2) They Can’t Change the Past. Sometimes the sins that led to depression are from years of lifestyle choices. They build up over the years. It’s usually the little ones that end up getting us. However, bringing this to the conversation with the depressed does little good. They can’t back up and change their choices. If they could, they would.
3) They Already Know They’re Sinners. The depressed person likely knows if it’s sin that’s causing their depression. If it’s alcohol, drugs, etc., bringing this up early will only harden the person. It will make them defensive. If sin is causing the depression (and that’s a big “if”) tact and prudence should be used in abundance. This will allow them to recognize their sin without becoming defensive.
“Get on Some Meds Immediately!”
I am no Tom Cruise. I believe that psychiatric medications are often the answer and are a gift of God. I believe that there are many out there who are not taking meds due to a taboo or stigma attached to them that should be. However, the use of mind altering drugs also needs to be considered very deeply. I also think that they are prescribed too easily without a plan of attack.
Briefly, I believe that some people need to go through the darkness without an immediate way out. Many of the Psalms might not have been written had these drugs been available to David. His ups and downs would have been leveled by a script from the doctor. But we needed David to go through his mental bipolar disorder (if that is what it was). The same might be said of Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation. He definitely needed to be on something! However, God used his mental anxiety for great things.
Book Suggestion: Genius, Grief, & Grace: A Doctor Looks at Suffering & Success (Biography of great saints of the past who suffered greatly, but were used greatly.)
For some people—as hard as it is to hear—God wants you to go through this darkness. But this is not for everyone. These drugs are a blessing of God when used properly. For some, they can get you over the “hill” of darkness and are only needed for a short time. For others, they are needed permanently for the stability of the mind.
All I am doing is asking you to consider that the depressed person may be a David or a Luther to the church. Don’t immediately demand that they get on these drugs.
“I’ve Been Through Worse”
I had a relative say this to me with absolute resolve and conviction in her voice. She said, “Michael, whatever you have gone through, I have been though worse! So don’t try to give me your sob story.” She meant well, but this is not something to say to a depressed person. It may be true that you have been through worse and been able to get out of it. What you mat not know is that this is meaningless to the depressed for two reasons:
- Once you’re in the black hole of depression, the hole itself is the worst thing you’ve gone through. The tragic events that might have brought you there often pale in comparison.
- Suffering is relative. There are always going to be people who have it worse than you. This isn’t the issue. It’s how you perceive and internalize your suffering relative to who you were before. For some, the loss of a job can make them suicidal. For others (who live in harsher climates of society) even the loss of a child is expected and absorbed with less depression.
So depression is a very relative thing. Letting people know that you’ve been through worse—while it might be objectively true—can be both unwise and irresponsible. It will only harden the person in their depression.