Depression is more common than you think, more complex than you know, and more constructive than you realize. The National Alliance of Mental Illness assert that 60 million Americans experience some type of mental illness condition every year. That’s 1 in 4 adults. That’s 1 in 10 children. Chances are you or a close loved one or friend has or is battling a mental condition of some kind. Yet, for some reason, the topics of depression, anxiety, and stress are rarely talked about in the church today. I believe the church should lead the way when it comes to helping people in this area. Jesus regularly healed people and cared for the sick. In fact, roughly a third of His miracles included healing in some way to demonstrate His divine power and love. Did you know that the first hospitals were started by churches? Jesus healed people physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. When we help people heal, we get to be a part of God’s redemptive plan for humanity.
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous righthand.
Notice in the verse above that God covers us from all sides. God is with us. The fact that He is our God means He is above us. The fact that He strengthens us means that He is in us. The fact that He helps us means He is around us. Finally, the fact that He upholds us with His righteous right hand means that God is beneath us. Are you struggling right now? Is your teen struggling right now? Trust that God is protecting you from all sides! Regarding the topic of teenage depression, we need to remember four factors that contribute to this troubling illness.
Depression is more common than you think, more complex than you know, and more constructive than you realize.
1. Biological Factors – Your chemistry is not your character.
First, we must remove the stigma attached with depression and mental illness. Dr. Kheriaty, a professor at UC Urvine has noted that depression is impacted by emotion, cognition, concentration, perceptions, physical energy, sleep, appetite, ability to experience joy, and chemical imbalances. No thinks twice about seeing a doctor for a any other illness, and yet there tends to be a “taboo” nature around the topic of depression. Illness is the not the same as your identity. Your chemistry is not your character. Feeling sick is not the same thing as sinning. Second, we must respond with sensitivity to those who are hurting. Realize that depression and anxiety are often complex issues. Choose words wisely, and validate expressed feelings. Offer hope when possible, but know that often the best thing you can do for a child who is fighting depression is staying present.
2. Backdrop Factors – God’s plan is greater than your pain.
Rick Warren says there are four barriers to happiness: pain, people, pressure, and problems. When we’re hurting mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually, it’s difficult to find joy. We must remember that even in our tough situations God’s promises still ring through. People love to mention that God is our Shepherd in Psalm 23, but we forget that passage also mentions “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” Psalm 34:18 tells us that God is near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 to not be anxious about anything. No matter how you’re feeling, remember that God’s promises are objective and deeper than your feelings. You’re forgiven (2 Cor 5:17). You’re secure (2 Cor 1:21-22). You’re free (John 8:36). We must remember that God’s plan is ultimately greater than our current pain.
3. Behavioral Factors – Our choices matter.
Did you know drugs and alcohol try to do the same thing as prayer? Each try to find joy and happiness, but they do so in VERY different ways. Drugs and alcohol deaden cells, and ultimately deaden reality. People turn to drugs and alcohol for an escape. Prayer, on the other hand, actually moves closer to how life with God is suppose to be. In other words, while drugs try to deaden reality, prayer actually deepens reality. Your choices matter.
- Physically – What you eat, how you sleep, routines, workout habits, etc.
- Relationally – Do my closest friends make me closer or farther away from God?
- Spiritually – There’s a difference between legalism and experience.
There are two ways to put my children to bed. In one way, I could simply tell them to get in their room and go to bed. In another way (my preferred way), I could tuck them in, tell them stories, and pray with them. When my sons were younger, we use to rock them to sleep. Now in both cases, my boys were legally my sons. However, the second experience for them is much different than the first. How is your experience with God? Are you resting simply in your legal position, or are you experiencing the closeness with Him on a regular basis.
While drugs try to deaden reality, prayer actually deepens reality.
4. Biblical Factors – Even broken trees bear fruit.
Rick Warren has also stated, “In God’s garden, even broken trees bear fruit.” Many biblical characters struggled with stress, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts: Abraham (Gen 15), Jonah (Jonah 4), Job (entire book), Elijah (1 Kings 19), King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23), David (Psalm 38:6-8), Paul (desired to leave earth and be with Christ in Ph 1:23; had thorn in flesh in 2 Cor 12:7). Many significant pastors and leaders in Christian history have also battled depression: Perry Noble (megachurch pastor at Newspring Church), C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther, and Charles Spurgeon. God used these broken ordinary people to extraordinary things for His Kingdom! Are you struggling? Do you know someone who is struggling? Lack of faith isn’t necessarily the cause of depression, but faith is definitely a part of the solution and healing. In Christ, we always have hope. Paul tells us in Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Wherever you are today, whatever your teens are going through, please consider the biological, backdrop, behavioral, and biblical factors, and trust God to use this situation for His glory. We need to rally around our friends, children, and family with the unconditional love of Christ. Let’s remove the stigma associated with mental illness. Let’s respond with sensitivity. Let’s help people were we can, and encourage people to get help if they need it. Depression is more common than you think, more complex than you know, and more constructive than you realize. Let’s be a part of God’s redemptive plan of healing, that ultimately can only come eternally from Jesus Christ alone.
What comments, questions, and feedback to you have? I would love to interact with your more on this topic. Please reach out to me directly at 480-515-4673, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.
I’m praying for you and your child.
High School Pastor
Northridge Community Church