Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is If I’m a Christian, Why Am I Depressed?: Finding Meaning and Hope in the Dark Valley One Man’s Journey by Robert B. Somerville.
Christians and depression: We don’t often think both of those words should describe us. Yet, for some us, that is or has been our experience. Robert Somerville has written a great resource, describing a dark time in his life, the stories of others, and the hope found in Christ, the Gospel, and the Word of God.
From Somerville’s introduction:
I am endeavoring in this book to write about what I experienced and what I learned in the one foray into deep depression through which I journeyed. I pray that I will never have to pass that way again! It was a dreadful experience, some of which is hard to remember because I was so far out of it so as not to have a clear recollection of it. Many other parts are hard to remember because it is humbling to think of the wildness and incoherence of my thoughts and doubts. The chapter titles are the questions that I wrestled with.
When C.S. Lewis set out to write his autobiography Surprised by Joy he said “I have been emboldened to write of it because I notice that a man seldom mentions what he had supposed to be his own most idiosyncratic sensations without receiving from at least one (often more) of those present the reply, ‘What! Have you felt that too? I always thought I was the only one.’”1
How encouraging it is for those struggling with faith to read how Lewis was dragged by God over the threshold of faith, kicking and screaming and went on to inspire faith in millions! Likewise, each time I speak on the subject of depression and share some of my most humbling and even reviling thoughts that went through my mind in the depths of the depression, I have at least one (often more) come to me following the session and state “I have had those same thoughts! I know how you felt because I have been there! I have never shared my thoughts with anyone else because I didn’t think anyone would understand, and I believed I would be condemned!”
Could you be that one? Have you struggled with the dark feelings of depression?
If not, you probably know someone who has. Many struggle alone. Many turn solely to medical help. Sadly, many, even those who are Christians, do not fully understand what Somerville learned in his dark valley:
Remember that you are not alone in your struggle against depression. Statistics indicate that this year alone, millions of Americans will suffer mild to severe depression. With that in mind I have shared the stories of others whom God has brought across our path, who have come out on the other side or who are still in the battle with depression. Read their stories and be encouraged! They are warriors who have also learned to put their hope in our faithful God. May their stories give you courage to take heart and fight on! I trust that these subjective thoughts on the subject of my depression and the objective teachings from the Word of God which are presented will encourage you to trust in the God who is there and who can truly surprise us by the joy of the Gospel. In the midst of depression, we may not have the feelings of joy, but it is there in seed form because of the knowledge that He loves us and will never leave us or forsake us. That is one objective fact of the universe.
Many great men of faith struggled with bouts of depression: Martin Luther, the great reformer; David Brainerd, the missionary to the American Indians; William Cowper, the prolific hymn writer; and Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, just to name a few.
We understand that depression is a snare that has been trapping men and women throughout history and into our present age. It appears that women are more likely than men to experience a major depression probably because of the hormone fluctuations they experience at various stages in life.
Depression comes to Christians and non-Christians alike, the weak and the strong. We are not only spiritual beings; God has made us of clay—vulnerable to weakness, sin, disease, and yes, depression.
These are some of the questions with which the author wrestled:
- If I’m a Christian, Why am I Depressed?
- Where’s the hope?
- How do I handle my guilt?
- How do I deal with my fear, worry, and anxiety?
- How do I express my grief to God?
- Is joy out of the question?
Another chapter deals with the question:
- How does the caregiver cope?
Along with his story, the author includes stories about post-partum depression, a college student’s story, depression because of sin, depression in the midst of battles with chronic pain, betrayal, disappointment, and others issues.
Those struggling with depression or wishing to help those who are will find great hope in Somerville’s book because it is grounded in God’s Word and the hope that, ultimately, only He can provide.
Jeremiah described it so well when he said, “Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, ‘My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost! The thought of my suffering is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss’” (Lam. 3:17-20 NLT).
But as the Psalmist learned:
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning. (Ps. 30.5b).
Quotations taken from:
Somerville, Robert B. (2014-08-28). If I’m a Christian, Why Am I Depressed?: Finding Meaning and Hope in the Dark Valley One Man’s Journey. Xulon Press. Kindle Edition.
Previously featured books:
Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day by Glynnis Whitwer. Read about it here.
Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Read about it here.
Gift-Wrapped by God: Secret Answers to the Question “Why Wait?” by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus. Read about it here.
The Heart of Anger: Practical Help for the Prevention and Cure of Anger in Children by Lou Priolo. Read about it here.
Sweethearts for a Lifetime: Making the Most of Your Marriage by Wayne and Carol Mack. Read about it here.
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