8 Ways to Help Depressed Christians

A depressed person feels hopeless. Give them hope.

Don’t assume that depression has been caused by specific personal sin. That is a common reaction depressed people find in the church. You get cancer, or you get heart disease, and no one asks, “What did you do wrong?” You get depression, and they ask, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?”

 

Many of us struggle with what to do when someone we know is depressed. We want to help but fear, confusion, or misunderstanding holds us back. So, let me suggest eight guidelines for helping depressed people.

1. Prepare for it.

Eventually, someone in your church or in your family is going to get depression. It is the third most common reason for people consulting the family doctor. In any one year, six percent of men and ten percent of women will suffer with depression.

Prepare by reading up on it. A couple of good books are Dealing with Depression by Sarah Collins and Jayne Haynes, a short book you will read it in an hour, and Grace for the Afflictedby Matthew S. Stanford, which is more demanding and more detailed.

Be prepared to be surprised by who gets it. Contrary to the caricatures, it is not just sad, lazy, pessimistic people that get depression. It’s also type-A personalities, it’s high achievers, it’s happy people, it’s people with everything going well in their life.

2. Don’t assume personal sin.

Don’t assume that depression has been caused by specific personal sin. That is a common reaction depressed people find in the church. You get cancer, or you get heart disease, and no one asks, “What did you do wrong?” You get depression, and they ask, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?”

In fact, I’ve found that sometimes it’s the most godly who are most likely to suffer with depression. That’s because they are much more sensitive to sin and to evil in themselves and their world. They are also the ones most overcommitted in their service of the Lord. And, of course, they are special targets for satanic attacks.

Just because there are spiritual symptoms does not mean there is a spiritual cause of a depression. Just because someone is feeling spiritually dark, spiritually desolate or spiritually abandoned, does not necessarily mean there is a spiritual cause of these spiritual feelings. These may be spiritual consequences of a physical or cognitive problem.

3. Measure the dimensions.

Check the width, depth, and length of the symptoms. Regarding width of symptoms, in most books or articles on depression, you’ll find a checklist of twelve to fifteen symptoms. You’re usually looking at checking off at least five or six of these before becoming too concerned.

In terms of depth, depression isn’t feeling a bit sad or a little anxious. There should be an unusual intensity in these feelings, so serious that it’s damaging a person’s life and beginning to incapacitate them.

As to length, you’re not looking for someone being sad for just a few days. Usually, it’s two or three weeks before you are thinking, “Hey, this person might have depression.” So, check the width, depth, and length of the symptoms. A medical doctor can help with this and other aspects of depression.

4. Don’t rush to or rule out medication.

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