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Entries in David Murray (2)


Those nasty family legacies

When I was a young girl, probably about 7 or 8 years old, my mother had a nervous breakdown.  She spent the next few months on anti-depressants, slept on the couch a lot, and my father went overboard to do nice things for her.  She came out of things eventually, and  that was kind of the end of that.

Her father before her had spent years depressed.  My first memories of him were of a silent, emotionless, stoic man who sat in the corner.  One day, when we went to visit, he smiled.  He began coming out of his depression.  I found out that that had not been the first occurrence.  He had been in an institition in the early 70's and had actually been given electroshock therapy.  Honestly, if I had to live with my grandmother, I would have been depressed, too.  She was a horrible, nasty woman.

Three years ago, my father, the person one would least likely expect to endure this, began a descent into clinical depression.  I cannot tell you what it is like to confront the man who has always been larger than life to you, and see what is almost like a small child.  He was no longer confident, assured, in charge.  He was bewildered, uncertain, and sad.  Being far away from him was very difficult, and getting information from my mother was not an easy task.  The person suffering from depression doesn't go through it alone; he takes everyone along for the ride.  My mother did not want to worry her children, so it was not easy to find out what was happening.  Even as I compared notes with two of my brothers, things were still unclear.  None of us seemed to know what was going on.  I wanted to know if my father was talking to someone, or just taking medication.  My mother just didn't want to talk about it.

I'm happy to say that my father is more like my father again.  He has been taken off his medications, and when I talk to him, I hear in his voice that he is coming out of the darkness.  I'm so thankful for that.

Depression can run in families, and I was never more aware of that than I was about fifteen years ago.  I didn't go through clinical depression, but I went through a period of about a year where I struggled against a great deal of sadness and feelings of isolation.  Depression episodes are usually triggered by something, and mine was triggered by moving here and finding myself far from my family support system.  I could not see then, but I can see now, how God ordained such a circumstance so that I would cling to him.  Going to a weekly bible study, and getting in the Word of God was what I needed to see myself clearly.  It was not as serious as what my dad went through, but I do remember having a conversation with my mother one day about how I often felt like I was slipping into a big hole, and she was extremely alarmed, having been there and knowing what can follow from that.

Depression is a sensitive topic, largely because most people don't understand it.  I have read a few books on the subjedt, Out of the Blues, by Wayne Mack being one of them.  I started reading it when my dad was diagnosed.  Recently, I picked up David Murray's little book Christians Get Depressed, Too.  No, I'm not depressed, but seeing my father go through this did alarm me, especially given the family history.  As my father went through his illness, I was told that depression in senior citizens is not all that uncommon.  It was easy for me to think that perhaps my father's illness was triggered by his turning 70 and confronting the end of his life as a man who does not know God.  But what about me?  What would I do in that situation?  There is a misconception that Christians never get depressed, or that if they do, they're sinning.  There are some really harsh attitudes out there, coming from people who have never felt that creeping darkness come over them.

This book by David Murray so far has been the most refresehing book on the subject I have seen.  I hope to do a review of it when I'm done.  One of the things that Murray re-iterates is that depression is a complicated issue.  The causes are not cut and dried.  There can be an overlap of many factors.  I liked this passage he quoted by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

Christians don't understand how physical, psychological, and spiritual realms interrelate because Satan muddies the boundaries.  Many of our troubles are caused because we think a problem is spiritual when it is physical or we think a problem is physical when it is emotional or spiritual.

This passage comes from Lloyd-Jones's book The Christian Warfare.  I have not read that volume, but I have read Spiritual Depression, a must read for any Christian.

We are tempted when we see depressed people to just tell them to pull up their socks and get going.  It isn't always that easy.  Just ask a woman who has recently given birth how hard it is to adjust to the physical changes of hormone re-adjustments.  There simply are physical contributions to the condition that we have to discern first before we get out our 2x4's and start beating.   So far, this book is showing a much more balanced view of things.


Therapeutic Praise

That is the name of a very good article by David Murray in the January edition of TableTalk.

Murray talks about how he sees a revival in the Psalms because of their therapeutic value.  He opens with the comment:

In a day of so many disordered emotions, worshippers are discovering how the Psalms minister so powerfully to their emotional lives.

He describes five ways they do this: 

  1. They balance divine revelation and human emotion. 
  2. They express a full range of human emotions.
  3. They paint a realistic picture of Christian emotions.
  4. They are a welcome outlet for painful emotions.
  5. They call us to sympathetic emotion. 

I am an emotional person, and it is always a struggle for me to keep mine in check, because they are always quite close to the surface.  While I know that emotions are not sin in themselves, I know that the improper handling of them does lead to sin.  Finding a way to express the whole range of emotional life is beneficial, and where better than the Psalms?  Certainly, there are any number of well-meaning authors out there who try to teach us how to cope with emotions, but I think the Scriptures are naturally a better place to begin.

I like what Murray says here:

The Psalms open the pressure valves of our hearts and direct us in how to articulate our most painful emotions.  We don't need to bottle them up or deny them.  Instead, God has inspired songs by which we can admit them and let them out.  As someone said, "What a relief!  I can sing what's really on my mind and heart, and God provides me with words to rightly expres these emotions.  The Psalms reach into ind these emotions and then reach upward to God with them."

Murray then reminds us that the Psalms don't allow us to "wallow," which is where the crucial moment comes. I love music, and I love songs that sing about a reality I am in, but I want a resolution at the end.  What is the point of singing about my pain if I can't sing later about its resolution through God's presence in my life?  

I liked the last line of this article:  "The Psalms turn me inside out."

If you don't already read Dr. Murray's blog, I encourage you to do so.  You can find it here