On good moods and bad moods
Family doctor and biblical counsellor Dr Charles Hodges shares with Lita Sanders
Charles Hodges wanted to be a doctor from the age of 11:
“I wish I had some stirring story of how I wanted to give my life in service to others, but the truth is, medicine just interested me. I made my mind up watching an old TV program called Dr Kildare. A lady physician living next door gave me books full of medical pictures which I think fanned the flame of my interest.”
A few years later, he became a Christian at the age of 19, after several years of merely acting like one. Struggling to make the grades required to be admitted to medical school, Charles made a ‘deal with God’.
“I would be a better person if He helped my grade point average. I went to church, sang in the choir, taught Sunday school. Eventually my pastor told us that it would be good if we read through the Bible every year, so I added that to my list of ‘meritorious deeds’ aimed at catching God’s favour.”
But everything changed when in reading through the Bible, Charles came to the Gospel of John and realized that ‘good works’ could not save him.
“I saw Jesus in the stories. When I read John 14–18, it was as if Jesus was talking to me. Not long after that I confessed Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and believed that God raised Him from the dead. And as Scripture says, I was saved.”
Mental illness in the fallen world
A biblical worldview is important when dealing with the issue of mental illness, Charles says.
“If you believe there is a Creator, then you can believe that there is a purpose to life. If you deny the historicity of the Old Testament, then you wound the credibility of Christ, of whom John said, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3), and who said “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Without creation and the Creator, the truth of the whole Gospel is called into question. If you attack the credibility of creation, you make Christ’s statements on worry (Matthew 6:25) and Paul’s statements on sadness (2 Corinthians 7:10) of questionable use.”
Dr Hodge points out that the Fall affects our bodies, which must include our brains, and this may affect our mood. He explains that a depressed mood can be a symptom of many medical conditions.
“Sometimes just being sick and uncomfortable is enough to make us sad. This could be normal sadness over the loss of our good health. There are also hormonal disorders that result in adverse moods. Cushing’s disorder, with overproduction of cortisone, can affect mood and overall health. Hyperthyroidism can cause anxiety, sleeplessness, and weight loss. Cancer of the pancreas has been tied to a depressed mood.”
The list of conditions that can affect mood is too long to print, but this makes it all the more important for those experiencing unexplained depression or anxiety to see their doctor to assess if medical conditions apply. In some cases, medication can be helpful for those who struggle, as Dr Hodges explains:
“Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder 1 with Mania can be helped with good treatment. On the other hand, our experience with depression is not as positive. The medicines we have appear to be much less effective than was hoped.”
Dr Hodges thinks one reason that depression may not be as successfully treated with medicine is as follows:
“There is some indication that individuals who are diagnosed with depression in the US are often struggling with the normal sadness and grief of loss. Some researchers say that this may be the case with up to 90% of those diagnosed. If that is the case, then treating those individuals with medication may not be very useful. Unless they talk with someone and come to grips with their loss, the medicine may only add adverse side effects while not relieving their sadness.
Sadness: an effect of sin
Normal sadness is not a disease, but is a reality of the fallen world in which we live.
“There really was no sadness in Eden prior to the Fall of Adam. There was no death, no sickness, and no lack of anything. Adam and Eve had a perfect marriage and daily fellowship with God. Only after they chose to disobey God does sorrow enter the picture, and their sorrow was a consequence of their choice.”
Surprisingly, normal sadness can sometimes be a good thing.
“Sadness drives us to change. Most of us are sad over losing things that are very important to us: jobs, loved ones, possessions, position. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Sorrow should always lead the believer back to our Saviour where there is help and comfort.”
The Bible gives great hope for suffering Christians.
“2 Corinthians 1:4 speaks of the God “who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God’” And 2 Corinthians 7:6 says that “God who comforts the discouraged comforted us”. God never leaves His struggling children without hope. Paul also tells us in Romans 8 that nothing in life will ever separate us from the love of God, and that God will cause all things to work to our good and His glory. And that the final aim is for us to be like Jesus Christ. And in the last chapters of the Bible, John compares the New Heaven and New Earth to Eden—there will be no Curse, and there will be a tree of life. So there will be no more tears or mourning, or death or pain (Revelation 21:4, 22:2–3).”
Suffering? Talk to someone!
Isolation can exacerbate feelings of depression or sadness, and talking helps a lot, says Dr Hodges.
Go talk to someone! Talk with your pastor, your friends, your family. Go see a biblical counsellor who will use the Bible to help you deal with your moods. Go see your doctor.
“While all of us will face problems in life that will cause us to sorrow, we do not have to face those sorrows alone. We have a God who has promised to never leave or forsake us and a Saviour who loved us enough to die for us. And, we have the body, the church. Many churches today offer good, biblical counselling for those who are facing emotional struggles. Find one, and start talking!”
In closing, Dr Hodges would remind us that, as we are faced with sadness and see our fellow believers face it in this fallen world, that the Bible tells us in Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” We should always be ready to listen.