Depression is a common and often debilitating problem for millions of people. How should we think about depression, its relationship to our faith, and seek to address it in healthy and biblically faithful ways in our local churches? These are the kinds of questions that counselor Wayne Mack seeks to address in his book Out of the Blues: Dealing with the Blues of Depression and Loneliness. As a seasoned Biblical Counselor, Mack gives readers a very good introduction to the subject of depression, along with some helpful guides to addressing it. The book is very helpful and practical in regards to what it says about these topics. It’s major flaw, however, is in what it does not say. Out of the Blues gives great help to dealing with depression that arises from sin, but says nothing in regards to depression that arises from sorrow.
There are two important paradigms that ought to guide how we think about and counsel those who suffer from depression. A sin paradigm will seek to address emotional responsibility in those who struggle. A sorrow paradigm, however, will seek to offer comfort and encouragement to those who experience emotional suffering. We can readily recognize, as Mack does, that we are all both sufferers and sinners at the same time, yet at different times in life we may need help in navigating one or the other of these perspectives. Mack gives readers a great deal of help in examining depression through the lens of sin, but falls short of giving us direction and insight on the second paradigm. In this regard the book is flawed. Mack is quick to assert in the introduction that he makes no claims to writing a comprehensive work on depression. Since, however, the work is designed to help people “get out of the blues” one would assume that he would adequately treat both paradigms. The book falls short, in my estimation, precisely because it does not seek to address this point. What he does address, however, is well-done.
The book can be explored through three lenses. The first several chapters of the work examine the definition and description of depression. Mack does an excellent job of using the language of those who suffer, letting their familiar words help describe the pain of the experience. He examines depression from three stages: mild, moderate, and severe. He examines the distinguishing features of each, and suggests a Biblical example of one who suffered in that precise way. Readers will, thus, be introduced to characters in the Bible who can relate to their experiences. He explores the emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual ramifications of each and helps us, again, to see how each is manifested in the life of the individual.
In part two, he explores the development of depression. When he looks at the causes of depression, he gives us some good general perspectives on depression, but here he falls short because he is only looking at the subject through one lens. He outlines three potential causes: refusing to deal with sin and guilt, mishandling a difficult event, and having unbiblical standards. Under each heading he offers some good qualifiers and deeper explanations, as well as some helpful illustrations or examples, and – as is characteristic of Dr. Mack – loads of Scriptural support.
Part three concludes the examination of depression by exploring the Biblical principles for getting out of the blues. Using the grid of the three potential causes, Mack walks readers through how to respond to each cause so that one might adequately deal with the type of depression they are experiencing. Again, he offers solid counsel and Biblical guidance for these matters. One could hardly find fault with Mack’s conclusions and wisdom, yet his counsel will not impact every sufferer because not all depression is caused by sin. Sufferers of a different nature will need supplemental support for their sorrow. While they may yet find benefit in reading Mack, as those who suffer may still respond sinfully and thus need Mack’s counsel, this book will not be sufficient to meet their needs.
The books final chapter focuses on dealing with the attendant loneliness that can come from depression. Mack focuses on causes and solutions to loneliness and offers much help here, as well, though surely more compact than the previous chapters on depression were afforded.
There’s much to commend with regard to Out of the Blues. The chapters each conclude with some questions for further discussion and the back of the book has a case study to give some practice to the counselor who may read this volume. As a counselor there were a number of segments in the book that I found helpful, and some that I know will be useful in counseling sessions moving forward. The author’s lack of distinction between the types of depression leads me to give it a less than satisfying review, but what Mack does cover, he covers well.