Oh, and Carlson points out a few other great men of faith who faced down depression: Martin Luther (he who penned "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God") once felt utterly devoid of Christ, and on another occasion he wrote that "the content of the depressions was always the same, the loss of faith that God is good and that he is good to me." When Charles Spurgeon wasn't sparking 19th-century revival, he was taking time off from the pulpit two to three months a year to deal with his "depressions of spirit."
This year the usual January downers came with the added kick of immense natural disaster in Southern Asia the day after Christmas. Images of tsunami waves wreaking devastation in Asia washed over the world, leaving many to question God's goodness. In the affected areas of Sri Lanka, India, and Indonesia, among others, if previous major disasters are indicative, 5 percent to 10 percent of the survivors will suffer acute psychological trauma. But many more who show signs of only minor trauma, according to NewScientist.com news service, are at risk of eventual post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic depression.
Counselors within and outside the church are reaching out to help survivors deal with catastrophic loss. The Bible and Christian history are full of saints dealing with such deprivation, and in this vein author Gerald Sittser had no easy answers as he wrote about the loss of his wife, mother, and 4-year-old daughter from a head-on collision with a drunken driver. In A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss (Zondervan, 1991), Sittser describes his trials of panic, anger, disorientation, and depression.
Those who suffer such loss run the risk of "the gradual destruction of the soul" as guilt, regret, bitterness, hatred, immorality, and despair threaten to devour it, he writes. Christians have the option of embracing loss in the light of Christ's incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.
"The sovereign God," he writes, "who is in control of everything, is the same God who has experienced the pain I live with every day. No matter how deep the pit into which I descend, I keep finding God there. He is not aloof from my suffering but draws near to me when I suffer. He is vulnerable to pain, quick to shed tears, and acquainted with grief."
Copyright © by Christianity Today, January 26, 2005