Anonymous asked a question:
A lot of hurting young people on my dash. Is depression and anxiety a choice? My pastor believes it is. “Generational curses”, “biblical strongholds”, etc. Thoughts?
All right, dammit: Who is this pastor? I’m a fifth degree black belt and I can break into a house by scaling a wall, so give me an address and a picture and I’ll have a friendly interrogation with him. I’m trying to see what he means — but no.
Seriously though, most people who don’t suffer from depression or anxiety just don’t get it. It’s like telling someone you have a migraine and they offer you a glass of water. You sort of want to punch their face off.
Pseudo-biblical language that doesn’t even speak to reality only shortcuts a huge issue. You can tell me to “rebuke it in Jesus’ name” all day long, but I need some freaking help.
Let’s get this part right: while not all our emotions point to legitimate choices, having feelings is NOT wrong. You’re allowed to feel your feelings, all right? It’s okay to be a human being and no one should ever blame you for that.
If you’re denying your emotions, you’re also denying your humanness. Even the spoiled little princess on the latest reality show gets a fair hearing on why she flipped a desk about getting the wrong-colored car (hint: it’s not about the car, but her emptiness). What’s important then is to examine why this is happening and how to react in the moment.
People go through different seasons and occasionally experience severe internal weather patterns that you don’t just “choose” your way out of. There’s no easy off-button for those cloudy emotional fogs that suddenly overtake you. A lot is at work here — upbringing, situations, spiritual warfare, personality — so blanket-answers will not help.
But for a moment, let’s assume that depression and anxiety are “curses” or “strongholds” or whatever. You still need to know how to battle it. That’s where this kind of thinking falls short. If I told a depressed person, “Just snap out of it” — that could work for a day, at most. If I also told them, “Pray off that curse” or “Refuse the stronghold,” that’s not equipping anyone for the daily war of the heart.
I’ve had a lifelong struggle with depression, and can I tell you what works? Having a great community of friends who are there for me, who can handle my craziness, who still love me through my humiliating, whiny, ugly, slobbery, overdramatic bouts of unfiltered emotional explosion.
I’m grateful for friends who sometimes force me to get dressed and go out and get ice cream and pamper me way beyond what I deserve. They just sit next to me without lecturing me or throwing around verses or saying trite pick-me-up cliches. Jesus is the same way: he doesn’t condescend when I’m depressed. He loves me right through it and meets me where I’m at.
What also works: just straight worship, and talking with Jesus, and exercise, and re-listening to that one sermon that encouraged me so long ago, and serving in a place of broken people. To do what you’re made to do will move you past the hurt, even if it’s just one step.
The truth is that actually battling depression is a messy task of digging deep and getting dirty. That’s why a lot of ignorant ministry workers use half-baked language to escape the gritty work of diving in the deep end. Almost no one naturally moves towards a depressed person because we think, “Well he’s rich, he’s good-looking, she’s got it together, why would she cut herself, why would he be on meds” — and that’s really a way of saying, “I’m too selfish to serve that person. I only serve people that are nice and clean and pure. I’m too lazy to understand.”
The church has got to be the safest, most gracious, loving place on the face of the earth. No one should ever be shamed for their brokenness. No one can be left behind. No one’s sin deserves more or less attention, and we all have equal access to the Heavenly Father by way of His Son.
It was Jesus who stepped into the mess without qualifying anyone, and he calls us to do the same. He didn’t just tell us that our sin-broken condition is bad: he showed us a way out and a path forward towards him, to the greatest joy. If you can help someone make even a step in that journey, they will be grateful forever.