February 13, 2015
Chances are you know someone who is struggling with depression. They may be living under your own roof or sitting in the pew next to you. How should we go about serving those who are struggling in this way?
It was a forced friendship from the beginning. Boldly, she announced that every single Wednesday she would be coming to my house. I could see her resolve. I was scared, and I started to squirm. Every Wednesday? Generally, I leave this thing open ended, “penciled in,” if you will. In other words, I rarely do firm “commitments.” After all, what if I need to change my mind? Somehow, she must have known my propensity at changing plans and calling in sick.
She needed a lot from me, and I was not prepared to give it. I timidly opened the door every Wednesday, and she walked in.
Chances are you know someone who is struggling with depression. She may be living under your own roof or sitting in the pew next to you.
“What can we do when a loved one is wrestling with depression,” you ask?
Often we want to run onto the scene and “fix them.” Give us a list so we can check it off and instantly transform this unpleasant forecast to sunny days. If only it were that easy.
Bringing the Light of Christ
I’m persuaded that sometimes the best thing we can do is nothing more than to sit and be with them. No formula, just the power of presence. What if the most profound, life-giving thing about us is our transformed and transforming presence?
Jesus entered into our darkness (John 1:14). Love opened the door and walked into our world so we could walk into the light (John 1:4). He was present with us in order to lead us to redemption.
We all want to be the friend on sunny days, but it is uncomfortable to enter into broken places where the sun refuses to shine and the shadows incessantly come out to play.
However, as followers of Jesus this is exactly where we are called to be, present with people in their suffering. You have something that everybody needs – light (not the light of our own deceptive morality, but the light from heaven, the light of the Lord Jesus Christ). However, the light cannot be seen if it does not make itself available.
Draw Near with Tears, Not Many Words
By definition, a depressed person is often plagued with an uninvited irrationality about them. In other words, their minds (at least in that state) don’t have the full capacity to rightly think and reason. Thus, words and speeches are frequently of no avail. In the immediate, giving them your compassionate tears, not your words, is often the best approach. It’s not that they don’t want to hear and believe; it’s that they can’t.
Those who feel like they are suffocating from the weight of darkness may be unable to move towards your advances in friendship. An almost certain accompaniment with any legitimate depression is the tendency to withdraw from relationships (even from those people whom we love and respect the most dearly).
Do not take this personally. I literally have hidden under tables so my friends could not see I was home. Please do not be offended when a depressed person doesn’t return a text or phone call (or doesn’t answer the door). These hurt feelings or anger at the depressed person are exactly what Satan wants from you. He wants you to be offended by the cold shoulder, leading you to run from your friend. Christ, on the other hand, wants you to realize this is not a battle against flesh and blood. He wants you to take up the sword and fight for your friend (even if the other person is sleeping in their own tears, or hiding in their own shame and fear, while you are fighting).
During an episode of post-partum depression, I hid in the shadows because it was embarrassing for church members to see me so weak and miserable. I am grateful to those women who brought meals to me and came to sit with me every day until I started to come back to life. My mother stayed for almost an entire month. When my husband had to be at work, women from our church came each and every day to just be with me. I was scared to be alone. Although they could not protect me from the monster of depression, just their presence helped immensely.
You may need to do whatever is necessary to show them the love of Christ as they walk through this darkness. Your friend may not answer the door or act excited to hang out with you, but go through the door anyway, and when you do, open the door of grace. Chances are, your friend has been opening many doors searching for a way out of this darkness, but all they have experienced are doors of doubt and defeat slammed in their face.
God can use you as a means of light in the darkness of your friend’s soul, if only you are willing to be the Christ-infusing presence she needs as she walks through depression.
Annie Leigh Edwards is a homemaker and wife to Jamus, who is the Pastor for Preaching & Vision at Pleasant Valley Community Church. She is a mom, musical theater nerd, lover of dark chocolate, and coffee. Annie Leigh writes on living in The Fullness of Empty at www.annieleigh.com. Follow her on Twitter @AnnieEdwards01.
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