Falling Up: Depression and Corporate Worship

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DepressionDepression affects 14.8 million American adults in any given year. 11% of adolescents have a depressive disorder by the age of 18. Based on these statistics, about 7 – 10% of our congregants are depressed on any given Sunday. If it’s not you individually, then it is a family member or friend sharing your pew or platform.

The 16th century Spanish poet and Roman Catholic Priest, Saint John of the Cross referred to this season as The Dark Night of the Soul. Even Mother Teresa wrote, “I am told God lives in me – and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.”

We’ve conditioned our congregations through happy songs, sermons and clichéd platitudes to believe that a positive façade is somehow less threatening to God and our faith. So our public worship actions often convey to those struggling with depression that all must be well with everyone here except me.

Worship that never addresses those dark seasons is dishonest as it publicly communicates two messages: either you must not feel that way or, if you feel that way, you must do something about it somewhere else – but not here.[1]

Authentic worship is the freedom without stigma to publicly admit that we can’t handle the circumstances and struggles of life alone. Admitting to God and others that we can’t do this on our own is in itself a profound act of worship.

So if our Sunday worship is to be truly authentic, it can’t ignore the arid darkness occurring in the lives of those with whom we worship. If congregants are expected to walk through those dark seasons outside of the gathered worshiping body, how can we expect them to walk with that gathered worshiping body once they reach the other side?

Martha Freeman wrote, “Tears can enhance our vision, giving us new eyes that discern traces of the God who suffers with us. There is comfort in those tears. They bring fresh understanding that God is nearby, sharing our humanity in all its bitterness and all its blessedness.”[2]

 

[1] Walter Brueggeman, “The Friday Voice of Faith,” Calvin Theological Journal 36 (April 2001): 15.

[2] Martha Freeman, “Has God Forsaken Us?” The Covenant Companion (November 2001): 8

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