Megachurch Pastor J.D. Greear has criticized the positivity-only way some churches handle depressed Christians, explaining that believers need to know God is with them through their pain.
“Sometimes, I think we can be too quick with our answers in church: ‘Are you feeling sad? Life got you down? Well, that can’t be from God! Just pop on some K-love, ’cause everything in the Christian life should be positive and encouraging all the time,'” Greear wrote on his website Monday.
“But when you are experiencing depression, you don’t need a quick encouragement. You need a God who walks through pain with you,” he added.
Greear, who’s the pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, referred to biblical figures that have faced much suffering and depression, such as the prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:1–8.
He suggested that some Christians can relate to the feeling of having “no light, no hope.”
“Maybe you’ve also felt like God is not listening — or, even more, you wonder, ‘God, are you behind this terrible circumstance? At the very least, you’re not doing anything to stop it,'” he wrote.
He added that while people do like positive Scripture content, such as “still waters and cups running over and lions lying down with lambs,” but there is a reason why God put the book of Lamentations in the Bible, despite its depressing nature.
Greear warned that many believers “have gone through dark chapters and thought the same things as Jeremiah, but they’ve suppressed those emotions, telling themselves, ‘Real Christians don’t ever feel like this.'”
Greear said that the prophet Jeremiah was a real Christian, as was 19th century Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon and Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, and they went through dark, even suicidal periods in their lives.
“Can you see you are not alone in your thoughts? The greatest Christians in history were not those that God delivered from all pain and misery but those He delivered through their pain and misery,” the megachurch pastor noted.
“He is ready to walk with you through the darkness and do the same for you.”
The Summit Church has been looking closely into issues relating to Christian depression and mental health. Brad Hambrick, who serves as pastor of counseling at the megachurch, argued back in August that it’s possible for a Christian to both be spiritually healthy and suffer from mental health issues.
After listing several conditions and mental obstacles Christians might face in life, Hambrick added: “When I say that a Christian can be spiritually strong and still experience mental health challenges, someone can be a devout Christian and have a persistent struggle with these aptitudes/skills; a struggle that is only moderately improved through the best available interventions (Christian growth or therapy) and will not be ultimately remedied until Heaven.”