It is an unfortunate, and often crippling, misconception that the Christian life exempts the believer from hardships. Believers and nonbelievers alike cleave to the notion that, if a person is in a time of trouble, they either aren’t Christian enough or God isn’t good enough. Though these mindsets are terribly prevalent in today’s age, the good thing is that they are terribly false.
Depression, or any mental illness, does not delegitimize anyone’s walk of faith, and it certainly cannot immunize anyone against God’s love.
I was raised in a Christian home and, by the time I had gotten to college, I had made a personal decision to truly follow Jesus. Even so, I can recall a time, in my second year of college, when certain circumstances led me into a season of depression. I had experienced the ending of a friendship, a loved one’s health had been declining, and I was no longer the outgoing freshman that I was when I had first arrived at college. Social interactions had become difficult and my state of mind was causing me to question if I was even a Christian at all.
I can also recall a time not too long ago in my undergraduate career when the combination of suffering from my own secret illness, struggling with my finances, and doing poorly in my courses as a result sunk me into a depression and a loneliness that felt irrecoverable. Though this second bout of depression had been significantly worse than the first, I had an overwhelming awareness of the nearness of Christ and I clung to Him and He delivered me out of my darkness. “He delivered us from such a deadly peril and he will deliver us,” says 2 Corinthians 1:10.
I cannot pinpoint one verse of scripture or word of faith that brought me out of my deepest darkness, but I can share with you three things that I have either done or wish I had done as I struggled.
1. Seek Help
The only thing more excruciating than suffering is suffering in silence. If you are struggling with depression or any mental illness and have not yet told someone, I implore you to do so— whether that be a medical professional, faculty member, or friend. Because there is still a stigma surrounding mental illness, especially in the Church, the thought of a seeing a therapist or counselor may seem unorthodox. But having someone to confide in is crucial in the path to recovery.
Counseling Services is a great first place to start. It is located in Heinz Hall, on Arcadia’s very own campus, and is open from Monday to Friday. The first two sessions are free and walk-in appointments are open to students between 1 to 3 p.m. The first time I went I was a bit nervous. Fearful even. But by the end of my appointment, I was relieved. My therapist was nice, and being able to share my burdens with a professional helped me to feel less alone.
2. Finding Fellowship
My greatest regret in the midst of depression was not having a believing friend to turn to. I longed for someone with a clear mind and a heart set on Christ to speak truth into my life when I was too encumbered to do so myself. Even if it’s simply abiding in a friend who can be there to encourage you in hope and uplift you through prayer, fellowship will help nurture your faith.
If you are in search of a believing friend on campus, try attending the Arcadia Christian Fellowship. The club meets every Thursday from 7:30 to 9 p.m. I began attending my freshman year and it has been a safe space of community and friendship. Keystone Fellowship Montgomeryville, GracePoint Church, and Oreland Evangelical Presbyterian Church are also very welcoming churches that I have been to in my years at Arcadia.
3. Holding On to Hope
It can be hard to fight for faith in the midst of depression. It can be difficult to discern what is truth and what is gloomy reality. Each of us has our way of finding hope. For me, I found that my faith was worth fighting for. And in my own fight, three realizations helped me to hold on to hope:
- God sees my experiences and He cares: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
- God did not need me to be free from depression in order to turn to Him: “When [you] call to me, I will answer [you]; I will be with [you] in trouble; I will rescue [you] and honor [you].” (Psalm 91:15)
- Not even the strongest wave of darkness could weaken God’s love for me: “[Nothing] in all creation will be able to separate [you] from the love of God in Christ Jesus [y]our Lord…” (Romans 8:39)
If you’re suffering from depression, believer or not, the important thing is seek the help that you need in whatever way is right for you. There is no shame in relieving your distress and putting yourself on a path to hope.