Sadness. Gloom. Darkness. Despair.
Headaches. Digestive Issues. Sleep Problems. Low Self Esteem. Back or Muscle Aches. Exhaustion, Fatigue, Lack of Energy.
Changes in Appetite. Changes in Weight. Chest Pain.
These are just a handful of the things that can go along with depression.
Over 120 million people in the world suffer with depression.
Depression is real.
For most of my life, I have struggled off and on with depression. There are times when I’m sure I wasn’t clinically diagnosed with depression, mostly because I tend to avoid everything, especially doctors, but there have been times when I was treated for depression.
It’s sometimes scary.
It affects everything in your life.
It’s often hidden. It’s a problem that’s not always visible to those around us.
I don’t know how it varies from one person to another and that’s not so much my point in this post. What I want to stress is that sometimes, we as Christians, aren’t making things any easier for those suffering with depression.
We say well meaning phrases like…
“God will see you through this.”
“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
“God will carry you through this.”
“This is just a season.”
“It’s in the past, live for today.”
“Don’t let it bother you. God is on your side.”
That’s just a few of the phrases I’ve personally heard from people who care and love me but I’m here to say, those aren’t really that helpful. While I may believe some of those and disagree with others, none of them offer validation for a depressed persons struggles or feelings. Phrases like these only lead to more withdrawal, feelings of worthlessness. Frankly, these kinds of comments just pave the way for a deeper depression.
We end up telling ourselves things like…
“You’re not worth anyone’s time.”
“They don’t care about your problems.”
“Yeah, get over it already.”
So, how can you help someone who’s feeling down?
Is it okay and acceptable for Christians to have bad days? Bad weeks? Months? Do we allow room for sadness, pain and suffering?
There are many things people face and we all have something. Some are faced with horrible tragedies like the loss of a loved one. Some may be fighting daily battles with diseases and disabilities. Others may be facing extremely difficult times with finances due to job loss or other circumstances. All of these can also lead to depression but the difference being, most of these are visible. What about someone who’s suffering from depression because of a history that still haunts them? What about the person who still mourns a loss from 20 years ago. Or perhaps someone who’s struggling in their marriage, a wife who feels inadequate, a young person who feels lost in the world around them, an elderly neighbor who’s lonely. There are many, many instances and life situations that can lead to depression. Few of them are truly visible unless the person reaches out and most people suffering with depression tend to pull away rather than reach out.
On any given Sunday morning, our pastor calls out names of those in the hospital and suffering from different diseases and disabilities. He goes on to pray for our hospital staff, emergency workers, law enforcement, etc.
Many times, I sit there and think about the broken hearted. How often do we stop to pray for the broken hearted? When do we take time to pray for the hidden pain?
Depression is lonely.
Depression can kill.
Depression can lead to withdrawal, self-injury, suicide. Depression is not a pity party. It’s an ache deep inside your heart. It’s tears unable to flow or unable to stop pouring. It’s a lump caught in your throat. It’s anxiety and fear. It an inability to focus. It’s missing out on the important things in life – not by choice, but because there are underlying issues that we’ve faced. It’s hard times and broken homes. It’s a lifetime of hurt and heartache. It’s loss after loss and mounds of life so heavy it feels we can’t carry it anymore.
Sure, it’s up to us as individuals to work on healing ourselves, no matter what our circumstances are but speaking from my own struggles, sometimes wanting to heal just isn’t enough. While I welcome prayer as much as the next person and I most certainly appreciate prayer, sometimes the feelings can be so overwhelmingly lonely that we need a friend. We need someone to break through the walls. Someone to share all the pain with. It’s a heavy load to bear and knowing that makes it all the more difficult to put on someone else but sometimes, just knowing another person cares means the world.
Unfortunately, many who face these dark times don’t ever get that chance. They don’t give themselves a chance to reach out to others because they feel shame, because they feel unworthy, because they don’t want pity, because they’ve heard too many times, “just get over it.”
Please take the time to ask how others are doing and even when they can’t find the words, let them know they aren’t alone.
If you are someone who is struggling with depression, please, please know you are not alone. As I said above, over 120 million people in the world understand. There is help. There is hope. You may have to let down your walls and seek help for yourself, but you deserve it. Don’t let someone tell you your pain isn’t real or that you should be over it. Your pain is real and you deserve just as much love and concern as the next person.
Years ago, through my most difficult walk with depression, I had no hope. As I have grown closer in my walk with the Lord, I can assure you my head knows all the right things, I know the right verses to read and the right prayers to say. I know the right things to do and who to seek for help. It’s my heart that stumbles. I know the Lord will carry me through these times but the truth is, it doesn’t make it easy. Knowing that doesn’t make the pain disappear. That’s why it’s so important for us to encourage and embrace each other instead of dismissing someones pain as if they’re just wallowing in sorrow waiting for a pity party.
Matt Maher “Lord I Need You” – This song is very near and dear to me right now. Perhaps it’s just what you need to hear :)