Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Review of Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray

I have a confession to make. I’m a pastor and I battle depression. And not simply transient feelings of being down either; I battle deep-seated feelings of worthlessness. I can even be prone to anxiety attacks. A couple of days ago I posted, from this book, ten types of false thinking. I struggle with around 70% of them. I’m a Christian, I’m a pastor, and I get depressed.

But it is not only my own bouts of depression that makes this book by David Murray a welcome addition to my library. As a pastor I also rub shoulders with quite a few people that are battling depression (in some shape or form). I have very close family members that struggle with depression. So, I am very interested in books on depression. And I don’t read them as a distant observer.

When given the opportunity to begin reviewing books for Reformation Heritage this was one that really caught my eye, so I jumped at the chance to review it. And I am glad that I did. In fact I actually read this little booklet (only 112 pages) in one night. David Murray is extremely wise in making this book so practical and short in length; because, as he stated, “Depressed people cannot read hundreds of pages” (xi).

One of the debates raging within Christian circles is the role of medicine and psychology in Christian counseling. There are strongly held opinions on each side (or better stated sides) of the argument. So it is surprising that in such a small book Murray successfully takes on some of these divergent opinions. He aptly summarizes the majority positions and argues for a balanced approach that pursues humility and rejects dogmatism.  I tend to agree.

Hopefully this will not cause him to be dismissed by either the “all physical” crowd or the “all spiritual” crowd. Regardless of what position you hold I think we should all agree with Murray’s call for humility, and with it being such a complex issue we should approach surety with trepidation.

After pleading for humility in the midst of complexity Murray begins to address the condition of depression.  He offers a very helpful ten points of false thinking:
  • False extremes
  • False generalization
  • False filter
  • False transformation
  • False mind reading
  • False fortune telling
  • False lenses
  • False feelings-based reasoning
  • False “shoulds”
  • False responsibility
These are extremely helpful to identify. I have found that one of the most helpful things in combating my own bouts of depression is for my false thinking to be exposed and then the balm of truth and grace is then able to be applied to my soul. But usually until grace breaks through, via someone exposing my false thinking, I will stubbornly grasp onto my ignorance as if it is saving my life. This section of Murray’s book will be a constant companion for me.

Murray, also interacts with other symptoms of depression, but the vast majority of his treatment concerns false thinking. After exploring the symptoms Murray then charts out potential causes and finally attempts to offer some help in exploring a cure.  And really that is where the rubber meets the road. Unless this book has something helpful to offer by way of “cure” its really not much good.

So, what is Murray’s suggestion for a cure?

As with most everything else in this book Murray is short and to the point. He encourages the reader to correct lifestyle, false thoughts, brain chemistry, and spiritual life; depending on where the problem lies.
You will have to read the entire book to fully explore his answers. But I will say that they are very simple and helpful. I appreciate that Murray does not go into lengthy discussions and give a depressed person a million different strategies to apply. He is simplistic without being given to simplism.

One of the things I appreciate most about Murray’s treatment of depression is this statement:
“One final cause of depression in the Christian is the sovereignty of God. Hard though it may be to accept, the ultimate cause may be, ‘It pleased God’. This, however, is not some sheer arbitrary, sadistic, and pointless infliction of suffering. Not at all. God has wise and loving motives and purposes in all His dealings with His children.”
I love Murray’s honesty, balance, and modeled humility in this book.  It will certainly prove to be a faithful guide to anyone struggling with depression.  I’m not 100% sure that I would go quite as far as Joel Beeke yet.  Who says, “If I had a family or church member fighting depression, it is the first book I would hand out.”  But I have to say that it would certainly be in my top 3. 

This book is not meant to be a stand alone or a cure all for someone struggling with depression. At the end of the day the only hope that a depressed (or non-depressed) person has is Jesus Christ. In as much as this book points people to Christ to heal every wound it will be eternally helpful.   With that in mind, I firmly believe that if a depressed person read this book he/she would be put on the right track at least. 

I would heartily recommend this book.  And it’s only 5.00 on Ebook or you can get the hardcopy from Amazon for only $7.50clip_image001.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


  1. Mike,
    Your updated review now encourages me to buy the book as I, too, struggle with depression. Thanks for taking the time to update the review (and be transparent)--the prior review didn't pique my interest in the book as much as this one does.



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