Helping someone suffering with depression can be a daunting task. It can be even more difficult when the person doesn’t seem to be responding to your help.
What should you do?
The other day I read a proverb that inspired me to think about this very question. Through this verse, God showed me some ways to help someone who is depressed, anxious, or otherwise struggling with self-worth.
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad.
– Proverbs 12:25 (ESV)
These two lines give us a guide for helping someone with depression. First, we need to recognize the problem; second, we must offer beneficial assistance.
The Problem: Understanding Depression
Scripture, as always, is absolutely right: anxiety (and depression) weighs heavy on a person and brings him or her down. Sometimes, way down. When helping someone who is depressed, there are two things to keep in mind: depression is pervasive and it is a journey.
Depression is pervasive
When dealing with someone who has depression, you need to realize what you’re dealing with. Depression is a mind-altering condition. It affects how the person thinks, influences how they interpret information and the world around them, and impacts their relationships with others and with God.
In short, depression affects the whole person physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.
When you try to offer help, you may find that they misunderstand, misinterpret, or reject what you say. While that makes helping more difficult, always remember that it’s the depression talking.
Depression is a journey
Another thing to keep in mind when trying to help someone who is depressed is that depression is a journey. How long that journey lasts will vary. For some it may last only a few days, whereas for others it could be months, years, or even a lifetime.
There’s no real way to predict how long the journey will last, and it can’t be rushed. However, the person can be guided along that journey, which is where you come in.
The Help: Offering Perspective-Changing Encouragement
It can be frustrating when you try to help someone who is depressed, but you’re just not seeing any improvement. Don’t give up! Instead, follow God’s advice and give them a “good word.”
On the surface, a good word sounds like a platitude, a thumb’s up, and a pat on the back. In the Hebrew, though, a “good word,” is more than saying “Buck up!” Rather, it’s an encouragement that helps the person have a different perspective.
There are there steps to giving a depressed individual a good word.
Step 1: Pray for the person
Pray for the person who is depressed. Ask God to intervene in their life, to remove all the blinders depression has created, and to give the person a new outlook.
Don’t stop there, though. Pray that God will use you and anyone else to help the person on their journey with depression.
Step 2: Be patient with the person
This is where many, I believe, fall short. When we don’t see the depressed person heal fast enough, we get impatient and give up. Remember, though, depression is a journey that can last a long time. So, be patient.
Being patient, however, doesn’t mean doing nothing. Rather, it means (1) giving God time to do what he needs to do, and (2) making a commitment to go on the journey with the person.
Walk with them through the valley of sorrow and despair, shining the light of God’s love and grace along the way. It may take weeks, years, or longer, but patiently going on the journey with the person sends a powerful message of love. Impatience communicates that you don’t really care.
Step 3: Offer a good word
Don’t just give the person a platitude or religious maxim. It’s likely they’ll ignore it, misinterpret it, or reject it. Whatever the intent behind it, depression can blind the person to the intent.
Instead, giving a good word means showing the person what they are missing. Take time to help them see what God has done in their lives. Reveal to them what God is doing right now.
Help the depressed person see another, more hopeful interpretation to things and situations. Provide guidance and mentorship, giving them a biblical, healthy perspective.
It may take a long time, but by helping someone with depression see there is another perspective to life can do much to help them overcome.
Bringing it Home
Helping someone overcome their depression can be difficult and frustrating. The advice above, based on Proverbs 12:25, can provide direction as you seek to help others.
First, consider the problem. Depression is pervasive, impacting the whole person. It affects the mind and, thus, how the person thinks and interprets things. Depression is also a journey that can last days, weeks, months, years, or even a lifetime.
Second, offer a good word. Pray for the person. Be patient with them. Give them encouragement that reveals a different perspective.
I pray God blesses you as you guide your friend or loved one along their journey with depression. Don’t give up on them. Be there for them. Be the person they need, shining the light of God’s love and grace on them as they struggle with their depression.