A couple of days ago, someone in my Twitter feed retweeted a post by the Desiring God account. Admittedly, John Piper and I are about as far on opposite ends of the theological spectrum as you can get.
John Piper has a great big platform, lots of people follow him and subscribe to what he teaches (no matter how toxic it may be), and I feel the need to say something. Because depression has impacted my life on a daily basis for at least the past 18 years.
In the tweet about dealing with depression, they suggest things like talking to your trusted spiritual friends, trusting the wisdom of God, and prayer.
Look - all of those things are fine. You're more than welcome to try them when you're feeling depressed, but nowhere in that list did they say go to therapy or counseling or take your medication.
There were no practical steps to actually dealing with the mental illness someone is living with when they are depressed.
My point is this: that's some theological bullshit.
This kind of advice is coming from someone who apparently has no idea what they're talking about when it comes to mental illness. It doesn't tell the whole story.
Sure, talk to God, summon your support system, and also - go to freakin' therapy, take your meds, and listen to the doctor.
Sometimes, the most spiritual thing you can do is go to therapy.
I think we've forgotten that Jesus was a human being. He took care of himself by eating and taking naps. He drew away from the crowd when he felt overwhelmed, and got down in the bottom of a damn boat and went to sleep when he was tired. Because Jesus was fully human.
Can we talk about miracles for a minute?
Look, I have no problem believing that someone could lay hands on you and pray for you and you be healed in an instant. But it's called a miracle for a reason: because it rarely ever happens. Ordinarily, God works ordinarily.
I believe God is present with us in our suffering. God sits with us on the couch at the therapist's office. God is present as we take our medication each morning.
I need a prescription every morning because my brain isn't wired like everyone else's. It's no different than the marathon runner who eats well, gets good rest, exercises daily, and still needs medication for his high cholesterol.
It's the same thing.
I need that little white pill every day to help me function as normally as possible. I take medication for my mental illness so that I can show up, rather than hiding under the covers. I take a prescription for anxiety so that I can be the best dad, husband, employee, and human I can possibly be.
So when I see tweets or hear comments by church people who say, "Just pray and talk to your spiritual friends," I have to say something.
My Christian friend, it is your job to call out this kind of toxic, theological bullshit.
You can absolutely love Jesus with all your heart, and love the church while calling out harmful, toxic theology. It's precisely what Jesus did. Jesus, who was fully human and fully God, loved his neighbor, embraced those around him, loved the church, and was not afraid to call out harmful, bullshit theology.
You should too.
And if you're depressed, go to therapy and follow the doctor's orders.
Jesus can save your soul. And the doctor just might save your life.
Steve Austin was a pastor when he nearly died by suicide. A second chance, a grueling recovery, and years of honest conversation allowed Steve to find healing and purpose. It’s evident in his writing, speaking, podcasting, and coaching: he helps overwhelmed people get their lives back.