September 29, 2020

Recommendation and Review: Losing God by Matt Rogers

Comments are moderated. Be patient.

UPDATE: Trevin Wax, who recommended the book to me, is reviewing it today as well.

Matt Rogers has written a book on the Christian experience of depression and doubt. Losing God is a brief, but intensely honest first person account of Rogers’ own battle with depression, a battle that took up years of his life in college and after.

Losing God may be of special interest to a many of the IM audience because of the interaction of his depression crisis with the Calvinistic theology he heard from college friends, ministers and Christian teachers. To anyone familiar with the history of Calvinism, it will not be a surprise that some persons are terrorized by the doctrines of election and predestination, or that some of these persons “lose God” for a season in the process.

There is good evidence, for example, that Luther felt the mysteries of predestination and election could be harmful to some believers. Spurgeon shows pastoral sensitivity to those who may be tempted to despair at the thought of God’s absolute sovereignty. Roger’s own crisis was helped by ministers who understood that what some see as an awesome attribute of God can be an abyss of darkness to others.

More than a few theological types have overlooked the real experience of depression that many persons bring into the church. Christians have such a tendency towards believing that the Gospel, rightly understood, “fixes” our brokenness that they do not see that some aspects of the Gospel itself may cause a depressed person to struggle or even despair.

Roger’s book is short, but in many ways it could have been even shorter. The value in going through each chapter of his depression isn’t to overdo redundancy, but to show that depression is chronic, stubborn and often continues for years without improvement. The frustration some readers may feel at covering this intense emotional journey in such detail will be a small window into how the depressed person feels in the seemingly endless cycle of depression and despair.

These chapters also reveal the varieties of responses a depressed person will receive from those who become aware of depression. This is useful- and frustrating- as well.

Rogers’ choice to not see a doctor is the most disturbing aspect of the book for me. (He admits that he should have seen a doctor and recommends that others do so.) There are points in the story that an experienced counselor will see how close someone like Rogers will come to tragic actions to gain some relief. I am glad that Rogers has recovered, but anyone who recognizes themselves in the book should seek professional counseling and medical help.

Rogers could have written another book on the interaction of evangelical theology of the Christian life with the causes of his depression. Rogers is, if anything, far too kind to evangelicalism in this regard. Evangelicals need to honestly assess the things they teach about emotion in Christian experience. They need to make considerable progress on seeing depression as a disease and on how they feel about the use of medications.

Being on the inside as Rogers experiences a personal abyss is painful. Seeing that evangelicals often have little more to offer than “Read another devotional book” is very sad.

No doubt, evangelicalism has many casualties and victims who have struggled with doubt and depression and not come out on the other side. It’s a gift of God’s mercy that Matt Rogers made it through to a life without debilitating despair and depression. As you take his journey with him, look around you and consider if the same story isn’t there with someone you know.

Losing God is not the best book on depression, but as an account of how Calvinism figures into a depression, it’s highly valuable. It is a helpful text for anyone who needs to know what depression feels like or how inadequate our responses often are.

Comments

  1. The best cure to Calvinist depression is Gerry Friesen’s “Decision Making and the Will of God” available from CBD for $12. I can’t recommend it too highly.

  2. Christopher Lake says

    I am a Christian who believes that the Bible teaches God’s sovereignty in salvation. I hold to the “TULIP.” It seems that a few people here are implying that this theology *necessarily* leads people into depression. I am not depressed. I *was* depressed for quite a long time, however, including for two years after I became a Christian. I did not hold to Calvinistic theology at the time.

    I was a garden-variety American evangelical who held to the popular idea of God as a “gentleman” who will not interfere with our “free will.” These ideas did not comfort me at all when I was living in Maryland, and two snipers were shooting and killing people from inside the trunk of their car (including a couple of people across the street from where I worked). The idea of a semi-sovereign God who would not interfere with peoples’ free will only exacerbated my depression and my experience of the world as a chaotic and confusing place.

    Unfortunately, at the time, I also had a skewed understanding of Calvinism and could not understand how it did not make God evil and the author of sin. When I came to understand the doctrines of grace in a balanced, Biblical way, they became the most effective treatment for depression that I had ever had. I am not against all medicine for all forms of depression. In my case, I simply say that understanding the sovereignty of God over people and events in this world has done more to treat and to overcome my depression than years of medication. Again, I am not against medication at all times in all cases of depression. I do believe that medicines need to be prescribed on a *much more* case-by-case basis for people than they often are.

    Calvinism, rightly understood, can actually bring a struggling person *hope* in depression and despair. It may not always do so, but if it doesn’t help to alleviate a person’s depression at all, or even makes depression worse, I have to wonder if the person isn’t viewing Calvinism in a skewed, unbalanced way, as I once did.

  3. Yikes, I’ve been through (and still going through) some stuff that would have sent me packing from Christianity if I was not a convinced Calvinist (single predestination). Believing in God’s absolute sovereignty has caused so much tension in how I view cause and effect in my life, but if I began to doubt his immutability…. I believe tension would give way to pointlessness and despair.

    My younger years were bad enough trying to reconcile with an SBC 4-point arminian perspective of God. He seemed so weak and innoffensive.

  4. william m nissen says

    Mr. Spencer,
    I’ll try not to be too windy. I’m a practicing psychiatrist (33years total and 29 in a busy community mental health center in Iowa) and we see this every day. In my practice I try to help people distinguish what type of depression they have as it makes a difference in their treatment. Depression can be a “normal human emotion” in response to losses, etc, and meds are not as helpful as talking therapy, support from friends and their pastors if religious issues are involved.
    Some have the “lifestyle” depression, learned at their parents knees, and the typical complaint is that they’ve been depressed “all my life”, and meds usually don’t help as much as good therapy. And there is the clinical depression or “disease” depression that has a list of symptoms that must be looked for including sleep disturbance, appetite changes, suicidal thoughts, plans or attemps, increased irritability, concentration and memory difficulties, decreased interest in pleasurable activities, and often psychotic thinking with halluctinations or delusions-very often of a religious nature such as being damned for committing unpardonable sins, etc. These people usually but not always respond to medical treatment and couseling can often make things worse until their chemistry is corrected enough so their thinking makes it possible for them to respond to talking theapy.
    My training was done near a large Dutch Reformed area and we had numerous people with severe religous preoccupations, to the point that we named this condition the “Orange City Syndome” (black medical humor I suspect in retrospect) but we saw and still see all denominations exhibiting these symptoms.
    Part of my interests in psychiatry include going to churches in our community to talk about psychiatry and especially mood disorders, and I have been fortunate to have a group of religious people to refer my patients to at the appropriate time to help with “religious problems” when the mental health issues have been helped enough to allow it.
    I enjoy your site and appreciate your openness in discussing these issues and your personal comments also
    Regareds-Bill

  5. I am glad to know I am not alone.

    I curse the day (metaphorically) that I encountered RC Sproul and his ministry.

    I went from being a theological naif to an ardent Calvinist in short order. But despair eventually drove me out of that camp.

    Yet, I do not blame Calvinism (or RC) per se. Rather, the problem is an obsession with systematic theology in general.

    Now, since I have been “enlightened,” I can no longer pray, teach, sing, read the Bible,listen to sermons or have discussions without first running everything through the complex analysis of systematic theology. It is depressing. And it sucks all the joy out of my relationship with God.

    I have been treating my condition with daily doses of “scandalous freedom” and grace. I can suppress the symptoms, but I do not think the disease will ever go away completely.

  6. This has been a tremendously helpful thread. For what it’s worth, here was my experience:

    Depression runs in my family. I’ve struggled with it off and on all my life. When I turned to the Lord and was baptized, I thought that this part of me (the sinful part, with depression being a manifestation of sin) was buried, crucified with Christ. While obviously the sin nature is retained, we as Christians are supposed to live victorious lives above it. So when the symptoms of depression would come up, I considered it proof that my Christian life was a failure, which of course worsened the depression. I needed to “die” more to myself and live more to God. Basically, it became a works-oriented salvation – I needed to pray more, consecrate more, take care of people more, read the Bible more, etc. in order to be free. But I was never free, so what I was doing was not good enough. And God was always displeased with me for not being able to overcome my weakness (and this displeasure was manifested in certain Christian authority figures who seemed to enjoy reminding me that I was not up to their standard – very sick people).

    This is why I mentioned above that the inner life teachings, for me at least, were damaging. I felt like I was paralyzed, and I needed to “let Christ do it all.” I needed to “live Christ” and not myself. But when that didn’t solve the problem, it made me think that the constant darkness was again a sign of God’s displeasure. What I really needed to hear was “go see a professional counselor, and consider medication.” It was a (non-Christian) doctor treating me for something else who I finally opened up to. He talked it over with me, said he understood, recommended an excellent psychologist, and himself put me on Lexapro. And that began an entirely new stage in my life.

  7. Patrick — “The Gospel is not information” …?

    Of course it is — it’s the “Good Information.”

    But when a paramedic goes to a car wreck he doesn’t rush to the scene to give the injured medical information.

    If I have truly heard and received the Good News, I have spiritual gifts that I am to freely give away to whoever needs them. Doing this in secret, God rewards me openly and one of those rewards is to keep me from falling into the hole in my soul where He found me. Salvation to me is not something promised for the future because of Calvinist election or my Roman Catholic baptism. God saves me every day. He has to. Left to my own devices — which includes the “systematic theology” that still plays in my head from all the evangelical preaching and Catholic-guilt-trip homilies I’ve taken in — I’ll be flushing my self down that pity-pot daily.

  8. John B5200 wrote: “Rather, the problem is an obsession with systematic theology in general. Now, since I have been “enlightened,” I can no longer pray, teach, sing, read the Bible,listen to sermons or have discussions without first running everything through the complex analysis of systematic theology. It is depressing. And it sucks all the joy out of my relationship with God. ”

    A comment from my Hebrew and Greek professor at seminary has really helped me in this area. He said that while he had the ability to dissect a sermon to death, he found that it ruined his ability to actually learn from what the preacher/pastor had to say. So when listening to a sermon, he intentionally decided not to critique it on what he knew about the Hebrew/Greek of the passage, but just listen and appreciate what the Pastor had to say.

    I have had to learn to do the same. Whether it is a sermon, or music in the service, or plans for the youth group, I have just learned to enjoy what is offered and accept it in a non-critical way.

    Of course if something becomes way off-base, I will speak up and then usually only directly to the person involved.

  9. Didn’t Paul teach that the entire purpose of the Law — which we seem to be calling here “systematic theology” — was to make sure that we all came to the place of recognizing our desperate need for the saving grace of the crucified Messiah?

    So maybe this is how it works — our intellect gets imprinted with it and then, if we are honest, we can’t get away — we constantly condemn ourselves (if not truly honest with ourselves, we get in the really hopeless position of condemning others instead). That’s when we eventually become willing to give up the “system” and receive some real help.

  10. I don’t think that it’s necessarily any particular system of theology that is creating or even exacerbating mental illness – my impression is that we are seeing more mental illness in general in our society, and what many of you are describing is what it looks like in the church.

    Forgive what may be my ignorance, but it seems to me that depression is like a cancer – it gloms onto anything in order to feed itself. In this sense, obsessive Calvinist or Arminian or Charismatic or Catholic theology can be equally problematic.

    If one trusts God and believes that God intends the best, then it really doesn’t matter what theological system one holds to. I’ve read works by and known Uber-Calvinists who were delighted by their understand of the Soverign God. The problem is, the depressed person, because of depression, seems to lack the ability to trust God and see Him as a friend and not an enemy. This isn’t moral or intellectual failure on the part of the depressed person, it’s an illness.

  11. I find it depressing when I agree with Surfnetter.
    Obsessing about “isms” rather than God is a downer. Too much theology is bad for Theophilus.

  12. In my experience with it, my understanding and acceptance of the concept of the good intentions of theSovereign God toward me can lead to hope — but “hope differed is hope denied,” which then leads to despair. I have to let go of my own understanding to be saved, because that’s what’s pulling me down.

    That God will save the faithful and how it all came about through the Fall and the Patriarchs and Moses and the Prophets and then to the coming of the Messiah and His death and resurrection is conceptually within our intellectual ability to grasp — but the actual experience of personal Salvation is wonderfully, inexpressibly beyond all human comprehension. It just Is.

  13. Reading through the posts, I see several “I was Arminian, then found Calvinism and my depression lifted”, and “I was Calvinist, and found/returned to Arminianism and my depression lifted”. It makes me wonder if the problem is not the particular ‘camp’ you are in or switched to, but in seeing the distortions you’ve been embracing, and finding correction and release in the process of switching camps. Maybe depression is not aggravated by one ‘system’ or another, but the distortions of truth (from whatever source) that fight against hope and faith.

    Surfnetter, I might be beginning to get a hint at what you were talking about.

  14. >…the entire purpose of the Law…

    That is one purpose of the law out of several in scripture. If you follow your thinking that it is the only purpose, then you become an antinomian who can’t read Psalm 119.

    ms

  15. If someone is afraid they are not the elect, chances are they are the elect. One who is not the elect wouldn’t care.

    Michael: Don’t you think this post would fall under the same category as the John3:16 conference you condemned in an earlier post? I don’t think one has to believe in Calvinism in order to be a Christian. There is only one way to heaven and that is through Christ alone. Calvinism is merely an explanation that when we think it is our choice that caused us to choose Christ, it’s God choosing us first. It’s God’s view of what happens to lead us to salvation as opposed to a human view.

  16. “If someone is afraid they are not the elect, chances are they are the elect. One who is not the elect wouldn’t care.”

    So if I estimate I’m almost certainly not one of the Elect, I’m probably closer to God than anybody?

  17. “If I have truly heard and received the Good News, I have spiritual gifts that I am to freely give away to whoever needs them. Doing this in secret, God rewards me openly and one of those rewards is to keep me from falling into the hole in my soul where He found me.”

    Didn’t work out that way for Job…

    The whole thing seems like magical thinking to me. Your lack of despair can’t be proof in any way that you’ve heard and received the Good News. If you get depressed again, does that mean it happened because you sinned? That makes for a nice piety, but I don’t see that it describes or corresponds to anything that actually happens in real life.

    I just don’t see how that line of thinking can be reconciled within the life and person of Jesus.

  18. I got Taylor’s “Myth of Certainty” (which sounds like it might be similar to “Losing God”) but found it was not really addressed to my condition.

    I do not struggle with “Is Christianity true?” vs atheism, Islam, Hinduism etc.

    My “spiritual depression” is caused by the continual dueling (in my mind) of the various theologies within Christianity: Reformed, Wesleyan, Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox, and on and on.

    How can I know which, if any, are truly true? All have scads of brilliant and holy adherents. Is it all subjective? Just close my eyes and pin the tail on the donkey? As Lewis said, we cannot live in the hallway (mere Christianity.) We must choose a room.

    To continue to study systematic theologies only seems to drive me further into “depression.” Yet it is like an unbreakable addiction.

  19. Calvinism, depression, and Matt Rogers, have absolutely no connection the way things have been presented.

    In theological categories, it sounds like Rogers may have been a hyper-Calvinist during his period of depression. But it appears that he has taken the edge off of the rigid introspection of hyper-Calvinism and remains committed to the doctrines of grace.

    Additionally, Evangelicals do need to be willing to grant that there can be times where there is mental illness. At this point, pastors need to be willing to refer their congregants to a medical authority. However, it becomes quite convenient for many to use psychology as a crutch to blame their behavior and attitudes on their own sin. Please don’t misunderstand me, I agree that there are people that need medical attention to care for them so that they can grow in Godliness. The problem imo is that too many churches have allowed psychology to become a scapegoat

  20. Patrick: Read what I said again. And again if necessary.

  21. I’ve skipped a lot of recent comments here, so apologies in advance if these things have already been said…

    1. Josh: Thank you! I was trying to say what you said, but you pulled it off far better than I did. 🙂

    2. I went through real mental and emotional agony for some time prior to my conversion. And while I was in that state, I was taking an American lit survey… One of the assigned pieces was J. Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” That sermon definitely did NOT help me in any way – I actually had to try and block it out of my mind. *But* – thank God that the Christian friends who were talking to me about the Gospel at that point were presenting the love, mercy, grace, compassion and forgiveness to be found in Christ. I really (as in, “desperately”) needed to hear that – and it helped tremendously to defuse the bomb that was lobbed into my court (as it were) when I had to read Edwards. I still find that sermon – and others like it – to be terrifying, and cannot imagine the psychic/emotional havoc that such preaching has wreaked over the centuries.

    3. I’m not now (and never have been) a Calvinist. 😉

  22. It makes me wonder if the problem is not the particular ‘camp’ you are in or switched to, but in seeing the distortions you’ve been embracing, and finding correction and release in the process of switching camps. Maybe depression is not aggravated by one ’system’ or another, but the distortions of truth (from whatever source) that fight against hope and faith.

    Dave R: Yes. Or at least, that’s been my personal experience, too. (Meaning being set from from distorted ideas about God, the Gospel, etc. – though some “weirdified” Calvinist ideas played a big part in the distortions I was hearing and believing….)

  23. IMonk,

    I can definately see where an overiding since of dread from not being able to discern and grasp all of what predistination means could lead one to despair. However, I would like to here more about what links folks think might be to fundementalism and depression/anxiety.

    Let me share my own story.

    I was raised in an fundementalist environment. I never felt like my parents bought into the whole thing but I think they were there as cultural refugees from what they saw going on elsewhere.

    I went on to become a pastor. Now in this type of church to those of you who may not know the pastor is under intense presure. He is expected to have some new revelation or new take on an old topic each service. He is expected to speak extemporaneously and to be very charismatic (not in spiritual gifts but in a personality type way). The preacher is “the man”. Many of these churches fall into “preacher worship.” Folks have their own favorites who they will drive miles to hear, folks debate who is best, and I’v even seen young chilren have a space in their bibles where they were encouraged to have preachers they heared in revivals sign them like an autograph collection.

    These preachers form a “cult of the personality”. They are expected to single handedly carry each service and the entire church in some cases. Their word is on a subject is mostly considered the law of the land.

    It is a very stressing situation.

    I had been pastoring a church that had been in that vein of practice in the past for about two years when we had our first child. As folks know it was hectic. I was suffering from what I think and the doctor thinks was mostly stess induced anxiety. I was sleeping irregular, irritable, I was constantly worried about my child. Didn’t want to leave the house even though he was home with my wife etc. It was weired. But there was this overwhelming sense of dread. It got to a cripling state for about two weeks before i finally saw my doctor.

    After some aide in sleeping and a low dose of sometning i cant’ even recall for about 4 months things were back to normal.

    but the experience changed me. I am not negative about folks with mental illness now like I used to be. I don’t think they need to just pray. I don’t sweat the small stuff. If the ladies at my church want to wear pants (another story) I don’t care. I don’t take the responsiblity of having a “good service” on myself. I don’t try to be Billy Sunday every week. I use a lectionary. I have become in many ways less prone to emotionalism in my worship, but I feel my devotional life is deeper. I use the BCP for morning prayers etc.

    Being fundementalist often means just being against stuff (the list is too long). Yes there are good things that came out of my fudimentalist upbringing, but a lot of baggage came with it.

    Sorry to be so long and sorry for the spelling.

  24. Debbie:

    I didn’t condemn the conference. I pointed out its weakness as a theological forum or as a place to diagnose the SBC’s woes.

    God bless anyone who wants to talk about John 3:16.

    But Calvinism has its own strengths and weaknesses. Both. And a lot of both.

    ms

  25. Imonk “the entire purpose of the Law…

    That is one purpose of the law out of several in scripture. If you follow your thinking that it is the only purpose, then you become an antinomian who can’t read Psalm 119.”

    Well — since it is impossible for any of us to do any of the things that will get us blessed by God according to that Scripture, that is the most depressing Psalm I have ever read. Unless, of course, the understanding comes that the one the Psalm is about is the Christ — ” …the Law and the Prophets testify of me.” With real faith in His abilities, we can get that good stuff as a gift, and can keep getting gifted it if we keep giving it away.

    Patrick Lynch — “Didn’t work out for Job.”

    Exactly what did work for Job …? The only intelligent answer that I have ever heard to what the message to Job is in that Book is “I’m God and you’re not.”

  26. Psalm 119 is the most depressing Psalm you’ve ever read?

    I think that one can be beaten. Try 137.

    So Psalm 1 and all other Psalms about the law- Psalms Jesus sang and recited- are “depressing.”

    They would be without Jesus. But Jesus gives us the Holy SPirit so that we are free to delight in what does not condemn us but does reveal God and guide the believer.

    >…Well — since it is impossible for any of us to do any of the things that will get us blessed by God according to that Scripture..

    And be sure and tell your priest that you’re actually a Lutheran, because the RCC most certainly teaches that God’s grace enables you to do what is in Ps 119, the Ten C’s etc.

    Surfnetter- I’d really like it if you would adopt the sentence “This is just my opinion” into your posts frequently.

  27. Imonk In my opinion it is strange that you are telling me what it is to be a Catholic and how I am to go about it. We could discuss that further, but it is off topic.

    When I say “it is my experience” that is like saying “it is my opinion.” Will that do?

    Assuming that it will — it is my experience, given the degree to which we are held to account to the Law by the teaching of the Incarnate Word Himself — if I am guilty simply by an angry or lustful thought — I don’t know about you, but in my experience, for me it is hopeless unless I can get blessed by another way.

    And, in my experience, I can and do ….

  28. The blessings of the Psalm are the temporal blessings of the Old Covenant. We can agree that God is not providing land to those who obey his commandments.

    But you are saying, if I understand you, that Ps 119 is pure condemnation. Aside from being a radical Lutheran view and completely disregarding the RC view of the use of the Psalms in worship and prayer, you can’t just say that it’s “strange” that I can read the catechism.

    I suppose I have to say that your representation of Catholicism on this blog has really caused me a lot of frustration and several letters to knowledgable Catholic friends to try and understand how you can contradict the teaching of the church continually with such complete disregard.

    I don’t really care what you believe. But concluding that the Psalms are “depressing” is a view at such variance with all of christian practice and belief that you can’t just cite yourself as an authority without saying that you are outside what your church and most churches teach.

    You seem to play the comment threads all in a similar fashion: when a comment reflects a person giving the views of a group or a church, you contradict it as an individual. Fine. That should be clear. The RCC loves and uses the Psalms, but you disagree with the RCC on that one, and on many many other things.

    ms

  29. Everything I post here is my opinion — it is, of course from my point of view. But I have come to faith in God and His Christ in a very atypical fashion. As far as my understanding of my chosen belief system, as it were, I have for a long time been a lector and an extraordinary minister and have taught CCD. A close friend, confessor and spiritual adviser is a cut-in -the-cloth Roman Catholic and a priests priest — formally our pastor he is now a monsignor and the rector of our local seminary. Another close friend has recently celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest. We have spent many hours together as he used to man a side on my commercial fishing boat. He wants me to enter the seminary and he knows one that will take me even though I am nearly 60 years old. Sometimes I think I might take him up on that.

    Of course, you might be able to skewer that by printing up all my posts and sending them to Rome. (tee-hee)

  30. dan macdonald says

    Michael,

    The point you keep repeating, and bears repeating, is that depression is no respecter of theology. I have struggled with it as a dispensationalist, and as a Calvinist, and as a reformed person trying to be gospel- centered. My theology has evolved, and has grown in it’s effectiveness at helping me fight melancholy/depressive inclinations. But depressed people distort their view of God by the very nature of the disease.

    The doctrine of predestination is an agonizing doctrine, that causes much emotional trauma to most of us who wrestle with it. I would guess that many who have depressive tendencies might have those tendencies catalyzed by wrestling with the doctrine. However, there are other doctrines that are probably equally catalytic, such as the doctrine of eternal punishment and hell. Wrestle with these doctrines we must, however, if we are to understand our most holy and wise God.

    Dan

  31. This sounds like it is an gonna be an interesting book to read. Michael, you keep making my booklist increase, with a corresponding decrease my bank balance to boot! =)

  32. Hmm, this might be the perfect place to ask this …

    I’ve been struggling with depression/suicidal urges for years, and I’m finally doing better with a combination of meds and cognitive behavioral therapy.

    But I struggle with one overwhelming thought: Everyone else deserves happiness but me. I’ll never be happy. (I’ve “learned” this through a lifetime of heartache, loneliness and painful experiences.)

    My therapist tells me this is a myth, but what about the Bible saying that I’m totally depraved and worthy of death without Christ? I am a Christian, and I’m trusting in Christ’s blood alone to save me.

    What makes me think I can expect the same things as every other Christian — family, home, good job, etc. I truly feel like everybody else can get these but I will never have them.

    Is this the depression talking, or is it in some way biblical?

  33. Growing up in a very Calvinist environment, I rejected organized religion as soon as I could. I didn’t enter a church for over 30 years, except for a wedding or funeral.

    It was only when I found Methodism — and I had no idea that all Christians weren’t some type of Baptist — that I was able to find God.

    Soon after that, the mild depression I’d struggled with all my life turned into full-blown clinical depression, with all the dangers that brings.

    Thank God, I now had a church full of supportive people who helped me. Who called me at night, and sent me encouraging emails. Who talked me into getting into therapy and seeing a doctor.

    If all I had available to help me was Calvanistic Christianity, I might well be dead right now.

  34. It’s depression talking.

    Be anything rather than believe that. I’m not kidding.

    God created you as an image of himself in whom he delights. Christ loved you and redeemed you completely.

    All is this is done. Finished. No questions. God’s love is a Romans 8 love. Nothing can stop it.

    Believe nothing else.

  35. I anticipated (Hoped) in reading this blog to find some well thought out christian perspective on dealing with mental health issues. I work with homeless, and domestic violence situations and am often asked for advice. I don’t give it, but refer it to professionals. After reading all the responses I am now depressed. Instead of understanding I see blame. This thought process, or set of doctrines, or this denomination causes this or that. Maybe we need to start where Christ told us to end – except as you become like little children -not hung up on some one else’s preference of what to do, or how. Watching my two boys start out in a fight over what to play, but shortly thereafter figuring out a hybrid of what they both want. Always makes me say hmmmmm.

  36. JohnB5200

    A couple observations.

    While Christian churches agree on about 90% of doctrine for the most part, denominationalism springs from what could be called first principles or emphases. The engine running Calvinism is the sovereignty of God; the thing that makes Arminianism tick is the spiritual autonomy of man; Charismatics are driven by the Holy Spirit; the Holiness churches are centered on God’s holiness: the Lutherans on Christ’s work on the cross: the Catholics are the original Church founded by Jesus etc. etc. I found that it was far more profitable in my search to consider these emphases and how each group interprets the Scriptures through them.
    Not all of these first principles are of equal value, some really suck, and will bring you to despair.
    I have noticed that groups lacking in grace and big on legalism are more likely to produce despair and burnout regardless of which doctrinal camp they are from.

    Call me weak, but I chose the theology that I thought offered the most hope, and at its core what I considered to be the most happy or joyous, and would be conducive to my continued mental health.( Not that it is always exhibited in many of the congregations in my particular denomination.)

  37. Dan:

    I have a whole series on the Christian and mental illness.

    https://internetmonk.com/archive/the-christian-and-mental-illness

  38. I was a bit afraid of writing this.

    What a broken people we Christians are! I am surprised that more of us are not depressed. We confess a gospel of miracles and healings and yet survive on grace through letters that lead us to a life of the Cross. We search for a place where our doubts will go away – and that might be a church filled with those perfect Christians whose faith is so strong that they can have miracle crusades. A church that really believes “Whatever you ask for in My name.” A church that says it has been been unwavering for centuries. Or a church where the members know what the Lord is actually saying to them. But when that doesn’t happen to you and you start to ask questions, I can see why you pick up and move on and remain broken.

    I am not depressed (probably just cynical), and I do find joy in my Lord and prayer life. But this life of faith and this search for God is not easy or clear. To some degree, darkness is still a part of the Christian journey.

  39. what an interesting site! isn’t it in all of our prayers to God to show us his truth?

    In the past year, my 18 year old is having a culture reaction/ oppositional defiance expression/ denial of God. His relationship was shattered with his father when he was 12 and started talking of how horrible his father was – and through much counsel, determined that he was abused – more verbal than sexual, but tickling that became more inappropriate with each year it continued. His young cries for prayer left him vulnerable to ridicule within his youth group. He persevered and became one of the worship team leaders. After 2 mission trips to Seattle to work with Sacred Heart, he came back “vegan” and shortly thereafter, renounced his faith and left our pca church crushed. It has been devasting as a mom to see her once vibrant son go from wanting to become a youth minister to one who finds so much fault in believing.

    Amazingly, God has sent affirmation after affirmation to encourage me in My faith. Even after reading many of your interesting entries, I want to encourage you all in our hope in God, despite your bad experience in an all or nothing theology.

    God delights in the praises of His people. It is by His grace that we are saved. It is a mystery as to whether it is by His spirit or our response to His calling that we do anything good. But one of the messages that always calls me back to the goodness of God is the illustration of Jonah and Ninevah used in the New Testament, the restoration of Jonah to do God’s work and the grace that God extended to a city that was undeserving. “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” Romans 11:32. I can see why God would allow us to duke it out down here about His grace versus our response – we have to have both – it is not an either or thing. We need His grace and we have to respond. So both camps are right and both sides shed light on how important it is to remember that it is God who is good and who calls us to himself, as well as how important it is that we respond and evangelize.

    “Oh the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God…”

    So I pray that He will draw my son back to Himself and believe in His goodness and mercy to Ninevah. My son’s heart is hurting for all that is wrong in society, the consumerism of America and the difficulties he faced from his own father, and living up to the expectations of my husband, his stepfather. Much more to the story. I have given my grief to God – and He is thankfully restoring my joy after many years of struggling.

    So return to thankfulness. Beg for prayer groups in your church that are small and intimate and don’t stop when they dwindle – invite others who are safe and remind people of the importance of loving and praying for those with request – and not to gossip. Be the person that you wished comforted you in your hurt. Trust that the God who made the mountains is big enough to carry you out of your valley.

    Before I go, do pray for continued understanding of two things that are urgently calling for attention in our world… how to treat those born with sexually ambiguous organs in relation to homosexuality. Also, those who are sexually abused, especially father on son abuse. I think these are the types of horrors that leave us exhausted when we take our eyes off of Christ and onto the circustances of the world we live in.

    Is it possible that God not only sanctifies us individually but also as a church?

    Also, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young is a wonderfully sweet devotion. Thank you for allowing me to ramble here.

  40. Or maybe depression has less to do with theology and more to do with medical health… ie. chemical imbalance etc. As such it is treatable – without religion.

    Our faith is rooted in who God is, not in what he does for those who serve him.