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Pray Your Way to Mental Heath? Ministry Faces Backlash Over Comments about Depression in the Church


Feeling Down? How much of the problem is spiritual and how much is physical? 

Tuesday afternoon Desiring God ministry, led by John Piper, tweeted, "We will find mental health when we stop staring in the mirror and fix our eyes on the strength and beauty of God." 


Hundreds of people responding to the tweet suggested it implied mental health issues, such as depression and PTSD, are caused by a lack of faith and can therefore be overcome through a closer relationship to God.  

Respondents shared personal stories of mental illness that were caused by physical, not spiritual problems and were rectified with medication and other therapies.  Some added they felt ashamed because of messages from church leaders indicating emotional problems were the result of spiritual inadequacy.

In fact, there was such backlash, Desiring God removed the original tweet and posted another one which read, "Thank you to those expressing kind concerns. We apologize for leaving off the link that gives the context quoting Clyde Kilby from more than 40 years ago when "mental health" didn't have the same technical connotations as today." 

The tweet included a link to a Piper article from 2007 called "10 Resolutions for Mental Health," that cited a 1976 lecture by Kilby.



CBN News contacted Desiring God for further comment, but has not heard back from the ministry.

Christian psychiatrist Daniel Amen told CBN News depression and other types of mental illness are often misrepresented within the church, adding, it's more complicated than most church leaders portray and he lays out a number of contributing factors.

4 Causes of depression:

  1.  Biological 
  2.  Psychological 
  3.  Social 
  4.  Spiritual 

"For some people," he said, "When they get their spiritual life in order, their mood gets much better." 

Amen continued, "For other people, their spiritual life is in order. They go to church, they pray, they do the right things and they're terribly depressed because they may have had a head injury, they may have low thyroid, depression may run in their family."

Dr. Amen says telling people depression is solely a spiritual problem can be harmful because people whose depression is caused by physical issues won't get the help they need. 

On the other hand, Dr. Amen says, "to ignore spiritual issues is to ignore a very important, core component of who we are. So it's not one or the other."

How do you know when you or someone you love is depressed?  

Signs of depression are often overwhelming, last a few weeks and include:

-Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions


-Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness

-Pessimism and hopelessness

-Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much



-Loss of interest in things once pleasurable, including sex

-Overeating, or appetite loss

-Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won't go away

-Digestive problems that don't get better, even with treatment

-Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings

-Suicidal thoughts or attempts

Dr. Amen says people who are suffering from depression or similar issues, should see a qualified mental health professional for evaluation. 

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