Q&A – Suffering from Depression & Evidence for God.

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I just got to know your blog .. I do not know how to get to it. It’s hard for me to write to you … but something pushes me to do it. It sounds weird … but it’s true. My name is Claudia, I am from Romania … although I have lived in Spain for many years. I grew up in a Seventh-day Adventist family … I was a very believing girl until 10 years ago when I became ill. My life became torture. I have been with many doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists … but none know what else to do. I am in a deep depression for 10 years… neither the pills nor any other treatment is able to improve.

You were an atheist and now you are a believer? What are the reasons for believing in God? I have asked many pastors and none gave me a sufficiently credible reason for my questions. It is a bit strange that a stranger writes about my life … I recognize … but I have nothing to lose. That’s why I took the urge to write … I did it in the hope that your answers make me think that God really exists … I know that you should not trust men .. do not expect anything from others. . And look at God alone … in theory that is said … but since I have been many years I do not believe that God exists ..

Sorry for my english, it’s real bad. I hope I did not bother you with my message.

-Claudia

Hi Claudia. I am glad that you discovered my blog and had the urge to write to me. It’s amazing to find that my work has reached Romania too! By the way, Spain is an amazing country. I’ve visited twice. You’re so lucky to have lived there.

I am truly saddened to learn of your struggles, Claudia. Depression is a horrible experience, and much like you I am fairly familiar with it too! There have been terrible moments in my life in which I’d rather just die than continue to go on existing because everything becomes so painful. But through seeking out help, both via attending group therapy (which was very helpful) and consulting a psychologist, I have come a long way. Depression particularly defined my 18-23 year life journey and even now I can feel the after effects. I can never fully understand your own personal experience of depression and I can see that you suffer much (“life is torture”), but I can certainly say that you’re not on your own. Depression is far more common than many people realize. Many others walk this dark road too. I think that this really dawned on me, in an experiential sense, in group therapy when several people who seemed to have it all together suffered intensely from it.

Although you seem to think your medication isn’t helping, it would be wise to keep taking it as prescribed by your doctor or a psychiatrist. I’d suggest to keep taking medicine up until a point in which you think you can wean yourself off of it. If you don’t reach that place, as you probably seem to think you won’t, then that’s okay too! It’s very necessary, and I’d bet my bottom dollar that is helping even though you think that it isn’t.

Furthermore, our depression is not something we would advertise and show to others, especially strangers. Often only those close to us will know of it. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how most people are generally very comforting should they learn of it. I think we can often feed our inner critic that criticizes us over what others will think. But many people are too worried about themselves to want to harshly criticize others. Often many others are just relieved that they do not suffer from some of the things we suffer form, and vice versa.

I know you do not believe in God but let me recount my experiences within my turmoil of depression. When I converted and became a Christian at age 20, which was within my years of struggle, I found that Jesus had a soothing influence. Jesus led a ministry full of sorrow because of his many rejections, and persecutions. He was rejected by his family, followers, and doubted by numerous disciples within his circle. Similarly, the Apostle Paul saw his many struggles as momentary, afflictions “producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles” (2 Cor. 4:18). I made sure to remind myself of this, and to never fool myself into believing that what I was experiencing here on Earth will be the final thing.

In this way Christianity can prove comforting for those of us who suffer from depression. It affirms a God who is not indifferent to our struggles, who is particularly close to us in our moments of pain, and will one day wipe away our tears as we commune with him for eternity. To know of this can be very comforting in our moments in which we find ourselves feeling alone and isolated.

However, to answer your question, I never strictly identified myself as an atheist but definitely leaned in that direction from about 14 to 20. I was actually fairly hostile to belief and especially those who wanted to impose it on me. That changed after I had an unexpected experience of the Holy Spirit, and I subsequently found myself becoming hugely interested and invested in evidentialism and apologetics.

But what about having reasons for belief? As I think you realize, having reasons for belief in God is important to an intellectually justified faith otherwise you wouldn’t have asked your pastors why they believe in God. I cannot know how your conversations with your pastor went. But I think it is important for pastors to be able to present an apologetic for not only the truth of Christianity but also for belief in God. As I have stated before to others, I would not be a Christian if there were no reasons, or evidence, for belief in God or Jesus resurrection and deity. After all, why believe something if it is unlikely to be true? However, I have found there to be sufficient reasons for holding to all three of these facts. William Lane Craig, an American philosopher and arguably the world’s leading apologist, presents five robust arguments for God’s existence. He has defended these in numerous debates against skeptics, and I would recommend you glance over the arguments.

Moreover, personally it is the argument from Jesus’ deity that so convinces me of the truth of his message and resurrection. As I have discovered in my New Testament studies, as well as engaging in apologetics over the last few years, most historians affirm that Jesus was believed to have been alive after his crucifixion and that this convinced his disciples, his brother James, and enemy Paul, of his bodily resurrection. Unfortunately, many of these historians won’t actually affirm that Jesus was raised from the dead because miracles, of which a resurrection is, are a priori rejected by many within the academy. But if one doesn’t buy into that anti-supernaturalism, which is itself on shaky grounds philosophically, then it is very easy to see that Jesus’ resurrection is the best explanation for the origins of the early church, and the dramatic changes in his earliest followers and enemies. I have outlined this argument in full, and I also penned a short article for my university newsletter in which I tried to summarize the argument to the best of my ability.

I have also defended the argument from the reality of miracles (see argument 3C in this transcript), and I’d encourage you to read some the material I’ve included here. This stands as one of my favorite arguments to use in debates and discussions because some of the evidence I’ve reviewed is just so amazing. There is also the Kalam Cosmological argument which looks to affirm a mind behind the creation of the universe. I think it is a robust argument and it is well defended by William Lane Craig.

Now, we need to put in a word of caution. Intellectualism can only take one so far. Arguments and evidence can certainly supplement one’s faith in God and Jesus’ deity and resurrection, but it also takes an open and honest heart. If one’s heart is not in the right place, then no amount of evidence will convince him or her of something he or she doesn’t wish to be true. This is important to remember because belief in God goes far beyond just reasons and evidence. If one’s faith is just based on reason and evidence then it will soon become a dry faith.

I hope I have been of assistance in some way, Claudia. Please feel free to keep chatting with me.

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