I have been writing a few post on Depression. I have had several people ask, “How can I be a good friend to someone struggling through depression?”
Be a light but…
There are two different types of light….
When I am driving through a storm, clenching the wheel, and someone flashes their bright lights in my eyes, it drives me insane. Don’t flash your brights in the fog or storm, it only make the visibility worse and puts the driver in danger.
What are examples of flashing the brights?
Taking your friend through a checklist of questions: Have you been reading the bible? Have you been praying? Have you been exercising? The object of the questions is to reveal to the patient that they have not been taking care of themselves and are in need of more things to do. The result? Only more condemnation and guilt on top of what they are already feeling. Not only are they depressed, but we’ve just reminded them that they are horrible Christians (while little do we know, in that moment, they probably don’t even think they are a Christian). Yet we become doctors with our prescription pads out attempting to find a regiment that will lift the darkness.
In doing so, we make attempts at giving good advice.
Take some medicine. Take a run. Take up a new hobby.
Read the bible more. Dump your boyfriend. Quit your job. Go back to school and get your Master’s. Join a small group. Go to a Beth Moore conference. Have more sex. Find a new “happy” series to watch on Netflix.
Buy a sunlamp. Buy some vitamins (B12, St. Johns Wart, Vitamin D).
Get over it. Just be happy. Think of positive thoughts. Think of others who are worse off than you. Count your blessings you spoiled little brat. Wear bright colors and take showers and make up your bed and eat whole foods.
Most of these things are fine and well in and of themselves. In some cases, certainly they can offer at least some temporary form of relief. But the wound of depression is so much deeper than this. These things don’t have the power to heal what may be going on in the mind and what may very well be going on deep in their inmost being.
Again, telling someone to do more will only bring additional condemnation to an already bleeding soul. The healing salve comes not through us telling them what they must do, but through telling them what has already been done. They don’t need to hear, “Do this, and it will get better.” They need to hear, “Jesus did everything; it is finished.”
Their heart is in desperate need for you to shine the light of the Gospel because most likely they have have been looking at all of the things they have not been or need to be doing under a microscope. They are probably driven by their own performance and find their value (or lack thereof) in their performance (which in all likelihood has not quite lived up to par).
Though they feel covered condemnation, remind them the only thing they are actually covered in is the blood of Christ (Romans 8:1). He does not see someone who failed miserable in every way and someone whom the world would be better off without them. No, quite the contrary, He sees His son in whom He is well pleased. Jesus did everything perfectly, and every person that trusts in Christ now receives His righteousness and gets credit for His perfect life. When God looks at one of His beloved children, He doesn’t see darkness; He sees the light of Christ.
They’re not a waste of flesh. God can use them for His glory and the good of others. The world needs them. There are other hurting souls who have no hope of a God that loves the weak, wounded, and broken. How amazing is it when one sick man leads another sick man to hope.
Be a light.
Where they are weighed down with sin, remind them of a burden that is light.
Pull back the curtains and let the light of the Gospel warm their hearts. As the light pushes through, eventually, all of the shadows will flee and what looked like monsters will be realized to have only been cobwebs. The Gospel scatters darkness.
Those who are walking around in coma have forgotten their story. They are living between Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After and it gets kind of hazy. They feel the dragon’s breath breathing curses and monsters everywhere. Remind them this is not the land where all of our dreams come true. Tell them their story. Remind them of who they are, and who they are is only who they are in Christ.
As we fight this battle for our brothers and sisters (remembering the war is already won [Colossians 2:14-15]), we must take up the armor of Christ and loudly roar the truth of Christ alone over another prowling lion that is roaring unrelenting with condemnation. Breathe the warmth of the Gospel (Christ alone) on wintery hearts and pray that the King of all seasons melts away the ice.
Declare the gospel over their despair.
Tell them the evidences of grace you see in their life. The Psalmist yells up to God, “Why are you hiding your face from me?” It is common to feel like God is not working their salvation out. It is confusing and scary. Tell them the ways you have seen the Lord move in their life. Even the fact that they see their need for God and their weakness to change their own heart is, in fact, the Lord’s working. The very fact that you know you need Jesus is a grace in and of itself.
When they feel as if they are sinking remind them of the Anchor attached to their soul. Though the waters rise, they will not fall because Christ is in this storm with them.
Point them to a faithful God that will not lose one of His own (John 10:30). Not one. A God that entered into hell so that hell could have no hold on us. They may smell the flames and smoke around them but it cannot harm one hair on their head. God is not a fair-weather friend, gone when rain clouds start to surface and the earth rumbles underneath. God is not like an insect that is drawn to the sweetest flowers; no, He comes for those who need to taste hope. He comes for the sick.
Remind them that tears are not wasted; they are only preparing desert ground for life. There are storms under the sun but they are sent to bring life. There is hope shooting up through the gloom – tiny seeds opening up and pushing through darkness towards the sun. Life is happening even though it is not seen.
Be a friend, not their savior. Don’t just say you are going to pray. Pray. Combat the forces of darkness on your knees. This will get hard when you see no improvements, but brace yourself and keep bringing souls before the throne.
Be present. Be good listeners. Love deep.
Know that God is stronger than their doubt, fears, and failures. And as Rend Collective says, “God is stronger than our hearts.” Amen.