I embark on this post with great caution. Caution because I don't like bandwagons. With this being the week that the news and comments about Robin Williams' suicide plastered everywhere it may appear that way. Caution because this is a sensitive subject to many. Caution because this is an uncomfortable subject for so many. And, caution because I am going to take a little risk in being transparent.
Honestly, I have not ever had a problem with depression. I have not understood what people are speaking of when they tell of their struggles. I have been flippant at times when I have heard others talk of their struggles, or I have offered cheap platitudes when people have shared with me personally.
That is until the past year. I have grown to understand a little more and been slower to assume or to attempt to resolve others' difficulty with this troubling condition. As a disclaimer, I don't have anything figured out, nor have I experienced all that someone who struggles with depression has felt. However, I now have a little better feel for it.
About a year ago, I was having my quiet time with the Lord. I was being very contemplative, or so I thought, when all of a sudden I began to weep and could not control myself. This went on for at least a day. I could sense something was wrong, something was out of the ordinary. It scared me because I didn't understand it.
For ME, it was a fairly simple fix. I was able to make some dietary changes that corrected my troubles. However, I am grateful to have had the experience for the sake of others that I will encounter in my ministry. I can no longer respond, whether in my own mind or out loud, the way I had previously. I now find that I am more attentive to people who share their struggles with depression. I was even recently able to listen more attentively to and pray with a church member who shared the struggles they were experiencing on a very severe level.
Does this mean I understand depression? No. Does this mean I have answers I can give to those who come to me? Not easy ones. Each person is different. Each one struggles differently with different thoughts and different symptoms. I would not even begin to risk to give advice. There is no cookie cutter approach.
However, I can give thoughtful encouragement to them on a personal level and encourage them to seek professional help without being condescending or simplistic. I can be armed with a list professional resources to guide someone who needs to know where to go. I can stop and immediately pray with them. I can call and check on them regularly. I can listen for any warning signs that may result in them being a danger to themselves or others.
What I cannot do is treat them differently or avoid them or toss scripture at them or tell them their faith should be stronger or shrug them off as if they "just need to get over it".I can tell you first hand: I know now that you can't "just get over it". Just knowing or speaking or reading scripture doesn't fix it. I can tell you, I know what the scriptures say about joy, faith, trials and anxieties, etc. I have repeated them over and over. When I had the episode I described above I could logically think of what was right, but I could not make the feelings of despair go away. I could not make sense of WHY I felt the way I did.
Often, what we don't understand is what scares us the most. I hope and pray that you will not allow your fear or disregard for the unknown effect the way you respond to those who are suffering with depression. I hope you don't have to experience what I have and certainly not what others have experienced far worse than my own. I do hope you will be slow to respond so you can pray and inquire from God as to the best response you can give. When part of the body is injured and hurting, the rest of the body feels it and is part of the process of seeking and receiving proper attention. May we do our part in helping our depressed brothers and sisters in their time of need that it may result in the furthering of the gospel to the glory of God!
1 Corinthians 12:20-26
20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (NASB)For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet