What has stood out in the visits and sharing times is the shadow of depression. Normally it isn't something that pops up in discussion, but in the past few months I have discovered it is widespread and serious. Is it a type of silent epidemic? Either those we visit are struggling, or someone they love is in the depths.
Every return to the US, Phil and I learn the new words, food facts, and medical trends of our country. This visit I am unsettled to hear how widespread depression is: among my age group and in the church.
Depression is no stranger to me. Mom has suffered since her early 50s. She was diagnosed before the understanding of chemical imbalances. She endured years of counseling, and when that failed, years of electro-shock therapy. Her brain is now suffering from the unforeseen consequences of that ineffective treatment. She has dementia symptoms, but not dementia. And she is still depressed. Only drugs helped her and the careful analysis necessary for drugs to work isn't as diligently extended to those on medicare.
Where am I going with this? Not sure. Depression is something we need to face head on. It is real; it is not a spiritual issue; it is unbearably painful. How can we non-depressed come alongside and encourage our friends in depression? What can we say and what should we not say?
I can muster a few good guesses. Romans 8:28 doesn't make anyone FEEL any better, just that they ought to feel better. And no, no, no, we don't know how you feel.
At the present moment, I have eight friends in various stages of depression. This is a serious and legitimate burden for me to carry. But how do I do this biblically? Marcia?
I doubt that depression is any more widespread now than it was in the past. The church today, at least in the States, is more honest about difficult subjects than it was. And more introspective.
Depression is a controversial subject in the church. Factions of believers disapprove of anti-depressant drugs and even Christian counseling. They believe the Word of God should be enough for us. I agree that God's Word is a powerful tool in our lives, but not used as a weapon against those who are struggling with something they cannot control.
I believe that depression, like birth defects, childhood cancer, and all illness, is a result of the fall. Because it's invisible, it may appear more controllable. Its causes are, most likely, many—spiritual, of course, but also physical, situational, and genetic.
Karen, you, though unaffected by depression, want to know how to care for those who are. Your concern alone meets a need. So many people don't care about what they haven't experienced. To express concern and to pray often for your depressed friends are responses they will appreciate—if not now, in the future.
Depressed people often believe or fear the worst. They need to hear the truth, even if they disagree. They are not in a position to believe “...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right...” but you are, and you can speak those words into them.
In my opinion, the biggest blessing you can bestow on them is to persevere in your concern. Depression, like grief, can last indefinitely.
Written by one who knows--