January 2009 — mental health

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Discussion Questions by Joanna Felts

A journey through the dark

1. In the first paragraph of her article, the author talks about a friend who walked alongside her every day of that bleak time. Look at Proverbs 18:24. 

  • How did this friend “show herself friendly?”

  • Cite an example, either scriptural or personal, of a time that Jesus stuck closer than a brother.

  • Talk about the commitment it would take to stick to someone who is going through depression and why that kind of commitment is important both for the sufferer of depression and for the friend walking alongside.

  • What kind of sacrifices will be made by the person walking alongside?

2. The author used two conversations to help her come to grips with the idea of using anti-depressants to help in her healing process.

  • Discuss the views held in the faith community regarding medications, including those that help with mental illnesses and depression.

  • Why should depression be considered and dealt with holistically?

The great depression

1. Read Romans 8:38-39 in several different translations. What other 21st century problems could be discussed in light of the way that the authors have used these verses in this article?

2. Discuss the various ways that depression affects the whole person; their feelings, thoughts, behaviors, physiology, relationships, faith, and physical well-being.

3. Discuss the ways we treat people with physical defects versus the way we treat people with mental disorders.

  • Why do we do so?

  • How should our actions change as a result of reading this article?

4. The following passages remind us of God’s faithfulness to us at all times. How can we use these promises to help friends and family members overwhelmed by depression and mental disorders?

a. Lamentations 3:21-26
b. Psalm 36:5
c. Psalm 89:1-7
d. Ephesians 2:4-9

5. The authors suggest that local churches can and should make an effort to lift up those suffering from mood disorders.

  • Name some practical ways that you can follow through on their suggestions in your particular community of faith.

  • Personally, think of a friend, an acquaintance or a family member who needs a personal touch in their struggle with depression. Decide to stick with them through thick and thin. In that decision, map out ways that you can walk with them through this valley that would give comfort and a physical presence in their struggle.

Living High and Low

1. Based on what you have learned from this article, is there someone that has disappeared from your community of faith because of what you now might suspect to be a mood or bipolar disorder? How can your group go about coming alongside of him or her and gently loving them through their pain?

2. The author speaks of a cycle of care, intervention, assistance, or crisis.

  • How can you, as a community of faith, reach out to those in your congregation and not “grow weary in well-doing” while going through these cycles with a community member?

  • What are some practical ways that your group can build each other up for this mission?

3. How and why do we misuse the stories from Jesus’ earthly ministry to imply a quick and easy solution to mood, bipolar, or mental disorders?

4. 1 Kings 18 and 19 is a picture of victory and joy followed by despair. How did God minister to Elijah in both situations?

5. Choose several Psalms written by David. Find one that illustrates when David’s mood was joyous and happy, one that illustrates complete despair, and one that seems to be middle of the road.

6. What other biblical characters exhibited signs of bipolar or mood disorder?

Praying in the valley

1. Read Psalm 88 in several different versions.

  • Who wrote this Psalm or to whom is it attributed?

  • What is the background of this Psalm?

  • To whom is this Psalm speaking?

  • Why is this Psalm not “hopeless” even though it sounds so?

2. Describe “lament.”

3. Find other “lament” Psalms.

  • What do they tell us about human nature?

  • What do they tell us about God?

4. In the second article, The Great Depression, we discussed Scriptures that spoke of God’s faithfulness to us. How does this article speak to our tenacious faithfulness to God in spite of the world around us?

5. Discuss the statement, “lament is driven by a conviction that God cares and matters and is who he says he is.” 

  • How does that statement give hope, even when going through a time of mental illness?

  • How can we use it to help those around us who may be experiencing mental or bipolar disorders?

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