This past week Robin Williams took his own life. I grew up watching this man bring joy to my life. My parents were huge Mork and Mindy fans so naturally, when reruns were on, so was Robin Williams. Movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, and Aladdin were staples in my home. In time, I learned to appreciate his dramatic roles. Dead Poets’ Society to this day is still a top ten film for me. At one time, I wanted to be a teacher myself. This movie is one of those reasons. I wanted to help mold the lives of others. While I realize he was just an actor, his performance moved me.
When I learned of his death on Monday, I was stunned. How can a person who brought so much joy to my life and the lives of countless others take his own life? How can someone whose own laugh is iconic fail to find laughter? And yet that is exactly what happened.
The reality is, depression is no laughing matter. It is real. It is life changing. It is without a doubt a dangerous condition to have. Just this past week, I heard a commercial addressing depression and it made some interesting points. No one would dream of telling a cancer patient it is all in their head. No one would dream of telling a diabetic to “just get over it.” And yet, those are words we do often say unto a person suffering with depression.
Unlike the commercial I heard, I am not entirely convinced that a person suffering with depression has an entirely medical condition. Yes, there are those that have clinical depression. People who have chemical imbalances because their bodies are not producing the right hormones need medical help. But not everyone that suffers through depression suffers from a chemical imbalance. In fact, most people that suffer from depression have problems in their lives.
For some, it is the loss of a loved one. They had to bury a parent, a sibling, a spouse or worse yet one of their own children. These have every right to feel overwhelmed, discouraged, defeated and depressed. It is a natural reaction to the hardships they face.
For others, it is the realization that someone they love will soon be departing this life. Terminal illnesses whether it be one’s self or someone we love is a “joy” killer.
Others still face other hardships. Perhaps it is a loss of a job, loss of a home, physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse from work, home, etc. All are very real problems people face. Just “getting over it” isn’t the answer.
I can remember when I suffered with my own depression hearing a person say “get over it” usually made me bitter and angry towards that person. They don’t know how I feel. They don’t know what it is like. They can’t possible “get it.” Because if I could just “get over it” I would. So I suffered. But, I suffered more than I should have.
While depression is no laughing matter, that doesn’t mean that getting out of depression shouldn’t be impossible. There is a biblical answer for how to deal with depression. I know that some will just say, “You have to have faith.” Well, I believe in God. I always have. I believe in Christ. I always have. I believe in heaven. I always have. And yet, I suffered with depression. Even some of God’s prophets servants suffered with depression (Elijah and Jonah). Who are we to say, they just didn’t have enough faith? Sure, we all need more faith. But faith is not what keeps depression at bay. Faith is not what brings joy and happiness. Faith does not wash away someone’s illness. Faith does not bring our loved ones back from the dead. Faith does not make our spouses stop being abusive. Faith does not remove the sexual abuse that someone faced as a child. Now, I am not trying to lessen the importance of faith in our lives. We need it. Eternal life is contingent upon it. But to throw it out there like the doctors of old would say, “Take two of these and call me in the morning” is to gravely misunderstand depression and to greatly misunderstand the role of faith in our lives.
The truth is, most people who are suffering with depression generally suffer from the same malady. They have lost hope. In our faith based Faith we have mistakenly translated and defined hope as a type of faith. We define it as a trusting in someone or something. And then say faith is about trust. In doing so, we eliminate hope altogether from our lives. Hope is, according to Strong’s, anticipation, usually with pleasure. I am convinced that the reason we can have joy in life is because we are hoping in something. Those that suffer from depression have their hope robbed from them. And faith is not going to magically give them their hope back.
Over the next several weeks I plan on addressing this subject more. Next week I want to look at some things we can do to bring joy back into our lives by learning how to bring hope back into our lives.
Grinnell church of Christ
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Depression is No Laughing Matter part 1
Volume 5 Issue 36