Saturday, 10 September 2011
After reading the pamphlet I received on depression (see summary here) that says that depression is ultimately the result of sinful responses, I immediately flipped back to the front page of the pamphlet to see who authored it. I knew it; it was a man. I don't mean to be sexist, but no woman would ever write the things this pamphlet said. All women know that we lose control over our emotions from time to time.
But is that a SIN?
For a few days, I decided to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. In fact, it sounded pretty good to me, oddly enough, because that meant that it was in my control to change those sinful responses and therefore pull myself out of this postpartum depression, which is exactly what I want. Even though the thought of depression being the result of sin rubbed me the wrong way, I decided to live as if it were true.
And you know what? I couldn't believe the difference it made in my life. I felt like a new person. I have been spending more time in scripture and in prayer than I ever have before. I felt peace and joy like never before. My intrusive thoughts vanished overnight, I could explode with laughter with my kids once again, and I could love my husband like we were newlyweds again. It was incredible!
No, really. It was in-credible, as in, not credible. I woke up this past Tuesday morning feeling as if all of the past few weeks of peace and joy had been sucked out of me like a vacuum. I could barely move. And I could not stop crying. I immediately began begging God to take it all away, that I didn't want to go back to that place of torture again, but I quickly realized that perhaps that was not the best way to pray. Jesus himself begged God to take the pain away and God refused! But in the end, Jesus said, "Not my will, but Yours be done." I guess you could say that I spiritually spent the day flat on my face before God begging Him to align my will with His.
Despite clinging to the feet of God, the intrusive thoughts would not stop. When I accidentally bumped Becca's head after her bath (she wasn't hurt, she just let out an annoyed grunt), I collapsed on the ground and cradled her in my arms, sobbing. In 1/10 of a second, the intrusive thoughts broke through: "I am a horrible mother. I don't deserve my children. They should take my children away from me. They'd be better off without me anyway. I just want to die."
Now, last time I checked, this is NOT the normal response to something that happened by accident and didn't even hurt anyone. So then what the heck was happening to me?! I was doing everything right! Every moment throughout that day I tried to figure out what sin was causing this horrific relapse.
And you know what? I don't think there was one. I have no explanation other than that sin had nothing to do with it. Perhaps this is my own personal cross to bear. Jesus had no sin in him and yet he suffered more than any other human suffering combined. It's nonsense to believe that suffering is always caused by sin.
And I'm not the only one to think so. I picked up a book by Matthew S. Stanford called Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness. In his final thoughts on depression (pp. 88-89), he explains that true believers CAN struggle with depression and it is not a sin! Depression is a result of a damaged mind and body inherited from the Fall into sin, not necessarily the result of personal sin. Of course, he asserts that it is important to remember that depression is NOT an excuse for sinful behavior, which I personally think a lot of people (myself included) are guilty of. But I can, with confidence, say that I don't believe this was the case this past week.
So I want to leave you with these lines... "Spiritual healing and wholeness come only through an understanding of who we are in Christ.... But faith does not correct the physical scars of the fall."
I can't pray away the gray. (Sorry, lame joke.) But seriously, depression, in itself, is NOT a sin.
I am not my depression. And God has no problem making that distinction, even when I do.
Do you think depression is a sin? Do you think it is caused by sin? Why or why not?