Depression is a sensitive topic. So much so that I almost didn’t write this article. I am not a depressed person, nor am I prone to being depressed. I know people who are, and I know of people who are. As a sister in Christ, I want to understand what they go through and what they need as much as possible.
An Outsider’s View of Depression:
Is Depression a Sin?
There are so many views and opinions on this, but I think we should clear the air. On the most basic level, sin is anything that displeases God, and depression is sorrow of soul.
Sin- Anything that displeases or separates us from God
Depression– Deep sorrow of soul
This seems to be what hangs a lot of people up. With my limited understanding, I would say this: If your sorrow drives you to the arms of God, it probably isn’t sin. If your sorrow is due to excruciating conviction, then the depression is caused by sin but intended to guide you unto repentance. In the case of ungodly depression, the depression is a symptom of sin, not a sin in itself. As an outsider, that is what I would say. I would also consider David and Job in the Bible. Both went through deep depression, some of it was due to grief, circumstances, and oppression. Not always because of sin.
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me; Therefore I will remember You Psalm 42:5-6
How Can I Help a Depressed Friend?
1) Make yourself available
This goes for any friendship, of course, but there are specific reasons why just being there helps. Even as a close friend, you may not know that your friend is depressed. For them, knowing that you make time for them is a reminder that they are loved and valued. Get to them for their sake, not for the sake of their depression. Be their friend.
2) Love them
This should go without saying. For whatever reason, some people snub, shun, and are condescending toward people with depression. That is not appropriate for any believer. We are called to love God, our brethren, our neighbors, and our enemies. No one is excluded. We need to let go of this idea that someone who is depressed is living in sin. Most likely, they aren’t. And even if they are, who are you to judge them? Look at yourself. What sin do you have a tendency to live in? Without Christ, where would you be? Did that same Savior who saved you save your friend?
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”Matthew 7:1-5
We need to be loving and humble brothers and sisters. You never know what all someone else is going through. Don’t assume their depression comes from sin. What if depression is their thorn in the flesh? They need compassion and love, just like anyone else.
3) Remind them the Truth
It’s easy for us to lie to ourselves. It’s easy for us to absorb things into our minds and forget to take out the mental garbage. All of us need to be reminded of the truth. Remind your friend that God loves them (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10). If they are being convicted, remind them of our great Savior who saved us and continues to save us from our sins (1 John 1:9). If your friend is doubting his salvation, show him fruit of Christ’s work in his life. Remind him that even if he wasn’t a Christian before, by God’s grace he can be now. Remind your friends of the Gospel!
4) Don’t force them to have joy
This might seem like strange advice. We want them to have joy, right? We do, but listen to what Scripture says:
"To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven…
A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance" Ecclesiastes 3:1;4
Your friend is in a time of mourning. A time of deep pain. They need healing and comfort. Yes, remind them of the hope they have in Christ. Yes, remind them of the joy to be found in Him. But don’t try to make them have joy. Their sanctification is not up to you; it’s between them and God. Your job is to encourage them, comfort them, and love them. They will have their time of joy again, by God’s grace.
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God. Psalm 43:5