Seeing Depression through The Eyes of Grace

Depression is on the rise in our country.  I am sure there are many reasons for that, but I am convinced that one of them is that we are told that we should be happy and if we aren’t happy then we should go and find happiness: Change your relationship. Change your job. If that doesn’t work, go talk to your physician.  Happiness is the goal, and it is assumed that if that isn’t found, your life will be lacking and depression is sure to follow.

Another reason is that we live in a time of great entitlement.  We are free to be who we want to be; free to have what we think we deserve; and a promise is implied that those things will bring satisfaction and contentment, but of course they will never deliver.

Julie Ganschow has written a great resource and study book for both counselor and counselee in walking through how to find your way out of the darkness that has enveloped so many.  It’s not necessarily about coming off medications (although with successful biblical counseling you and your doctor may make that decision), but rather, as Julie says, “to help you understand the process of heart change” through the Word of God.

I appreciate the second part of the book, which contains “updated medical and psychological thinking on depression, chemical imbalance, and medication to treat depression.”  So many have bought into the lie that depression is absolutely provable, but much of the research that has been done on depression is inconclusive.  “No medical test exists that can prove a chemical imbalance causes depression, and even if such a test did exist, there is no way to determine whether the depression caused the chemical imbalance or the chemical imbalance caused the depression.”

Julie does an excellent job of laying out what depression feels like and what so often is part of every heart that struggles with it.  Actions are based on what is going on in your heart and how you are feeling.

Depression is a dark hopeless feeling that believes all is lost and there is no way out of the pit.  It also makes wrong assumptions about God.  Very often the feelings and the Truth of what God’s Word says are at opposite ends and in great conflict with each other.  The actions that follow will expose what the heart believes.

I love that she has written out the biblical texts. When you are depressed, doing one more thing may not happen, so to have the Word printed out clearly and in abundance is beneficial for the counselee. In addition to the biblical texts, the diagrams that give pictures to what she has described are also greatly useful.  As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  They are clearly laid out and easy to follow.  For the counselor, the diagrams are also useful for other issues that you deal with on a regular basis.  You need to check them out.

As a journaling guide for a person struggling with depression, Julie has included “heart work” that is sprinkled throughout the book making it easy for someone struggling with depression to be intentional about working through their struggles. This feature also makes it handy for the counselor because homework is specific and relevant to where the reader is in the book.

Julie makes it very clear that the depressed person has a responsibility in their situation.  We live in an age that loves to shift blame from self to others or circumstances, but that leaves a victim mentality and makes heart-change impossible if circumstances remain the same.  Situations and people do not always change, but God does give hope for us to be changed.

Early on in the book, she gives a beautiful and clear picture of the heart of depression. I am sure that some who read it will be offended but a gentle, gracious and compassionate counselor will be able to transition into that, while bringing hope to the sufferer.

I value the chapters that have isolated the different heart conditions, and again I love that I can use those chapters with others who struggle with pride, anger, self-pity, or idolatry.  That fits most of us whether we struggle with depression or not.  She also describes the heart that is faithless,  lacks assurance, or is guilty or afraid, again all useful, and not just for addressing depression. Many of them overlap, so just because you don’t think they fit you or the person you are working with, you don’t want to rush through them.

Ultimately, depression says much about what we really believe to be true about God.  Is He sovereign? Can He be trusted?  A depressed heart would say “no.”  Julie graciously walks you through issues of the heart and brings you to a place where you see yourself “in Christ.”  We are attached to a life giving, life altering vine (John 15). He is Jesus Christ and in Him we have life and the ability to see our darkness as a gift from God in our journey of sanctification.

Reading through Seeing Depression Through The Eyes of Grace reaffirmed many things for me and gave me a tool in my counseling ministry.

I appreciate the second part of the book, which contains “updated medical and psychological thinking on depression, chemical imbalance, and medication to treat depression.”  So many have bought into the lie that depression is absolutely provable, but much of the research that has been done on depression is inconclusive.  “No medical test exists that can prove a chemical imbalance causes depression, and even if such a test did exist, there is no way to determine whether the depression caused the chemical imbalance or the chemical imbalance caused the depression.”

This second part of the book offers a perspective from the DSM-V as well as other known secular and biblical experts.  For the biblical counselor, and for the Christian who finds herself depressed, it should give great hope: Hope that things can be different; hope in the God of the Bible.  He is, after all, working Himself out in you (Phil 1:6) and if you struggle with depression, then it is part of that path for you.  We never walk in the dark alone.

I was challenged as I read through this book because some of my own heart issues are there. Thank you, Julie, for your excellent resource unpacking the heart of man.

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