If you believe that depression always has a spiritual cause and can only be treated by spiritual means, then you will not like this book. But you are probably one of the people who could best benefit from this book. Matt Rogers’ Losing God: Clinging to Faith Through Doubt and Depression (IVP, 2008) is a first-person testimony of a four-year journey through doubt and depression.
At the center of Matt’s depression is a personal struggle to the love the sovereign God described in Romans 9. He writes:
“Fear burned in me again as I stood in the bookstore. What little confidence I had awakened to that morning drained away, and all the questions came back. Am I hardened against Christ? Has God himself hardened me that he might show his wrath in me? Does this mean there is no hope for me, that God truly does not love me?” (44)
Matt questions at times, but ultimately upholds a strong view of God’s sovereignty. He maintains a healthy tension between human free will and God’s sovereign choice. And he quotes Tozer, appealing to mystery over certainty as to how these two work together.
But Matt’s story gives us a glimpse of what can happen when an overemphasis on God as the Just Judge leads to incessant introspection. Give a Puritan book to someone with a propensity toward depression, and you might unintentionally lead them to paralyzing introspection that robs them of joyful service. Too much self-examination can be dangerous (not to mention self-centered), and Matt’s story is a testimony to the fact that introspection can sometimes heighten depressive tendencies.
Losing God is a powerful story. Do not expect an abbreviated tale of superficial suffering and quick deliverance. In fact, three-fourths of the book go by without almost any sign of hope. Yet Losing God does deliver hope – and that hope is found within the context of the body of Christ.
Matt’s testimony is helpful because it shines light on both what is good and what is bad in much of evangelicalism today. Consider his portrayal of the church:
“One Sunday was particularly bitter. My mind had been seething all morning, and the music minister was bouncing up and down and grinning from ear to ear at the song in his heart as he led the church through hymn after hymn. I stood mumbling the lyrics and thinking, If this guy gets any happier, he’s going to float out the back door.” (104)
Matt admits that at times he could hardly stand the “cheerful songs of Christian bliss that were salt in my open wounds” (75). This statement should lead us to ask some questions about the typical, upbeat worship music in most churches today.
Is there any room for lament? For questioning? For silence? Why is that so many songs out of God’s hymnbook (the Psalms) would seem out of place in our worship?
Yet despite the failings of the church, Matt ultimately finds mentoring, relationships, companionship, strength, and encouragement in the body of Christ. It is in the church that Matt finds deliverance. It is in the church that he finds the Jesus he truly loves.
Losing God never turns to medicine as the primary answer for depression. Matt came out of his four-year period of darkness without medication, yet he believes there are more than just spiritual causes of depression. A vicious cycle takes place - spiritual causes can lead to a depressive state, and a depressive mental state can accentuate spiritual problems.
In the end, Matt recognizes that there are complex issues involved in depression. Simplistic answers and solutions do not fit every case. For those of us who have never struggled with severe doubt or depression, Matt’s book helps us understand those who do.
At the end of the book, Matt offers hope to those struggling with depression and doubt. He gives steps toward healing and encourages people to find community. What I love most about Losing God is that Matt’s story is not about someone who finds deliverance through willpower, medicine, or black-and-white theological answers. It’s the story of a man who finds grace within the family of God.
written by Trevin Wax. copyright © 2009 Kingdom People Blog.