Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Coping with Depression in the Church with Matt Rogers Part VIII

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.

Let’s close this series with practical help for people in need right now. In my book, Losing God: Clinging to Faith Through Doubt and Depression, I list several steps toward healing:

Recognize the symptoms

This is key. Many people don’t know they’re depressed because they don’t know the signs. Here are several: feeling sad, restless, and/or slowed down; losing interest in activities you normally enjoy; noticing a change in eating habits (eating too much or too little); noticing a change in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little), losing the ability to concentrate or make decisions; feeling lethargic; feeling worthless and/or excessively guilty; thinking often of death and/or suicide. You don’t need to have all the symptoms, just a handful. If you’ve had them almost every day for two weeks or longer, you are depressed.

See a doctor and a counselor
Whatever else depression may be, it is a physiological condition requiring medical and psychological treatment. Most doctors will recommend a combination of medication and psychotherapy (talk therapy). Give treatment a try. Yes, medication and counseling can be a little scary at first, but millions of people—including me—can attest to their effectiveness.

Tell a few trusted friends
You don’t have to tell everyone, just a few people close to you who you suspect will respond with grace and concern. They do not have to “understand” your situation, but they should be “understanding.”

Find a supportive church community
This was hugely helpful in my recovery, and it’s usually the last thing a depressed person wants. Depression makes people want to withdraw from friends and family, but by avoiding fellowship we deny ourselves one of the primary means by which God heals us: his body, his people. It is through our brothers and sisters that we are constantly and tangibly reminded of God’s love for us. We need this on our good days; how much more so on the bad days!

Refuse to surrender

This sounds obvious, perhaps even trite, but a “never surrender” attitude is essential in the war against unruly moods. There are no quick fixes for depression, only steps toward healing we must take. Given time and persistence, depression almost always relents. Even Job found joy after his dark night, as the apostle James reflects: “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11 NIV).

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.

2 Responses to Coping with Depression in the Church with Matt Rogers Part VIII

  1. Pingback: Coping with Depression in the Church with Matt Rogers Part VIII · make love

  2. sonja says:

    Matt,Thank you for sharing those helpful tools and advice. In fact i learned to share with a dear friend of mine to see a doctor as soon as possible through your story and not to underestimate the worth good medical supplies. My friend’s fear too was not to take any medication.
    I still do feel so powerless though even when they allow you to come closer in their personal circle. It’s such a lonely and isolated road another good friend is taking.There are a handful of good friends of mine who suffer this kind of illness for years or a while now and most of the time they cut you out of their lives and completely withdraw.
    What would your advice be to a non believer?

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