“Just get over it.”
“Just let it go.”
“Just snap out of it.”
The tragic death of comedian and actor Robin Williams has brought to light once again the terrible battle that those who face depression fight.
But as a Christian, what should I do with depression?
Popular blogger Matt Walsh as usual has all the answers. Except this time, I think he’s wrong.
The reality is that some of the most famous saints throughout the ages fell into depression: King Saul, King David, The apostle Paul, and Martin Luther to name but just a few.
I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t get it. I’ve flirted with depression at times, been in its embrace but never intimately, not like Robin Williams. But someone I love deeply has. Someone whom I’ve walked with for 17 years has.
I will admit, there are days that I get sick of hearing about it. Being a friend to someone who struggles with depression is not easy at times. The intensity levels are high. Until grace comes.
A young pastor was recently preaching on depression and said something to the effect of “a Christian who consistently does not have joy in their lives is a poor witness for Christ.” I was so glad my friend was not in the crowd that night. Tell that person something they don’t know! Like they want to be depressed? Tell them to be joyful, it’s a commandment. But how, when joy is the elusive bird that always flies away and never lands on their soul?
As disciples of Jesus, not just followers, we are often faced with people who can’t seem to overcome certain battles. And the temptation is to “just move on.” Discard them as those who will never “get it.” How sad and wrong.
The Apostle Paul says “I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan.”
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 Good News Translation (GNT)
“8 Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. 9 But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. 10 I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
For the Christian who struggles with the darkness of depression. I say, you are not alone, you are in good company of men and women who have lived and breathed and drank deeply of the well of God’s grace, and whose life is a testimony that we all need Jesus, desperately, passionately. Grace is far more than just forgiveness of sins. Grace is the fuel that the broken soul needs to be satisfied.
For the friend of the depressed, believer or not, three suggestions.
One of the effects of depression is that you desperately want to be alone. You also desperately need to be around people. Give the gift of presence. Invade their lives, but do so quietly. Don’t ask for conversation, or give solutions. Crowds are bad. Show up. Repeatedly. Let the bad days wash over you. Don’t take it personal. Give the gift of presence.2.
2. Be patient
If the depressed person could snap out of it, they would. “Interventions” can be helpful, or completely destructive. Be careful your “interventions” are not just because you are tired of dealing with the problem. Be a true friend, who understands that eternity is a long time, and that a friendship of 20 years that helps carry a person to eternity is well worth the effort.
3. Don’t give up hope.
I have a son who has a long term debilitating condition for which medicine has no cure. My darkest moments are when I give up hope and depression reaches out her falsely embracing arms. But Hope is the fuel of the human soul. I believe in healing, even if I sometimes have a hard time believing its possible for my son.
I believe that depression is treatable, can even be overcome. The worst pronouncement you can make upon the life of anyone is that they are hopeless. Depression can be overcome. Hopelessness can’t.
Robin Williams lost hope. Suicide is a terrible waste, a devastating legacy, and a painful unexplainable wound to the loved ones. Williams I am sure could have articulated the pain that his suicide would cause his family. Logically he could have processed. Somehow though, he went from logic to hopelessness. That is why presence is so important.
When things are good, our friends like us. When things are bad, our friends need us. Be a friend who brings gentle hope today.