Sunday Bible Study March 19, 2017 Topic: Depression Pastor Pautz
Question: What does the church teach regarding depression?
The questions has been asked by a few people this last week. There have been two suicides in the community in the last few months. More than a few congregation members have family members dealing with clinical depression and other mental health issues.
Psalm 91:6 is a verse the desert church fathers discussed regarding what we call depression. The main point here is that depression is real. You may run into people that say depression is not real. You might run into people who hold to the myth that Christians should not be depressed. Or, if a Christian is depressed they hold to the myth that they lack faith. You might run into people who hold to the myth that depressed people are lazy. No, there is such a thing as depression. The question is how do we talk about it. The first step is to acknowledge the depression is real.
However, how would you respond if the question were "What does the church teach about cancer?" Cancer is a physical illness that takes the lives of our loved ones, too. The quick response is that they are not the same. But they are not all that different either.
It is written in Genesis 2:7, "Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” or, as sometimes translated, a living soul. Adam cannot separate his physical health from his mental health. He is a creature of God. Adam is a whole person. And what will happen to all God's creatures in this fallen world? It is written in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”. What comes between sin and death? Well, physical illness and mental illness. I heard a report a few years ago that by 2020 the top three lethal diseases will be heart disease, cancer, and depression. How does depression kill? Suicide.
So, depression is real and it is deadly. Now what?
Some people don't want a diagnosis or a cure. Some people want to ignore what you see as a life threatening problem. Or, they may successfully keep you in the dark until it is too late. What can you do? Pray. Depressed people often cannot receive anything from others. They can't receive a thank you. They can't receive forgiveness. They probably don't want help or will refuse help if it is offered. But you can pray/intercede for others. You can ask God to give them a good gift. Ask that God extend grace and mercy to the depressed one. He will do it! It is then God's problem. Actually, it became God's problem when He baptized the depressed family member or friend.
Jesus is the answer. Jesus is the answer to heart disease, cancer, and depression because Jesus is the answer to sin and death.
The problem is that we don't like that answer. We don't trust God's promises which He had written that we may believe that Jesus takes even these problems through death to the resurrection (John 20:30).
What can a pastor help in such a situation? The pastor speaks God's Word. This brings up the Care of Cure of Souls. It is the special work a pastor does when a person has a physical or mental health issue. I will walk with the depressed person or their caregiver. I will listen. I will pray for them and with them. Often depressed people cannot read very well. It is too hard. So, the Psalms are great. They are short. They are packed with Gospel. The suffering soul is helpless and hopeless in a dark situation. Not a lot of time but frequent visits to listen. Then a short time to conclude with an appropriate prayer; or blessings; or absolution; or Christ's body and blood.
If a person wants help, how might he be helped?
A network of caretakers is best.
See a local doctor to rule out common causes of depressions.
Enter a drug and/or alcohol recovery program. Alcohol causes depression. Substance abuse decreases the ability to cope with stress, relate to other people, and solve personal and emotional problems.
A stress reduction program is helpful.
A good psychologist is a good addition. The psychologist will care for the persons mind by listening and listening and listening and providing tools and exercises to assist healing.
A good psychiatrist is another good addition. The psychiatrist will care for the persons body by listening and providing medication/needed nutrients to assist healing. A general doctor can introduce depression medication but the psychiatrist is trained and licensed to do much more.
Your pastor will care for the persons soul (mind and body) by listening to you, praying with and for you, and giving you God's Word and Sacrament to assist healing. It is wonderful when your psychologist, psychiatrist, and pastor are able to work together. That can happen when permission is given by the depressed person for the team to have a basic level of communication with each other in order to know things are going ok or not. But this can only be done with your permission and a general agreement.
And then Christian friends and loving family members extending kindness and love will help.
So, this is a little bit on a big topic that is close to us all.
Depression is real and it can be deadly.
Depression causes an inability to receive from others.
There is nothing you can do if the person does not want help.
But you can pray, and the Lord will listen and answer your prayers.
A network of caregivers is ideal. Help and Hope is always available.
Caregivers are easily worn out. Have your own network of caregives to help you too.
I am available to talk with you more individually as you desire.
Next Sunday we begin a study of the Gospel of John. We will start with the beginning verses of chapter 1. Also, this Wednesday morning we begin a study of Isaiah followed by a Lenten meal beginning at 5:30pm and a Lenten Service at 7pm.