Last night I heard something that I thought I would never hear. Someone informed my son that his depression and anxiety was spiritual in nature and was a tool of Satan.
They went on to say that if my son rebuked the depression and told it to leave his life then it would do so. He was counselled to call on God to help him and he would be cured.
When I heard this, my heart broke. It broke because I cannot believe in this day and age that something that is not easily understood is automatically branded as a ‘tool of the devil’. It reminds me of the Dark Ages when brilliant minds were burned at the stake because the general populace could not understand something that was outside of their limited beliefs.
This post is not an attack on Christians so please don’t take it as one. What it is, is one person trying to make sense of what was said by a Christian to my son (also a Christian).
I decided to do a Google search this morning using the words “depression is of the devil” and lo and behold a plethora of pages sprang forth.
Many of these pages spoke about mankind being created in the image of God – whole and perfect – and any disruptions (such as sickness) to this perfection must therefore be sent by Satan. Others spoke about depression being a by-product of sin in a person’s life.
I am not about to dispute that in some cases the result of a person’s actions may lead to a life of regret and disappointment that could in turn to lead to depression however having lived with depression myself and seeing it in the lives of people I love, I have to ask what ‘sin’ was committed that led them to suffer from such an insidious mental illness that robs them of joy in living? And who has the right to say to someone that they are suffering because they sinned? Jesus himself said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and “Judge not that ye be not judged”.
When a person (any person, not just one who is a Christian) suffers depression, it may have been triggered by any number of things. It could have been caused by the loss of someone, traumatic events in the past that have been come to the surface once more, financial or personal crises or combinations of all of the above. Science has discovered that most people who suffer depression also have a hormonal imbalance in their brains or a genetic predisposition toward it. This is why some people can go through life crises and not appear to suffer any ill effect whilst others crumble and find themselves in the depths of despair.
The person who spoke these words to my son does not know of the times my child has cried and begged God to take away his pain. They know nothing of the times that he lay in bed praying, begging and pleading for God to heal him and end his torment. Surely if curing depression was as easy as telling Satan to ‘get behind you’ then my son would be whole and well and enjoying his life once more after his many hours spent in prayer.
I would agree that dealing with depression must be done on three levels – physical, mental and spiritual and it is for this reason that many of my blog posts are about finding the beauty in each day, being thankful for blessings and developing an attitude of gratitude.
However to tell a person who is in the depths of despair that they must not have called upon God for help is (in my opinion) completely wrong. That’s just like kicking a person whilst they are laying upon the ground and have no means in which to defend themselves.
In the defense of many of these articles that I found, they pointed out that seeking medical help and taking medication is not a ‘sin’ but that a person should not wholly rely on these as means of getting better.
Whilst the medication may assist in stabilising the moods of a person suffering depression, they also need to put in some hard yards themselves to bring some sort of joy back to their lives.
Eating well is one way to do so.
Getting out each day and exercising in some form or another is another.
Sitting in the sunshine and absorbing some Vitamin D can also boost your mood.
These things assist in taking care of yourself physically.
Mentally, you need to fight a lot harder in reprogramming the way that you think about life and situations. But it can be done. As can developing your spirituality (whatever you choose that to be). When a person becomes more spiritual, they develop inner peace and this is not a bad thing at all.
All of these things combined can bring some sense of meaning and purpose to a life that is currently filled with anxiety and depression. Joy can be found once more.
So do I think that depression is ‘of the devil’? Maybe. Who knows. It certainly isn’t ‘pure, of good report or praiseworthy’ as is found in Philippians that’s for sure.
What I do believe though is telling someone who is suffering that their suffering is solely spiritual is wrong and only increases the guilt that they may already be feeling. A depressed person already feels unworthy and lacking and these words serve only to drag them further down.
When a person is depressed they require encouragement and support. They need positive affirmations. They need love.
What they don’t need is to be told that they are doing something wrong and that they are allowing Satan control over their lives. If you believe this yourself, then fine. But please don’t allow those words to spill from your lips when speaking with someone with depression.
The words are not helpful.
They serve only to deepen the wounds of a person in pain.
Please, please, think before you open your mouth when speaking with someone with depression.