During our current and challenging times, most of us have personally had to interact with issues such as fear, anxiety, grief, and depression. We have also had to deal with friends and loved ones who are struggling with one or more of these issues. As followers of Christ how do we understand these issues and how do we find the help we need to deal with these struggles with power and hope?
As a starting point I wanted to focus on depression. Now, depression takes place on a continuum that encompasses situational depression to clinical depression. For the sake of discussion I will take a look at clinical depression. A person who is clinically depressed is one who typically has great difficulty sleeping, eating, and functioning with common day-to-day activities. They find themselves having difficulty enjoying things that used to be easy and fun for them. For those in the throes of clinical depression, even such mundane tasks as brushing their teeth can wear them out physically. For them, the future looks bleak and one of their greatest fears is that they will stay this way forever with no way out.
How do we love and serve those whom we love who are struggling with this debilitating psychological and spiritual malady? For the uninitiated this can easily feel overwhelming. So, it is imperative that we gain insight into what is going on and what clinical depression entails. We must remember that this level of depression contains biological, genetic, and spiritual components. There is something going on with their body chemistry as well as their hearts, or souls. Biblical anthropology tells us that we are embodied souls, so we must take the physical and the spiritual aspects into account.
If they have not done so already, they should be encouraged to consult their physician about their situation. They might be good candidates for being placed on anti-depressant meds, which can help to lessen the severity of their symptoms so that they can return to some semblance of normalcy. Finding the right kind of medication and the correct dosage can take some time, but it often results in enabling the patient to be able to function better so that they can focus on working on some vital issues that are going on in their hearts.
As a counselor to those who were going through clinical depression, I want to be able to focus on delving into their heart and life issues and often the meds are necessary to enable them to have the energy and motivation to tackle some difficult issues.
It is important to emphasize that this can be a long and winding journey. Depression is not like treating a broken bone that needs to be set or treating a physical wound of some sort. No, depression is much more ethereal than this. We cannot put a hand on it and treat it accordingly. We cannot touch It. It is a great mystery and does not usually conform to rules of logic. We must never take the attitude that the depressed person just needs to “snap out of it.” A vital aspect of loving our depressed neighbor is that we must take their suffering seriously. As I tell my depressed friends, I don’t know what this journey will entail, but I am willing to walk through it with them.
Love means being committed to the process. Love means showing up and walking with them. We are not there to be experts who will give them some magic bullet that will enable them to
”snap out of it.” Love perseveres. This is the beginning point and the commitment we must make as we vitally depend upon prayer and the grace of God.
As we continue this discussion I will share with you some great counsel that was written over 300 years ago. Stay tuned.