In March, Fathom Mag published an article I wrote about my own struggle to concede my need for an anti-depressant. A wise pastor and friend helped me to see that medication was not an alternative to provision from God. It was a provision from God.
I’ve been taking Prozac for a couple years now and it has helped me function at a more healthy level. But my depression didn’t go away with antidepressants. I still wake up feeling somewhere on a scale between numb to hopeless for no apparent reason. Some seasons of depression the darkness is thick and paralyzing. Sometimes, despite it’s disorienting fog, I can still hear the birds and walk step by step in the light I have. Medication and counseling have both helped me function through times of depression. But nothing has re-lit the smoldering ash pile in my heart like God’s word.
We Are Not Just Souls
We are not just souls. We are bodies too. The gnostics believe in transcending the body to reach a higher deified goodness too good for all things physical. But Christians don’t, or shouldn’t believe that. Although I think we often do, which is part of the reason why I’m not the only Christian who’s had a hard time accepting medications for help with a mental health problem.
We believe in a risen Christ. He isn’t floating around in some ethereal existence. He has a body. A scarred body. And we believe we too will be raised into an ever-living body like his. Our God dwelt among us in a body. He ate, slept, suffered and died. And he walked on physical, resurrected feet out of a sealed tomb.
We Are Not Just Bodies
Just as we are physical, we are also spiritual beings. We need food and water and sometimes medication. But we also need God. We need his word. We need to hear him and talk with him. We need relationship with him.
Prozac has helped my physical need for serotonin. But God’s word has been my rock when, despite the medication, my world feels like sinking sand. God’s word has been the light I know is there even though I can’t see it. God’s word has been my hope when I feel numb. God’s promises have been my assurance when I feel alone. God’s word has given me words, fruit of lips as it were, so I can praise my Redeemer when I feel blank. My feelings will never match the worth of Jesus, so even when I feel nothing, when I speak God’s word out loud, I acknowledge the truth with my broken body and spirit.
When Jesus, hungry from 40 days of fasting, was tempted, he didn’t say, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” because we’re not supposed to eat. Jesus went on to eat bread, but he depended upon God’s word to overcome the spiritual testing he was going through. And in this life, full of testings of our faith, depression being one of them, we need food, and sometimes Prozac. But we cannot counter the temptation to give into faithlessness with antidepressants alone. Just as we need food for our bodies, and may need antidepressants for our ill brains, we need God’s word to withstand the temptation to let depression win.
There are many passages of scripture that are helpful in depression. But here are four key passages I recall and repeat when I find myself in it’s fog.
1. Psalm 42. The whole chapter is helpful, but particularly these words:
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
When I’m depressed this psalm forces me to question myself and preach to myself. Sometimes it’s all I can say. And between the question I ask my soul and the answer I tell myself I am helped to press on in the fog.
2. Romans 8: 28-39 All ten verses… but these clips really spark a flame of hope in me.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose…
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There is so much help here. These words stare depression in the face and say, “Do what you will, but you only serve her. She’ll conquer you. Because she’s mine. Christ died for her, and lives for her. Nothing, not even your poison, can separate her from my love.”
3. Micah 7:8-9
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be a light to me.
I will bear the indignation of the Lord
because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall look upon his vindication.
Depression is not sin. But I am a sinner. Depression is not a form of God’s indignation I’m made to bear. But my brokenness, the world’s brokenness, including depression, is all the result of sin in God’s image bearers. When I sit in the deep darkness of depression I can remind myself, and my enemy, that Christ is my light. And one day I’ll be free from this darkness and see his vindication.
4. Psalm 143. Again, the whole thing. But these words are poignant.
Answer me quickly, O Lord!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
This is the prayer of the depressed. God has given me something to pray when I can’t smith together a petition of words. This says exactly how I feel when depression comes- like those who go down to the pit. And this helps me remember what I need even more than medication- to hear the word of God. To hear him say, “I love you.”