Shocked. Stunned. Saddened.
These emotions, among others, hit me when I first heard the news of Robin Williams’ death last week. At first, I thought it was an internet hoax. Quickly, it became apparent that it was not only true, but that he committed suicide.
Like so many others I have been entertained by the comedic genius of Robin Williams. While I chose to avoid some of his films because of the language or sexual content, my three favorite were: Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Patch Adams.
Ironically, the man who enriched other people’s lives and made so many laugh hysterically, was deeply depressed and despaired to continue living. However, his tragic and untimely death has thrust into our national consciousness the issues of mental health, depression and suicide.
Our word of the week is “depression.”
This is not a word often used in the Bible, but the problem is referenced in many places and seen in the lives of several Bible characters: Job, Moses, David and Elijah, to name a few.
Depression is something that we too often ignore in the “Christian community.” Maybe it’s ignorance of the problem. Or it makes us uncomfortable. Or it could be denial that it’s a problem among “real Christians.”
Several years ago an elder in the local church where I was preaching, asked me to present a lesson on depression. He told me that several members who were absence on a given Sunday had missed services because they were depressed. It surprised him. And me.
I agreed to present the lesson, but I walked away wondering where I’d find any Bible material on depression! So, I went to the local religious bookstore and purchased some books on the topic by authors with a conservative, Bible-based value system. Interestingly, their books put me right back into the book–The Bible! During the course of my research I also interviewed several professionals in the field–psychiatrists, psychologists and trained counselors. As a result, I preached 5 lessons on Depression!
The wise man wrote, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad” (Proverbs 12:25)
While I don’t hold a degree in psychology, nor consider myself an “expert,” I want to share “a good word” that may provide some help and hope for those suffering with depression.
Depression can range anywhere from just “feeling down” to clinical depression that renders a person unable to cope with problems and function normally. Milder cases are sometimes just called “the blahs,” “the blues,” or “down in the dumps.” Winston Churchill even had a name for it when he felt depressed. He called it “the black dog of depression.”
While statistics vary from study to study, it seems safe to say that about 1 in 4 American women in their lifetime will suffer depression. It will affect 1 in 8 men and 1 out of 10 children by age 12. Dr. Rich Johnson, a practicing psychologist, told me that depression is an increasing problem in children. And it has been for the past 20 years. Over 8% of adolescents suffer from depression at any given time.
It is estimated that depression affects 30 million Americans and is a $16 billion drain on our economy. According to The World Health Organization depression will be the 2nd highest medical cause of disability by the year 2030.
Depression affects all people regardless of demographic, age, wealth, or race. People from the highest to the lowest social position are affected. And so, are Christians! Too often we think that a Christian is not supposed to be impacted by the same problems as other people. Not so!
Unfortunately, other Christians can too often project a lack of empathy and sympathy for their brothers and sisters suffering from depression. Expressions like, “snap out of it,” “get over it,” or “suck it up” are not only unhelpful, but counter productive. And they fail to apply the Biblical admonition “to bear one another’s burdens.”
This week we want to consider some Bible characters who suffered from depression. Some of the causes. And offer a “good word” of hope for the depressed person. Maybe in some small way it will ease a burden that you are bearing.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman