Many Christians mistakenly believe that true Christians don't get depressed, and this misconception heaps additional pain and guilt onto Christians who are suffering from mental and emotional distress. Author David P. Murray comes to the defense of depressed Christians, asserting that Christians do get depressed! He explains why and how Christians should study depression, what depression is, and the approaches caregivers, pastors, and churches can take to help those who are suffering from it. With clarity and wise biblical insight, Dr. Murray offers help and hope to those suffering from depression, the family members and friends who care for them, and pastors ministering to these wounded members of their flock.
- De-Stigmatizing Depression
As a psychologist and Christian with a particular speciality and passion for the integration of spirituality and behavioral health, I was hopeful when I started David Murray's Christians Get Depressed Too.
While Murray explicitly admits this is a short text to introduce Christians to some of the facts about depression, he regularly oversimplifies things in a way that probably contributes to on-going stigma and discrimination. He has an excellent intent to reduce such stigma from the Christian community, and the book starts out appropriately combating some common theological myths with regard to depression. However, he also quickly makes other statements that stigmatize and inaccurately represent other diseases (like addiction).
He also gets many facts wrong about treatment options, often due to the theme of not acknowledging the complexities of behavioral health, including depression. Further, he makes assumptions about the readers, once even saying, "as Reformed Christians, we..." Not all Christians are Reformed, and not all Reformed Christians would agree with his more extreme theology that falls in line with people like John Piper.
As I've noted in other blog posts and reviews, this theology is incredibly damaging. Murray makes several statements along these lines, including stating that if someone is depressed, God made them depressed and wants them depressed. He argues that God working all things for good supports this, which is a warping of this Scripture. Just because God can use something for good doesn't mean he made that something happen. This kind of explanation is what leads people away from Christ.
I'm frankly conflicted about this book. For those coming from extreme views, it's probably helpful to validate their beliefs and help them be open to alternative explanations and understandings of the world. But again, Murray actually contributes to on-going stigmatization of the behavioral health community. I don't for a moment believe this is intentional. Especially as he narrated the audiobook, it is easy to hear his heart of compassion and true desire to help others. Therefore, I pray this book will be helpful to those who read/listen to it, but I would not recommend it for most people.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
- Loving and Level-Headed Perspective on Depression
I was originally hesitant to read (and/or listen) to this book. When the Christian Audio Reviewers program brought this up as a possibility, I almost just skipped it. The title of the book, with the emoticon on the cover, left me thinking this book would lean toward the shallow end of books in the Christian Counseling arena. I guess that I should never judge a book by its cover... literally. I was pleasantly surprised by this book.
Even though this was a fairly short book, as it was meant to be, it delved into all of the major concerns when dealing with the topic of depression. It obviously didn't cover any of these topics to a great depth, but each topic received an appropriate amount of attention.
David Murray did a great job of explaining some of the balance that is required in understanding depression. One of the issues he was addressing in this book is the tendency of Christians to lean one way or another when considering the causes of depression and the care given to those suffering with depression. In different parts of the book he would address the side that leans too much toward physical and mental causes and care, while ignoring the spiritual. Then he would make sure that the side that would lean all toward spiritual causes when ignoring the physical and mental issues was appropriately addressed.
One of my favorite parts of this book pertained to the audio version. The book was read by the author, who has a wonderful Scottish Accent. As soon as I started listening, his voice grabbed my attention. I always prefer when a book is read by the author, but this was exceptionally enjoyable.
If you have questions on depression, and you are looking for a book to help you navigate your counsel and care for another or for yourself, this book will be quite helpful. I found great balance in this book. David Murray also included several references to other books that can be helpful, and he gave appropriate warnings about books that might lean too heavily in one direction. I was surprised by how much love and level-headedness he used when addressing all of these issues. It became abundantly obvious that he is (or was) a Pastor, and has walked through some deep waters with others.
- Excellent and Balanced Short Introduction
We all know that as believers we are to have the joy of the Lord but as a result of the cookie cutter categories of Christian pop culture, many believers have a difficult time coming to terms with those who are apparently believers and yet struggle with these issues. There are even many believers who think that a “true” Christian cannot get depressed and that any mental or emotional issues are either the result of sin or demonic oppression. Beyond the popular misconceptions are various disagreements among Christian counselors regarding the issues and how to respond to them.
Thankfully, David P. Murray offers this brief, practical, and caring book on the subject.
Dr. Murray is the pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church, is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, has written various other books and is the author of the head heart hand blog (http://headhearthand.org/blog/).
Dr. Murray points out that the common misconceptions about depression and mental illness within the Church are not only unhelpful but can actually be hurtful by increasing the burden of pain and guilt on those who are already suffering. Murray argues from biblical examples that depression is actually something that can and does happen to believers. He insists that we need to overcome the overly simplistic idea that every emotional and mental issue is the result of sin and faithlessness. He argues that the church has a responsibility to help those who suffer and that Christians, particularly pastors and caregivers, should study depression so they understand what it is, what causes it, and how to best help those who suffer from it.
He avoids getting dragged into the theological and psychological controversies surrounding the subject but his balanced treatment gives the listener confidence that he is familiar with them, understands them, and is presenting what he finds to be most practical and helpful. His purpose was to write a book that those who are suffering and those who care for them can use. Readers and listeners who want a more technical or theological treatment will need to go elsewhere. He does, however, include a number of biblical references and a helpful appendix of other works that would be of interest to those who want to study more.
The practical nature of the book can be seen in how Murray organizes the material. He condenses the topic into 6 sections that are organized the following way:
-The Crisis – Why should we study the topic?
-The Complexity – What is the appropriate attitude to approach the topic?
-The Condition – What is it and what does it look like?
-The Causes – Why does it happen?
-The Cures – What can be done?
-The Caregivers – How we can help those in need.
To tackle such a complex topic so briefly and practically is a very difficult thing to do. Dr. Murray has done an outstanding job and has produced a balanced, yet conservative and biblical, treatment of the topic that is both informative and helpful. As a friend of several believers who struggle with depression and the father of an autistic child, I appreciated the wisdom and balance with which Dr. Murray addressed the issue. It is a testament to both his writing ability and pastoral care that he is able to avoid the tendency to reductionist oversimplification in such a short work. He provides a good example of the informed humility that he is encouraging others to pursue.
The work is concise, well written, and easy to follow. The production was well done and Dr. Murray’s reading was well paced and articulate (in that remarkably dramatic way that only a Scottish accent can accomplish). For anyone who is struggling with depression or knows someone who is, this is a great place to start. Other more comprehensive works are available but this is the best short introduction to the topic I can recall.
* I received a free copy of this book from christianaudio.com as part of their Review Program. Reviews are not required to be positive and the opinions I have expressed are my own.
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- something to consider when it comes to depression but not a place to stop
Thank you christianaudio.com for the opportunity to review this work, these investments in me, ripple throughout my life and change me and other. Thank you.
Yes, Christians do get depressed and if you ever bring up this topic, there is a myriad of ideas out there when it comes to providing answers. This is not a NEW release (2010), however it is a new audio book read by the author. In this short work, David Murray attempts to minister to a wide reaching arm of those who engage this topic from all backgrounds (sufferers, caregivers, pastors, fellowship, communities, counselors, and professionals) in hopes of providing a work that truly does minister.
The six-chapter outline is mapped out this way:
-The Crisis - eight reasons to study this topic.
-The Complexity – exhortation to use discernment and approach with humility.
-The Condition – defining depression with various ways it might manifest itself in life.
-The Causes – author’s view of the myriad of causes of depression.
-The Cures – outlines some of the suggestions out there but inventible falls on a cautious view with medication.
-The Caregivers – how those involved in the life of the depressed should respond.
This book was interesting to me, in that I always keep my eyes out for good counselee resources, and providentially, just finishing up with a counselee who presented that they were depressed, this was timely. As I have reviewed David’s material before, I was hesitant, but seeing the plethora of sites reviewing it (many whom are reputable and discerning – see Gospel Coalition, The Aquila Report, Tim Challies and Paul Tautges for instance) I took another chance.
Let me start off with some cons of the audio book: Having never heard David Murray before, I was not prepared to hear the accent and such, it did take some getting used to, but don’t let that take away from the benefit of having a work read by the author. I also was put off with the slamming of the biblical counseling movement, specifically Jay Adams. I find that folks who do this either are put off with their perceived tone of him in his work, never met him, or are more priestly inclined (see: Drew Goodmanson or Timmy Brister for clarification). It seems that these folks want a new biblical counseling definition or to add to the historical prolegomena in systematic theology, which has always bothered me especially when it is presented that we have some how missed out and been harsh through history and without a view of ‘sufferology’ or integration or ‘wholistic’ view, are forgetting that we still live in an age that Adams rightfully called out, challenged and rebuked, that of farming out our parishioners to integrationists and trichotomist theologians. Further, as I have mentioned before, farming out folks to licensed Christian Counselors or Psychiatrist is an oxymoron. I used to write to the SC Bar of Licensing every year and ask this question: “Can a licensed psychologist and psychiatrist share their Christian worldview in the midst of treatment with the ‘mentally ill’? Each year I got the same response. “No it is a violation of conduct, licensure, and ethics and said counselor can be sued and lose their license.” So my question to the one trying to force trichotomy on me always was, “So is it truly Christian counsel or is it a Romans 13 violation to present yourself as a ‘Christian’ counselor when you really cannot?” And inevitably the ‘yes but’ (I call it ‘butthead theology’) comes out, and I have to remind them that using the same premise, a Muslim, Jehovah Witness or Mormon could call themselves “Licensed Muslim Counselor or Licensed Jehovah Witness Counselor etc. and how would that go over?” At this point the argument fails due to the presuppositions of licensure, common grace and obedience to the law that God has ordained, and futility of this integrationist argument. Another ‘con’ with priestly temperaments is their perception of prophetic call of calling sin sin and the failure to accurately describe the ‘it is sin view’. For instance, it is a documented and empirically proven that thinking wrong for extended periods of time DOES affect your body and if you are a believer, and everything is through the lenses of Scripture, than it is a consequence of sin. Depression in this world is an ‘affect of sin’ left from the garden – especially being separated from God and therefore is a GREAT way to describe it to a believer, in that it should bring them to the end of themselves and look to Christ for hope as the Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation view of scripture presents. Changing the vocabulary to make it more palatable using labels and disease model has never been helpful nor provide biblical hope without some discipleship. Further I find that when presented as a disease there is the subtle self-righteous shaking a fist at God “how dare you make me this this way” even though scripture clearly outlines that we are made in HIS image, meaning there is no mistakes. I could write pages on this, but honestly, this is a futile argument with integrationists.
Some excellent pros of the work, is that he is very pastoral, humble, and caring when it comes to ministering to the suffers. I also found that despite the integration and ‘sufferology’ overtones I have seen in other works today, he does take a cautious medication view of which I too advocate. Medicine is a common grace and given (Luke was a physician) and provided by God to restore/remind of the Gospel. Did this work challenge, inspire, or enlighten me in any way, not really, nothing new here that has not already been said somewhere else. David did a good job however reminding me to be humble and the value of suffering when it comes to the gospel fluency with those that are suffering and how Jesus interceded for me when I was suffering(See 2 Corinthians 1:3-11). Also, one cannot say that David did not meet his objective which was to provide a short work especially to minister to those who are hurting. This is a short work that is presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner, but I would add it should not stop with this work. The attempts with conveying biblical truth were accurate and exegetical and I would recommend this book to others, especially as place to start but not finish. There are many ACBC and CCEF resources out there that hold to the same balanced and cautious view that should be consumed as well.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Christianaudio.com reviewers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
- Eye-opening and much needed
Is there anything misunderstood more by Christians today than depression specifically, and mental illness in general? Many believers who find themselves under the weight of a “stubborn darkness” of depression or struck by bouts of anxiety also feel a crushing sense of shame. “I shouldn’t feel this way if I really have Christ,” they think, and often this sense of shame is reinforced by well-meaning, but misinformed believers. And what about the topic of medication for depression and anxiety. Talk about a divisive and oft-misunderstood topic!
Professor and pastor David Murray tackles these subjects and more in his short, yet important book, Christians Get Depressed Too. This book is not a comprehensive guide to helping or counseling those with depression. Nor is it meant to be the go-to resource for a person struggling with depression. Instead, it serves as a primer—a launching pad of sorts—for believers to really understand and have compassion for those suffering from depression. Murray seeks to “demystify” depression by bring the scriptures and science together, along with a solid historical overview of the Church’s response to depression over the centuries. He accomplishes this goal beautifully.
There is so much that that is helpful in this short, readable book. First of all, Murray’s style is both scholarly and approachable. He shows from biblical examples and real-life stories the real, human aspect of those suffering with depression. His overview of the Church’s response to depression through the years is eye-opening, particularly his focus on Puritans Jonathan Edwards and Timothy Rogers, as well as famous preacher Charles Spurgeon. His reasoning for why the use of medication to treat depression is NOT unbiblical is both top-notch and timely.
The most important focus of Murray’s book, however, is regarding our response as believers to those who are struggling with depression. How do we help them? What does a “biblical response” look like? What should and shouldn’t we say and/or do? Murray’s assertion that not all depression is spiritual in origin may by controversial in some circles, but he gives a much-needed clarion call for all believers to acknowledge the complexity and delicacy of those struggling with depression in a world marred by sin. Christian leaders who find themselves in the role of helper to those struggling with depression need to read this book.
David Murray hails from the Highlands of Scotland, and his accent can be a little tough to follow sometimes as he narrates the audiobook version of his book. However, he does a fine job of narration, and I’m glad he chose to read his own work for the audiobook.
Please Note: This audiobook was gifted as a part of the Christianaudio Reviewers Program in exchange for my unbiased review of this work. This has in no way influenced my opinion or review of this work.
- Depression is not incompatible with Christian experience
David Murray offers sound Christian insight into depression (and mental health issues in general) in his book Christians Get Depressed Too. The “too” in the title points to one of his main purposes in writing the book, namely, to show that depression is not incompatible with Christian experience. It serves as a defense against approaches to depression that treat it merely as a sin to be repented of rather than a complex issue that is often affected by genetics, the environment, thinking patterns, and (sometimes) sin.
In it, Murray addresses various approaches to depression and mental health within the church, arguing that depression is more complex than some well-meaning pastors and counselors have stated or implied. Using statistics, anecdotes, reason, and Scripture, he shows that depression may stem from multiple causes, and he provides guidance to both those who suffer from depression and those who would provide care to them on how to go about identifying the cause(s) and planning a route forward. This might seem like an overly ambitious goal for a book that’s barely a hundred pages long, but Murray has done it. The end product is something people struggling with depression can actually read and find hope in, as well as something counselors, pastors, friends, and family can use to get on the right track in providing help to others. It may be succinct, but it is not incomplete.
I personally benefitted from it during the week it took me to finish it. I was having a very stressful and difficult time at work, and listening to the book on the way home helped me see how work was affecting my attitude, thoughts, and feelings. Rather than sink towards depression, I found myself uplifted, more self-aware, and ready to tackle my responsibilities because of the book. Like so many others who’ve weighed in on the book, I heartily give my recommendation.
I should add that the audiobook is read by David Murray himself, and if you’ve ever heard him, you’d know he has a Scottish accent. If you enjoy listening to Alistair Begg on the radio, you’d probably enjoy hearing Murray’s narration as well.
I received this book from christianaudio in order to write this review.
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