Today, I begin a 4-part series interacting with David Murray’s little book, Christians Get Depressed Too, which I have read over the past 8 months not once, not twice, but three times.
Why I Read the Book 3x – The first reading compelled me to make a few immediate, practical changes in my life, the effects of which I wanted time to evaluate, which I did six months later. My second read-through was a closer evaluation of my own faulty thought patterns, which I now understand to be the largest contributor to my periodic struggle with a mild form of depression-anxiety. The third reading was for the purpose of evaluating the accuracy of my previous two assessments toward the goal of writing what I hope is a fair, balanced, and honest review. In this first post, I pass on some of my initial observations. Here’s the plan for the rest of the series:
- 2nd Post – 5 Possible Factors in Depression
- 3rd Post – Discerning False Thinking Patterns
- 4th Post – Cures for Depression and Counsel to Caregivers
Author’s Aim – On the very first page of the Preface, David Murray makes his case clear: “My choice of a title, Christians Get Depressed Too, is intended to oppose and correct a very common Christian response to Christians suffering from depression: ‘But Christians don’t get depressed!’ How many times have Christian pastors and counselors made this claim, or at least implied it? If it is true that Christians don’t get depressed, it must mean either that the Christian suffering from depression is not truly depressed, or he is not a true Christian. But if this notion is false, what extra and unnecessary pain and guilt are heaped upon an already darkened mind and broken heart!” [ix-x]
An Intentional Stigma-Remover – The book’s title alone makes a powerful statement, as noted above. Murray wants to make the point very clear that depression is not merely a problem outside of the church. It is a significant problem among believers and, in fact, has been a common experience among God’s people throughout biblical history, citing examples of biblical characters who struggled with depressive, valley-like experiences in their walks with God.
Compassion Wedded to Pastoral Experience – David Murray does not write from an ivory tower high above his 2nd floor office at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, which is a delightful place I had the privilege to visit last month (David being a gracious and thick-accented tour guide). As a former pastor in Scotland for twelve years he counseled many depressed Christians, walking through deep waters together and, through his book, desperately wants “to help sufferers and those who minister to them.” The reader cannot escape the genuineness of Murray’s pastoral heart.
The author is also transparent enough to admit that “like most people, and especially like most pastors, I have had low points in my life, times of mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Sometimes this was brought on by bodily pain and illness and sometimes by my thinking processes going wrong. What I now know about improving and maintaining mental and emotional health and what I hope to communicate in the following chapters would have greatly helped me in these low periods.” 
8 Reasons to Study Depression – I will simply list them from the first chapter making the need for this book obvious.
- Because the Bible speaks about it
- Because it is so common
- Because it impacts our spiritual life
- Because it may be prevented or mitigated
- Because it will open doors of usefulness
- Because it is so misunderstood
- Because it is a talent to be invested for God
- Because we can all improve our mental and emotional health
A Humble Admission of Complexity in which We Need to Apply Two Principles – In the second chapter, Murray readily admits the complexity of the subject matter and makes a plea for Christians to (1) avoid dogmatism and seek humility, as well as (2) avoid extremes and seek balance. Here he deals with what he calls “three simplistic extremes”: cause is all physical, cause is all spiritual, and cause is all mental. I will interact more specifically with the cures section of the book in my final post in the series. The book is also an earnest plea to fellow ministers of the gospel to develop a mature pastoral wisdom motivated by genuine compassion for God’s people.
Counseled by David Murray – Through my triple-reading of the book, I have been deeply helped by my friend and brother in the Lord. I have learned more about myself than I had expected. I expected the book to help me become a more effective counselor, but I did not anticipate how frequently I would be gazing into the mirror and seeing reflections of my own heart, mind, and life. I confess I was not thoroughly prepared for this, thus another reason for multiple reads, but am deeply grateful for the help and insights I have received. Lord willing, I’ve also grown toward being a more compassionate counselor of others.
Best Cover Design – Lastly, even if you don’t agree with all of Murray’s observations and conclusions—or my interaction with them—you have to love the book’s cover. Simply subtle, but very effective, it’s the cleverest graphic design I’ve seen in a long time.