Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Coping with Depression in the Church with Matt Rogers Part VII

Losing GodA guest post by Matt Rogers, a good friend, author of When Answers Aren’t Enough and Losing God; and pastor at [nlcf]. This entry is part of the Coping with Depression Series.

COMPASSION: THE FRUIT OF DEPRESSION
In my last post I talked about how doubt and depression often mix, as they did for me during my four-year battle with major depression. As my moods grew darker, so did my view of God. The confidence I once had in my understanding of God faded to utter confusion and self-doubt.

Silencing my prideful tongue
In my book, Losing God: Clinging To Faith Through Doubt and Depression, I write, “Before the fear and darkness, I lacked compassion, and I dished out my theories on God’s dealings with a confidence that bordered on arrogance. A confused friend from [college] had asked me once how God could let people die and go to hell without ever hearing of Jesus. How was it fair that some had no access to the gospel while others were bathing in it? I shot her down with a quick, easy answer that I’d been fed by some book or Bible teacher. ‘Well, grace isn’t fair,’ I said. ‘If it were fair, it wouldn’t be grace. God isn’t obligated to give anyone the truth. He would be fair in sending us all to hell. It is unfair that any of us goes to heaven.’

“How easily the answers rolled of my tongue when I was safe from the pain behind the questions. But the questions had gone from theoretical to personal, from academic to emotional, and all my simple logic now felt hollow and empty. Suffering had silenced my prideful tongue and knocked the swagger from my step” (p. 99).

Learning the hard way, the only way

I’ve never reached a point where I can say, “I’m glad I was depressed.” The pain was too great. But I can say with much enthusiasm how glad I am for the fruit of my depression. Through those four years, I learned compassion, and almost every good thing in my life today is a result of that one quality. What kind of pastor would I be without it? What kind of author? What kind of friend? How much damage would I do to hurting souls?

And how else can we learn compassion than through suffering. The word itself comes from Latin and means, “To suffer with.” Compassion is willingly entering into the painful circumstances of another person. It means I share in what causes another soul hurt in order to bring comfort and healing. But how can I know what a suffering soul needs unless I have first experienced my own pain, and to have received the comfort of God and others.

Comforting as we’ve been comforted

The Apostle Paul states it so clearly: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4 NIV). We suffer that we may be comforted; we are comforted that we may give comfort. It seems there is no other way to learn compassion than to be in need of it.

If I cannot be thankful for the depression itself, I can be thankful for what it brought into my life: the ability to teach, and to write, and to counsel with compassion. What good qualities has depression brought to your life, or the life of someone you love?

Matt Rogers is co-pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship [nlcf] at Virginia Tech. He is the author of When Answers Aren’t Enough: Experiencing God as Good When Life Isn’t (Zondervan, 2008) and Losing God: Clinging to Faith Through Doubt and Depression (InterVarsity, 2008). Learn more about his writings and his blog at his website.


3 Responses to Coping with Depression in the Church with Matt Rogers Part VII

  1. Megan says:

    “What good qualities has depression brought to your life, or the life of someone you love?”

    I’m actually bipolar, so the experience is different, but the rewards are similar.
    Even with meds I tend to swing and spend only 50-60% of my time grounded in the middle. After 17 years though I have learned a lot.

    — You can never know how sweet joy can be until you haven’t had it. If the sun is always shining you can’t see the pristine glory of a silver lining.
    — Faith manages. If you can hold out til tomorrow, or an hour from now or five minutes you’ll get another chance. Strength is not quitting.
    — I can have compassion for the girl I knew who just couldn’t go to her first day of work. She wasn’t lazy, she literally, physically couldn’t do it. I now understand her because I’ve been her.
    — And I think most importantly I’ve learned that asking for help doesn’t make you weak. It means that you are strong enough to get better.

  2. Scott says:

    I would not have come to know Christ had I not suffered through a long, deep bought of depression, attempting to take my life numerous times. Christ brought me hope and the knowledge that I’m loved and accepted sacrificially. Depression comes and goes for me, but Christ has always been willing to listen to me in the midst of that; He listens to my doubts and anger and despair. Sometimes, listening to my youngest son pray is painful for me because of the content of his prayers, the intense emotional struggles and doubts he deals with at such a young age – but, just the same, I’m glad that He has a loving God to cry out to, “God are you there? Why did you make me this way? I’m sad, please help? Why don’t you help me?” As a father, these prayers break my heart for him, but are also a reminder that God cares and listens in the midst of all the suffering; he gets suffering and despair (i.e. the cross, garden of gethsemene, etc.) and understands.

  3. sonja says:

    Matt,
    To your question:
    I never went to see a doctor through my state of depression for i wasn’t able to express, but i started to read books and discovered the challenge i had to cope with through life.It was a hundred procent match.
    I learned to more develop a love and acceptance for myself and i studied Gods word and listened to many teachings to renew my mind daily.The prayer and the support of my friends had saved me though, after i was able to come and ask for help which i felt terrified of.
    One of the fruits of depression it taught me was being capable to find the road back to my desires again , to have compassion , find new life and new friends, being able to enjoy the small gifts and to have a grateful heart again after a training and disciplined practise, to be able to gain patience and understanding,Hope and a willing heart to give and receive in the quiet.Not me ,but to place Jesus in the center of my thoughts again.

    to others:
    At the moment a listening ear, a reached out hand and a glimse of showing care to one another can be one cup of water someone is in need of waiting for, because they lost their ability to stand up straight, so i stand with them or walk with them the extra mile.

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