By Justin Tucker
No one is immune to feeling depressed. Not “normal” people. Not people in our churches.
Not even pastors.
Regardless of who you are, it’s easy to forget who God is during a dark season.
But at the same time, it’s encouraging to know our Savior has suffered in similar ways. When Isaiah references the Messiah to come, he writes in chapter 53, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.”
Jesus addressed His own sorrow and grief over the sins of mankind. In Mark 14:34, He says, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death.”
In our deep, dark seasons of life, Jesus knows what it’s like. If He’s not immune to dark times, we certainly aren’t.
And while most of us—myself included—aren’t licensed counselors or mental health professionals, we’re still called to care for brothers’ and sisters’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Whether it’s a family member, someone in your congregation, a friend, or even yourself. here are four practical, helpful reminders to help someone wade through feelings of depression.
No book or prescribed action will make your depression magically go away. Too often in life we hear, Do this thing and things will get better.
For me, in a ministry context, one example of this is when I read evangelism books, and I get a prescription for evangelism: Do this, do that, and you’ll win everyone on your street to Christ.
It just doesn’t work like that.
The same thing applies with depression: If you pray this or read that Scripture, you’re going to feel better tomorrow.
It’s simply not true; you may feel better, but there are no guarantees. Countless Christians have struggled with depression their entire lives. I don’t have a “why” for that, except to say mankind is fallen.
Run to God and listen to Him
I have two toddlers at home. My wife and I often tell them, “Obey first and fast.” They must be in a position to listen before they can do this. In the middle of sorrow, run first and fast to the Lord—and listen to Him through His Word.
When we’re in a dark season if life, we don’t necessarily feel like doing this.
I’ve done a few ultra marathons. I remember there were parts of the race when I felt nauseated. The last thing I wanted to do was eat. But getting the nourishment from food was the only thing that would cure my nausea.
The same goes for when we’re feeling far from God. Sometimes, the last thing we feel like doing is reading Scripture or praying. But your soul—your spirit—needs this nourishment.
Here’s a tip for when you’re not in the state of mind to follow a Bible reading plan: Whatever day of the month it is, go to that chapter of Psalms and read it—even if you don’t feel like it.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is just show up.
Preach the gospel to yourself
When we are depressed—whether for clinical reasons or due to a tough situation we’re in—it can feel like everything good and true is stripped away from us. But the gospel—the one thing eternal—cannot be stripped away.
As Paul said from prison, “The word of God is not bound” (2 Timothy 2:9).
In order to preach the gospel to yourself, you must talk to yourself instead of listening to yourself.
Distinguish between the voices.
The enemy likes to get in our heads. He might whisper to us, You’re worthless. To a degree, he’s right: on our own, yes, we’re worthless—apart from Christ. But if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a child of God, made by Him, and redeemed by Him.
And that alone gives us worth.
Find loving community
The natural reaction for many of us when we are feeling low is to isolate ourselves. But we were created for community.
While the first place we should go for help is God, the second place we should go for help is to His people. Believers should be able to approach people within their church, raise a white flag and say, “I’m struggling. I need help.”
If you find yourself as an individual or part of group who gets approached by someone who needs help, don’t feel pressure to have the right thing to say. Often, the most therapeutic thing you can do for someone who struggles with depression is to listen.
That’s what a healthy church should be—a place where a struggling person is surrounded in love, not condemnation.
- Depression and the Ministry
- Pastors Experience Depression, Too
- 13 Stats on Mental Health and the Church
JUSTIN TUCKER is pastor of adult discipleship and missions at Grace Community Church in Nashville, Tennessee.