A friend attempted suicide several years ago. It came as a shock but in reality it wasn’t sudden. He had been struggling with depression caused by a variety of factors. One of the factors included his relationship with God. He said the following about his experience:
‘In my darkest times, I believed God had abandoned me – I experienced what I can only describe as a ‘taste of hell’ – a darkness so tangible that it engulfed my whole being: body, mind, spirit, emotions. I tried to pray, but it seemed that my words left my lips and fell to the ground. I had no resources within me to keep going. Ultimately it was the support of my family, a few trusted friends and my pastors that sustained me.’
1. Followers of Jesus are not Immune from Depression.
My friend isn’t the only one to have suffered depression. Approximately one in five people experience depression during their life. Followers of Jesus are not immune. My friend is an example. I am an example. I know many others. But depression is rarely talked about. Yet we often talk about the joy of the following Jesus. Think about what this does. Those struggling with depression often feel shame. But depression is not a sign of spiritual failure. Jesus healed the sick and delivered those with demons, but he never condemned them. He will not condemn you.
2. Understand Depression Holistically.
I know of a family who do not go to the doctors. They still get sick but feel that going to the doctors is a sign that they aren’t trusting God. This is crazy. But this is how many Christian approach depression. They see it as a spiritual problem and engage in spiritual warfare.
Alternatively, many Christians view depression only in medical terms. Medications can treat chemical imbalances. Depressed people benefit from counselling.
But you don’t have to take either the spiritual or medical routes. As followers of Jesus we need to speak about depression holistically. Sufferers need to be able to seek therapeutic help but the spiritual side is also real. Think about my friend. Part of his depression was very spiritual – he felt God had abandoned him. No amount of anti-depressants can help this. But there were other factors where therapies had an enormous impact. Both were important.
3. Things you can do for those Suffering Depression.
Depression and loneliness go hand-in-hand. Being there helps enormously. You can’t be there every minute, so pick your moments to be present, but always be supportive.
Silence can be awkward. We want to speak or give advice but often what is most needed is your presence. It may be that someone needs to get something off their chest.
My friend felt like God didn’t hear him. I don’t think God ignored him, but it was how it felt. Find ways to help people carry their burdens to God.
Depression can be debilitating. The easiest tasks can become difficult. Is there something you could do that might help? It doesn’t matter what, but do something. Go out for coffee. Cook dinner. A friend once folded our washing. It was such a big help. And it showed they cared.
4. God is still Faithful.
My experience of depression tells me time and time again that God is faithful. He is working even when we don’t feel it. And God is close to the broken hearted. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Think about Jesus. He was called ‘Emmanuel’ – God is with us. His humanity is a tangible expression that God is near. We don’t worship a distant God but one who physically entered into the daily grind, endured grief and agonised before suffering on the Cross. In Jesus, we have a God who has been through the darkness and enters into yours.
5. There is Hope.
Jesus’ return is foundational to the Christian faith. Jesus promises he will put an end to all tears, sickness, sorrow and mourning. Our hope lies in the realisation that this world is just a shadow of the life we have in Jesus. Those struggling with depression may not currently see it, but Jesus promises not only to remove the cloud of depression but restore them fully. Our hope causes us to cry ‘Come Lord Jesus.’ But we will only do this if God is in control. The certainty of Revelation 21 is only certain if God is in control today.