This week depression has been on my heart.
From school aged children who are bullied to the point that leaving school or even suicide are options to the 88 year old woman who cried as she told me how much she missed her husband, how hard it was to be “feeble” and how she really didn’t even want to go on, depression is real.
According to the World Health Organization, some 300 million people around the world have depression, Specifically for us some 16.2 million adults in the United States—equaling 6.7 percent of all adults in the country—have experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. It’s estimated that 15 percent of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lifetime.
That means that you have also come into contact with someone who either has, has had, or will have depression this week.
So what do we do?
How can you and I, as believers in Christ, shine a light into the darkness of depression?
Paul says this:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
The NIV translates that “unwholesome” talk.
For most of my life I was taught that this scripture was talking about profanity. But I’m not so sure anymore.
The word translated “unwholesome” or “corrupting” actually means “rotten.” As in decayed. Like a vegetable or meat can “go bad.” So we should make sure no “rotten” talk comes out of our mouths. Or our social media feed. Or our text or email conversations.
The phrase “building up” has already been used by Paul in Ephesians 2 when he says, ““in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” – Ephesians 2:21. The same word is translated “structure” here. So a reader of the original letter would have understood that our words should be what builds us into a temple, a dwelling, suitable for the Lord.
Paul is saying that we are all part of the same body – the same temple – and as such we should build one another up in love. We should encourage one another. Our words should not be “rotten” but should “give grace to those who hear.” We should shine light into the darkness.
But how do we do that when faced with a darkness like depression?
Based on the book, Contagious Emotions: Staying well when your loved one is depressed, by Ronald Podell, here are some tips:
First, let’s talk about what NOT to do. Many times well-meaning individuals who truly love the depressed person end up inadvertently making the condition worse during their interaction.
- Don’t try to be strong for your friend by telling them to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and be tough.” Watch what you say despite your good intentions because you will tend to say the wrong thing many times and be discouraging.
- Don’t get so involved and frustrated by your friend’s seeming lack of optimismand confidencethat you wind up arguing with your friend–especially about what they should and should not do.
- Do not join your depressed friend in their depression–remember that depression is contagious and that your friend’s feelings are not your feelings.
Those tips are important. Because ultimately we are attempting to uplift and encourage. However, if we come into this without a full understanding it’s possible to become a contributing factor instead of a help.
Now let’s talk about What To Do:
- Maintain warm, caring relationships free from hostility and tension
- Learn to cope with the hardships that relating frequently with a depressed person can impose such as the tendency to be lured into destructive criticism and arguments about your friend’s passivity.
- Learn what depression is–a clinical disorder that is not something someone turns “on” or “off” and while sometimes it may be triggered by an event, it becomes a brain chemistry disorder separate from that event.
These tips I learned from the great book:
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Chances are you will encounter a person struggling with depression this week. Knowingly or unknowingly seek to build up those around you. Do your best to encourage everyone you meet.
Your kind words and understanding will not cure depression. But they will go a long way to showing the love and hope that is found in Jesus Christ.
This week let your words be “only what is good for building up – that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Shine light into every darkness you encounter.
Whether young or old, whether known or unknown, let us give grace to all those we speak to in every interaction that we have.