Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2 (ESV)
I have to chuckle at some the medicine ads on TV. In particular, the ant-depressant drug commercials with the little, sad-faced, bummed out cloud that follows behind his depressed victim like a sad, floating basset hound.
Anyone with depression or anxiety will immediately recognize the inaccuracy of this illustration. These feelings don’t trail benignly behind us. They surround us, envelope us, blind us. People dealing with anxiety and / or depression can have a hard time regaining our bearings because we can’t see through the thick fog around us.
I am writing this today for a few reasons. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, etc… I want to bring you hope in Christ. Know that you are reading words from a follower of Jesus who is walking this lonely path the same as you. It is my heart to reach out to you with comfort and joy, hope and peace, a cup of cold water. Know you are loved deeply. Know you are not alone. Know you are in His good hands, whether you feel it or not.
If you do not suffer from anxiety, depression, etc… I want to bring you hope in Christ as well. We who carry this particular thorn in our sides know it can be difficult for you to understand where we are.
Trust me. We know.
The lack of understanding of what we’re facing is painfully obvious. The reactions are astounding. They range from “where is your faith?” to “look at what so and so is going through. Your life is good, what is your problem?”
Let me dispel some misunderstandings within the church about anxiety and depression, and help you to help those in need of comfort.
1. Not all anxiety and depression is caused by sin
Yes, sin will cause one to be anxious and depressed. Guilt can be a wrenching emotion. But, just because a fellow believer is dealing with anxiety and depression, do not automatically assume they are facing / masking some hidden sin or moral failing.
2. Judge not.
There are a lot of causes of anxiety and depression. Lack of serotonin in the brain will do it. Diabetics are particularly prone to depression. A significant loss or life change can do it – even months afterward. Stress is possibly the biggest factor in anxiety today. One’s brain can only take so much stress and non-stop go-go-go before it gets tired and burnt out and can’t put two thoughts together.
Even if one’s anxiety and depression is the result of sin, Jesus forgives all who come to Him in repentance. And that is a level playing field we all are on. We all need Jesus, for more reasons and in more ways than anyone could possibly count.
3. Compassion and Empathy – Love in Action
Please understand how lonely depression and anxiety can be. Fears and worries that people normally experience are only compounded and inflated in the minds of those of us who deal with anxiety and depression.
What we need is someone who can understand what we’re going through. Someone who will help love us through the fears and doubts and anxious thoughts that tear through our minds and souls.
And, often times, it is what people do that is the greatest help.
It is amazing how some people can fear silence. We feel like we should say something, and we do.
Without much forethought.
Please understand that our feelings of isolation and loneliness are only compounded when confronted with questions of “where is your faith?” or “what is wrong with you?” For people who suffer from these disorders, it’s like telling someone with cancer to “get over it”.
We understand such reactions aren’t borne from meanness or cruelty, but basic misunderstanding. If you’ve never experienced the physical pain of a panic attack (yes, it can feel just like a jolt of electricity running through your body), then it’s hard to understand what we face. Unless you’ve been through the agony of anxiety so acute that you become anxious about being anxious, you can’t comprehend fear that deep. Until you go through the dark valley of depression – not just having the blues but the exhausting drain of joy in your life repeated day after day after day after day… – you have no frame of reference for how it feels.
Please don’t feel like you need to fix us. Please don’t think you need to fill the room with words.
Understand what we need could be something as simple as a hug. A deep, loving, brotherly / sisterly hug. We need to know we are not alone. We need kindness and understanding. We need to know everything is not going to be okay, but is okay.
We know how irrational our thoughts and fears can be. We know 90% (or whatever figure you come up with) of the things we worry about never come to fruition.
Please understand we do not wish to come across as clingy or needy. But we need a 3am friend – that person we can call day or night when we need someone to talk to. We need someone to help pull our gaze outward and out of the swirl of fearful and defeating thoughts and worries and doubts.
We need to be reminded that God loves us, even if we can’t see or feel Him because, frankly, when the negative emotions are in high gear, it is easy to not be able to see God. We need to be reminded that we are not falling apart. But, mostly, we need to know that you – the body of Christ – recognize that we are a fellow member of the same body as you and we need your help, your love, your support.
We need to know we are loved and secure.
But… really, if you stop and think about it, don’t we all?