…cannot be over emphasized for the person wrestling with depression. They stand by, support, encourage, and pray for the depressed loved one. It is hard, long, tiring work. Many times it is above and beyond the call of “duty.” I thank God for all of them.
One not-so-helpful comment
On occasion during the Lenten season I will hear some well-intentioned person say, “You know, if you would just avoid all that Lenten stuff it would help. The music and orders of service during Lent can be a real downer. Sing some of the uplifting songs of faith.”
I appreciate the concern and I listen closely to this kind of comment. Somewhere in the back of my mind I would agree with that. But my heart recoils from such advice. Why? I think that the Lenten focus gives expression to things I would rather not express, but need to express. The hymns, Scriptures, contemplative evening services draw me; they speak to my own hurting heart. They show that the God of all compassion understands me such that His Word is able to capture my sense of alienation. I can take even my deepest despair to Him. He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), even in the deep valley of depression.
Here are two passages that speak so well to this: one expresses the pit of depression, the other gives hope in the midst of depression. Psalm 137:1-4
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. Upon the willows in the midst of it we hung our harps. For there our captors demanded of us songs, and our tormentors mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” How can we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land?
Depression is a “foreign land.” Certainly not the physical displacement that the Israelites experienced in the Babylonian captivity, but still real “foreign-ness.”
The end is in sight
One friend who also struggles with depression wrote to me this week about the differences between physical sickness and depression. With physical diseases, we usually know that they have an end. But with depression there is often the sense that not only is there no end, but even if there is an end, it is nowhere in sight. And that feeds the depression.
Paul helps us with the view of the end in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
In this text God is giving hope (the end is coming!) through Paul to those who experience the trials of life. In my depression I need to hear that, read that, meditate on that. That is real life. In depression, it can overwhelming, but this text lifts my eyes above the immediate.
For the person depressed this can be the lifeline of hope. Thus, as one who struggles with depression, I would ask that you not take away the Lenten themes, Scriptures, and hymns. They speak to where I am. If you are not in that place, then a quiet request for the sake of the weaker brother or sister—read these texts, sing these songs, in the company of those who are hurting. That is true community. It will not always be this way. Perhaps in six months the roles will be reversed. We need one another.