THE ABIDING LIFE
Walking with a Friend through the Valley of Depression
By Gwen Sellers
Encourage your friend in small ways. Send her a text. Write her a quick email letting her know you're thinking of her. Mail her a note telling her she is valuable to you. Leave her small gifts—a piece of chocolate, flowers, a funny comic strip, a packet of hot chocolate or flavored coffee, a tube of scented lotion. Ask if you can help her with errands while you're running your own. Give her a hug or a pat on the shoulder. These are reminders of her worth to you (and to God). They are glimpses of what makes life worth living. They are reasons to keep battling the darkness.
Be quick to forgive. All of us say things we don't mean at times and treat others poorly. People experiencing depression may be so overwhelmed by their emotional state that they lose some of their prior social graces. They might burst out in unwarranted anger at something you said. They might stand you up. It can be difficult to take. But recognize that these behaviors are probably not out of true malice. They are from a hurt heart that doesn't know how to interact with the world.
Pray for your friend and for yourself. You might feel frustrated with her, burdened for her, angry at her, saddened by her pain. These are all things that God wants to bear with you (1 Peter 5:7). He loves your friend more deeply than you ever can. He wants to hear your heart for her. He also wants to guide you in how you can best love her through this time.
Be cognizant of emotional contagion. Sometimes when we are around depressed people we become so understanding of their emotions that we begin to experience them ourselves. Your friend needs someone willing to sit in the pain with her, but she doesn't need you to stay stuck there. Make sure that you have life-giving friendships and a good support group. Share your burdens with God and with others (while keeping your friend's privacy). Do things you enjoy. Take care of yourself. Remember that your friend's experience is not your own. You might find yourself questioning God and His goodness. Engage with that. Search the Scripture on suffering. Ask mentors for their thoughts. Stay in tune with the Holy Spirit and seek His strength.
In the end, the best way to be a friend to someone who is depressed is to love them. First Corinthians 13:4-7 says, "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
What do you think? Are these tips helpful? Have you or someone you loved experienced depression? What did you or your friends do that helped (or didn't help)?
Walking with a Friend through the Valley
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