By Richard Winter, M.D.

Mayo Clinic reports, “Stress and depression can ruin your holidays and hurt your health.” Today’s blog by Dr. Richard Winter explores the many faces of depression. Hear Dr. Winter live on Dr. Tim Clinton’s American Family Radio show, “Turn it Around.” Click here to tune in at 12p.m. (ET) tomorrow, November 20th, and get your questions answered on this important topic.

Depression is a profoundly crippling illness. It is associated with impaired work and relationships, greater physical illness and significant risk of death from suicide. And it’s widespread.

Approximately one in twelve people will experience a severe depressive episode in their lifetime, and unfortunately, more than 50 percent of people in the United States and Europe with serious depression have not or will not get adequate help. A friend wrote the following to me in a recent family newsletter after enduring a long season of depression that profoundly affected everything and everyone in his life:

“You need to know that it was dark for a long time. Days were eclipsed by weeks and then months . . . and even the years passed by with little light. The sun is shining now, which is why you are hearing from us again.”

What is depression? Is it sickness or sin? Should we be concerned about regarding any and all unhappiness as a treatable disorder? And when it comes to relieving depression, do antidepressants really help? Are they a good thing? How do we relate the knowledge that comes to us from science, including brain scans and biochemistry, to the world of the Bible?

What about all the different types of talking treatment? Are counseling or psychotherapy effective and useful? Some Christians have a problem with secular psychology and others think the Bible is all we need. Still others wonder, with all the benefits of psychology and medicine, if spirituality and, especially, the Bible remain relevant to the treatment of depression.

In order to answer these questions, we need to define some differences between normal sorrow, discouragement and grief from mild, moderate or severe depression.

We need to look at the causes of depression, including taking a look at current research on depression and deciding how we can think about the relationship between a Christian understanding of reality and the findings of medical and psychological science.

But beyond understanding depression and its causes, we need to find encouragement and insight into the many things that can be done to reduce vulnerability to depression, increase resilience and lift the darkness in order to have hope for the future.

My recent book When Life Goes Dark was written primarily for those, like the friend I mentioned above, who find themselves—or their loved ones or the people they are counseling—vulnerable to depression.

It is for those who want to find ways to resist the slippery slopes and vicious circles of confused emotions that so often end in depression.

And it is for those who offer comfort and counsel to the depressed; it should help to provide a framework and perspective within which to evaluate the causes of depression in order to bring healing and hope.

May the “valley of trouble” become a “door of hope” (Hosea 2:15)!

Get your questions answered about depression and the holidays! Hear Dr. Winter live on Dr. Tim Clinton’s American Family Radio show, “Turn it Around.” Click here to tune in at 12p.m. (ET) tomorrow, November 20th!

This excerpt is adapted from When Life Goes Dark by Richard Winter, published by InterVarsity Press (2012). Don’t miss hearing Dr. Richard Winter speak at our 2013 “Our Time is Now” World Conference!


Richard Winter is the Professor of Practical Theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. Educated at the University of London, he is a Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (U.K.). Dr. Winter came from the English L’Abri to head Covenant’s counseling program in 1992. He is a qualified clinical physician with a specialty in psychiatry, who served as Senior Resident in Psychiatry at Bristol General Hospital in England. As an elder, he has served in a variety of ministry and leadership roles in the church. Dr. Winter not only teaches counseling, but models the knowledge, respect and compassion of a Christian counselor. He is the author of The Roots of Sorrow: Reflections on Depression and Hope, Choose Life: A Christian Perspective on Abortion and Embryo Experimentation, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment, and When Life Goes Dark: Finding Hope in the Midst of Depression.