Blog by the Rev. Todd Peperkorn (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod), author of the book by the same name. A short article about the book appeared in the July 2009 issue of EMIN News.
An interview with the Rev. Barbara C. Crafton on her 2009 book Jesus Wept: When Faith and Depression Meet. (Published by Jossey-Bass, ISBN 97-0-470-37195-4)
- EMIN: What prompted you to write Jesus Wept? Did an event or something specific prompt you?
- Barbara: I have been a lifelong sufferer [of depression.] In thirty years of doing retreats, there has always been someone with depression who was seeking help. I have knowledge from a religious aspect and personal information about the illness.
- Sharing both aspects has worked well, and I thought others would think so too. I was in a place with the Geranium Farm to ask readers to share their experiences of coping with depression. A large number of eloquent stories came in. I was delighted with the response.
- EMIN: Please say something about facing the hard reality that having a mental illness is a long-term situation?
- Barbara: It is difficult for us to come to understand that it [a mental illness] is chronic. We can control and manage it. Having a mental illness is part of life, an unfortunate part of life. We want a cure. Ordinarily, you don’t get a cure, but you do get help. We are blessed today to have something with which to manage it.
- EMIN: What do you have to say to people who have depression, but want to get off their medication?
- Barbara: I would say that the time is long past when any Christian needs to hesitate to seek professional help. It is no sin to have this disorder. It is not helpful to not do what you can do. It is your disease talking when you think you can’t do anything about it. It’s been a long time since thinking like that made any sense at all.
- People think having a mental illness is shameful – nonsense! It is a source of major suffering. I’m on a bit of a crusade. I want people to serve God with everything they have. If they are bleeding inside, they can’t do that.
- EMIN: Why do you think we feel shame when we have a mental illness?
- Barbara: The Bible has a lot of ancient belief that illness is a result of sin. Fundamentalist see it as one’s own fault or we have no right to do something about it. We have chosen what we decide to believe from scripture. It is time to be discerning and careful about what we want scripture to do. It is not a recipe book. The ancient teaching about suffering being from sin has been thoroughly discredited, but it is easy for us to fall back into that.
- EMIN: What are some tools our faith offers us when we face mental illness?
- Barbara: We do have healing resources in scripture. We have reliance on God, We have hope in hopeless situations. We have our communities, a powerful sense of community for wholeness.
- In prayer we have a resource and honesty; truth in prayer is powerful.
- We have the teaching of resurrection from the jaws of death.
- We have tools sufficient without leaning on those which are not.
- EMIN: Do you have any suggestions for family members and friends of persons facing mental illness? What helps? What hurts?
- Barbara: Recognize that the sufferer has a God too, and it’s not you. We can’t take responsibility for someone else’s journey, for their walk with God.
- We have no duty to help them stay sick, but we can’t do it for them.
- Part of depression is thinking that we don’t have any lines in our own play. Our power is limited, but we do have lines. We have to find courage to find and speak them. That will go a long way toward our own healing. We can get out of God’s way.
- Call 911 if someone threatens suicide. If he does resist, it is not your fault. His death is his own. Depression is a Disease that kills.
- EMIN: Since writing Jesus Wept, have you had any strange or negative reactions from people who weren’t aware of your illness?
- Barbara: People have been surprised, maybe naïve, a little shocked. This plays into my hands. If they are shocked, I’ve got their attention. I can point out that they have never known me not on antidepressants. Then they can know that the drugs don’t make me a zombie. If a religious leader can be candid, it is very helpful. This is a Call within a call that I didn’t know I had.
Barbara Cawthorne Crafton is an Episcopal priest, spiritual director, and author. She is the founder and head of the Geranium Farm, www.geraniumfarm.org, an online institute for the promotion of spiritual growth, which publishes The Almost-Daily eMo from the Geranium Farm, read by thousands of people worldwide.
Jesus Wept: When Faith and Depression Meet
The Rev. Barbara C. Crafton
Published by Jossey-Bass 2009
The Rev. Barbara C. Crafton has written an important book for EMIN News readers and all who have or love someone with debilitating depression.
The following synopsis comes from the dust jacket:
“Depression is the sapping of spiritual strength and joy, the graying of everything.” —From the Prologue
Drawing from her personal experiences and those of hundreds of others, Episcopal priest Barbara Cawthorne Crafton explores what it means for a person of faith to suffer from depression. Just as no two people are the same, the experience of depression is unique to every individual.
Depression’s mark on each soul can perplex or even annoy loved ones, friends, and family, while at the same time they want very much to help.
All too often religious people face unique challenges when depression sets in. Jesus Wept explains that faith can be enormously helpful and comforting or can seriously hinder the healing process.
Communities of faith and ill-advised teachings can leave sufferers feeling abandoned. They wonder, “Where are the joys and comforts of faith and the power of prayer? How can I trust God? My depression is a sign that I have disappointed God!”
Offering hope to those who suffer, Crafton shows how a life of faith can bring together unique resources for dealing with the dark night of the soul. The ancient practice of prayer, which has taken sorrow seriously for thousands of years, can be a powerful elixir for the spirit, Supportive religious teachings can offer a powerful hope for resurrection and healing. Faith can build a community that, at its best, enshrines love and welcome to the poor in spirit.
Jesus Wept is a valuable resource for those who are finding their way through the darkness of soul and spirit—or for those who care for them.
Barbara C. Crafton is an Episcopal priest, spiritual director and author. She is the founder and head of the Geranium Farm, www.geraniumfarm.org, an online institute for the promotion of spiritual growth which publishes The Almost-Daily-eMo from the Geranium Farm, read by thousands of people worldwide.
In a chapter titled “A Learning Experience,” Crafton writes:
“The pain is a memory now, but that thought can still produce a shudder. I don’t ever want to feel like that again.
“Or perhaps that frightful era just past wasn’t a demon at all. Perhaps it was a teaching tool, a means by which I was strengthened in wisdom about the very nature of the human self. Was it purposed to teach me about my many blessings by allowing me to experience their privation, in case I ever started taking them all for granted? In truth, I have been educated by having survived depression, by the memory of its dreadful emptiness. I do feel glad just to breathe the air without feeling its dead weight on my chest. I do have a more nuanced view of God than a simple equation of God’s presence with my own well-being, not that I had ever put much stock in that equation anyway. And it certainly has taught me what a blessing ‘normal’ is. I don’t ever want to feel like that again.” (pp. 16–17)
Note: The Rev. Barbara Crafton has consented to be interviewed by EMIN News about this new book. The article will be published in the Winter 2009 issue.
From long-time EMIN supporter, Fr. Chet Watson of California, comes news of a book recounting the struggles and triumphs of a Lutheran pastor dealing with clinical depression.
Pastor Tom Peperkorn tells of “wearing the mask” of appearing fine while facing the internal difficulties of this serious illness.
As Fr. Chet points out, it is rare to have a male perspective from an ordained minister. Many will find Pastor Peperkorn’s honest story helpful in understanding depression from the inside out.
Each chapter concludes with a prayer and relevant discussion questions.
For more information on the free 100-page book and to see the blog that Pastor Peperkorn started before he made his depression public and still keeps current today, visit