Depression and the God of Hope - Part 3
– Dr. Timothy Sumerlin - Denver, CO, USA
Greetings! We've been discussing "depression and the God of hope." So far I've shared about various features of depression and how God deeply desires to connect with us during these challenging times in our lives.
Today, I will share a few thoughts on how we can connect with each other and help those struggling with this sometimes debilitating problem.
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. – Ecclesiastes 4:10
Here are a few thoughts on how we are able to help our friends dealing with depression:
1) Listen with empathy. This is a universal antidote in many areas of hurt. Taking the time to stop and listen to your friend in challenging times (and in "normal" times) is always the right thing to do. Listening with empathy validates another's pain and distress and often leads to unique and creative solutions.
Listening allows you to learn the various nuances of their struggle. Try to listen in a way that helps you understand their perspective on God and life. Listening for clues to success can be an effective practical way to help. Listening can reveal and heal a heart.
God listens, Jesus was a master at listening, and so should we!
You will find the word "listen" 412 times in the Scriptures. Here are three to encourage you to listen to others:
After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. – Luke 2:46
To answer before listening— that is folly and shame. – Proverbs 18:13
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, – James 1:19
2) Use the Psalms to comfort. In chapter two of The Grief Journey, we discuss the God of Compassion and Comfort for the griever, using Psalm 31. The Psalms are a rich collections of poetry, effectively reaching into the innermost areas of the heart to grant aid to the hurting.
Sometimes we shy away from using the Word to comfort because we either are unsure of a "proper" verse to use, or we don't want to appear trite and dismissive. But, using the Psalms can be an amazing comfort to those struggling with depression. The Psalms gently and powerfully speak to us in our most difficult times.
The Psalms can instruct us during difficult times when nothing else is getting through. I've heard many friends tell me (on the other side of depression), that the only thing they could hold on to was the Word. The promises of God are unfailing.
I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— but let them not turn to folly. – Psalm 85:8
The key here is sensitivity and timing. Pray for the ability to know when and how to share the Psalms with others. Don't barge in and overpower those struggling. Ask for permission before you share something. Find a few verses that seem to meet your friend where they are at that time. The Holy Spirit will guide you in this work. This article discusses seven encouraging Psalms to battle depression.
3) Pray for and with your friend. When we don't know what to say or where to turn in the Bible, we pray. Or we pray before anything else we do. Prayer centers us on the goal of our faith – God. Instead of telling someone, "I'll pray for you" tell them you just prayed for them (after you've done so) and then continue to pray for your friend. When you see them, pull aside and pray.