Can Christians Experience Depression?

I have heard it said that Christians should not experience depression. If they do, it is because there is some sort of spiritual imbalance in their life. Many Christians who experience depression are advised to pray more. It’s as if depression is a spiritual illness, and in order to heal it, we must fight it with spiritual medicine called prayer. While we were on this topic in one of my classes, my professor said something that stuck with me. He said “People with depression don’t need more prayer, they need more Prozac.”

Christians have a tendency to over-spiritualize simple things. We look at someone who is clinically depressed, and rather than recognizing it as a mental illness, we want to make it into a spiritual matter. Depression happens when there are changes in brain chemistry, not in someone’s spiritual life. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you are immune to mental illness; it just means you’re a Christian. Having God in your life doesn’t make you less susceptible to mental illness.

When someone is going through depression, prayer is definitely needed. But we can’t over-spiritualize depression and rely on prayer to cure someone’s depression. They need anti-depressants like Prozac or psychotherapy from a trained professional. But some will say these aren’t spiritual medicines, they are secular things. Isn’t God all powerful? Can’t he heal someone’s depression if they have enough faith? Absolutely, but God uses things like Prozac and psychotherapy to heal someone in depression. But doesn’t relying on Prozac and psychotherapy show you don’t rely on God? No, it shows you are relying on reliable things to help deal with depression. If someone got hurt very badly and was bleeding out, what would you do? Would you rely on prayer to heal their bodily injuries or would you get them to a hospital and rely on trained professionals to help keep them alive? Going to a doctor isn’t anti-spiritual, it is smart. Using Prozac and psychotherapy isn’t anti-spiritual, it is smart.

If we over-spiritualize depression, we have an unhealthy dependence on prayer. We must realize that while God does heal, sometimes he uses avenues other than prayer to help us. Don’t separate the secular and the spiritual. Those two are integrated together. It isn’t a sin to use Prozac just because you don’t buy it behind a pulpit. It isn’t a sin to do psychotherapy just because your psychotherapist isn’t a Christian. I would argue that the unhealthiest thing to do is to rely fully on prayer to help with depression. God gave us tools other than prayer to help heal depression.

Don’t get me wrong, prayer is necessary in times of depression, but so are treatments. We need to pray, but as we pray we must also use things like Prozac and psychotherapy to help deal with this mental illness.  A person with a chemical imbalance in their brain doesn’t need more prayer, they need more Prozac.

 

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