Words kill, words give life;
they’re poison or fruit – you choose.
Proverbs 18:21, The Message
Because I take this verse very seriously, I would just like to take this opportunity to point out that the words spoken from a pulpit can either bring life or bring death, both literally and figuratively.
Just this past Sunday, my pastor delivered a particularly brilliant sermon on the book of Ecclesiastes, Chapters 11 and 12. I felt it was rather timely, and it was titled “Wisdom for Living”. What wasn’t wise however were the words he uttered with regards to depression and sorrow.
“If you are thankful for the miracle that God has created you, for the wonders of this earth, you would not be in depression every day.” – paraphrased by me
Guess what? Earlier this year, I made down a list of things I was grateful for and carried them around for a couple of days and I was still in mild depression. I can understand that he was perhaps speaking of people who have a negative outlook on life, and just sees the world as being bleak and hopeless. For them, counting their blessings and being grateful for the little mercies God has granted them is fine.
But not for people with depression. As my personal example has highlighted, I can be thankful and yet depressed at the same time. More nuance has to be given when using a word as loaded as “depression”. Because if thankfulness is the solution for depression, why on earth do we still have to take antidepressants? Because if thankfulness is the solution, what would the depressed audience member in the church feel when hearing that? Perhaps he/she would attempt to be more thankful and grateful to God, which is in itself not a bad thing, but neglect seeking treatment. Because if thankfulness is the solution, why on earth was I still mildly depressed after coming up with a list of things I was grateful for and meditating on it?
Pastors, please use your words with care. Do not simplify an issue as complex as depression. A person can be depressed for a multitude of reasons, one of them being a chemical imbalance in the brain. Your words can affect whether a person chooses to seek treatment or not, their recovery hinges upon your words because they put so much stock in them.