Depressed? Believe in a Caring God

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Posted on February 28, 2010 in Bible and Theology, Health

Belief in a Caring God Improves Response to Medical Treatment for Depression, Study Finds.”  That’s what Science Daily said.  The statement assumes, of course, that psychiatry knows what depression is.  Another story on Science Daily worried that “Psychiatry’s Main Method to Prevent Mistaken Diagnoses of Depression Doesn’t Work.”
    It makes sense that diagnosis must precede treatment.  The psychiatry industry’s manual, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM (see 02/17/2010) contains the criteria for diagnosing depression.  A patient needs 5 of 9 listed symptoms to be diagnosed.  “However, these symptoms can also occur in normal responses to loss and stress.”  Because of false positives resulting from the old DSM criteria, the new DSM-IV tried to correct them with a Clinical Significance Criterion (CSC), in order to reduce over-diagnosis (some studies suggested that 33% of the population suffer from depression).  A new study, though shows that the CSC does not reduce false positives.
    Even if the dividing line between clinical depression and normal distress or sadness is fuzzy, there is no question that many people are afflicted with grief, sadness, and feelings of despair that can be debilitating.  A study of 136 adults at Rush University Medical Center tried to quantify the effect of belief in a caring God on medical treatment for depression.  Science Daily said the doctors used “the Beck Depression Inventory, the Beck Hopelessness Scale, and the Religious Well-Being Scale” to assess the depth and intensity of depression, and “feelings of hopelessness and spiritual satisfaction.”  According to the article, “the study found that those with strong beliefs in a personal and concerned God were more likely to experience an improvement.”  Therefore, “clinicians need to be aware of the role of religion in their patients’ lives.”

Articles like this might encourage some readers, but it is questionable whether “scientific” assessments by secularists can state anything meaningful on questions of this sort.  If they can’t even decide what depression is, how are they going to measure the “religious well being” of a patient who claims he or she is depressed?  Is hopelessness measured in ohms or centimeters?  There are so many variables in the human soul, and so many differences between souls, it seems hopeless to try.  Information of this sort is usually conveyed soul-to-soul, not by means of brain scans or arbitrary scales.
    Not all “caring God” beliefs are equivalent, either.  Suppose somebody believes in Elvis, or in the Force, or in Jupiter, or has false beliefs about “the man upstairs” without any basis for them other than subjective feelings.  Assuming there is a true God for the sake of argument, would you rather have depressing beliefs about a true God, or comforting beliefs in a false god?  Would you rather have a false hope that makes you feel good, or a true hope that tugs on your conscience?  Better get that question settled first.  If feeling good is your highest priority, then there is no point in reading further; you’re irrational.
    Of the possible contenders for true God who is also a caring God, not many options are available.  Buddha doesn’t care; he didn’t even want to be a god.  Hinduism has thousands of gods; which are you going to pick?  Which one really cares about you anyway, seeing you are obligated to follow your own karma?  Confucianism is a system of teachings without a personal God.  It’s doubtful readers of these pages will take seriously animism, polytheism, or any of the defunct religions of history.  Dittos for recent man-made cults like Scientology that made its founder filthy rich; who thinks for a minute that L. Ron Hubbard cares for you?
    Of the religions with a personal God, there’s Islam, but imams teach it is impossible to know Allah, because his will is capricious.  There is no peace or assurance.  A Muslim never knows if Allah is satisfied. He can only hope at death he has done enough good works to make it.  That is the problem, too, with cults and misrepresentations of the God of the Bible.  If peace with God is based on our works, there is never a way to have assurance of salvation.  Judaism, having rejected Jesus Christ, keeps looking for a Messiah that never comes.  Without a temple or sacrificial system in place, it has no assurance of pleasing God.  Post-Christian Judaism has devolved into another religion of works, rituals and moral teachings.  Jews today do not “love” God.  They try to obey him, but they don’t generally have a sense of God as a caring father.
    As a religion that tells of a caring God, Christianity stands alone and uncontested.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but has everlasting life.”  That’s the most favorite and well-known Bible verse on God’s care for His creatures (see it in every tongue), but it is certainly not the only one.  He so loved us that He did that.  Knowing that we could never reach up to Him, God reached down to us.  Knowing we could never do enough works to please Him, He did all the work himself.  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5).  Now he offers reconciliation as a free gift (Romans 6).  We receive that gift by receiving Christ himself (John 1).  We receive Christ by acknowledging our sin and turning from it, and confessing Him as the Lord (Romans 10).  Confessing Christ means saying He is Lord, trusting that what He did for us when he died on the cross and rose again was for our salvation.  By receiving Christ, we are born again (John 3, Romans 1–10) – saved from eternal death, and started on a new life.
    If that were not enough care for the hopeless and broken-hearted, look at what else God’s gift provides: a full pardon from all our sin (Isaiah 55); a new nature capable of pleasing God (II Corinthians 5); the Spirit of God to live within us (Romans 8); access to God at all times through prayer (Luke 18), illumination to understand his Word (John 16); a family of believers to encourage and build us up, (Ephesians 2, Hebrews 13), a real purpose for life (I Corinthians 10) and the sure hope of heaven: a new, uncorrupted creation, beyond anything we can imagine (Revelation 21).  Talk about a cure for depression!  That kind of caring God can provide a peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4), and inner joy, confidence and assurance of His care even in trials (Romans 5, II Corinthians 4).
Of course, you can play the pompous scientific elitist if you choose to.  You can reject all this, and mock belief in a caring God as superstitious nonsense.  Fine.  Depressed?  Who cares?  Tough luck.  Stuff happens.  Get over it.  Evolve, and may the farce of Darwin bewitch you – that is, till your protoplasm becomes manure for something else just as meaningless until the ultimate vanity – the heat death of the universe.
Godless philosophy, pointless for me,
None to cause us, but Cosmos–
All that is, was, and ever shall be.
From the big bang, to the slime soup,
To the heat death, dark and old:
Godless philosophy, it leaves me cold;
Godless philosophy, it leaves me cold.

Oh, and what was that issue about sense and nonsense again?  No comprendo, bud.  Get outta my way.

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