5 April 2019 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
Over the last 3 years I have fallen deeper and deeper into a funk. I can’t seem to motivate myself to enjoy the things I used to. My mood has affected my work performance, and I’m in hot water with my bosses, but I just can’t seem to muster up the energy to care. I talked to my pastor, and he said I’m having a faith crisis. He seemed to think that if I just pray and study more and really focus on my faith I should feel better.
I have tried what he suggested, and I only feel worse. Maybe I just need to try harder but it’s so hard to find the motivation to work on my faith when I feel so empty inside, and I’m already failing at work. What should I do?
I’m glad you felt comfortable talking to your pastor about your bad feelings. I believe that our faith shapes how we live our lives, and that includes our emotions. Your pastor adds his prayers to yours, and together you seek God’s help to attack this problem.
However, your pastor, in describing your funk as just a faith crisis, shows that he may not have had the training in mental health that you need right now. From your description, you have all the classic signs of depression. And while depression is a problem that affects your spiritual life, it goes beyond spiritual doubts and questions to the chemistry of the brain itself.
Sometimes, for a variety of reasons (it may be triggered by causes physical or situational, and often has a hereditary component) people’s brains just don’t produce enough of the “happy hormone” serotonin. This is not a moral or spiritual failure on your part. It is not a sign of weakness. It is a biological problem that needs medical correction. If you developed diabetes, your pastor would urge you to see a doctor and take medication to give yourself the best chance at health, not just ask you to pray and study more. This is the same.
Get a professional consultation. Tell your family doctor about your symptoms. A wise doctor will send you to a psychiatrist, who is an expert on depression and who may combine medication with talk therapy. Some studies show that talking and medication together are more effective than either by itself. Add prayer to that mix, and you have the best chance of conquering this disease.
Here’s an important thing to understand. Sometimes naturally cautious Christians are reluctant to take a prescribed antidepressant drug, because they confuse it with the dangerous kinds of drugs that make people “high” but lead them into addiction. Be assured that the drugs a psychiatrist uses to treat depression are not of that sort. Their purpose is not to make you feel “high,” but to make you feel normal. You may have friends that use one of these drugs, and you don’t even know it.
Everyone wants spiritual victory and joy in the Lord. But I assure you that depression isn’t a sign of spiritual failure. You don’t need to tell your pastor about your whole treatment unless you want to, but do appreciate his concern, and ask him to continue to pray for you, because you need God on your side.
Aunt Sevvy wishes all her readers good mental health.
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—always without real names. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.