In light of the tragic death of Matthew Warren, son of Rick and Kay Warren, Christians are talking about depression as never before. This is a crucial conversation, one for which we need ample wisdom. Such wisdom is available from Christianity Today, whose recent cover story focuses on “The Depression Epidemic.”
The writer of this fine article couldn’t be better suited for this task. Dr. Dan G. Blazer is J. P. Gibbons Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center. He has written an outstanding book on depression, The Age of Melancholy (Routledge, 2005). The subject of depression, especially as seen in a broad context, is an academic specialty for Dr. Blazer. He also also the author of an excellent book on faith and psychiatry, Freud vs. God: How Psychiatry Lost Its Soul and Christianity Lost Its Mind (InterVarsity, 1998). This book reveals Dr. Blazer to be a thoughtful Christian as well as one of the world’s leading psychiatrists.
I am blessed to call Dan Blazer a friend. He and I have known each other for several years through our my work with Foundations for Laity Renewal. Dan and I have teamed up as teachers at Laity Lodge, and we have worked on several projects together. He is a man of deep Christian faith, who seeks to live out his faith in his work, his family, his church, and the wider world. I have learned much from Dan about mental illness and faith, and am glad that his wisdom on depression is readily available in Christianity Today.
The church is God’s hospital. It has always been full of people on the mend. Jesus himself made a point of inviting the lame, the blind, and the possessed to be healed and to accompany him in his ministry, an invitation often spurned by those who thought they were fine as is. We should not be surprised, then, that the depressed populate not only secular hospitals and clinics, but our churches as well. Yet depression remains both familiar and mysterious to pastors and lay church leaders, not to mention to those who share a pew with depressed persons. . . .
Humans are intricately complex creatures. When things go wrong in us, they do so in myriad and nuanced ways. If churches want to effectively minister to the whole of fallen humanity, they must reckon with this complexity. Depression indicates that something is amiss. But what? And what should churches be doing about it? . . .
Those who bear the marks of despair on their bodies need a community that bears the world’s only sure hope in its body. They need communities that rehearse this hope again and again and delight in their shared foretaste of God’s promised world to come. They need to see that this great promise, secured by Christ’s resurrection, compels us to work amidst the wreckage in hope. In so doing, the church provides her depressed members with a plausible hope and a tangible reminder of the message they most need to hear: This sin-riddled reality does not have the last word. Christ as embodied in his church is the last word.
I highly recommend this article, and am thankful to Dan and to Christianity Today for writing and publishing it.