Recently, several newspapers and magazines (among them, The Wall Street Journal of March 9) drew attention to a survey jointly conducted by the World Health Organization and Harvard Medical School. The study, based on more than 60,000 face-to-face interviews worldwide, found that the United States has the highest rate of depression among 14 countries.
Included in the findings was that 18.2 percent of Americans were experiencing "mood and anxiety disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder and panic disorder." This figure contrasted strikingly with statistics from a country such as Nigeria, which is battling poverty, corruption, air pollution, and sectarian conflict, yet had a depression rate of only 0.8 percent – by far the lowest of all the countries surveyed.
Why are people in Lagos less likely to suffer from depression than, say, New Yorkers? Many factors may be involved. Might one reason lie in the ways pharmaceutical advertising and other branches of the media so aggressively market to the American public depression symptoms and the drugs designed to cure them? Might another be that what Americans now call depression is something firmly established by previous generations, who spoke of unhappiness, melancholy, and "the blues"?
It seems that people have always had empty places in their hearts. Turn the calendars back about 2,000 years, to Bible times, and you'll find lonely, disconsolate folk who wrestled with life's twists and turns and bitter frustrations.
The Bible also shows convincingly that healing is possible. God already occupies those spaces, where He "satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness" (Ps. 107:9). People seemed more inclined than many are today to view depression not as a physical malady so much as a spiritual one, something that could be cured through better understanding their relationship to God.
No wonder so many people responded eagerly to Jesus, whose God-inspired teaching and healing fully met their needs for comfort and hope. His open invitations were also hope-filled promises: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).
To rest we might add refreshment (physical and mental), as in the Bible story of a Samaritan woman whom Jesus asked for a drink of water from a well in Sychar (see John, Chap. 4).
Jesus didn't promise that "living water" would necessarily wash away life's challenges. But he did declare it would change everyone from the inside, empowering them to deal with problems from God's purifying, healing perspective. That woman's deepest desires – along with those of the rest of us – would be satisfied as she began to "worship the Father in spirit and in truth."
Similarly today, those who rejoice in their proven connection with God, the loving Father-Mother, can expect to find freedom from thoughts of deprivation, unworthiness, fear, or fatalism that so relentlessly pursue modern societies.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, showed people how to stop the misguided thinking that immobilized them. She provided the whole world with a healing impetus when she wrote, "Divine Love waits and pleads to save mankind – and awaits with warrant and welcome, grace and glory, the earth-weary and heavy-laden who find and point the path to heaven" ("Message to The Mother Church for 1902," p. 11).
A growing awareness that God is the source and substance of our lives characterizes this pathway. And it's not one we travel alone. There are opportunities to share with others the truth that there is no legitimate reason to accept sadness as enduring or insurmountable.
God is for us, not against us. His love fills the empty places, including those in the hearts of people in New York, Lagos, Iraq, Darfur, Zimbabwe, and Blacksburg, Virginia.
Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.