A long-ago friend I’ll call “Beth” suffered from depression, growing more and more discouraged as she slogged through her days under the weight of it. I asked her one day, “Why don’t you try reading a book about depression?”
“I’ve tried,” she replied, “but they only make me feel worse!” If only she could have read Hope Prevails by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, I believe she would have been uplifted, encouraged, and enlightened in her understanding of what was going on in her body, her mind, and her spirit when depression washed over her days. Dr. Bengtson has experienced depression herself, so she writes from inside the problem, and, as a clinical neuropsychologist, she experienced the shock of realizing that the treatment suggestions she had offered to her patients were not working for her. Medication, therapy, diet, exercise, prayer are all tried and true remedies for depression, but it was only when she began exploring the spiritual component of depression that she began to find freedom.
Hope Prevails offers the comfort of companionship, the clear light of truth, and the gift of hope with solid facts about depression:
- “In any given year, approximately 18.8 million Americans adults suffer from depression. If we broaden the scope, in most countries 8-12% of the population suffers from major depression at some point.”
- Depression is chemical; it is genetic; it can have physiological roots; and it is influenced by environmental factors such as stress.
- The underlying roots of depression lie in the spirit of the depressed person who lacks peace and joy and has bought into lies about herself that detract from her ability to live life to the fullest.
The hope Dr. Bengtson offers is not a personal recipe that she takes credit for, but springs instead from a Scriptural promises that point the way to a supernatural hope. When she says that those who mourn will find comfort, that those who sow in tears shall reap in joy, and that there is an inexpressible joy available on this planet, she is not offering Scripture as a “snap out of it” lucky charm, but as a truth to replace the lies that lead to depression and as ammunition to fight the battle.
Dr. Bengtson’s go-to verse is Jeremiah 29:11, for it speaks of a hopeful future that is invisible to the eyes of the depressed believer. A steady diet of strong truth works to bring feelings into line with a quest for biblical joy. Michelle recommends a gratitude journal as solid accountability in practicing “the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details . . . the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.” This “settled conviction about God” is Kay Warren’s definition of joy which forms the bedrock on the road to healing and restoration.
Peace flees in the presence of shame, and owning one’s brokenness shines light into the dark places where shame rules. Dependency on God and genuine forgiveness as a path away from bitterness and resentment are strong medicine. Hope Prevails urges readers to take responsibility for their responses to circumstances — a victim mentality leads only to self-pity and gets in the way of accepting God’s glorious validation of our identity as believers: Accepted! If God says “beloved,” who am I to disagree?
The truth of our value to God rests on the exorbitant price He paid to own us, and this counteracts all the whispered lies that hiss “unlovable” and “not good enough” into the ears of our heart. Dr. Bengtson’s own embrace of this truth is part of her story, and she also shares her experiences of illness, dysfunction, and grief that allow her to reassure her readers that pain is not wasted, nor is it evidence to disprove a loving God. On the contrary:
“God never protects us from that which He will use to perfect us.”
Dr. Bengtson urges her readers to take advantage of any and all possible treatments for depression from medication to better sleep habits, but stresses that a God-reframed mindset and care for one’s spiritual self is the foundation upon which all other modalities will find greatest success. Her message and the message of God in His Word are one:
Hope does not disappoint.
Hope prevails like love poured out in the heart;
Like light kindled in a dark place;
Like a Listening Ear who “searches the heart” and intercedes in wisdom;
Like a sign post in the road pointing away from danger.
Even in the midst of depression — by grace — reach out for and rejoice in hope.
This book was provided by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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