Four key ways to love people with depression
A devotional by Jessica Brodie
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
–John 13:35 (NIV)
Have you ever tried to love someone with depression but it feels like there’s a wall between you? Or maybe it’s you who has depression, and while your heart longs to love well, the depression feels like a barricade so thick and high you can’t possibly overcome it.
I’ve shared before that I have a number of close family members with depression, and there have been seasons in my own life when I, too, struggled with depression. It’s a rough situation—sometimes it’s genetic, sometimes it’s because of a tough situation (such as mine, after my divorce), and sometimes it’s a combination of these. Sometimes someone’s depression responds to medication or other aids, and it’s manageable—you can reasonably function in the midst of the dark spell, even though you are at an emotional low. Other times, you’re on the wrong depression medicine for your body, or your medication stops working or you can’t afford it anymore, and you spiral ever downward until you fear you’re headed toward rock bottom.
If you have depression and you are struggling to love your people well in the midst of it, please know your efforts and your suffering are seen and appreciated. Understand you are like a battery that has run out of a charge, or a cup of water that has been emptied. You need to be recharged to run again, or filled back up with water again in order to pour out that love upon the world. Accept the grace God’s love gives you in this time. Love is, whether we can show it or not.
If you love someone with depression, here are four key things that can help:
1. Love with acceptance: Depression isn’t something you can “get over.” It’s not a choice or a mindset, and it can be paralyzing. Like diabetes or cancer, it can be largely invisible, and it’s nobody’s fault. Often it’s inherited. So keep this in mind as you interact with the person you love. Accept them as they are. You don’t need to take abuse in the form of verbal attacks, but do understand their low mood isn’t personal or something they can change. Love them anyway.
2. Love with grace. People with depression often feel lonely, hopeless, and isolated. Again, don’t take it personally if they push you away or stop calling. Let them know you care and that you are there when they are ready. Send a written note, text, or voicemail saying hi. Your loved one might be pushing others away, but they don’t necessarily want to be alone—rather, they often just feel alone. Help them know they are not alone.
3. Love with open ears. Listening to your depressed loved one is often the biggest gift you can give them. You don’t need to offer wisdom or advice or even understanding. In fact, sometimes there’s nothing at all that can be said. But being a safe person, offering that place where they can talk about their feelings, can be exactly what they need.
4. Love with peace. Speaking to His disciples in John 16:33, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The world can be a chaotic, troubled, terrible place sometimes. It is not heaven. Culture’s lies battle hard for our hearts and attention. People with depression are often very susceptible to this, and it can make them feel worse. But in Jesus, we can find peace. One way we can love people with depression is to show them that same peace, whether we introduce them to Jesus or simply model the peace of Christ for them, opening the door for the Spirit to move better within them.
These are just four ways to love someone with depression. And if you are that depressed person, know you can use these strategies with yourself, too. Be your own friend. Give yourself that same acceptance, grace, listening love, and peace you’d give someone else struggling with what you experience.
Your turn: Do you have any other tips to share? Any other words of wisdom to help loves others in the midst of sadness, anger, frustration, or despair? I invite you to share in the comments below.
Let’s Pray: Loving God, please help me to know Your deep, vast love in the midst of depression. You know our hearts better than we do ourselves. Help us love and reflect You and pass on that love in ways that are sensitive and beautiful and fully led by the Holy Spirit that lives within each of us. In Jesus's Name I pray. Amen.
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden.
She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team.
Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com.