People mean well -- but their words are often like knives that strike us to the core of our being. Most of the time they don't even realize the hurt that they've caused us when they say things like, "If you just trust God, then you won't feel depressed," or "Christians are to be joyful always so snap out of it."
There are lots of theological issues with these two statements but I won't delve into that here. Instead, I want to point out that when you say things like this to someone who is already struggling with depression or hurt, you heap shame and guilt on them as well. Someone who is struggling to climb out of the pit needs encouragement; when you imply that they are somehow less of a Christian because of their depression, Satan adds feelings of guilt and shame to the mix.
Trust me, most people who are depressed feel enough negative emotions without well-meaning people who think they are helping "beating them while they are down." Instead, I prefer to view the depression as a thorn in the flesh. While it is tormenting, it has not escaped God's notice. As he told Paul, "His grace is sufficient." God can use times of depression to draw people closer to himself. Who are we to say that depression is due to a lack of faith? It may be that God wants to illuminate a person's existing faith by showing their loyalty in the midst of depression just as he allowed Satan to test Job.
If someone you love is struggling with depression, offer them encouragement and support instead of a sermon. Ask them how you can help. If possible, get them to go with you for a walk (physical activity and sunshine are both helpful in alleviating depression). Don't judge your friend; love them.
So, those of you who struggle with depression, I want to apologize for any "trite" comments that well meaning people have said to you over the years (I'm sure I'm guilty of this myself). There is no shame -- hold your head high! God sees your pain and he cares! And I do too!
Labels: Depression, Mental Health