“I Just Don’t See How You Can Have Jesus in Your Heart and Be Depressed.”

I may also have been reacting to some of the comments from various people about my condition.  From the beginning, I was very open about it to my church family.  However, my church has over 2,000 members.  One of the foundational doctrines of the Baptist branch of the Christian church is the “priesthood of the believer”, generally meaning that we don’t rely on a priest, preacher, pastor, or other teacher to go to God on our behalf or to interpret the word of God for us.  Any believer can “boldly enter the throne room” of God and make requests known and listen for the voice of God through his Word, the Bible.

In practical terms, this doctrine can lead to as many different interpretations of the Word of God as there are believers, which is one reason why there are so many Protestant denominations and so many separate church organizations.  Believers are not immune to error; only God is.  And just as many different ideas about mental illness exist in the church as exist in society.

One belief I ran into very early on when I was suffering a depression after Hurricane Katrina was expressed by a young woman in a preschool mothers’ group I attended shortly after the hurricane.  A woman had come and talked to our group about her experience with depression.  We were having small group discussions afterwards, and I had poured out my story about my experiences with depression, particularly postpartum, in the past and after Katrina.

I finished my tale, and the young woman next to me looked at the group leader and said these words:  “I just don’t see how you can have Jesus in your heart and be depressed.”

Her words hit me like a wrecking ball. I simply shut up and did not contribute any more to the discussion.  Again, depression is not always an issue of the emotions or circumstances.  It can be an issue of an imbalance of chemicals in your brain.  Having Jesus in your heart makes the difference in eternal life or eternal destruction in the afterlife and can give you hope when hope seems very, very remote.  But David was a man after God’s own heart who suffered from depression.  Read the Psalms.

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. blahpolar
    Jan 05, 2015 @ 13:59:09

    Flawed logic on her part, might as well say, “I don’t see how you can have genocide in the world and be happy.”

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  2. 4gazpacho
    Jan 05, 2015 @ 15:29:54

    I remember when I was in my 20’s and not really in tune with other’s feelings as I should have been, I said something similar…fortunately only to my husband. But I look on that viewpoint as temporary, because of immaturity, lack of information, and lack of empathy. Fortunately, got put me through some paces over the years so that I don’t say stuff like that ow–I hope. Better yet, I take more time to try to see things from that person’s point of view. Most of the time, people just need more information to understand our situation.

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  3. jdlwhitehead
    Jan 05, 2015 @ 16:37:51

    She was young and I put her comment down to immaturity too. But it didn’t hurt any less because she may as well have looked me in the eye and said it at the time. I understand her thinking to a point, but so many of the Biblical characters suffered from depression I can’t see how she can make that point. But it is still a very prevalent attitude within the church.

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    • mrsshya
      Jan 06, 2015 @ 00:05:02

      I wonder how much life this young lady has lived and learned since….

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      • jdlwhitehead
        Jan 06, 2015 @ 01:48:53

        I’ve wondered since then if life has brought her any compassion as well. We are in a large church, and I lost track of her after I left that mother’s group for unrelated reasons. I hope so.

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  4. 4gazpacho
    Jan 05, 2015 @ 20:24:20

    Oh, I agree with you completely. While you and I would recognize those symptoms now, I can’t think of even one time where a church leader, Sunday School teacher or pastor ever called it “depression”. Not one…at least until after I had my diagnosis. It’s just one of those topics you don’t talk about. And the church I went to just a few years ago never asked for prayer for anyone with any emotional distress. Nor depression. Only physical ailments made it on the official prayer list. Some church families have a long way to go.

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    • mrsshya
      Jan 06, 2015 @ 00:03:54

      One of the elders in at my church has been vocal about his mood-related suffering. I always felt so bad for him! You could tell when it came on. He would still come to church but you’d see him sitting off to the side. If you said hi to him, it was very discernible. Just this past Sunday he shared a little background on his thought process and how he was working through it…not to say he’s not on meds, I have no idea, nor do I care to know …just saying.

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  5. mrsshya
    Jan 05, 2015 @ 23:58:49

    IMO 2ways that statement can be taken: 1) the person *really doesn’t see how* a.k.a they really don’t understand or 2) the person is being critical. I could see myself *thinking* the same way as a newly reborn Christian, but *saying it* to a sufferer is really naive, borderline ignorant. Have suffered depression like many here, all I could say to such a person in response is: until you’ve experienced it, you could never know. We could ask that person, why did Jesus say “My God, why have you forsaken me?” On the cross, when He is Jesus and came from Heaven? Or why did he sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane? If our Lord and Savior Jesus was not spared the human experience why then, would we be? This is all in “response” to the person who said that to you.

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  6. 4gazpacho
    Jan 06, 2015 @ 01:49:45

    All good points. But above all that, I can very much understand how you felt when that girl said that to you. I would have felt abandoned, alone, misunderstood, hurt, even insulted as if my standing before God was being questioned. I praise God for GRACE!!

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  7. Eve
    Jan 07, 2015 @ 07:25:38

    As a Christian and person diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I’m very familiar with ignorance, especially in church. What I always keep in mind is that people don’t reflect God. So many people lose faith in God because people calling themselves believers fail us. They will, but God won’t. God loves me through everything, is with me every step of the way.

    When I got baptized and “came out” with my diagnosis, my church kind of wanted to throw that under the rug like dirt that needs to quickly be hidden. I was even told that my mental health was consequence of demonic possession. It can be very discouraging to find such people, but I know they’re just ignorant. I pray for them and keep doing my thing.

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