I've wanted to write a post about depression and faith for some time now, but it was always going to be a tricky topic to tackle. In gentlemen's clubs, apparently, there are three topics of conversation that are forbidden; you don't talk money, you don't talk politics and you don't talk religion. Apparently real gentlemen don't discuss women either. This is probably why a lot of chaps seem obsessed by (one of the few remaining topics of conversation) sport; and leads to the obvious joke about men talking a lot of balls...
I'd better nail my colours to the mast right now and own up to be very common or garden vanilla flavoured C of E. I have no idea how other Faiths deal with mental illness, I can only relate my own experience.
Although the term "depression" is not found in the bible, many of the characters obviously suffered with mental health issues. King Saul suffered from black moods (described as an evil spirit) and Elijah suffered great lowness of spirits after his triumphant defeat of the prophets of Baal. St Paul relates of his anxiety and depression caused by his pastoral duties.
But it does seem that depression in the bible is related to events, duties or to a decision to turn away from God. I can't find anywhere the clinical depression that regularly falls from a blue sky to cloud the sufferer in inky darkness for no apparent reason. Yet Christians and people of other faiths are not immune to this disease.
What I have found extraordinarily unhelpful in the past is the attempts by well-meaning Christian counsellors to blame my depression on "sin" and to posit that, once that sin had been identified and repented from, the depression would lift automatically as day follows night.
No doubt unwise life choices contributed to this depression from time to time, but I find much more positive Jesus' reply to a question asked by his disciples of a man born blind: "Teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus replied "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."
So, that's what I try to do: use this condition for good. I'm pretty open about being bi-polar and happy to be known (affectionately) as "Mad Mary". I'm not going to pretend; in the bad times God seems as far away as everything else; but just as I know I have the support of family and friends, even though I can't always feel it, I have faith that God is there too. Each time it gets easier to bear and get through the black fog to the sunshine on the other side; each time the dark tunnel is slightly less oppressive.
And that's a great blessing.
A Moodscope member.