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Evangelicals and Depression: What Helps? What Hinders?


I’ve heard it from a few people now… stories of depressed friends going to their GP and at some stage being asked, “Are you, by any chance, an evangelical Christian?” Have you heard similar tales?

I’m not sure whether we’ve ended up on any official lists of “predisposing factors” but it certainly makes you think.

So let’s ask a tough question: Is there anything about evangelicalism (as opposed to other kinds of Christianity) that makes depression even harder? Or even, perhaps, more likely?

Is it worse to be an evangelical Christian when you’re depressed?

I can think of two reasons it shouldn’t be and two reasons it might be...


6 thoughts on “Evangelicals and Depression: What Helps? What Hinders?

  1. theoldadam

    Where I live, pretty much the only Christians that air radio programs (public airwaves) are the Evangelicals. I may be feeling fine and upbeat, but after I hear one of their "preachers" give a so-called "sermon", I immediately become depressed. I usually find out what a backslider I am and then I receive a great big load of stuff placed upon my back, of things that I should, ought, or must be doing in order to be a 'real Christian'.

    Very little mention of what Christ has done for REAL sinners. And NEVER a mention of what Christ has done for me in my Baptism...or what He gives to me in His Supper.

    I'd have been better off listening to the sports channel or the news.

    Now that's depressing.

  2. Howard

    I know exactly what you mean about Christian radio broadcasts - I spent many hours last year listening to the local 'evangelistic' radio station in vain for something resembling the Gospel message - there was much more gospel in some TV shows and movies than there! How often we sorely neglect the ONLY solace and remedy for our need and dabble in 'mess of pottage' ministries - let's make Christ the one we really give through our proclaiming.

  3. Larry


    Coming from that very background, and having had this same struggle, yes and it all has to do with that confessions "so called" christianity, i.e. utterly Christless but more particular what Christ did FOR YOU.

    I've seen it time and time again, although I'd not known if others experienced it.



  4. Larry


    Without boring you to death with too much detail right now I came from a similar background and struggle with spiritual depression for several years, too the point of literally wanting to jump off of a cliff nearly every day. In fact I had to fight it every day for years standing on the precipice of one and it was all due to the spiritual poison I was under calling itself Christianity. It’s because the works and law are so subtle and the Gospel had no “for me/you” in it. It all gets so very subtly and insidiously taken away from you over time, not by over works righteousness but by subtle covert works righteousness and law we don’t even recognize it we get so immersed in it. Your article on faith is hitting all the right notes. Its how Law and Gospel get confused and when you are spiritually depressed more law is deadly in more ways than one.

    I’ll give you a personal example that may help because you allude to the problem in the “inner life” stuff. That’s all law. One time while still in this I was struggling because I couldn’t “Desire God” enough. It was killing me. I was in contact with Lutheran theologian Dr. Rod Rosenbladt was telling him this struggle, how do I desire God! That’s all that ministry was feeding me and I was trying, and trying hard. He immediately saw it and told me, “That’s Law!” And then gave me a quote from CS Lewis that really drove the point home to me: “Lewis said once that there’s on sure fire way to make a person not be joyful. That way? Tell him he should be joyful.” That hit like a ton of bricks and I got it, I saw it, it was all pure law and works, yet very subtle.

    That is very different than this, “Christ has forgiven YOU and is all your righteousness such that nothing needs to be done even if you don’t get better.” Law Vs. Gospel. The Gospel is more than just “good news”. One does not really hear nor receive the Gospel just hearing the “news” that is good. In fact that can be the most terrifying law. The Cross of Christ is the most terrifying Law on one hand and on the other 200 proof Gospel on the other hand. The news is the same but what is the difference? The “for you”. And “For You” means also and in particular post conversion to Christianity too. It’s no less Good News and For You now than then at first. You are absolved, absolution IS the good news, God forgives you and any Christian can in the stead of Christ and on His authority (John 20) can say to you in particular, “I forgive you of all your sins past, present and future” and it is from God. It is Christ absolving you that’s the office of the Holy Spirit in the believer.

    This is the greatness of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the sacraments, they GIVE to you afresh the forgiveness of your sins, not because God forgot or needed to re-forgive but because we are given over to and the devil accuses the bretheren silently, not believing the message is that good, that true and that it is FOR ME because we fail so very much inwardly and outwardly and all in between.

    Ds. James Nestigen and Dr. Rosenbladt where once asked the question, “What is the nature of the sacraments & how are they to be used?”

    Dr. Nestigen’s answer is golden PURE Gospel and especially when “we don’t know if we have the faith and are depressed:

    “I think it is helpful when talking about the sacraments to distinguish between two kinds of logic. One is the ‘logic of shortage’ which is the normal human logic in which the controlling premise of the syllogism is death. In the end you are going to get it anyway. And death is the ultimate shortage. When thinking about the sacraments it is necessary to learn another logic, that is the logic of the resurrection. Because the first premise in the logic of baptism, the Lord’s Supper & the absolution is ‘SINCE Christ is raised’. When that’s the controlling premise then everything turns excessive. It’s open, it’s over flowing, it’s abundant. And so Luther in the small catechism asks questions like this, “What are the benefits…”? In the logic of shortage that’s a very impertinent question because somebody might run out. But in the logic of the resurrection ‘what are the benefits of this sacrament’ is an entirely appropriate question. You know that Jesus is never going to run out and therefore thinking about the sacraments requires us to first of all register this first premise. SINCE Christ is raised, since Christ has been raised from the dead, therefore…you see? And then in baptism rather than thinking in it in the terms of control the question becomes rather what the Ethiopian Eunuch asked Phillip, “What is to prevent me from being baptized? You see, the legal, the shortage question is ‘how can I qualify’. But the question of excess is ‘What is to prevent me!” And Phillip answers, ‘well nothing at all, here’s the water and I have the Word on the tip of my tongue’, see. And the same with the Lord’s Supper that the logic of the Lord’s Supper is controlled by the presence of the risen Christ. He is meeting you here. Now that does not mean indiscriminately, but handing out His benefits making sure that the sacrament is administered in such a way that His benefits are given. It turns everything over, the same with absolution, you know, ‘Since Christ is raised your sins are forgiven’. That’s fun. You know if you wait until you can believe in your own faith then you are going to the sacrament for the wrong reason anyway. If Christ is going to break out against anybody anyway He is going to break out against the pious who are there because they are true believers and the others are not. So Luther will say things like this, ‘When you wonder if you are a believer just lean back into the faith of the community and let them carry you’. You see what he is doing, he is taking the eye off of self and placing the eye on Christ. So that you are delivered from yourself. So that like for a woman that was in despair and fighting with herself, nothing is better than the sacrament, nothing…it’s beautiful.”

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