Book of the Month - July
Reviewed by Vincent Nicotra
Depression is a common problem that many Christians face, yet it carries with it a certain stigma which makes it a difficult topic to discuss openly among believers. Sadly, many in the church see depression itself as a sin, leading them to wrongly judge those who suffer from it, or lack compassion toward depressed people. Unfortunately, it also causes those who suffer from depression to misunderstand what they are experiencing, cover it up, or simply suffer in silence. Thankfully, Edward Welch brings some clarity to this difficult and misunderstood topic in his book, Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness. Welch’s thirty years of experience as a counselor bleed through the pages of his book. His introduction helps his readers gain insight into what depression feels like to those who are suffering from it. He also helps the reader understand and distinguish between the various types of depression, some of its symptoms, and some of the potential causes for it. Identifying what is causing a person’s depression is difficult at best simply because the problem may be multifaceted and hard to pin to any one thing (18-19).
In Part One of the Book, Welch explains that despite what one believes about the origin of a person’s depression, the reality is that there is suffering involved with it (25). Regardless of its causes, depression is a painful spiritual battle that can lead one to despair and hopelessness. The author reminds believers that knowing a precise cause for depression or assigning blame is not really essential, because believers can find hope and comfort in the God who knows all things and is fully trustworthy (31). According to Welch, “all suffering is intended to train us to fix our eyes on the true God” (31). This thought is unpacked through the rest of the book.
In Part Two Welch helps his readers understand the nature of depression and some of the heart issues that may feed into it such as fear, anger, dashed hopes, failure and shame, guilt and legalism, and thoughts of suicide. In Part Three, he discusses some of the available medical treatments and gives advice and counsel to family members of those who are struggling. According to the author, “the heart is the real battleground during suffering,” so some of the immediate physical symptoms of depression might be alleviated through the use of medication, but “physical treatments don’t treat the guilt, fear, self-loathing, and other distinctly spiritual problems” (190). This is counter-cultural thinking since most would ascribe the causes of depression to the mind, not the heart. In Part Four Welch turns the readers attention to the antidote or long-term solution for depression. Simply put, relief from suffering is found in replacing misguided thinking with “thinking God’s thoughts.” In other words, struggling believers should renew their minds and redirect their thinking toward worship by cultivating a humble, hopeful, thankful, and joyful attitude toward God.
Perhaps one could best summarize the authors counsel this way; the way out of the stubborn darkness of depression is through the glorious light of the gospel! Reliable resources that truly help struggling believers with the difficult problem of depression are few and far between. So, for this reason alone, this book would be a worthy addition to any library. It will certainly prove to be practical and helpful for those who are suffering with any sort of discouragement, heavy heart, or full-blown depression. It may also provide much needed help to those who desire to minister to friends, other believers, or family members struggling through the darkness of depression. If you find yourself in any of these camps then I enthusiastically recommend this book!