I’ve discussed at length my struggle with depression. I’ve experienced what Dr. Hodges calls sad feelings through out my life--sometimes because of sin, loss, and sometimes for no reason at all. I made what I consider an important decision in my life. During the last episode of depression more than four years ago, I decided I wasn’t going to medicate myself (I exhibited all nine markers for depression p. 26). I had friends telling me I should but I had seen so many people who took medicine who were hooked on it and who were different people after taking it. I didn’t want to do that because of my daughter. At that time far away from God, I leaned on the training I received for counseling in college and seminary. I also had done my own research and was unsatisfied with what I found. As Hodges points out, “Sorrow, anger, and worry are problems for which the Bible offers answers” (p. 10) and
Just like the man at the pool, we have a strong societal norm that says if you are depressed or anxious, it is likely due to an abnormality in your brain chemicals, which can be cured by medication. Yet current research indicates that this theory may be no more certain than the hope of being cured by the troubled waters in the pool of Bethesda (p. 19)
What he goes on to document is the medical history for the uprising in depression and bipolar diagnosis (not to mention suicides). He demonstrates the medical industry hasn’t discovered an actual pathology for the chemical imbalance theory of depression (pp. 45, 47, 48, 49). And research suggests 90% patients are unchanged by the medicine they are consuming to combat depression (p. 34). He doesn’t say some people may not have a physical issue causing depression but that the medical industry hasn’t proved it yet and the current line of treatment causes more problems than solutions.
He also makes explicit something that I learned and has been more helpful to me than anything. First, hope is one the deciding factors for people overcoming most natural sad feelings. Faith in God and a related hope in him drastically increases overall recoveries. I’ve found rooting myself in the gospel and the hope I have in Jesus Christ makes a large impact on me not experiencing lasting feelings of sadness for the last four years. Yes I’ve been sad but not for extended periods of time and not for no reason. But also changing behaviors helps change feelings. Previously I would allow my sad feelings to stop me from doing all the things I knew I should do (Bible reading, prayer, chores, etc). Stop doing those things intensifies the sad feelings. Doing the simple tasks you know you should do keeps them at bay. Finally, sadness is beneficial. I learned quickly that quite possibly my struggle with depression was God’s method in driving me to him. And it has. Nothing has made me understand I need God more than my experience with depression.
Because of the depression epidemic, everyone should read Good Mood Bad Mood. Familiarize yourself with the research that’s ongoing in this field. Don’t give anyone your blind trust but most of all learn to allow your sadness to drive you to Jesus. Dr. Hodges writes with the heart of a pastor but also the background and knowledge of a medical doctor. That’s a balance that’s hard to come by.