Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 04/12/2012 by Mark Tubbs.
Recommended. A valiant little emergency guide and primer on depression for those suffering from the condition and those who would serve the afflicted.
David P. Murray has it exactly right: depressed people cannot usually read a book running to hundreds of pages - even if the book is about their very own condition. Murray, a former pastor and current professor who has ministered to many depressed people and who teaches seminary-level counseling, offers 112 pages entitled Christians Get Depressed Too as a primer and an emergency guide for depressed Christians and those who minister to them.
Speaking of those who minister to depressed people, all too often depressed Christians are on the receiving end of that which they do not need. Well-meaning platitudes, admonishments to remain stoic, lectures on the danger of medications, and interrogations about unconfessed sin usurp the place of a kind listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. The first thing to do, says Murray, is to admit that some Christians, both mature and immature, do get depressed. While some scholars stretch the bounds of credibility by reading modern psychological labels back into biblical figures, it is safe to say that both David and Elijah faced bouts of despair...in other words, depression. We should not be surprised, therefore, when we or other believers deal with the same.
Showing his preaching colors, Murray's alliterated table of contents lists various aspects of the depressed condition: Crisis, Complexity, Condition, Causes, Cures, and Caregivers. He closes with a clear and helpful appendix on the suffiency of Scripture:
If all you had in the world was the Bible, you would have enough - you have what is necessary to be saved, to believe, and to live to God's glory in the world. It tells us everything we need to know, but it does not tell us everything there is to know. The Bible does not give us exhuastive knowledge, but rather comprehensive knowledge, necessary knowledge, sufficient knowledge.
However, I do wonder whether the alliterated sequence Murray chose actually ended up straightjacketing him somewhat. The professorial approach of Chapter 2, "The Complexity," is arguably a step beyond the needs of a depressed person or even a caregiver using the book for its stated use as a "Depression 911" emergency guide or a "Depression 101" primer. This early in the book, most readers will not benefit from the mini-history lesson on Jay Adams and the Biblical Counseling movement. Murray is at his pastoral best when describing the extremes without naming names. Personally, I would have much preferred a discussion of the sufficiency at Scripture appear at this point in the book instead of at the end. Depressed Christians need to be reminded of the comfort and challenge of scriptural teaching right up front.
Another change I would make if I were editor of this book would be to remove a few of the block quotes from Puritan writers (wonderful quotes, but difficult for some readers, especially depressed ones) and use the space to expand on a few broad-brush statements made in the course of the book. I would also liked to have seen some attention paid - if only for a paragraph - to the ancient and enduring metaphor of a Christian enduring despair as living for a time in a spiritual desert. But let me be fair: you simply can't cover everything in only 112 pages.
The book as a whole is full of balanced and informed wisdom seeking to respect the human dignity of the depressed person while at the same time honoring the transforming truths of Holy Scripture. While some critics might say that Murray can't have it both ways, I suspect Murray would answer that we can have it all ways within biblical parameters.
As I complete a final edit of this review before posting, I fear to leave the impression that there is more wrong with this book than right, which is simply not the case. To redeem my disproportionate time and space spent on what I would alter if I were editor, I encourage you to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 in Paul Tautges' interactive review series with David Murray and Christians Get Depressed Too.
In reading this book, depressed Christians will obtain a balanced, caring perspective on their condition, and potential caregivers will gain the impetus to learn more about the condition. Depression is complex, but it does not confound our God - the God of the Bible. We can take refuge in this comforting truth, even if - and especially when - we are depressed.