What can the church do to help?
Chapman believes people of faith have to get rid of the idea that depression is a “season” that people get over.
“That language sometimes sets us up as Christians to say, 'I better not talk about it until I have the victory.' And in the process, so many people are just being devastated by [depression].”
The popular singer/songwriter referenced poet and hymnodist William Cowper who wrote, “God moves in mysterious ways” and still suffered greatly.
"So many of these great people of the faith battled depression deeply, Cowper tried to take his life on several occasions but we don't hear those stories or at least I didn't grow up hearing those because you sing about the victory,” Chapman noted. “That sets us up, especially in the church, to not want to address mental illness because certainly, ‘you just need to pray more and be a better Christian.’ And well, from experience in my life, and my wife, and our journey, that's not God's heart for us to address it that way.”
He went on to mention the death of Pastor Rick and Kay Warren’s son to suicide in 2013. The Saddleback Church leaders lost their 27-year-old son due to his struggles with mental illness.
"It is a reality that in the church, if anybody ought to be being honest about it, and say, 'hey, yes, we pray, and we have to pray and trust God ultimately, but you realize that mental illness and the impact of that is so real and we need to be more and more honest about it. Look, we need to talk about it, we need to take the stigma away, as so many people feel in the church, especially,” Chapman insisted.
To those who have felt let down or misunderstood by the church, Courson wants them to know he has been there also, along with many of the world’s greats.
“Did you know Vincent Van Gogh was a preacher in a Belgian mining town? But the elders fired him because he gave away his possessions to the poor coal miners and lived homeless like Jesus,” Courson shared. “He slept in a haystack behind a baker’s house and would show up to preach with hay sticking out of his clothes and smelling like bread. So the board of elders let him go.”
Van Gogh would go on to become one of the most influential painters in Western history. The preacher said the popular painting “A Starry Night” features a church without the lights — “dark” because it turned its back on the artist.
“And yet, he gave billions a glimpse of God’s glory with his swirling stars and post-impressionist brilliance,” Courson said of the troubled painter who battled depression for the remainder of his life and is believed to have committed suicide.
“When churches don’t get you or close the door on you, God has not forgotten about you and like Vincent, He will use you to reach the disenfranchised,” Courson emphasized. “Our rejection is God’s protection.”
The Optimisfits (optimistic misfits) author hopes his book would help ignite a generation to a “fierce rebellion against hopelessness.”
“People say, ‘learn to live with depression.’ No thank you. We are called to defeat depression! We are called to follow our dreams, never present an image to the world that’s not who we are, grab hold of the promises of God, and embark on funventures! It is high time for the joyful soldiers to rise up against the despair wracking our culture, and to turn our mope generation into a hope generation!” Courson concluded.