“a state of feeling sad
a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way” (Miriam Webster)
Depression is a very tough subject for a lot of people to talk about. Especially for people in the church; those who have depression, have had depression, or know someone who has or has had depression. What I find interesting is that the two versions of Webster’s definition of depression are very similar to the two different viewpoints people have on what depression is.
Depending on who you ask depression is either just a feeling of sadness that someone needs to stop dwelling on and get over; or, for those who truly understand the scope of this disease, it is a serious condition that has a huge impact on those who suffer from it and those who know someone suffering.
How often have we all heard the saying, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”? For those who adhere to this saying it seems ludicrous that God would allow someone to suffer from depression because He doesn’t allow us to face things we can’t handle right? Surely that feeling of depression is an unwillingness to “buck up”, pick yourself up by your bootstraps, and move on. Right?? Wrong! This is so wrong. And well, this saying is not entirely true to be honest because we often leave out the ending, “God does not give us more than we can handle WITHOUT HIS HELP.” When we as Christians tout this cliche saying without acknowledging the part about us needing His help, we unknowingly make it extremely difficult for those in the church or even outside of it for that matter, to talk about their depression. Because lets face it, who is going to come out and talk about how weak they are when the person they’re reaching out to is making them feel even weaker?
Here’s something that most people outside my close circle of friends and family, and even some in it, do not know about me; I have suffered from clinical depression. I made sure to write the word clinical in front because as much as some would like to argue, depression is a disease just the same as cancer, diabetes, hepatitis are. Depression is not just a feeling of sadness that we need to get over. It is not something that someone simply can get over without the right kind of help. I know this because I have been there. I have been the one depressed, so depressed in fact that I was ready to commit suicide. I have also seen first hand what depression does to other people, my mother suffered from Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression and ultimately did commit suicide as a result, and I have multiple family members and friends who suffer from depression. Some have gotten the help they needed, and others, like my mother, suffered for a very long time and were never able to just “get over it”.
But why not? After all, God doesn’t give us more than we can handle right?? Ugh, personally I hate this saying. When we allow this misconception to color the way we address people who suffer this disease we slam shut the doors of conversation that could be the very key to helping people. No where in the Bible does God say we need to just “get over it” no, instead He says, “take my hand, walk with me, and I will help bring you through it.” And this is exactly what we need to say to anyone we know who may be suffering from depression. Because this is the very thing they need in order to overcome this disease.
They need champions, cheerleaders, shoulders to cry on, and people to drag them out of their sadness back into the world of the living. They need to be reminded of the love that God has for us as individuals. They need a reason to hope. They need to be reminded of their beauty and worth; to be told that yes, life Is worth living! And sometimes, they need someone to take them to counseling appointments and then to the pharmacy to fill their prescriptions for the medicine God provided doctors with the knowledge and ability to create.
But most of all, they need God! Because lets face it, none of us are strong enough. None of us can handle everything God allows us to come up against; and we aren’t supposed to. If we could, we wouldn’t need Him would we? Why would God create a scenario where His beloved children are strong enough on their own to handle every challenge and ultimately don’t need Him anymore?
The answer is, He wouldn’t. Obviously! Depression is just another thing we are faced with that God uses for His glorification. When someone with depression finds the help they need and is reminded of God’s love for them that is the ultimate glorification of the Lord. When they come to someone they consider to be a friend however, and that person tells them that they need to stop dwelling on their sad feelings then God cannot be glorified by that. How could He when that person is likely to walk away feeling more depressed and dejected and withdraw further into themselves and further away from the hand of the Lord reaching out to them?
Like I said, I’ve been there. I reached out to someone I trusted and had them totally and completely crush me with their disregard for the seriousness of what I was feeling. And thankfully, I know what a difference it makes when someone takes this disease seriously. I can honestly say that I am alive because of it.
So next time, when someone you know, or even someone you don’t, brings up the subject of depression, think before you speak. It’s not a black and white issue as much as we would like to think it is. Yes, happiness is a choice we make every day, but some of us need A Lot more help making that choice than others. We have to see that and be sensitive to it. Depression, PTSD, Postpartum Depression, Bipolar Disorder…. the list goes on and on; these terms refer to actual diseases. Diseases we need to acknowledge and be careful what we say and think when they come up.
On a more personal note: After having my baby girl this winter I was very close to sinking back into those feelings of depression. Hormones and chemicals were whirling amok in my body and I was faced with a set of challenges and stressors I have never come up against before. I was so afraid of what would happen if I gave into the feelings of worthlessness and my own inability to cope. I have honestly cried more in the past two months than I have in 3 years. But thankfully I have a husband and friends who know how very real this disease is and they have been here every day to help me. They have never told me that I should be able to handle it on my own. God has given me these people to help me with this disease that I have. Because God didn’t give me this disease and expect me to be able to handle it on my own. He allows me to face this with His help, with His hand on my shoulder, for His ultimate glory. Its because of this that I can happily say I am not sinking. Some days I may feel like I am simply treading water but I am not sinking.
Remember, God Does give us things we cannot handle, because through these experiences we are forced to turn to Him for help and He is glorified in our weakness. So please think before you speak when someone talks about depression. Be sensitive, and don’t let ignorance or misunderstanding stand in the way of someone receiving the help they need or of what God may be orchestrating behind the scenes.