Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash
Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

Weakened Faith

Question

Three years ago my husband was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It’s a chronic condition that causes pain in muscles, joints, and nerves. This has struck down his faith and sent him into a deep depression. We aren’t really spiritual mismatched, it’s just that in this season he’s completely disinterested in spiritual matters. He won’t attend church, prayer, or talk about God. What should I do?

Answer

After three years of struggling with the physical pain, the increasing physical limitations on what he can do, the difficulty he has in maintaining normal levels of activity as well as the enormous emotional and psychological drain of trying to cope, it’s not at all surprising that he is experiencing some depression. We also need to warn you that the effects of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) are also felt by the spouse and family.

Studies we’ve seen suggest that one-third of all patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) are also depressed. Depression usually has a variety of causes and can include a chemical imbalance in the brain. In the case of someone with FMS, the depression may be intensified by ongoing pain and fatigue and a sense of hopelessness, discouragement and despair. It’s critical that you see a physician, perhaps a psychiatrist, who understands both fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) as well as depression to assess what may be physiological, psychological, emotional, and/or spiritual.

Withdrawal from normal activities is a common symptom of depression and if it is not dealt with, it can contribute to his depression becoming worse. It will be important to find some creative ways to get him involved with people and with spiritual things. Before the FMS, was he merely attending or was he active in your church? Was he involved in a men’s group? Does he have any close male friends? Have they reached out to him? Are they aware of his struggles so they might know how to pray for him?

We would encourage you to call your pastor or men’s ministry leader to see if there are any others in your church who have struggled with FMS. Many larger communities have FMS support groups and we’d encourage you to see if one is active in your area. Since the effects of FMS also touch the spouse and family, it will be especially important for your husband to address any medical or other causes and then find support to deal with the social and spiritual dimension. Know that with some help there is a lot of hope.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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