The reality of spiritual depression: Part 1

PSALM 42 & 43

Over 3 million people in the UK are diagnosed with depression.

Depression is a mood disorder, characterized by the persistent feeling of sadness, lack of motivation and interest.

(My Therapy website)

Depression is a major issue throughout the population and disciples of Jesus are commonly subject to it along with everybody else. We could ask, why is that? When Jesus promises such a glorious hope.  Isn’t Christianity all about love, forgiveness, healing and joy? The songs are full of praise and upbeat. If we have enough faith, it could be assumed, God will bless us with good things and problems will be solved and we will and should be happy.

We could ask, is there a spiritual dimension to depression? If so, what comes first depression for other reasons or is the cause of depression spiritual? Spirituality and depression has been researched around the world, although it is more difficult to identify outcomes specifically concerning Christian faith and depression. Even in the more general research it is difficult to be definitive about the connection between faith and specifically depression although there are general trends that clearly connect to peoples experience of the Christian faith.

A review of over 400 related research papers between 1962 and 2011 concluded, ‘Religious beliefs and practices may help people to cope better with stressful life circumstances, give meaning and hope, and surround depressed persons with a supportive community. In some populations or individuals, however, religious beliefs may increase guilt and lead to discouragement as people fail to live up to the high standards of their religious tradition.’ ( I think that seems realistic and has both positive and negative implications for the communication of the Christian faith and in particular how the bible’s teaching is shared and understood.  It also raises a number of questions about how the church approaches its mission in relation to peoples experience of depression and in particular spiritual depression.  Psalms 42 and 43 are originally one psalm divided into three stanzas, each one concludes with the same repeated question, ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? The psalmist then urges himself to, ‘Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.’ They recount the internal dialogue of an individual experiencing spiritual depression.

Please read through the two psalms and consider how much do they reflect your own experience and possibly that of a good friend.  A closer look at the text will be in part 2.

As the deer pants for the water – Robin Mark

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