A Nigerian who describes a peppery feeling in his headHe goes on to talk about how you interpret depression (or any pain) differently. Great perspective:
A Chinese farmer who complains of shoulder and stomach aches
A Korean woman who speaks of burning in her stomach
An Iranian who identifies tightness in his chest
An American who feels interminably sad
Here is one conclusion from this type of research: depression is not simply a universal pattern of neuronal firing caused by predetermined genetic combinations. At least, it consists of an experience that is shaped by a cultural narrative. Depression has a story overlaid on it. In some cultures the story suggests that the experience is normal and is part of the process of developing character and strength. In others, such as our own, it is a brain pathology that must be treated quickly or it will leave the victim incapacitated.
Your interpretation of pain affects the experience of your pain. If the pain in your chest is from a slightly pulled muscle, you are proud that you are working out. If you believe it is from a tumor or incipient heart failure, it will hurt much worse.
If you experience peculiar sadness, and you are persuaded that God is with you and, through his love, is making you increasingly fruitful, your emotional limp will be less noticeable. But if your hardships are merely neuronal, there is nothing you can do except hope for the right combination of medications.
We turn to what is universal. We turn to what goes deeper than culture—the God revealed to us by Scripture. One of the beauties of God’s revelation is that we know (1) in this world there will be trouble, and (2) we don’t have to know the cause of the trouble in order to help each other know the comfort of Christ, grow in our confidence in his promises, and fruitfully abide in him. This is for everyone, in every culture.