Skip to content ↓

Christians Get Depressed Too

Book Reviews Collection cover image

One of my favorite conference moments to date has been an interaction between John MacArthur and John Piper. The details are a bit hazy, but if memory serves me correct, they were participating in a panel discussion and the moderator asked them about depression. Piper described some of the darkest hours of his life and ministry, saying that for a long period of time–months or years–he wept every day. Then it was MacArthur’s turn to speak and he said, “I’ve never been depressed for a day in my life.” It was a practical statement, I think, devoid of any kind of judgment. It was simply the truth. I may not remember it perfectly, but it happened something like that. And it set in stark contrast how two men, both used mightily by the Lord, can have such different experiences and such different dispositions.

Christians get depressed too. This statement may seem a wee bit trite, but it’s an important message and one Christians need to hear. Too many people have been taught that Christians–true Christians, good Christians, real Christians–don’t get depressed or that depression is always the outworking of serious sin. This heaps guilt and anguish upon those who are already suffering mental or emotional pain. Is my depression a result of a sin I’ve committed against God? Is there a sin I need to confess to make it all go away? Am I even a Christian? With the anguish comes stigma so that those who suffer so often suffer in silence, afraid and ashamed to admit what they are going through. Many Christians sympathize with physical pain but roll their eyes at emotional pain.

The message at the heart of David Murray’s little book about depression is all in the title–Christians Get Depressed Too. This message is remarkably liberating. Immediately it clears away so many of the dangerous and unhelpful misconceptions. We wouldn’t want this to give license to wallow in depression, but we would want it to allow us to see and believe and understand that for many people depression is to the fallen mind what illness is to the fallen body. The book follows a simple six-chapter structure:

  • The Crisis – A list of eight reasons that we ought to study this topic.
  • The Complexity – The attitude and the spirit Christians should maintain when they study this topic. Here Murray asks Christians to avoid extremes and to pursue balance while also avoiding dogmatism and seeking humility.
  • The Condition – In this chapter Murray defines depression and offers a list of ways in which it may work itself out in life.
  • The Causes – In what may be the most important chapter in the book, Murray discusses the varying causes of depression.
  • The Cures – There are many ways to cure depression. To answer the question everyone is asking, Murray recommends the careful and measured use of medication in some circumstances.
  • The Caregivers – How friends and family members and pastors are to care for those who are depressed.

I believe this book’s greatest strength is its liberating message that depression does not need to be a source of shame and that it should not carry a taboo that causes those who suffer from it to hide away in shame. At the same time, it should not cause other people to respond with shock or scolding or judgment. Murray does a good job of aligning depression–mental or emotion suffering–with the physical suffering we all encounter in life. Though it may be caused by sin or aggravated by sin, we must not allow ourselves to assume that this is always the case.

Another strength is the book’s measured, pastoral tone. Too much writing on this subject falls prey to broad strokes and sweeping judgments. Murray makes it clear that he is no stranger to depression; he has faced it in his ministry and “among friends and some of those I love most in this world.” This leads him to speak carefully, to speak sensitively, and to use nuance where nuance is warranted. The person who is dealing with depression, with anxiety or with panic attacks will find sympathy and hope in the words of this book and in the gospel message it depends upon.

Weighing in at just 100 pages, Christians Get Depressed Too is short enough that it can be read by those who are suffering; where a 200 or 300 page book may be too much, this one is short and accessible and urgent. It is also a valuable read for those who are trying to help friends or family members who are dealing with depression. It’s just the kind of book that is the right size and the right price to purchase a few to keep on hand, ready to give away–and I pretty much guarantee the opportunity will present itself before long. It will prove a valuable resource for the pastor or counselor or pretty much everyone else. I highly recommend it.

  • The Way You Walk

    The Way You Walk

    You can tell a lot about people by the way they walk, can’t you? You can tell a lot about their physical health, their emotional state, and perhaps even their spiritual condition. You can often tell at a glance whether they are healthy or ill, joyful or sorrowful, delighting or despondent. Consider a company of…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 7)

    A La Carte: Feminism as critical social theory / Lessons from a Job season / Was the woman at the well married to any of the five men? / Holy haggling / The other D-Day / The problem with livestreams / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 6)

    A La Carte: Toward a Protestant pronatalism / The rise of hyperpleasures / Why only pastors can baptize / Fighting the “respectable” sins of gossip and slander / Can we forgive when the offender doesn’t repent? / 10 questions a Christian man should ask himself before making a marriage proposal / D-day / Kindle deals…

  • The Least of My Childrens Accomplishments

    The Least of My Children’s Accomplishments

    I know what it is to be a father and to take pride in the achievements of my children. I had not been a father for long when I learned that the least of my children’s accomplishments by far outshines the greatest of my own. Their smallest victory generates more delight than my largest and…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 5)

    A La Carte: 3 waves that have shaped evangelical churches (and a 4th on the way) / When is a couple considered married? / A Christian’s practical guide to reproductive technology / Don’t be half a Berean / Wisdom is work / This body is only the seed / Book and Kindle deals / and…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 4)

    A La Carte: The blame game / Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be / A kind invitation and lifelong friendship / Steered into error by those closest to you / Satan as “prince of the air” / Under the eaves / General market books / and more.