(Photo: Elevation Church)
Author and pastor Perry Noble admits that he used to believe mental illness could only be dealt with through prayer and Scripture until he experienced anxiety and depression firsthand in 2008.
In his new book, Overwhelmed, due out April 1, the NewSpring Church leader candidly shares how he overcame his three-year struggle with mental illness and frequent thoughts of suicide. While undergoing this dark time in his life, Noble found that the church was silent on the issue. However, he now intends to shatter the myth that Christians are immune to depression and offers practical solutions to overcome despair in his book.
Overwhelmed was written after Noble launched his most-viewed sermon series about stress, anxiety and depression in 2012.
An edited transcript of Perry Noble's recent interview with The Christian Post is below:
CP: Do you think more Christians will ever embrace the fact that it's okay not to be okay?
Noble: For too long a major obsession in many church cultures has been managing ones image rather than being an intentional follower of Jesus. Christians are real people, with real problems, real fears, who really do deal with stress and disappointment but for some reason we're not supposed to allow people to know those things about us when we get together. It is my hope and prayer that people will continue to understand that church was never intended to be a pretty place full of pretty people, but rather for people who understand they are not okay and by the grace of God they do not have to stay that way.
CP: What kind of support did you get from Christians during the time you were depressed and overwhelmed?
Noble: Ninety-five percent of the feedback I received was incredibly positive. In my mind, I believed that people would use my circumstances to attack me. Some did but the overwhelming majority came alongside me and was willing to do whatever it took to assist me in getting back to a healthy place.
CP: You write that your depression was something you needed to walk through, not simply get over. Can this perspective be applied to other forms of mental illness?
Noble: Yes and no!
My first bout with anxiety and depression was simply the result of me not dealing with my past very well and also trying to maintain a schedule that was physically impossible. I feel like the Lord allowed me to hit a wall and learn from it so I could make changes in my life that would set me up for success for the long haul.
CP: What is the church's biggest misconceptions about mental illness, including being overwhelmed and anxiety?
Noble: Too many people think that being overwhelmed, dealing with depression and such is only a spiritual issue, and that if a person simply prayed and read their Bible more it would go away.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Mental illness is a serious issue that the church must be willing to address with compassion, not condemnation. Typically, we criticize and attack what we do not understand. I believe that if the church were more willing to try to understand the reality of mental illness, many people could be helped.
CP: What's your message for a Christian undergoing depression, fear or anxiety who can't rely on their church community for support?
Noble: You have got to ask for help, period!
Asking for help, telling someone you are dealing with these issues is NOT a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength. If you can't find help at church then it's probably time you look for another church.
CP: You say a way to not become overwhelmed by our circumstances is to not take on the identity of what enslaves us, how is that achieved?
Noble: Once a person labels themselves it becomes really easy for them to step back into that behavior and use their label as an excuse. For example, I used to struggle with a porn addiction. If I called myself a porn addict and allowed that label to stick then it would be easy for me to submit to temptation when the enemy throws it my way. I would probably tell myself something along the lines of, 'well, you are a porn addict, you might as well go ahead and go to the website and look; after all, it's who you are!'
Porn addict may be who I used to be, but, because of what Jesus did for me I am now a follower of Him, which is where my identity should come from. My response to temptation is way different if my identity is in Him and not the sin that used to dominate my life.
CP: You recently blogged about taking anti-depressants, which at one point you considered a sign of weakness, what changed your mind?
Noble: When I began taking an anti-depressant it was not a particular set of circumstances or situations but just a feeling I could not seem to shake no matter what I tried. So after consulting with my physician he recommended we do the anti-depressant for a year.
As I mentioned earlier, we always seem to criticize what we do not understand. I did not fully understand anti-depressants and how they worked. However, after doing some research on them and seeing the miracle of modern medicine I became a believer. I finally understood that if I went to the doctor and he told me there was something wrong with my liver and that I could solve the problem by taking a pill, to not do so would be ignorance and negligence.
The brain, just like the liver, is an organ in our body. So, why is it ok to take a pill for our liver but not our brain? It does not make sense logically to oppose something that can help. Seeing things through that filter pretty much changed my mind.
On the Web: http://overwhelmedbook.com/.