STUDYING THE BIBLE + ESTUDIAR LA BIBLIA
“Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason.
“Scripture is primary, revealing the Word of God ‘so far as it is necessary for our salvation.’ Therefore, our theological task, in both its critical and constructive aspects, focuses on disciplined study of the Bible.”
(The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2016, ¶ 105. Section 4—Our Theological Task)
The congregation of Echo Park United Methodist Church embraces the Bible as the primary source of authority for Christian faith, practice, and theology. It forms us and shapes us as we faithfully seek to follow the way of Jesus and do God’s will in our lives and in our world.
“Wesley creía que el centro vital de la fe cristiana era revelado en la Escritura, iluminado por la tradición, vivificado en la experiencia personal, y confirmado por la razón.
“La Escritura es primaria, pues nos revela la Palabra de Dios en todo lo que es necesario para nuestra salvación. Por lo tanto nuestra tarea teológica, tanto en su aspecto crítico como en el explícito, se enfoca en el estudio disciplinado de la Biblia.“
(Disciplina de la Iglesia Metodista Unida 2016, ¶ 105. Sección 4—Nuestra Tarea Teológica)
La congregación de la Iglesia Metodista Unida de Echo Park abraza la Biblia como la primaria fuente de autoridad para la fe, la práctica y la teología cristiana. Nos forma y nos moldea a medida que buscamos fielmente seguir el camino de Jesús y hacer la voluntad de Dios en nuestras vidas y en nuestro mundo.
READING THE BIBLE + LEER LA BIBLIA
We offer the following schedule of Bible readings for those who seek to deepen their understanding of the scriptures and grow in their ability to apply the scriptures to their daily lives. This schedule invites participants to spend time each day reading passages from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Gospels, and the New Testament. At the end of 365 days, those who follow this schedule will have read the entire Bible – parts of it several times.
We pray that you find this discipline of Bible reading helpful as you grow in faith and wisdom.
Ofrecemos el siguiente calendario de lecturas de la Biblia para aquellos que desean profundizar su comprensión de las escrituras y crecer en su capacidad de aplicar las escrituras a sus vidas diarias. Este calendario invita a los participantes a pasar tiempo cada día leyendo pasajes del Antiguo Testamento, los Salmos, los Evangelios, y el Nuevo Testamento. Al final de 365 días, aquellos que siguen este horario habrán leído toda la Biblia – algunas partes de ella varias veces.
Oramos para que ustedes encuentren esta disciplina de leer la Biblia útil a medida que crecen en fe y sabiduría.
SMALL GROUP BIBLE AND THEOLOGY STUDY (ENGLISH)
We gather to study the Bible and theology on Wednesday evenings from 7:00-8:30 p.m.
During the current COVID-19 crisis, we are meeting by Zoom. You can join us either online or by phone. Use the contact information below.
To join by telephone, call 1-669-900-9128 and enter the meeting id, 718 454 4317 followed by the # key.
The topic of our current study is:
GOD IN THE MIDST OF DEPRESSION
Finding Hope Where There Is No Hope
Week 3 (Wednesday, February 23) – Finding God and Faith through Depression
Preparing for our study together:
- Read Job 42:1-6 from the following translation by J. Gerald Janzen:
1Then Job answered the Lord: 2 “You know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that obscures design by words without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I have not understood, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will make me to know.’ 5 I had heard you with my own ears, and now my eye sees you! 6 Therefore I recant and change my mind concerning dust and ashes.”
[Translation by J. Gerald Janzen in Job (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching) (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1985), p. 251]
- Read the following article by John Shore
CHRISTIANS SHOULDN’T GET DEPRESSED? WHAT BS!
By John Shore
What is your experience with Christians dealing with depression? I’m asking because I’ve suffered from severe depression and anxiety. Most of the pastors I talked to were very understanding and sympathetic. But they also cautioned me not to tell anyone else in the church about my depression.
The Christian mental health counselors I talked to were another story. I told one that my depression and anxiety had become so bad I was considering suicide. She said if I committed suicide I’d go straight to hell, and be separated from my family forever.
The problem was at that point in my life I couldn’t stand going to church. I couldn’t read the Bible without feeling ill, and seeing anything religious made me anxious. So I wasn’t sure where to turn, who to talk to, or what to think.
Have you ever run into people with the same problem, of feeling that their Christian faith should keep them from feeling depressed?
Yes, I have known a great many people who were suffering as you are now. And it is always so heartbreaking.
So many Christians are burdened by the conviction that they are very much supposed to be immune from experiencing basically all of the negative emotions: depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and so on.
Such Christians are caught up in (what I always think of as) the Happy Christian Syndrome. They cannot show the world that they’re unhappy, because that (they feel) would make obvious to all that they are spiritually unfulfilled—that they have a distinct dearth of the Holy Spirit within them.
So they hide their true feelings, especially from their fellow Christians, and most especially from their pastor, of all people. They do that because they don’t want to be thought of as inferior Christians. And that emotional distancing from others—that stress of continually having to pretend to feel a whole lot differently than they do—makes them feel even worse inside, which makes them pretend even harder.
A perfect example of how the Happy Christian Syndrome is enforced and perpetuated is the time when I was speaking with a friend of mine who is a prominent pastor. We were talking about a mutual acquaintance of ours—a member of his congregation—whom I knew to be suffering through some pretty acute depression around some abuse she’d suffered as a child.
“Depression and low-self esteem is pure egoism,” said the pastor. “It’s putting yourself ahead of God. The only psychotherapy anyone needs is the Bible.”
And I thought, Holy cow. This man’s fidelity to the ideals of Christianity has blinded him to the reality of human suffering.
I could ultimately forgive my friend this profound shortcoming, because I knew that he was coming from the same place from which the lack of compassion always comes, which is fear.
He was afraid of the truth that so many Christians are so afraid of they largely block that fear from their conscious minds, which is that Christianity does not have all the answers for everything.
Believing in the Christian God is not a cure for everything that plagues your mind, body and soul. It’s not a fast-track to spiritual happiness. It doesn’t solve all your problems.
You can’t just open your Bible, start reading, and expect, say, your childhood traumas to suddenly evaporate. Because they won’t. That matrix of psychological suckdom will still be there, waiting to swallow you right up, the moment you close that book.
So very much about the lives of so many people is, in one way or another, wrapped up in dealing with—in essentially trying to resolve—issues from their childhood: when they were abused, neglected, traumatized. That grueling sort of emotional legacy from childhood is real. It lasts within us our whole lives long, hurting us, wrecking us, poisoning us.
And, ultimately, we have to deal with it directly, purposefully, methodically, and on its own terms.
Nobody gets to shortcut their way around that kind of deep personal reckoning. Not me, not you, not the Dalai Lama, not the most inspirational pastor in the world. Nobody. Having religious faith can help a person to heal, to find their way, to grieve for the childhood they lost. For sure.
But faith, in and of itself, cannot get that job done for you. You have to help it. You have to join the fight. In this most crucial and real sense, Jesus Christ needs you as much as you need him.
What we all need to do is appreciate and accept that it’s perfectly okay—because it’s so perfectly human—for us, at various times in our lives, and any and no apparent reason, to be hurting, to feel sad, lost, afraid, hopeless and helpless.
Not only is it okay to feel and own these sorts of negative emotions, it’s good. It’s healthy. Because those are the emotions that tell you that something happening somewhere in your life—be it something in the present, or something from the past—is wrong. Is off. Needs your attention.
Something in your world—something near to your heart—needs fixing. Just acknowledging that is the first step towards actually fixing that thing, towards resolving that issue. And facing and resolving issues in our lives is how we grow, how we develop, how we achieve a level of peace in our lives that the Bible alone simply cannot impart.
Any Christian desiring what amounts to permission to feel emotionally desperate has only to remember Christ’s own anguished cry on the cross, My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?
If Jesus can so despair over his belief that he had been abandoned by God, I think it’s safe to assume that anyone who follows him is allowed to do the same.
If you are still suffering in the deeply painful way you described in your letter, then . . . . well, first of all, I’m so glad you didn’t commit suicide! That’s . . . beyond wonderful.
Oh: The idea that you’d have gone to hell for being so desperately sad about life that you opted to end your life is pure and horrendously toxic bullshit. It’s just an insanely stupid thing to believe. (That said, if the fear of eternal damnation stops a person from committing suicide, then . . . that’s certainly a good thing. Still not true—but if something saves a person’s life, at least for that moment it’s good enough for me. But I can’t think of any other context in which “People who commit suicide go to hell” is anything but reprehensible.)
Anyway, I’m very glad that particularly dark cloud passed you by.
Beyond that, my best advice is to pay attention to your “negative” emotions. Listen to them, sit with them, respect them. Appreciate them.
Because those emotions are your friends. They are telling you—in the only language they have, which is the language of the heart—that something you are more than capable of fixing does in fact needs to be fixed.
There’s someone you need to talk to, some conclusion you need to draw, some action you need to take. Very often your “negative” emotions are trying to tell you there’s a little child within you, the child you used to be, who needs your love and attention.
Whatever the problem is, you can handle it. You’re in control. You have the power to determine the quality of your own life.
If anyone else has a problem with you feeling your way through your own pain, with you working out your own personal concerns and issues—and especially if that person is in any way using Christianity as a means of shaming you, or trying to impress upon you how important it is that you never express whatever it is you’re feeling or going through—then [bleep] that person.
They don’t know you. They don’t know your problems. And they sure as [bleep] don’t know Jesus Christ. Any person who makes a point of telling you how God feels about you wouldn’t know God from hollow gourd. Feel free to shake off such people like the proverbial dust from your shoes. Makes going forward a lot easier.
Okay! That’s it for now! Don’t hesitate to write me anytime, to let me know how you’re doing. Love to you.
The above article has been published on the website, “John Shore: Trying God’s Patience Since 1958”, and you may find it there:
Week 2 (Wednesday, February 16) – Living with Depression as a Christian
Led by John Chavis
Preparing for our study together:
- Click here to read Lamentations 3:1-33
- Read the following article by John Chavis from the February 2022 edition of The Echo
A GOD OF NEW PERSPECTIVES
By John Chavis
Where I live at, we have a small garden that runs along the fence of our backyard. One of the women in my building likes to tend this garden on beautiful Spring days and enjoy being out there myself, the fresh smell of mints, cilantro and damp earth that tickle my nostrils in the most delightful ways. Working with nature has always been relaxing to me, and fascinating.
I’ve passed by this garden now for the last twenty-five years, occasionally stopping to pinch off a dead leaf or remove a stray twig, and the garden never really changes much. A few days ago, I was drying my clothes in the laundry room and noticed a low window just behind the dryer. I never really gave it much thought, never was even curious about it. But for some reason, I just felt compelled to look out and much to my surprise, it actually looked down on the garden. It was still the same garden I’ve seen for twenty-five years and yet, it was as if I was looking at someone else’s garden, not quite my own. You see, I’d always looked at it from a typical angle. But for the first time, I was seeing it from a new perspective. A fresh perspective. And in it, I discovered a new beauty and fascination with the garden I’ve seen for so many years. It was like reading a brand new chapter. It left a great impact on me.
In the same way, sometimes we have to look at our lives this way, look at it from a new and different angle and gain a new perspective on it. Human beings never stop growing. We must be willing to constantly gain new insight into ourselves – discover some new things about us and how we can use these to enhance and find meaning in our lives. Every day, every hour, every second, God is constantly changing things. He’s a God of the fresh and new, and indeed, He can even take an old idea and refresh it, dust it off and make it sparkle once again. You’ve gotta love a God who can do that! He can do it with relationships, with dreams, with hearts, with lives.
Being in the hospital gave me a new perspective on the depression and diabetes I struggle with and in doing so, I gained a few new tools and weapons to replace the ones that had once done their job well but now were tired and worn out. Then there were a few tools and weapons I had never used and was invited to dust these off and start using them. These are things that never really occurred to me. Also, it was something Pastor Wulf said to me before those days leading up to the hospital, and it was something not even my therapist or psychiatrist had never suggested. We talked a great deal about things spiritually and mentally. We never found an answer, but he did make a profound suggestion. The gist of it was, instead of trying to take on the entire mountain of depression like I have been doing for the last 40 years because I thought that’s what I was expected to do (and had even been told by earlier therapists that this was what I needed to do to recover quicker), Pastor Wulf – who would have made a damn good psychologist if he had chosen this field – first suggested that I take one isolated incident and try to identify what triggered that exact moment I started speaking so negatively about myself. It was like looking for the root cause that makes me fall into a depression so quickly and so deeply. So, I went from there, looking at the most current episode and pinpointing what triggered it, and I discovered that this trigger was actually one of several root causes. But it was this one I chose to focus on. Without going into too much depth, it was much easier to focus on one root cause at a time, and instead of rushing for an easy solution, to actually sit down with it and come to terms with it, simply by saying for example, “If it’s true I can’t do anything right, where’s the proof? If I was able to at least dress myself this morning and tie my own shoes, how could it possibly be true that I can’t do anything right?” There is no overnight cure for an emotional illness and I’ve come to stop expecting one. There’s no doubt I may yet fall into another depression, but while there’s little I can do about the illness itself, I can challenge those negative voices and put the lie to them. In a way, I needed to come at my depression from a new angle, a new perspective, similar to seeing my garden in a new way. And I know with the help of good people like Pastor Wulf and my therapist and my sister way out in Texas battling the mosquitoes, and the more I practice, hopefully, the days of depression and anxiety will lesson little by little.
The God we serve is a God of new perspectives. He’s a God that invites us to look at our lives from a new point-of-view, both our good times and bad. Sometimes, what seems to be so bad isn’t really so bad at all, once you come at it in a different way. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It simply doesn’t work that way, and now it’s no longer just a clever quote, but an actual fact. To become the people we want to be, oft times than not, we’re going to have to change directions, going left after going right for so long and getting nowhere, going North when you’ve been going South most of your life, and it’s not easy because you don’t know where you’re going to end up as you move out of your comfort zone. It’s like the book, Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D., an excellent read and if you haven’t read it, you should do yourself a huge favor and read it. It’s short and to the point about the very thing I’m talking about.
I’m glad that I have a good God I can rely on and right now, I’m relying on Him for everything – right down to even brushing my teeth the way He tells me to. Lean not to your own understanding. Little by little, God is healing us and changing us and stretching us, leading us up the steps one riser at a time, and if God is in no rush, it could only mean that you don’t have to rush either. Your time is assured and it’s assured that God is going to get you to where you want to go, even if the path sometimes zig-zag or even double-back on itself. But along the way, look at all the different angles and perspectives. Don’t miss out on seeing the entirety of your garden. There’s more than meets the eye. Amen.
The above article has been published in the February 2022 edition of The Echo, the newsletter of Echo Park United Methodist Church, and you may read it there:
Week 1 (Wednesday, February 16) – What Depression Is and Isn’t
Preparing for our study together:
- Click here to read Psalm 139:1-24
- Read the following article by Elizabeth Clayton Lee and Mary Keith
FACING DEPRESSION AS A CHRISTIAN: BEWARE THESE MISCONCEPTIONS
By Elizabeth Clayton Lee and Mary Keith
Not only can depression make you question God or feel distant from Him, but it can also make navigating Christian community more difficult. Depression can be even more challenging for Christians because, unfortunately, there are misconceptions and stigmas associated with depression in many Christian communities.
When you or the people around you do not understand the reality of depression, it makes seeking help more difficult. Depression can already distort your perception of reality or make you doubt your judgment. It’s crucial to be able to recognize what is and is not true about depression.
Many well-meaning people may actually give you bad advice because they don’t understand depression.
MISCONCEPTION: Depression is not real.
REALITY: Depression is a real illness that impacts the brain’s ability to function as it should.
The idea that depression is not real is a very dangerous misconception that prevents many people from getting help.
I (Elizabeth) remember sharing about my depression with a friend. He shared that he had similar experiences. He even felt so bad in high school that his mother took him to the doctor. The doctor diagnosed him with major depression and prescribed antidepressants. When they got home, his mother threw the medication sample in the trash and said that depression was not real. They never went back to the doctor or mentioned the diagnosis again.
My friend’s mother is a strong Christian who cares deeply for her son, but she bought into the myth that depression is not real. She seemed to think it was something shameful. Sadly, my friend to needlessly suffered from depression for years and even despaired of life itself. He finally got professional help for his depression a few years ago and is now thriving.
MISCONCEPTION: Depression is a sin.
Variation: Being depressed means you are failing to trust God. Being depressed means you are failing to be joyful in or to give thanks to God.
REALITY: Depression is an illness, not a sin.
If you get a cold or suffer from back pain or any physical illness, does anyone ever tell you that you’re being sinful or failing to trust God because you are in pain? It sounds unreasonable because it is. It’s just as unreasonable to say suffering from depression or any other mental illness is a sin.
God created a perfect world, but when evil entered, perfection was shattered and the world was never the same. We all suffer in some ways from the results of evil breaking into God’s perfect creation. Illness, whether it be physical or mental, is one of the many ways we see how broken our world truly is.
Yes, mental illness is often triggered by stressors or negative environmental factors, but that does not mean it is not real. Physical illness is also frequently triggered by stressors and negative environmental factors. Stress can cause ulcers and increase the risk of a heart attack, very serious illnesses that, like depression, need treatment, not condemnation.
MISCONCEPTION: Depression will go away if you pray hard enough or have enough faith.
REALITY: Depression usually needs to be treated with more than prayer.
Again, depression is a serious illness. As with any illness, someone with depression should seek professional medical treatment. While God is capable of divinely healing mental or physical illness, He does not always intervene in that way. He provides other ways to heal. God gave people like doctors and mental health professionals the understanding and skills to help those who are suffering.
Because chronic stress and trauma can cause physical and chemical changes in the body and brain, they can trigger or worsen depression. Therapy or counseling can be a crucial part of treatment for many people suffering from depression. Being able to process trauma and come up with strategies to reduce stressors and cope with difficulties can help people heal from depression.
Though there is often an environmental and emotional component to depression, the underlying issue is usually biological. This is one reason two people may be going through the same or similar situations and one may develop depression while the other does not. Depression, as with all things involving the brain, is complex, and not even the most advanced researchers fully understand exactly what causes it.
Doctors have found many biological factors that cause or contribute to depression, including genetics, parts of the brain not functioning as they should, problems with neurotransmitters and neurons (nerve cells), and certain medical conditions. Sometimes medications help correct or lessen these issues and so treat depression. Just as people with high blood pressure take medication to help their circulatory systems function better, you may need to seek out medication to help your brain function better.
There is no shame in needing medication for depression if you are a Christian.
MISCONCEPTION: Depression is a punishment from God.
Variation: If you feel depressed, it’s because you have unconfessed sin.
REALITY: Depression is not the fault of the person who is suffering. It is a difficult trial that can refine someone’s faith but it’s not a punishment for sin.
Once, after I (Elizabeth) shared my testimony with a group of students at my university, a friend came up to me and said, “When I feel like that, I try to figure out what I’ve done wrong that I need to confess.” The comment, while totally inappropriate, was actually meant to be a helpful piece of advice, not a judgment.
Even in Jesus’ day, people were eager to ascribe blame for illness and disability, but He challenged their assumptions. We see this in John 9:1-3 (New Living Translation).
As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” His disciples asked Him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”
“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.
The assumption that depression or any mental illness is a punishment for sin is just as faulty as the disciples’ assumption that the man’s physical blindness was a result of sin.
MISCONCEPTION: Depression is just an excuse for laziness or not doing your “Christian duty.”
Variation: You are letting God and your church down if you are too depressed to serve or minister.
REALITY: God loves you however much you do to serve Him.
People who are depressed are already dealing with enough without also being shamed for not doing “enough.”
Churches often rally around people going through physical illness, bringing them meals and showing them grace. Sadly, mental illness is often met with judgment instead of compassion and support.
Not only is this unhelpful, it’s unbiblical. Depressed or not, your relationship with God is more important than doing or serving. We see this in Jesus’ interaction with two sisters named Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42 (NLT):
As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed— or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
God is more concerned with your heart and obedience than how much you serve at church or how many times you can share your testimony. Your service for God is an expression of the change He has brought about in your life rather than a strategy for winning His favor.
But no matter what anyone says, having a relationship with God is not about what you can do for God. He’s already done everything through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, so once you have a relationship with God, you cannot lose it by failing to do religious things.
Depression can make it very difficult to accomplish the tasks of day-to-day life, including ministry. You may be in a season in your life when you need to focus on seeking healing from your mental illness and let some other commitments go. That’s okay.
Even if you cannot serve in your normal roles at church or minister in any way, God still loves you. No one should try to guilt or shame you for not being able to do what you would normally do as your Christian service.
You should be allowed to serve when you are able, trusting God to provide you with opportunities to share your faith even when you’re depressed.
I (Elizabeth) remember that in one season of bad depression, my thoughts spiraled downward until they came to a point where I wondered, What if I feel utterly depressed and unable to do anything every day for the rest of my life? At that moment, God gave me the assurance that He would still love me and have a purpose for my life.
The reality is that God will probably give you many opportunities to serve and minister at a time when your depression is not at its worst. He will give you a new, powerful testimony about His faithfulness during suffering, like He did with me. You can use your story to serve others who are in the midst of suffering.
But even if you can never do anything else “for God” again, He still loves you and would not leave you or forsake you.
MISCONCEPTION: People with depression are unstable and cannot be trusted with church leadership or responsibilities.
Variation: Depression is an indication of unconfessed sin or weak faith, so people with depression are not fit for leadership.
REALITY: Depression and other mental illnesses do not disqualify people from leadership or church roles. Experiencing depression can give people compassion or perspective in a way that actually makes them excellent leaders.
Some people may need to step back from certain roles during times of deep depression, but others who struggle with depression are perfectly capable of serving and even leading in ministry activities.
- Radical dependence on God is crucial not only for surviving depression but also for ministry and leadership.
This is especially true when people are seeking treatment or have depression that is well controlled. Though depression, like many medical conditions, may be a lifelong struggle, people often learn to cope well with resources like counseling and medication.
Suffering is a universal experience, so church leaders need to be well-equipped to care for people who are going through hardship. When you’ve walked with God through something as difficult as depression, it gives you a greater ability to walk with others through difficult times.
Not only can depression increase a person’s level of compassion and empathy, it can also provide a new perspective on life that equips them for Christian leadership.
Personally, when I (Elizabeth) was depressed, my prayer life increased. I needed God in a way I never had before. In some moments, all I could do was pray, “God, help everything to be okay.” But I knew He was there, sustaining me when I did not have the ability to sustain myself.
Radical dependence on God is crucial not only for surviving depression but also for ministry and leadership.
Depression also gave me eternal perspective. Eternal perspective is understanding that God and eternal things matter so much more than our present reality.
During times of depression, I really identify with the book of Ecclesiastes. In it, Solomon, a king of Israel and son of King David, talks about the ways he sought fulfillment and meaning in life. He lists temporary things such as pleasure, knowledge and wisdom, possessions, success, hard work and so on.
He declares each of these cravings as “meaningless.” When you experience depression, it’s easier to share Solomon’s perspective because none of these things can lift you out of depression. The things of God begin to matter more. You crave the eternal.
Even when things were really bad, I knew that one day, I would be with God in heaven and I would never have to suffer again. I want everyone to be there with me and get the chance to experience lasting, eternal joy. Depression helped me understand the value of ministry and of helping people start a relationship with God in a new way.
MISCONCEPTION: It’s shameful to discuss mental illness openly.
REALITY: Church community should be a safe environment for people to discuss mental health without judgment.
Sadly, some Christians can be very judgmental about mental illness, but that is not a biblical response. Mental illness is not something you should be made to feel ashamed of or fear sharing with your church community.
- Depression and mental illness should receive as kind and gentle a response from Christians as they do from Jesus.
Jesus made it clear He was not pleased with people who put on a show of being very religious and moral and who judged others.
A group of religious leaders called the Pharisees were the epitome of religious people who act like they have it all together and judge others who do not. Jesus often called the Pharisees out for their hypocrisy. In contrast, Jesus was gentle and kind with people who were struggling and even sinning but who were open to God changing their lives.
The Christian community should never be a place where people feel they need to hide and cover up what they are really going through. In a genuine Christian community, people can share all of their struggles and ask for prayer without fear of shame or judgment. They can testify about how God is working through whatever is happening in their lives.
Depression and mental illness should receive as kind and gentle a response from Christians, as they do from Jesus.
MISCONCEPTION: You can always tell if someone’s depressed by outward appearances or actions.
REALITY: You cannot always tell that someone is depressed from how they look or act.
Many people with depression are so skilled at hiding their condition that you would never know from the outside.
I (Elizabeth) have heard people say something along the lines of, “But you do not look depressed.” I’m not sure what exactly people think depression should look like, but depression can look a lot of different ways.
You can wish you no longer existed but look fine to the people around you. This is especially true for someone struggling with bipolar disorder, which includes high moods, called manic episodes, alternating with deep, severe depression.
Sadly, I’ve had a friend and a teacher who suffered from bipolar disorder die from suicide. Both were very outgoing and fun to be around much of the time. I remember meeting so many people at their funerals who were stunned and confused. I heard comments like, “He’s the last person I would ever have guessed would be suicidal,” or, “But he was always so happy.”
You cannot assume someone is okay based on external appearances.
MISCONCEPTION: It’s okay to talk about another person’s depression or struggles with mental illness as long as they do not know.
Variation: Sharing someone’s struggles with mental illness without their knowledge lets other people know they need to be sensitive.
REALITY: When people share their mental health concerns, those should be respected and kept in confidence. It is gossip to talk about others’ mental health behind their backs.
Talking about someone else’s personal issues when they have not given you permission is never a good idea. But it can be especially painful when you are sharing someone’s struggles with mental illness.
Whether you think you are having a serious conversation about a real issue or you are just sharing gossip, using specific examples from the life of a person you know is a breach of their trust. Prayers and prayer requests for others should be respectful, not thinly veiled opportunities for gossip or judgment.
The above article has been published on the website for Cru, and you may find it there: https://www.cru.org/us/en/blog/life-and-relationships/emotions/to-the-depressed-christian.html