on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

Living with Depression

This post is the eighteenth in a series, “Lessons from my Father, Lewis Marler,” who lived from 1921-1998.

When my mother died in 1965, my father battled with various levels of depression off and on for the next thirty-three years until his death.  I do not mean he was incapacitated by his depression, because he was able to work and be effective as a pastor in three congregations.

And for some persons who knew him as their pastor from 1965-1994, this might surprise them.  But I do believe his deep grief and family history presented him with one of the biggest challenges of his life.

The first time I heard about his depression was when we met in Nashville, TN and my father poured out his heart in a way I had never known before.  It was during that discussion that I understood how painful and how deep this struggle was for him.  He told me that he had been seeing a psychiatrist for awhile and that he had been on medications.  He added that he also supplemented that support with counseling from a therapist.

I was a seminary graduate by this time and had done my residency in a psychiatric unit of a hospital, both inpatient and outpatient.  I had an understanding of mental health issues and told him I was glad he was seeking help.

But like many persons today, Dad came out of the “old school belief” that mental health issues were a “weakness” rather than something that could be treated medically, emotionally, and spiritually.

He didn’t believe this to be true for other people as he referred many persons to counselors, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals over the years.

But he also thought that somehow if he prayed hard enough, that he should not have to take medicine personally or see someone for it.  But the important thing is he did get the help he needed.  Because deep down, he knew better.

We had this conversation about getting support for his depression many times in his life.  I am thankful that he talked to me about it and I am glad he got the help when he needed it.  This support from doctors and counselors made it possible for him to help hundreds of other people through their own grief during his ministry.

Depression is the most treatable mental health illness of all.  Encourage loved ones to reach out for the help they need.   If you struggle with depression, see a counselor and talk about it.  Talking really does help, and the right medication can make all the difference in the world.

Even though my father struggled with depression at times, as well as getting the help he needed, thank God he got it.

I hope you, and those you love, will too.

My father taught me so.

Resources for Depression:

  1. From Google Health
  2. Depression Resources
  3. Web MD
  4. MedicineNet.com
  5. National Institute of Mental Health
  6. Mayo Clinic


How about you?  Do you find yourself having a double standard for yourself and others in regards to getting help?  Do you believe it is ok to get help for depression and other mental health issues?  What are some barriers for you to get over in order to be able to do so?

Will you share your story with us in the comments section?  Or contact me by email?

If this post has been helpful to you, please share it with others by clicking on the Share button below.


  1. Jo Caufield

    Of the many, many wise things I heard your Dad say one I think of often is after the death of a close friend’s daughter. the mother asked him “What do I say when people ask me how many children I have?” Brother Marler replied (without missing a beat) “You tell them you have two – one who lives on earth with you, and one who lives in Heaven.” What a wonderful response! I am so thankful to have known such a Godly man, who was also so practical and “one of us.”

  2. Malcolm

    Jo, thank you for your kind words about my father. He knew what it was like to have a child to die which I’m sure informed his response to your good friend. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.

  3. Beth


    I enjoy reading and learning about your father’s lessons. I guess on this particular issue (depression), I agree with his “old school” thinking…in a way. Certainly depression can be treated spiritually. As a biblical counseling student and just having finished and reviewed the book Deceptive Diagnosis, I guess I’m a bit more old school myself (go Dad!). Have you any resources for depression that are spiritually based?

    I loved your dad’s reply to the parent who lost a child…’one on earth and another in heaven.’ Perfect! Brings a joyful, quiet mist to my eyes when I am reminded that one day I will see my two little ones in heaven!!! Oh what a blessed reunion it will be!!

  4. Malcolm

    Dear Beth, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog, welcome aboard!

    I agree with part of your assertion, “Certainly depression can be treated spiritually.” That is of course, like all treatments, if a person is open to that mode of counseling. I agree.

    My experience is that some depression is caused more by biological or chemical imbalance and may need medications to smooth that out.

    So I would say, have many tools in your toolbox and know when to use which one. Or if one doesn’t work, be open to trying something else. God can work through medicine or counseling without restriction.

    Thanks again!

  5. Sharon Ryder

    Malcolm, So glad that you shared this intimate portrait of your father. Too many times, the Christian community tends to pass judgement on people with mental afflictions as being weak or somehow lacking spiritually.

    So, too many times those of us who have fought this battle, hide within ourselves, afraid that the judgement of our peers will make the already burdensome load unbearable. I know, for I too have walked the lonely path of depressions grip. Only the very closest of my friends and family ever knew the battle that I fought for many years. Shame and the feeling of failure plagued me and robbed me of joy for far too long a period in life. Only when I reached a breaking point after my mothers death, did I confront depression for what it was and begin the healing process and there is healing. I found that it took both the medical and the spiritual to win this fight.

    I had to get past the stigma to find the healing. I’ve been depression free for almost 10 years now. Sure there are times that I can feel that dark cloud trying to creep in, but I’ve learned to recognize the signs and I’ve learned how to face them head on and win the battle. I’ve learned how to admit my struggle and ask for help from those I love instead of trying to hide it. Most people you ask would never have a clue that I’d ever suffered from this culprit.

    I’m happy, outgoing and an encourager. I didn’t come here that way, it was a journey to get here. So thank you again for sharing your Dad with us. One thing I’ve learned is that when God allows a struggle in your life, its usually to enable you to help someone else down the road as they endure the same struggle. Having walked the path, you know exactly the hurts, trials and heartaches that they are experiencing and have a greater capacity for compassion. You know too, that there is hope and healing.

  6. Malcolm


    It is because of readers like you that inspire me to keep writing. I sometimes wonder if what I am writing is helping persons, or if they can identify in some small way with it.

    Your vulnerable words speak from deep, personal experience that describe your perspective clearly. Thank you for your courage and for your willingness to share it with me, and my readers.

    Peace to you,

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