I’ve just finished two days of filming various Christian counselors for the HeadHeartHand Media documentary on Depression and the Christian. It was a huge privilege and a fantastic learning opportunity to pick the brains and explore the hearts of three experienced Christians who have dedicated their lives to caring for God’s hurting people. Here’s what I carried away from these interviews:
1. All kinds of people get depression: Depression smashes caricatures about depression. It’s not a choice that weak losers make. No, it affects rich and poor, the very old and the very young and every age in between, Type A and B…and every other type too.
2. Build relationship in order to build trust: It’s the old “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” As with pulpit ministry, our words carry so much more weight and credibility when there is a relationship between the speaker and hearer.
3. Good listening is massive medicine: Sometimes we run out of things to say or don’t know what to say. However, don’t underestimate the healing power of real listening. I experienced this recently when I shared with my wife an anxiety I had been carrying. There wasn’t much she could say to resolve the problem, but I slept so much better after she simply listened to me.
4. Jumping to simplistic conclusions is extremely damaging: I never cease to be amazed by the cruel things that are said to and about depressed people. Quick fixes fix nothing. First conclusions are usually wrong conclusions. Depression is usually a complex, multi-layered problem that does not lend itself to simplistic answers from simple minds.
5. Holistic approaches to cause and cure produce most success: As causes are usually a complex mix of physical, spiritual, social, and psychological factors, cures often involve all these areas too.
6. A Christian approach to counseling is hope-filled and optimistic: A film about depression runs the huge risk of being thoroughly depressing! However, all the counselors communicated how much joy they experience in seeing God work His grace and joy even in the most desperate situations. With that hope, thet can look forward to their work every day.
7. The Bible has something to say to every situation and every problem: I was deeply impressed by these counselors’ confidence in God’s Word. They have seen its power at work in many lives, including their own. One counselor, a Christian Child Psychologist, said that although she often points depressed teens to certain passages of Scripture, her greatest aim is to get the teen reading the Bible for themselves again, because that’s where God meets His people and does His healing work.
8. Christians have nothing to fear from true scientific research: It deeply distresses me to see the way some Biblical counselors are so dismissive of science, tending to jump on any research that reflects negatively on psychology or pharmacology, and ignoring any research that fails to support their presuppositions. Each of the counselors we interviewed respected science as God’s gift, and reading it through the spectacles of Scripture, found help from it in ministering to God’s hurting people.
9. Depression is a sanctifying and equipping experience: Painful though the journey is, time and again depression proves to be a time of Christian growth. God often uses it to draw a person to Himself, increase dependence upon Him, and to equip them to be far more useful than they ever were before. I’ve found many depressed people to be the most compassionate people I’ve ever met. Sometimes that’s why they get depression.
10. Depression gives the Church a great opportunity to minister God’s grace: Depressed people do not find much sympathy in the world. Here is a wonderful opening for the church to show the heart of Christ who came to heal the brokenhearted, the brokenminded, and the brokenbodied.