It’s easy to judge people who are depressed.
Have you ever had thoughts like this:
Why can’t they just get out of their funk? Aren’t they trusting God? Isn’t a Christian supposed to be joyful? They must not be trying hard enough. They must not be exercising faith in God. They’re stuck in unbelief.
I’ve had those thoughts go through my mind. To my shame. I thought I was tough and couldn’t understand why depressed people couldn’t be tough too.
But God has slowly been changing me over the past few years as I’ve spent time with people who struggle with depression. I’m slowly learning a few things about depression and how to serve those who are struggling with it. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
(Note: This post was read and edited by a mature Christian who has regularly struggled with depression. Much of what I’ve learned is from them.)
Don’t Judge Them
I’ve never experienced depression, but from what I’ve been told, it’s terrible. It sucks the life out of you, debilitates you, crushes your spirits, and makes it very difficult to think accurately. Because I haven’t experienced this, I need to be very slow in making judgments about those who are in the darkness. I don’t know what it’s like, and until I go through it, I won’t know what it’s like.
I can’t tell a depressed person to snap out of it, any more than I can tell a person with a headache to snap out of it. It simply doesn’t work like that. So I need to withhold judgment and be full of mercy.
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To my shame, there have been times when I haven’t been compassionate toward those who are depressed. I really, really regret that. Depression is a terrible thing, and those who experience it need to feel my care and compassion. I need to convey God’s fatherly heart of care. They need to know that, even though I don’t understand, I really do care about them and am sad to see them struggling.
What I don’t need to do is correct them. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for gently reminding them to trust in God’s character and promises, but my ratio of compassion to correction should be about twenty to one. I need to remind them that God deeply cares for them, loves them, and is with them in the darkness.
Don’t Offer Solutions
There can be a temptation to offer solutions, such as a book or sermon, to a person that is depressed. This usually isn’t a good idea. Depression makes it almost impossible to concentrate and totally destroys any energy or motivation a person might have.
I do need to offer that person hope. Hopelessness is one of the main symptoms of depression, and the afflicted often fear that the darkness will never end. I need to encourage them that God is going to get them through it. That it will come to and end and that God will come through for them. I need to encourage them to hang on to the Lord with what little strength they have, and to remind them that God is hanging on to them.
These are starting places for helping people, not solutions. I hope they help you comfort and care for those who are depressed.
Don’t make my mistake. Don’t judge the depressed, care for them.
+photo by *clairity*