During our Grace Group meeting last night (these are people from our church who gather at our home once a month), we got into an interesting conversation about faith (among other things.) I was amazed at how my suspicions about women and men played out right before my eyes. It confirmed my desire to talk in depth about women, in particular, and depression. I may not have a degree by my name for qualifications, but I have years of experience (and the Internet at my fingertips) to back me up. (Not to mention an amazing God who will always guide my writing.)
One woman began discussing her occasional struggle with feeling down and her inability to “snap out of it”. The other ladies (and I) chimed in with “I know what you mean!” and “Sometimes there are no reasons for these feelings!” We began discussing how we all fall into moments, hours and sometimes days where we can’t get “out of the funk”. We pray, we read our Bible, we cry out to God – but we can’t always escape the pull-me-down-beat-me-up blues. Then, on top of that, we feel guilty that our faith must not be strong enough to overcome this melancholy.
I looked around at the men. All carefully quiet, they had that deer in the headlight look which interpreted, to me, as “What in the world are they talking about?”
To clarify my assumption, I asked them, “Do you guys ever feel like this?”
My husband blurted out an insidious “No!”, and the other men snickered. I looked at the others and they all shook their heads, “No.” I had guessed this might be the case.
As always, there may be exceptions to this “rule”. Some men may struggle with these blues, and there may be women who do not. Statistically, twice as many women suffer from depression than men. No surprise there. One in every four women will face a bout of serious depression in her lifetime.
These “funky days” we experience are not necessarily depression, but they could easily lead into it if nurtured. Our hormones wreak havoc on our bodies, and I believe we don’t take these chemical changes seriously. Of course we all joke about ‘PMS’ and “Menopause”, but these are true physical alterations that deeply affect us (some not as much as others). During the “Girl Time” at one of our recent seminars, one woman asked, “What is going on with me - my emotions are going crazy! Is this pre-menopause? Why doesn’t anyone in the church talk about this?”
We DON’T talk enough about these things! Ideally, it would be great if we could always “turn it over to God”, but we also live in these human bodies that do not perform perfectly and are not always healed instantly. Besides, didn’t God tell Eve she would have pain in childbirth? I believe the ups and downs of female hormones may have been included in that judgment. (More to come about Eve’s role in all this.)
As for feeling guilty about not always “snapping out of it”, there are numerous people in the Bible that also struggled with depression – some great people of God.
In I Samuel, Chapter 1, we learn about Hannah who struggled year after year with depression because she was unable to bear a child. Her husband’s other wife, Peninnah, bore many children and ridiculed Hannah for her barrenness. She prayed so hard in her heart, while moving her lips with no sound one day, that Eli the priest thought she was drunk from wine. She tells him she was only praying to God with great anguish and grief. Eli said a blessing over her and eventually, she birthed Samuel. She suffered, though, for years before that blessed event.
David is a great example of someone who struggled with his emotions (the male exception). In reading the Psalms, you see him go from heights of amazement to the mercies of God, to the pits of despair in believing God has abandoned him and then back up to amazement again.
We are human beings and carry burdens that come with our material flesh. To blame it on a lack of faith is wrong, although we somehow get that message from the Christian community. What we need to do is to discover the causes of our sadness and depression and eliminate what we possibly can to help alleviate the problem. Saying that, though, we need to remember that we often learn our biggest lessons while in the pit of despair. Even the scientific community tells us that our most significant learning takes place in the context of pain.
Stay tuned! More to come on depression.