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Monday, June 27, 2016

The Faces of Depression

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 23:35 ESV).
 
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12 ESV)

"Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor." (Romans 12:10 ESV)

"...with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:2-3 ESV)

What do these scriptures have in common?  They all say, "love one another".  I ask you, do we truly love one another as Christ has commanded?  Loving each other in the Body of Christ is an honorable calling, but we do not do it like we should, especially when it comes to fellow believers who have a mental disorder.  It's too complicated, too uncomfortable, too unknown, too hard to understand, etc. the list can go on.  Do you know or suspect that another believer is suffering silently--that something seems a little off?  The face of depression can look 'normal'.  I guess normal means looking like nothing is wrong with life.  It can be deceiving, right?  It is easy sometimes to put on a face of niceties, to say you are fine when you are not because that is just easier.  Because does anyone really want to know how we are---really?  No one expects people to spill their guts of emotions when asked that question.  And if someone by chance did---would you know how to respond?  Would you love that person through their mental challenges, their sadness, their despondency?  It is uncomfortable when we know nothing or very little of mental disorders and are suddenly faced with it.  It can be unsettling.  Truly, no one knows what it really feels like unless they have experienced it.  And I am not talking about situational or circumstantial depression that is gone in a week or two.  I am talking about chronic depression that can be debilitating.

Will we go out of the way to help someone like we would help other believers with, for example, babysitting a single mother's children when she needs a break, help the elderly with home maintenance--meeting people's basic needs.  But we are missing the mark when we miss the faces of depression.  The last thing your fellow believer with mental illness wants is to be treated like a weirdo, like they are crazy, like an untouchable.  That's why the silence stays silent.  They already feel like they are abnormal to the world.  

Compassion and listening is the best help you can give--along with an abundance of love--to the faces of depression.  Try to imagine it for yourself.  We do not want to leave these believers behind in the face of their needs.  We go to prayer for those suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes.  We need to go to prayer on a regular basis for those suffering with depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.  We are called to love ALL people.  Look around in your church, ask God to show you those who suffer in silence and how to meet them right where they are at.  God did.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen.  Do not try to preach to them, like other believers might have done--that if they had more faith they could overcome their depression.  Please do not be that believer.  You may mean well, but you are wrong.  Don't make them the victim of some horrible shunning from God that is not even in God's character.  Be sensitive.  Listen.  Check up on them--visit them, or better yet, invite them to go somewhere non-threatening that may lift their mood, however temporary.

Do your research on mental disorders.  Is there a mental health professional in your church who can give you some insight in how to minister to your fellow believer?  YOU can make a difference in making one feel accepted, rather than rejected.  We have the power of God, through the Holy Spirit, in us to accomplish so much.  And sometimes, we are looking at witnessing to unbelievers and trying to lead them to Christ rather than looking at who and what is in our midst right now who need our help.  Will you step out of your comfort zone to imitate Christ's love, to be your brother's (or sister's) keeper...to love one another?