My family and I have just returned from a short trip into the great state of Texas. Stopping in Dallas, San Antonio, and then Fort Worth, our trip involved a significant amount of drive time. Riding in a car is when I get lots of ideas for my writing. I see a house and my mind begins to imagine who might live there. Then plots for stories develop, and I’m off!
The travel time also gave opportunity for reading roadside signs. A couple of the billboards struck me as rather humorous. One displayed the photograph of a VERY attractive woman with the caption She Spies! The advertisement was describing her business as a private investigator. I gave her kudos for a catchy name for her business. Another, again graced by the photo of a VERY attractive and professional-looking female, advertised her services as an attorney. She received my congrats for the catchy headline, which read: Ever argued with a woman?, giving her positive marks for turning what can be a negative connotation toward the female gender into a positive attribute.:)
However, it is the third sign I am going to describe which gave me pause and left me feeling rather disturbed. A small church near the expressway displayed a sign sporting this advice:
Call on Jesus, the
source of all comfort.
I do believe in prayer, and I am not discounting its benefits to both the sufferer and his/her family and loved ones. However, I do not concede that depression and suicidal ideation are necessarily spiritual problems. The dark pit of depression is known to have origins in abnormal balance of neurohormones in the brain. For too long we have viewed depression as some kind of personal weakness that only needs a little prayer and a little faith and some getting on with life. It’s not that easy, folks. I’ve witnessed both the agony of depression and the tragedy of suicide, as well as addictive behaviors that develop in the effort to self-medicate oneself out of the pain. And many of these victims have had strong Christian backgrounds and beliefs.
I hope we as people are becoming more open-minded, more informed, more sensitive, and more ready to step in with real, meaningful intervention when indicated. I know I’ve learned a few lessons over the past 10 years, and I’m sure I’ll still be learning more 10 years from now. But we Christians need to more careful about presenting Christianity (or any other faith) as the sole solution to suicidal thoughts. We need to pray for wisdom and insight and discretion and love as we try to help those we know who are fighting the battle with the enemy of depression.
The sign scared me. What if someone suffering severe depression with suicidal thoughts reads that sign and stops meds or stops seeing their mental health professional, depending solely on Jesus’ comfort to protect them from harm? And what if that spiritual strategy just doesn’t work? I pray that that doesn’t happen.