Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
This time of year, seasonal affective disorder is an issue many face. Dealing with occasional slumps is part of the human experience, but for some people depression is a near-permanent experience. I’ll share some of the verses I go to for these exact issues, but with some explanation attached.
Rom 8.18-27 can be summed up like this: “Everything in creation is a little broken, and we’re all waiting for the day when it’s not broken anymore.”
This isn’t to say that everyone deals with depression, but everyone deals with something. Chronic depression is just as much a byproduct of a flawed reality as arthritis, economic downturn, and car accidents.
For this discussion, there are two principles in Romans 8 that I take to heart: one, depression does NOT mean we don’t love God enough. It’s just another reminder that we aren’t supposed to be here forever. Two, it’s not going to last forever. We can put up with almost anything for a little while. Having the energy to put up with it, though, is something we’ll address with the next passage.
I Tim 5.23 – “Stop drinking water exclusively and use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your constant sickness.”
Look at the principle of this verse, please. It’s not a suggestion to use alcohol as a treatment for depression. Alcohol is known to make depression much worse! The principle is that God has given us the ability to use man-made substances to help sickness.
In fact, Paul uses commands (imperatives), not suggestions here. “Stop drinking water (only),” is one. Paul tells him to make use of (χρῶ, an imperative) a small amount of wine because it would help him manage his chronic stomach issues.
A person dealing with chronic depression – under a health worker’s direction, of course – is absolutely free to use medication to help manage daily life. It doesn’t indicate a “lack of faith” in any way, and it doesn’t mean a person isn’t dependent on God. God himself, through Paul, encourages the responsible use of medication when necessary.
I Cor 7.7 (paraphrased) – “Not everyone has the same abilities.”
This is specifically talking about sexual urges in a completely different context from our discussion. Paul encouraged Christians who were about to face difficulties to avoid the issues that may come with getting married. It’s a lot easier to disown God when an enemy can exploit a person’s love for their spouse. Paul pointed out that not everyone has the same amount of self-control, so if marriage would keep away sexual temptation, go for it.
That said, there’s still a valuable principle here: not everyone has the same abilities. Many Christians who face chronic depression often make things worse for their faith by comparing themselves to other Christians. “(Insert Name) is way more involved, more energetic, more put together, way ahead of me spiritually.” God knows our heart (I Ki 8.39; Rev 2.23). If we aren’t putting all that we can into our faith, we’ll be held accountable for that. God knows what our limits are, and will judge us accordingly.
This principle does not excuse anyone from serving God to the best of their abilities. What it should do is help us put our own abilities into perspective. We have different levels of ability, and God knows that.
In summary: Chronic depression is a very real byproduct of a broken world. God encourages us to take advantage of whatever medical care we have access to. God knows our hearts, which should both provide comfort and push us to grow.