The Only Depressed Christian
Summary: Depression slowly, yet relentlessly, strangles the quality of life out of its victims. It creeps up so stealthily, never revealing itself, never giving an introduction. It takes and takes; leaving nothing but darkness, confusion, exhaustion and despair. Depression sunk its deep fangs into Andrew. Regardless of how hard Andrew fought using the tools he had--masks, distractions, relationships, new settings, marriage, counselling, advice and even the church, the black dog would not yield. He persistently robbed Andrew of his home, his marriage, his work, his speech and even his life. There was no relief. No escape. This man has a story to tell. It's an important story that teaches us what happens when we as individuals and a society ignore mental illness. Depression knows no bounds. It knows no gender nor race. Are you ready to face the black dog if he comes?
Personal Thoughts: First and foremost I want to point out that Andrew is a Christian. He believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and clings to the Word of God. He would not be here today if that were not the case. Yes, Christians get depressed too! It takes a lot of courage for a Christian to write their own story about their battle with mental illness, and I deeply respect Andrew for it. This book gripped me so completely that I read it in a single sitting--I could not pull myself away. I appreciated that he stressed the fact that becoming a Christian won't cause your problems to vanish. I also deeply appreciated that he often uses the scriptures to back himself up. It is a sad truth that often Christians--even mature ones--can respond so unfeelingly towards the broken.
Andrew's story is climactic in nature. As the disease continues unabated, he honestly shares the immense toll it takes on his body and mind,steadily destroying his life...and I quote," Depressed people ask God's help for the littlest things most people never think of--like climbing a set of stairs or crossing a parking lot. These things can become uncontrollably difficult." Andrew, I think you've done an incredible job at giving the world an intensely personal look into the life of a depressed individual. You've allowed us to walk with you and to read your thoughts while struck with debilitating depression. I hope many read your story.
Quote: "The brain is an organ and it cannot function properly if it is damaged or affected by an illness. When someone has a mental illness they need to receive the same level of medical attention as others with non-mental related issues. Many are still in denial about the reality of mental illness and don't acknowledge how much it can destroy people's health and lives."
Overcoming Spiritual Depression
Summary: We can be so thankful that in His Word, the Lord does not only reveal Elijah on the mountain peak of life. I Kings 19 reveals a despondent prophet who wants to die. This chapter in Scripture is the primary focus of this book. As one who himself has suffered depression and struggled terribly with the spiritual aspect of it, Elshout knows his stuff and is very open and honest about the reality of despondency. He spends a good amount of time considering the difference between physical and mental exhaustion and how events are perceived very differently between the two. He tackles the touchy subject of God's graciousness towards the suicidal. Satan's devices, lies, temptations and assaults against the depressed are clearly revealed. Best of all, all of Elshout's examples are spot on--in fact painfully accurate. Read this book if you want to understand depression through the biblical account of Elijah. Read this book to gain encouragement if you yourself are depressed. God is faithful. A bruised reed He will not break.
Personal Thoughts: Some books can only receive a genuine review when it is the target audience that does the reviewing. I read this book during a season of physical and spiritual lethargy. There may be only 104 pages in this book, but it took me over 2 weeks to read it. Such is the nature of depression. The wording in this book is so simple and easy to understand--yet it's packed with practical wisdom conveyed in a tone that says, 'I understand, I've been there too.' And that is the strength of this book.
Quote: "The Lord was also near to a lonely Elijah traveling into the wilderness--an Elijah who was tossed with tempest. Had that not been true, Elijah would have perished in the wilderness. The faithful covenant-keeping Jehovah will not leave such souls to fend for themselves who in their 'better' days feared Him, called upon His Name, submitted to His rule, and looked to Him for help. The praying High Priest in heaven also prays for them during seasons when they are neither able nor dare to pray..." --pg. 30
Summary: "Those who've traversed the howling desert have things to say that no one else really can." (pg.89) Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, suffered deep depression, yet he was not silent about his lifelong, unwelcome 'friend.' In this incredibly unique and refreshing book, Zack Eswine digs deep into the Spurgeon archives and mines gems that allow us to hear from Spurgeon himself regarding his experiences, his helps, his hopes and the dark pain that shadowed him to his grave. There are extensive footnotes at the bottom of each page to enable the reader to read the sermon or context surrounding the quotes. As the back of the cover states, "This is not a self help guide, but rather a 'handwritten note of one who wishes you well.' "
Personal Thoughts: This book cheered my bleeding heart. While oftentimes there are no words to express what one is feeling, the words upon this book's pages are so accurate to the depressed condition that it hurts. Describing depression is about using a language of metaphors. As a sufferer, you search for just the right metaphor to describe your pain. You cling, with thankfulness, to the metaphors God has given you in the Psalms, and you receive the metaphors that fellow sufferers have spoken as whispered gifts of good friends. What a comfort to sit with Spurgeon, a brother and now a friend. How beautiful it is to sit and weep with him, knowing that on every page his voice says, "I understand."
Quote: "People like Job, Moses, Elijah and Jonah expressed their desire to die fully and without holding back. But they left the answer to their desires with God. They asked God to decide their lives, and refrained from deciding themselves. How hard that must have been, harder than most can fathom.
Yet, sometimes the most courageous acts of faith and wisdom look like a human being mentally harassed and wanting to die, collapsed and held before the throne of grace." --pg. 127
Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded?
Dwight L. Carlson, M.D.
Summary: There are a lot of suffering Christians walking amongst us--people with depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, OCD. Often these people suffer in silence. They don't share these trials with their healthy Christian brothers and sisters because it hurts to be told that their problems stem from sin or personal choice. It hurts to be told to 'snap out of it.' Christians are regularly shooting their wounded. As a Christian physician and psychiatrist Dr. Carlson brings a lot of light to the situation as he explains the dynamics of mental illness and brain chemistry. He also talks extensively about the balance between biological dispositions, environmental causes and personal sin/choice in mental illness. He adds a chapter for sufferers that aims to encourage them as the 'bullets' fly. Dr. Carlson also adds an excellent appendix that tackles the question regarding long term medication usage.
Personal Thoughts: This is a critical book to have on our church library bookshelves. If it could be thoughtfully read, I believe it could make a huge impact on how people respond to mental illness. Despite being fairly well read on this topic, I learned so much from this book. One thing that's really going to stand out is how hard these emotionally crippled individuals have prayed for deliverance. That in itself is tragic especially when one considers how other Christians accuse them that poor spirituality is the root of their problems. I appreciated that this book was written by a Christian doctor and psychiatrist. Far more than just personal opinion, he brought real scientific research to the table. I think the last 2 chapters in the book are definitely the best, and the appendix is really the key of the whole book.
Quote: "I hope by now that you are starting to see the overwhelming evidence that mental illness is often very physical. Furthermore, the statistics in this and the next chapter conclusively show that organic problems are not "relatively rare" --as some Christian leaders would suggest--but in fact are quite common. In no way does this detract from the sufficiency of Christ or the Scriptures. It only broadens our understanding of human nature and the effects of Adam's fall." --pg. 68
Christians Get Depressed Too
Summary: In a clear, concise, winning book, Dr. Murray destroys the stigma that sadly runs rampant through churches. You have all heard that stigma--that Christians are a happy people and that it is wrong, nay even a sin that they should succumb to depression. This book has 6 chapters. They are entitled, 'The Crisis, The Complexity, The Condition, The Causes, The Cures and The Caregivers.' This book has freed many Christian sufferers from the guilt and shame of depression and has helped them to understand that depression is often a physical ailment.
Personal Thoughts: Dr. Murray is so compassionate, so kind and so RIGHT! I've read this book several times now and I am always refreshed and encouraged again after reading it. He remembers that depressed people don't have the ability to read lengthy, theologically laden material. He knows that depressed people are quick to heap guilt on themselves. He knows that the church has not always been kind to sufferers. This book is short and so simple. But in this little volume Dr. Murray gives a good look at what depression looks like. He tackles negative thought patterns so well. He doesn't spit out a fix-it-all cure. He acknowledges that healing takes time. I think his last two chapters are just excellent and something that many books on depression never tackle--the critical role of caregivers and how the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture fits into a depressed person's life. If you are depressed, this is definitely the book you need to start with. It has done wonders for me.
Quote: If we come to the point that our default position in dealing with the causes of depression is that it is sin until proven otherwise, we are getting painfully close to the disciples' position: "Master, who did sin, this man or his parents?" (John 9:2). It is also a position that is somewhat akin to the health, wealth and prosperity gospel, in which the diagnosis for trials is personal sin and the prescription is more repentance and faith.
I was a pastor for 12 years on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands. Sadly, that beautiful area has one of the highest rates of depression in the Western world, and I dealt with many Christians who endured years of mental suffering and spiritual darkness. Although initially, in my youthful zeal, I probed for the underlying 'sin' or 'issues' because I did not just want to alleviate 'symptoms.' I came to realize that I was often (though not always) dealing with people whose problem was not "issues of meaning or relationship." As I got to know them, I came to see that what they were living for and how they were living was not the problem; they were unquestionably living for and like Christ. In fact, they were among the godliest Christians I have ever met. The Lord was everything to them, and they would not let go of him despite everything screaming from within and without, "There is no God!" Their problem was a sick brain, often suffering from the effects of long winter months with limited daylight hours. --pg 65,66
Steve and Robyn Bloem
Summary: No one ever chooses their trials--and no one would ever choose to be assaulted by a mental illness. Trained as a pastor, Steve candidly tells his story of his awful fall into severe depression. Robyn weaves her own story of how Steve's illness impacted her as a wife to a sick loved one, and mother to 4 little ones. Not only was the depression a major battle, but the heartless assaults of Christians who simply could not understand that in this case depression was a physical problem, deprived this family of much needed comfort and support, and greatly added to their pain. Follow Steve and Robyn as they travel this unmarked road of mental illness, fighting the negative stigma, often travelling alone, seeking support and finding little. Today Steve and Robyn are a voice for the mentally ill. They spend their time counselling the hopeless, as well as helping and advocating for those who cannot speak for themselves. They seek to inform the church about the truth behind mental illness. Learn how we as a church can be a more effective help to sufferers. Learn the symptoms and get comfortable with the terminology. It's time that we become the heart and hands of Christ and bring compassion to these suffering Christians. They are in our pews. They are the walking wounded, suffering in silence and shame. Mental illness begs for community. Let's offer the mentally ill that safe haven.
Personal Thoughts: I'm thankful the Bloem's wrote this book. There is a lot of content held with in these pages. I appreciate the vulnerability that is portrayed in this book. How will Christians get the conversation going if someone doesn't start? Steve is candid when he talks about his illness. He talks about his tears, his hopelessness, suicide, his quest for help through doctors, medication and even the controversial treatment of E.C.T. There's a lot packed into this book! It is very readable. Agonizingly truthful. I hope it brings a much needed perspective to the church. The chapter on suicide is excellent. I'm glad the authors put it near the beginning of the book. Chapter 8 did a great job in bringing encouragements and helpful advice to husbands and wives on how to biblically deal with a spouse who struggles with mental illness. Also, the chapter on the history of psychiatry is fascinating! I truly hope we can make our churches a sanctuary for the bruised.
Quote: The church that becomes the empathetic community that God demands offers a wonderful refuge for those with broken minds. Research has shown that a lack of social support is devastating to those who have a depressive illness, as it is to those who are under heightened life stress. Yet in the case of mental illness, behavior can push social support away...
God designed the family and church, and to a lesser extent government, to be support systems. Family and church provide foundational support. But sometimes the family cannot provide the support needed. Then the church must shoulder the need, as it did with the widows of Acts 6. One of the hardest but most necessary calls on the church of Jesus Christ is to step up and be par of the social support system of the mentally ill. --pg.34
D is for Depression
Summary: Here is a book that tries to cover all the different aspects of depression. It is practical for any Christian as it deals with both the spiritual and physical side of this problem.
Personal Thoughts: Well, at times I felt like I was slogging through the book. I think the best part was part 4 which talked about specifics. Part 5 was pretty good too.