Is it unspiritual to be depressed? Or perhaps, said better, is it necessarily unspiritual to be depressed?
Most of us would agree that the answer is “no.” Of course we would want to include some nuance to affirm that spiritual malaise or emotional despondency can sometimes be the result of sinful thoughts or actions and in such cases there may be a connection with a lack of spirituality. But we also know that sometimes depression appears mysteriously, providentially, and unprovoked by any sin or transgression on our part. We know that some of the people who are most spiritually mature can still suffer through very dark valleys.
But while we affirm there is no necessary connection between depression and a lack of spiritual obedience or maturity, I do wonder whether our initial instincts sometimes betray us. I do wonder whether beneath our well-rehearsed answers there is a part of us that really does believe that depression and other forms of emotional distress or mental illness are associated with sin and immaturity.
This is an urgent issue to Paul Ritchie, a pastor in Ireland who struggles with depression, anxiety, and O.C.D. In his new book, Is It Unspiritual to Be Depressed, he discusses his own struggles with mental illness, seeks to help those who struggle in similar ways, and offers counsel to those who are attempting to help loved ones.
“In this book,” he says,
“I want to draw on my own experiences and thoughts on issues related to depression and anxiety. I am coming from an evangelical Christian perspective and I want to show you how the good news about Jesus is good news for your mental health. I want to do something to take away the stigma and misunderstanding that surrounds mental illness, particularly in church circles. There is also a chapter for those of you seeking to help people in your church or family who struggle with depression and anxiety.”
He discusses when and how Christians should speak about their mental health with other believers and medical professionals, how God means to help in times of struggle, and how those who are depressed can believe they are forgiven even when they feel so guilty. He also gently covers suicide before offering a number of ways each of us can help people in our own churches who are depressed and anxious.
This is a well-written and helpful little book that I am certain will be a blessing to many. I’m very glad to recommend it to you with confidence that it will serve you well.