Monday, November 30, 2009

Going the Distance - Chapter 5

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives. 

Chapter 5: Depression doesn't have to be depressing

This is an interesting chapter. Brain makes a distinction between exogenous depression (depression that is reactive to a loss) and endogenous depression (which is biological). He does not attempt to deal with endogenous depression (which is often treated with medication), instead pointing people to other resources. Instead, he deals with exogenous depression - the more common depression experienced by many people, often. A simple (yet hard to absolutely define) difference may be the feeling of depression, rather than actually having depression.

It is important to see this distinction and understand it, for otherwise some of his suggestions seem inappropriate and a little superficial. However, as he is dealing with the more usual 'downs' of life, this chapter is a helpful one.

He states that depression, is
a part of our body's 'early warning system', alerting us to the fact that something is wrong and needs to be dealt with. We may need to slow down, seek medical treatment, turn to God in repentance or allow the grieving process to take its course. Depression may be an agent used by God for our sanity (where depression is a response to loss), or our sanctification (if there is an sinful act or attitude involved). For every loss situation there is an appropriate amount of depression. (p70)
I wondered whether I agreed with his definition - that depression is the reaction to a loss. When we discussed this a little more, we wondered whether it could be more broadly defined as the reaction to change.

Brain goes on to talk about how the truth of God and the gospel inform us and prepare us for these times:
the learning of contentment and trust in God's sovereignty and faithfulness can help us face loss when it comes, whether through happy or unhappy, expected or unexpected, circumstances. None of this is meant for a moment to downplay the loss of people or things in our lives, but in so far as we are detached from them as reasons for living, and attached to our Lord, we will be better able to face their loss and move through the resultant grieving process. (p73)
I think my husband is good at this. When something happens that could cause disappointment, he is able to separate himself from it. Not to say he doesn't care (he certainly does), but he is able to discern when he is responsible, or when things are best left to God or others. He knows that God alone can change people and they are responsible before God. On the other hand, I need to work at this a little more, and not take things as personally as I tend to.

This chapter then gets a little more practical - addressing some issues of self-care that may help, helpful tips in listening to those who are depressed and a reminder of the truths of God that can help Christians who are depressed.

If you would like another place to go to think a little more about depression as a Christian, read Paul Grimmond's article in the August 09 Briefing here.

Some things to think about:

  1. What losses or changes have you experienced that have caused you to feel depressed?
  2. Do you have someone with whom you can share about the hard times and disappointments in ministry, as well as the highs? Do you actually do so?
  3. Where/to whom would you turn if you thought you were clinically depressed and needed professional help?

Next Monday: Chapter 6 - Anger: Using it Constructively

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