Do Protestants Have the "Fullness of the Faith"?
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Do Protestants Have the "Fullness of the Faith"?

God Cares About People Suffering With Depression

Posted October 29, 2021
Suffering

Depression can pose a powerful challenge to a person’s faith in God. And in the midst of such suffering it is important to remember that God cares. Knowing that God cares and having proof of God’s care in the person of Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for the sins of the world, should give us hope and help our faith to persevere through times of doubt and trial. Ed Welch explains the challenge this way:

It is hard to argue when we are reminded that Jesus shared in our sufferings and has compassion for those who suffer. It is easier to protest, however, when we hear the proposition that God is both good and generous. At this moment in your life, it would seem that goodness and generosity, especially from the all-powerful God, could only be demonstrated by the removal of the depression. If he takes it away, you are persuaded. If not, you remain a doubter.

Yet, Jesus gives us the greatest proof of God’s love:

But remember what you already know. First, Jesus suffered, and Jesus was clearly loved as the only Son of the Father. When we suffer what seems like endless pain, it is hard to believe that God loves us, but Jesus’ suffering proves that it can be true. That doesn’t mean that we always understand what is going on behind the scenes, but it is true nonetheless. Somehow, temporary suffering and love can go together.

This all reveals an important point. Theology will not end suffering, but it can help us to persevere through it.

A robustly biblical theology of the cross and resurrection fixes our hope on Christ, who knows our suffering more than we do and who has overcome it objectively. We live in our Christian families and in our churches in that in-between time, awaiting the day when we share fully in body and in soul in Christ’s glory. Our churches have to be a place where we “wait for it with patience” together. In the process, we need better soul care that appreciates the extent to which physical and mental suffering can be relieved in the meantime. Christians should welcome these advances as signs of God’s orderly providence and compassionate care for his creatures. There will always be a central place for spiritual care especially the faithful ministry of preaching, teaching, sacraments, prayer, and discipline. But, like a kid with a broken leg, getting people to the “emergency room” may be the first order of business.

As Christians, our faith is not a substitute for therapy. It’s not an excuse to avoid doctors. It’s not going to change our circumstances; but our faith, our prayers, and our reading of Scripture can transform our experience of suffering. Prayer can help us to trust in God as we pour out our hearts to our Father. And yes, through prayer, God may answer by healing us of many pains and sufferings. We should believe that the Bible is true about the supernatural. Miracles can and do happen. But we shouldn’t demand it even though we can hope for it. There is a difference here.

Hoping in God, trusting in his goodness, allows for God to be free to do what he believes is best even if it doesn’t make sense to us in the moment. To hope means to desire our pain and suffering to end, but also to know that God really knows what is the best in our situation. This is hard to understand, and that is why we need to look at the reality of life, understanding who God really is through the cross of Jesus Christ. We need to let the love of God, shown by sending the Son to give us eternal life, act as a pair of glasses to give us a clearer vision of our situation. You can know that God cares because he has demonstrated his love through Jesus Christ.


Footnotes

  • Ed Welch Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness, 38

  • Ed Welch Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness, 38–39.

  • Michael Horton “Faith and Mental Illness,” Modern Reformation, July/August 2014.

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Silverio Gonzalez

Silverio Gonzalez is a husband and father. He earned his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his Master of Divinity from Westminster Seminary California.