Dear Kallos: Are Mental Health Issues A Spiritual Thing?

Are mental health issues a spiritual thing? For example, can a real Christian with a breathing, living relationship with Jesus have depression? Is depression a sign of spiritual immaturity? — Wondering

dear Wondering,

I’m glad you asked this question!

Depression is a mood disorder caused by nagging feelings of sadness. It is usually termed as “clinical depression” and affects one’s day-to-day living. There are a range of different reasons for depression, such as the make-up of the brain, physical changes in the brain, hormones, and genes. Symptoms of depression also vary from person to person.

Clinical depression requires medical intervention, usually through medication as well as psychiatric help and counselling. However, this term, “depression” has taken on a broader meaning today to describe feeling down for a long period of time. Sometimes, it is not easy to differentiate one from the other, but at the end of the day, it is more important to acknowledge the reality of clinical depression and that it requires special medical attention. Those who are sad for prolonged periods of time may need to focus on non-medical forms of help like counselling sessions to nurture a change in their thought patterns.

Unfortunately, some see depression as a set of clothes one can just change out of by making a choice. Others deem depression as a spiritual battle, where one is oppressed and simply needs deliverance. These assumptions often make people feel defeated, as if they are not trying hard enough or like a sinful being who can’t be “delivered”.

The truth is that individuals who have depression desire a way out of their misery as well. However, it may feel like a second skin that they cannot peel off, no matter how hard they try. I have a friend who battles with depression and no matter how hard she tries, the depressive thoughts and moods would not lift. The pressure to “think positive thoughts and reject negative ones” makes things worse. It is a constant battle and every step is a challenge. Yet, she has chosen to look to Jesus and with the support of family and friends, her condition has been improving.

Thankfully, with medical help and consistent support, this second skin can be slowly but steadily peeled away. It is a very painful process, often fraught with times of failure and a sense of impossibility. Some take decades to overcome depression, while others may never see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have Christian friends who battled with depression for years; some are still at it and their faith and trust in Christ remains.

I personally believe a true Christian can indeed suffer from depression and other mental health issues, and it is not a sign of spiritual immaturity. There are chemical processes that are out of our control. Yet, our hope is found in Jesus — our one true Redeemer. No matter what we fear, He remains faithful amidst our struggles.

Alina Teo
I am a mother of two littles. Some things that I love — vintage florals, mountains, cooking, sewing and writing. I have a heart for the broken and I take comfort in knowing that Christ can be our hope.