By Lucas Stoltz

Colossians 3:1 tells us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” However, a believer who is in deep depression, finds this encouragement perhaps dreadful! Therefore, in Galatians 6:2, we find Paul’s encouragement to “…bear one another’s burdens…” Here is a helpful guideline drafted by David Murray, author of ‘Christians get Depressed Too’, which I modified for our congregation:

Prepare

Many in our church, and in our families, are going to get depression. It is noted that in a single year, six percent of men and ten percent of women will suffer with depression. Therefore, one needs to be prepared for it.

Read up on it. Books such as Dealing with Depression by Sarah Collins and Jayne Haynes, Grace for the Afflicted by Matthew S. Stanford, and Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray. Be prepared, and not surprised by who gets depressed.

Don’t Assume the Cause

You get cancer, or you get heart disease, and no one asks, “What did you do wrong?” You get depression, and they ask, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” Many suffer with depression as they are much more sensitive to sin and to evil in themselves and their world. Depression is also caused by circumstances around you.

But just because someone is feeling spiritually dark, spiritually desolate or spiritually abandoned, does not necessarily mean there is a spiritual cause of these spiritual feelings. These may be spiritual consequences of a physical or cognitive problem.

Evaluate the Dimensions

Here I’d like to encourage you to check for symptoms. Most books or articles on depression give you a checklist of twelve to fifteen symptoms. You’re usually looking at checking off at least five or six of these before becoming too concerned (perhaps depressed mood, lack of interest, feelings of worthlessness, poor concentration, thoughts of death).

Evaluate the depth, depression isn’t feeling a bit sad or a little anxious. There should be an unusual intensity in these feelings, so serious that it’s damaging a person’s life and beginning to weaken them. Evaluate the length, you’re not looking for someone being sad for just a few days. Usually, it’s two or three weeks before you realise someone might have depression.

Medication

Don’t rush to take antidepressants as medication should rarely be the first option unless the situation is desperately bad. Folks can often be helped as the Often, emotional upheaval is temporary and can be resolved with understanding, family support, pastoral care, counselling, and repenting of any sinful habits. There are many other things one should do before resorting to medication.

But, this doesn’t mean ruling them out either. Ask yourself if your refusal to even consider such treatment might be sinful pride, or be false presuppositions.

Treatment is ‘all-in’

One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking that just popping a pill will cure depression, this is not true. You aren’t healed by taking a pill because there’s usually a range of issues that need to be addressed. Medication can only work well when it’s part of a holistic package of care that addresses our whole being. Medication is a using crutches, or wearing an arm-sling – it is only meant to assist.

Therefore, one needs to be ‘all-in’ in terms of causes and cure. Look at your life as a whole. Look at life events, lifestyle, bodily symptoms, thinking patterns, and look at how a person is feeling, look at social factors and spiritual factors. All these play a roll in the cause and cure.

Involve Family and Friends

A counsellor or pastor can’t stay with the depressed person every day of the week. But family and friends can be much more involved and are the key to a person’s long-term recovery. This is where you can be especially helpful in encouraging a depressed friend’s or family member’s life.

Maintain spiritual disciplines.

I have established this in one of the previous articles, don’t assume that depression isn’t spiritual. An important part of a routine is maintaining spiritual disciplines. Due to the inability to focus and concentrate for long, Bible reading and prayer is often extremely difficult for the depressed person. That’s why they should keep reading and prayer short and simple.

Therefore, we need to point a depressed believer the objective truths of Scripture, point them to the character of God, and point them to the personal work of Christ. David Murray encourages us to point them to the sympathy of Christ. He is the great high priest who himself has felt overwhelmed. He has known darkness, he has known fear. He is able to encourage us and support us in the midst of our deepest darkness and he eventually is able to take us out of it as well.

Give Hope

Finally, a depressed person feels hopeless. Give them real hope. Help them to see this is a normal abnormality for a Christian living in a fallen world and a fallen body. The Bible and Church history reveal that many Christians have suffered with depression and almost all of them eventually get better. Give them hope that you will stick with them, that you won’t drop them.

Give them hope that they will actually be more useful after this than they were before it. Give them hope that they can glorify God in the darkness. And give them hope of the new heavens and the new earth in which God’s people will enjoy a new body, a new mind, a new heart, and new emotions.

Summary

Please remember, this is not a professional’s diagnoses, but a pastor’s desire to equip the saint. These points are limited in explanation for this reason. If you’d like to know more, you are welcome to contact our church office.

For more helpful resources, check out:

David Murray – Christians Get Depressed Too & Why Am I Feeling Like This

Sarah Collins and Jayne Haynes – Dealing with Depression 

Matthew S. Stanford – Grace for the Afflicted