Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness

by Edward T. Welch
Publisher: New Growth Press
2nd Edition, ©2011, ISBN: 9781935273875
Trade Paperback, 279 pages
Price: $15.99

There aren't many books like this one. In one sense, of course, Ed Welch's Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness is like any other Ed Welch book—readable, relatable, reasonable, and wise. But this one's a little different in that he really captures the essence of the thing he's writing about. He doesn't just describe depression, he shows it and then begins to pierce it little by little with words of biblical hope.

Near the beginning, Welch makes several literary references that depict depression and its weightiness, suggesting that in poetry depression is best illustrated. He must have taken his cue from this thought, because the whole book has threads of poetry woven through it as Welch both shows and comments on this all-too-common malady. This no doubt stems from personal experience, as the dedication of the book to Welch's father "who showed [Welch] that depression and love can live together in the same person" also makes clear.

Welch insists that it's important to remember that depression can't be reduced to a single cause, and that depression can crop up for all kinds of reasons and in all kinds of people. In part one, he looks at depression as suffering; part two is titled "Listening to Depression," and helps identify some of the sources of depression as well as creating empathy for those who suffer from depression; part three is largely practical, with advice about medical treatment, what to expect, etc.; and finally, part four directs those who suffer toward hope, humility, thanksgiving, and joy in God.

Biblical wisdom is present on every page of this book, but it isn't a theology of depression. Welch is deeply empathetic towards those with depression, and seeks to impart that empathy to his readers whether they are depressed or seeking to care for someone who is depressed. This book, after all, is Welch's attempt to create partnerships between those with depression and the people who love and minister to them, and is meant to be read by both.

Each chapter is fairly short and highly accessible, and ends in a brief section called "Response" which guides readers in reflecting on and putting into practice what they've read. This is by no means a textbook, and these sections are far from demanding in terms of writing long lists, digging through references, or anything like that. Rather, they provide jumping off points for the kind of soul-searching that leads, if not to a cure for depression, at least to the divine care and love those who are depressed need.

What is probably most remarkable about Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness (aside from its scope) is that Welch deliberately avoids any reductionism or judgementalism. He doesn't pretend to know why people are depressed, he doesn't blame it entirely on their own sin, and he is firm yet gentle, provocative yet kind. If you need a book on depression that is biblical, compassionate, and practical, this is the book you're looking for.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Summary: Ed Welch identifies the nature of depression, its dangers, and how Christians can cope with it through Christ.

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