, as a Christian, wasn’t alone in feeling this way, why the guilt? I think it’s partly because despite the strides we’ve made concerning mental health over the years, we still have a long way to go. And partly because, as Christians, we know we’re supposed to be light in a dark world and uplift our fellow brethren, and we make ourselves feel as if we’re not allowed to have times when we need help.

As an author, writing is therapeutic for me. So, naturally, when the aforementioned roller coaster ride began I started writing a book. Other publishing opportunities arose along the way, and I put that book aside to work on others for the next four years. About the time the roller coaster was slowing down and pulling into the unloading area, I became active in a Facebook group called Avid Readers of Christian Fiction. It’s a great place where authors and readers can discuss their favorite books, ask for recommendations, and chat about topics related to Christian Fiction. One question that continually popped up in the group was, “Are there any Christian Fiction books where characters suffer from depression?” That’s when I realized there are other hurting people, people looking to know they’re not alone, people searching for encouragement and answers from a Christian worldview. God told me, “It’s time.” I opened up that saved manuscript in my laptop and continued writing the story. I wanted others to know they’re not alone. We’re human, and sometimes our circumstances, the choices we make, or the choices others make, overwhelm us.

How to Stir a Baker’s Heart releases tomorrow. Set along the rocky coast of Maine, this story is full of healing and hope and heart, but it’s not your typical romance. I tackled some tough issues in this story—depression, dementia, and divorce—things we, even as Christians, aren’t immune to. How to Stir a Baker’s Heart is book two in my Cadence of Acadia series, but is a standalone novel.

Certified mental health therapist Olivia Hudson has spiraled into a dark depression her own training can't pull her out of. Since Olivia can’t return to her practice when she can’t even help herself, she moves to Stone Harbor, Maine, to heal and help her dementia-ridden grandmother run her once-famous bakery.

Blake Hartford is living his dream of farming blueberries and restoring a Victorian farmhouse on his coastal property, while his beloved community withers away under a rocky economy. Blake joins the town board to help revamp things and boost the much-needed tourism that can turn his community around.

After a misunderstanding with the bakery owner's granddaughter and the town board's suggestion they lead the tourism project together, life in Stone Harbor gets a little bit sweeter. But when the truth of Olivia's past comes to light, Blake is forced to confront his own.

How to Stir a Baker’s Heart is a story of healing and forgiveness, proving God can mend our brokenness and soften even the hardest of hearts.

Amazon Kindle:


Amazon Paperback:


Also available at Barnes & Noble.

If you find yourself battling depression, don’t be afraid to get the help you need. I encourage you to read the scriptures, listen to spirit-filled music, pray, and talk about it if you need to. Remember you’re not alone.

“Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.” –Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables


10 comments:

  1. Wonderful post, Candace Sue! Our physical health is so tightly connected to our mental health that one can’t help but be affected by the other. And having a stressed out brain be in a chemical imbalance in depression is no different than a diabetic having their insulin out of whack because their pancreas isn’t working properly. God made all of our body functions to work in step so why are we surprised when overly worked adrenal glands and cortisol hormones from extreme stress flood our bodies and put us into a depression? Thank you for bringing forward the Biblical examples of people with depression for those who don’t believe Christians can suffer from it. Your book sounds cutting edge and I look forward to reading it!

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  2. Thank you, Laurie! Your’re absolutely right. Our creator made our bodies to work best when everything is in sync. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Candice, thank you for sharing your heart! As a Christian and one who knows about depression, I can attest that Christians do suffer from this issue.

    My husband has Seasonal Affective Disorder. Since he has retired and doesn't have the stress of work, he is now better, but he does still struggle during the darker months of winter.

    For the last two years, we have intended to do something different during this time, such as travel. However, last year he had medical problems which kept us at home, and this year I had medical issues to take care of. During these times, we cling to the promise of the rainbow after weathering the storms.

    I'm cheering for you as you bring depression into the light through your writing. Blessings!

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  4. Candice, thank you for sharing your heart! As a Christian and one who knows about depression, I can attest that Christians do suffer from this issue.

    My husband has Seasonal Affective Disorder. Since he has retired and doesn't have the stress of work, he is now better, but he does still struggle during the darker months of winter.

    For the last two years, we have intended to do something different during this time, such as travel. However, last year he had medical problems which kept us at home, and this year I had medical issues to take care of. During these times, we cling to the promise of the rainbow after weathering the storms.

    I'm cheering for you as you bring depression into the light through your writing. Blessings

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  5. Thank you, Sherida! Winter is tough. I hope traveling works out for you all this next year! Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. Thanks for sharing your personal journey, Candice! It's awesome that you're willing to tackle some tough subjects in your stories. I think readers are hungry for those topics to be included.

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  7. Thank you, Dawn. I appreciate you stopping by.

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  8. Candice, thanks for sharing such an honest post. I agree with Laurie and our mental health is as important as our physical. But we try to hide those problems. I know I'll be more in tune to my own feelings and to those of others.

    I'm currently reading How to Stir a Baker's Heart and it's wonderful.

    Thanks for hanging out with us on Seriously Write today. You know you're welcome back anytime. I love having you as a guest blogger.

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  9. Thank you for kindness, Terri. I appreciate you!

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