Depression is Not a Symptom of Faithlessness – A Guest Post

Hello! I want to introduce you to guest blogger, Dr. Ryan Fraser. I know you will benefit from what he has to share!

Ryan Fraser

Ryan Noel Fraser was raised in Cape Town, South Africa. He has been happily married to his college sweetheart, Missy, for 26 years. Together they have two teenage children.

Ryan holds a B.A. in Bible and Master’s in Ministry from Freed-Hardeman University, a M.Div. from Abilene Christian University, and a Ph.D. in Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Counseling from Brite Divinity School (Texas Christian University). He teaches courses in the graduate counseling program at Freed-Hardeman University (since 2006), runs a private counseling practice, and serves as the pulpit minister and an elder for the Bethel Springs Church of Christ in McNairy County, Tennessee.

Dr. Fraser is a Certified Pastoral Counselor (with the American Association of Pastoral Counselors). He is a Saturday columnist for the Religion Section of The Jackson Sun. His weekly column is entitled “Faithful Living.”

Ryan is an 80’s music connoisseur and an avid hiker. He is addicted to Indian curry and enjoys hanging out with his wife and kids.

Depression is Not a Symptom of Faithlessness
By Ryan N. Fraser, Ph.D.

Depression hurts. Deeply. If you suffer with it, you know that firsthand. And nobody is immune, not even Christians.

It’s a widespread mental health problem in our nation with 14.8 million of the adult population being diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Depression is twice as prevalent in women as men. It is the leading cause of disability in America for ages 15-44 and often co-occurs with anxiety disorders and substance abuse. More than 350 million people worldwide suffer with depression. The medical community has long recognized it as a huge health risk, especially when it results in suicide.

Christians who suffer with depression often question the validity of their faith. They feel spiritually weak for relying on antidepressants. This is fueled by shame, guilt, confusion, and hopelessness. Believers may hold the mistaken idea that God is angry with them for some reason and must be punishing them for their sins. Indeed, depression can rob Christians of their spiritual peace and joy. Proverbs 17:22 (ESV) says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Suffering with depression ought not be viewed as a symptom of faithlessness. It’s a medical condition resulting from an altered brain structure and chemical imbalance. Brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters cease to function properly and thus affect mood. The disorder may be passed down genetically from one generation to the next. Symptoms of depression should never be ignored or minimized. It requires proper medical treatment along with competent professional counseling.

It doesn’t matter how spiritually minded someone is, depression is no respecter of persons and impacts individuals at all levels of spiritual maturity. To get down on oneself for feeling depressed, or to criticize those who struggle with it, is tantamount to blaming victims for a problem over which they have little control. It’s both unloving and unfair.

Everyday tasks like getting out of bed in the morning, taking care of personal hygiene, grooming and getting dressed, preparing meals, or performing simple chores around the house become seemingly insurmountable challenges. Sleep patterns are erratic—either too much or not enough. Energy levels plummet. Depression also can take a toll on our relationships, negatively impacting marriages and friendships.

In the past, I’ve counseled godly leaders who have told me that they were thinking about resigning their ministries due to their losing battle with depression. Their self-esteem and confidence has taken a big hit. But, in my opinion, these church leaders possess tremendous insight, wisdom, and empathy because of their personal experience with depression, which they wouldn’t have otherwise. They are, therefore, a valuable resource to others who suffer with depression.

David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; 16:7), yet he seems to have dealt with depression. In Psalm 31:9-10, 12 (ESV) he cries out, “Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away … I have been forgotten like one who is dead. I have become like a broken vessel.” David’s melancholic language reveals that he was clearly not in a good place in his life.

However, with God’s help he survived his painful ordeal. David trusted that God would strengthen and sustain him. He states in Psalm 30:5 (ESV), “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” This beautiful scripture is infused with thankfulness, hope, and joy at the steadfast love of our God.

Depressed persons often feel bogged down emotionally, but the Great Physician is able to bind up their broken hearts (Psalm 147:3; Isaiah 61:1). God is aware of your needs and hears your cries for help. He cares about you. Psalm 34:18 (ESV) promises, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

So never give up! Take hold of God’s loving hand. He won’t let go of you. Seek godly counsel, professional care, and support from others. You’re not alone!

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Why Scanning the Radio Can Be Helpful

As I’m driving down the road on another long trip, I decided to scan the radio.

It first stops on a news channel hosting yet another “-thon” to raise money.

Naturally, I decide to let the radio keep scanning,

Then, the radio stops on a country channel. And while I happen to like country music, I just could not take one more song about a man sitting on a bar stool with his dying dog crying over his long lost girlfriend (or something like that.)

So, I decide to let the radio keep scanning.

When the radio stops, I hear the deep, reassuring voice of Anne Graham Lotz. Oh, how I love her! I decided to listen for a while.

I began to wonder how she was reading my mind through the radio waves. After all, she was clearly talking to me as she relayed the struggle “some folks” have with being too busy to give enough time to loving God.

You know how it goes…you are so busy doing for God that there isn’t any time left for your relationship with God.

She mentioned the usual suspects that lead us to focus more on our ministries than on God. You know the ones: thinking too highly of ourselves in ministry, being jealous of others in ministry, feeling defeated or discouraged in ministry.

The list goes on, but the point is one that resonated with me. Apparently it came from Mrs. Lotz’s personal experiences, because that’s what she went on to share.

I loved this raw, revealing message and got to thinking about how much it really applies to many of us in other areas that distract us from our relationship with God. We hurry through our morning devotionals so we can move on to checking Facebook. We hurry through a Bible study so that we can spend more time socializing (or we spend so much time socializing that we barely get to the Bible study.) We spend more time talking about prayer than we do actually praying. Yes, we allow a lot of distractions into our lives that take away from the most important and meaningful relationship we can have.

But we really don’t have to. We can take the reminders from this radio broadcast to heart, and work harder on our focus. Facebook less. Bible study more. Pray without ceasing! I know you have lots more ideas. So, friends, what do you do to minimize distractions and focus more on your relationship with God?

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Hey Non-Moms? You’re Doing A Good Job Too

I love mommy blogs. Funny for a non-mom like me to say that, but it’s true. I think I particularly like the blogs reminding moms they’re doing a good job. The ones that encourage moms to stop worrying so much about losing the baby weight. The ones that remind moms to be more concerned about making memories with their kids than the mess their kids are making in the process. The ones that let moms know it’s okay to make mistakes (because everyone does) and it’s okay to think you’re messing your kids up (because everyone thinks that). The ones that say, “Hey, moms. You’re doing a good job.”

Yes, I love those messages. But, I’m here today with a message for all the non-moms out there. You’re doing a good job too. Whether you are not at the having kids stage in your life yet. Whether you have struggled with infertility or miscarriages. Whether you are waiting for that special child to be placed in your ever ready home. Whether having kids is in the future for you at all (by choice or circumstance). You’re doing a good job too.

You’re doing a good job of loving the kids around you. The kids in your extended family. The kids in your church nursery. The kids in your neighborhood. You love them and they love you. You’re a good role model, and someone they can count on. You participate in their fundraisers and remember them on special occasions. Yes, you’re doing a good job.

You’re doing a good job with the time you have without kids. Whether it’s working overtime to pay off debt or volunteering in the community or spending extra time with a friend in need. Many moms do these things too and should be applauded, but I think you non-moms should be applauded too. It’s still a sacrifice when the “to do” list is every growing and never ending. Yes, you’re doing a good job.

You’re doing a good job being patient and trusting in this time of waiting. Maybe you’ll have kids. Maybe you won’t. But you are hanging in there. Some days, some moments, are more difficult than others, but you’re making it. Maybe even thriving despite it. You don’t know what the future holds, but you know who holds the future. And you patiently wait and trust. Yes, you’re doing a good job.

Moms need encouragement. Non-moms need encouragement too. And I just want you to know, you’re doing a good job too.

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