I’m writing from (independent) Samoa, a thoroughly Christian country where depression is so uncommon that the language has no word for it.
The closest terms, still far from the mark, are anoanoa (sorrow) and fa’avauvau (loneliness).
It’s difficult to be lonely here:
the people are eager to invite you into their lives. Samoa is a poor country with no large cash-crop or major industry. But food is plentiful and shelter ubiquitous so that survival is no problem. The culture is gift-centered rather than consumer-oriented. They sometimes wish they were richer and of course they do experience hard times but not depression as we palogi (Europeans) know it. I have yet to check with local physicians but so far the only Samoan I’ve encountered who experience depression did so while living in Los Angeles. Upon returning to Samoa and attending Bible College, his symptoms abated.
We of the western world live in a time of high pressure, stress and distress. The economy is depressed. The Church is oppressed. Morality is suppressed. Faith is repressed. Budgets are compressed. (The only thing not pressed is clothing when we have less to spend on it.)
As world markets, national banks, giant corporations, even whole countries all slide into the slump, I suggest we ascertain what the Bible has to say about depression. You may be relieved to know that the problem was on Jesus’ mind from the start. Depression was the very first topic of His very first sermon.
Jesus relieves depression
Jesus began His ministry on earth by preaching “good news for the depressed”.
The first words of His inaugural sermon (Matthew 5:3) are “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Don’t let anyone tell you this just means “voluntarily humble”: the original Greek denotes being bowed down, destitute, mendicant). Clearly Jesus was announcing good news for the spiritually poverty-stricken.
The people to whom Jesus spoke were politically oppressed by a cruel, totalitarian government and religiously suppressed by an authoritarian priesthood. Deadly diseases were rampant. Life was short. Murder was common. Infant mortality was high. The economy was weak. Daily life was drudgery and afterlife unpromising (many didn’t even believe in a resurrection). There was little reason for those listening to be other than depressed, socially, financially and spiritually.
Yet as soon as Jesus began to preach, the crowd began to shine with hope and joy. They suddenly became “the light of the world” after he had only spoken a few sentences. THAT is powerful preaching!
Even though Jesus blessed them mightily, what He said did not alone cause His listeners to shine. The presence of God and the certainty of His boundless love are what make us glow. Jesus’ listeners instantly knew in their hearts that He loved them with the agape love of God! Not only had He been healing them of their diseases – free of charge – but the very look in His eyes spoke volumes. They knew He understood their problems, recognized their defects, and still He cared!
So when speaking with authority, Jesus first “opened his mouth” to say “I have good news for the depressed”, they instantly knew relief was at hand.
Personal depression is cured by experiencing fully the unconditional love of God in Jesus Christ.
When you become thoroughly saturated in His Great Love, you cease to worry and the dark cloud lifts. When you are sure you are loved despite your shortcomings and faults, you become rich in spirit. You begin to shine.
Likewise the ultimate cure for economic depression is to pass on to others what you have received. Generosity increases wealth. Forgiveness always reduces poverty. Economists blame the US financial crisis on making bad loans, but it is equally true that the current panic was caused by expecting greedy returns on investment. Financial panic is the end result of financial avarice.
I fully realize that reading this article is unlikely to produce any euphoria in those who’s super is rapidly heading south or who can’t seem to find an effective psychotropic serotonin absorption inhibitor. However, experiencing the extent of God’s love is guaranteed to take away the worst of the blues. And unlike pills, agape has no negative side effects.
A full realization of God’s love doesn’t come overnight.
For starters, you must fellowship where His love abounds. And that which you receive you must in turn pass on to others.
God’s love is not a commodity: it can’t be traded but must be given away in order to be possessed.
Count your blessings, all the ways God shows His love. It takes time but do it anyway. It’s worth it. Make a gratitude list. You’ll be glad you did.
- Has counseling let you down?
- Been diagnosed but untreated or treated but not cured?
- Are you in the dumps over debt or relationships?
- Feeling low?
Attend a church that shines with God’s Love in full measure. Bask in His agape love feast, soak in it, immerse yourself, and then when you’re full, pour some out on others.
Don’t expect results overnight: the experience takes a while to sink in. Meanwhile concentrate on helping others.
NOTE TO THE DEPRESSED: A visit to Samoa might cost less than some intensive psychiatric services and medications. But don’t just come as a tourist. Make it a pilgrimage by attending full-on Samoan Christian worship-services every day. The singing will lift your spirits and the praise will bring tears of joy. Tell the pastor you suffer from depression. Explain it to him. He is likely to invite you home. You’re the his neighbor: he loves you.