I recently finished an excellent book on a set of topics that affect many of our lives–both directly and personally, and indirectly, impacting the lives of people we love. Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life is a unique book, with contributions from a respected Theologian (J.I. Packer), and practicing psychiatrist (Michael Lundy)–and the updated writings of a famous 17th-century English pastor (Richard Baxter). Along with Packer’s and Lundy’s modern insights, the bulk of the book is made up of Baxter’s very practical wisdom for people struggling with everything from schizophrenia to depression to anxiety–and for people who are trying to take care of them. The sections by Baxter are so good that they’ve stood the test of more than 400 years. They’re conveyed to us by Lundy’s professional experience, which guides the way with language updates and footnotes. The result is a book of very old wisdom, easy to read direction, and practical, helpful advice on every page. I recommend it to anyone interested in the topic.
I am going to post a number of sections from the book over the next few weeks. I think it will make for very edifying reading here on the blog. In his preface, J.I. Packer sets the stage for thinking about this issue:
For the past century and more the notion has been abroad in evangelical circles that the effect of being born again through faith in Jesus Christ will always be a life marked by spiritual euphoria: constant cheerfulness, exuberance, confidence, and high spirits stemming from the knowledge that the God of grace, the sovereign triune Lord, is always actively on one’s side.
Indeed he is, and the picture drawn is an attractive and happy one – but see what it leaves out! Certainly triumphant joy in the Lord is a characteristic feature of a healthy Christian life. But Christians, like other people, live in and through bodies – bodies that from time to time malfunction, get sick, wear out, and finally die; and physical factors, with or without spiritual slippages, can at any stage bring on, among other things, depression in its various forms. Some in the past have gone so far as to diagnose depression in Christians as always a sign of unbelief or some other major sin, but this is not right.
…As today the truth of the Christians live only by being constantly forgiven is constantly forgotten, and the truth of Satan’s unending war with believers is rarely taken seriously, so the reality of depression as a recurring or abiding thorn in some Christians flesh is often overlooked. We need help here, and in the estimate of the present writers, Richard Baxter is the man to give it…