Monday, October 26, 2015

Book Review: David P. Murray- Christians Get Depressed Too

We all know that as believers we are to have the joy of the Lord but as a result of the cookie cutter categories of Christian pop culture, many believers have a difficult time coming to terms with those who are apparently believers and yet struggle with depression and anxiety. There are even many believers who think that a “true” Christian cannot get depressed and that any mental or emotional issues are either the result of sin or demonic oppression. Beyond the popular misconceptions are various disagreements among Christian counselors regarding the issues and how to respond to them.

Thankfully, David P. Murray offers this brief, practical, and caring book on the subject.
Dr. Murray is the pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church, is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, has written various other books and is the author of the head heart hand blog (

Dr. Murray points out that the common misconceptions about depression and mental illness within the Church are not only unhelpful but can actually be hurtful by increasing the burden of pain and guilt on those who are already suffering. Murray argues from biblical examples that depression is actually something that can and does happen to believers. He insists that we need to overcome the overly simplistic idea that every emotional and mental issue is the result of sin and faithlessness. He argues that the church has a responsibility to help those who suffer and that Christians, particularly pastors and caregivers, should study depression so they understand what it is, what causes it, and how to best help those who suffer from it.

He avoids getting dragged into the theological and psychological controversies surrounding the subject but his balanced treatment gives the listener confidence that he is familiar with them, understands them, and is presenting what he finds to be most practical and helpful. His purpose was to write a book that those who are suffering and those who care for them can use. Readers and listeners who want a more technical or theological treatment will need to go elsewhere. He does, however, include a number of biblical references and a helpful appendix of other works that would be of interest to those who want to study more.

The practical nature of the book can be seen in how Murray organizes the material. He condenses the topic into 6 sections that are organized the following way:

-The Crisis – Why should we study the topic?
-The Complexity – What is the appropriate attitude to approach the topic?
-The Condition – What is it and what does it look like?
-The Causes – Why does it happen?
-The Cures – What can be done?
-The Caregivers – How we can help those in need.

To tackle such a complex topic so briefly and practically is a very difficult thing to do. Dr. Murray has done an outstanding job and has produced a balanced, yet conservative and biblical, treatment of the topic that is both informative and helpful. As a friend of several believers who struggle with depression and the father of an autistic child, I appreciated the wisdom and balance with which Dr. Murray addressed the issue. It is a testament to both his writing ability and pastoral care that he is able to avoid the tendency to reductionist oversimplification in such a short work. He provides a good example of the informed humility that he is encouraging others to pursue.

The work is concise, well written, and easy to follow. The production was well done and Dr. Murray’s reading was well paced and articulate (in that remarkably dramatic way that only a Scottish accent can accomplish). For anyone who is struggling with depression or knows someone who is, this is a great place to start. Other more comprehensive works are available but this is the best short introduction to the topic I can recall.

* I received a free copy of this book from as part of their Review Program. Reviews are not required to be positive and the opinions I have expressed are my own.