Robert Somerville is a professor of Biblical Counseling at the Master’s College as well as a fellow with the Association of Certified Biblical Counseling. He has counseled hundreds and taught many others how to apply Scripture to life’s problems for decades. Such people are not supposed to get depressed, but Dr. Somerville did—severe, clinical depression. This book describes his journey through what he calls his “dark night of the soul” (pp. 17, 197) (This is an unfortunate term that some are using today to describe depression. Actually it originates with St. John of the Cross, in his book by this title, as the first step toward mystical union with God, known commonly as purgation). But this work does more than describe a man’s journey; it also offers extremely helpful insight and biblically accurate means of dealing with depression.
Each of Somerville’s ten chapters opens with a Puritan prayer and ends with a story of other Christians who have traveled the same road. Each of these stories is written by the individual whose life is being described. Somerville covers a wide variety of topics including symptoms of depression (p. 18), the lack of hope (chapter 2), causes of depression (pp. 69-71), tools to avoid sinful responses which lead to depression (pp. 71-85), guilt (chapter 5), the physical components of depression and the need to care for our bodies (chapter 6), anxiety (chapter 7), how to express our concerns to God, using the Psalms as a guide (chapter 8), joy (chapter 9), and help for the caregiver (chapter 10), written by Somerville’s wife, Mary.
Each chapter is biblically sound and offers practical ideas and suggestions. Scripture and ways to use Scripture during times of depression are abundant. The book includes seven valuable appendixes which explain the gospel, guide the reader in how to study the Bible, pray along with the Psalms, provide hymns of comfort and point toward other resources that will provide aid for those who suffer depression.
Throughout the volume Somerville offers numerous exercises and projects that, if applied, will help a depressed person tremendously. However, in my opinion, very few in need will actually take these steps because the very nature of depression leaves most with little motivation or initiative. For this reason the best use of If I’m a Christian, Why Am I Depressed? is as a resource for biblical counseling or a book study for a small group or adult Bible class. Homework assignments from the book could be given that should prove very useful. I recommend this book highly.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel