When a friend has depression it can be hard to know what to do or say. It can be uncomfortable, confronting, and easy to begin hoping that someone else will step in to help them through it.
But then we look at Jesus, and we see Him being fully present, fully engaged, and fully available for people no matter the circumstance.
In your friend’s darkest hour, you can be Jesus.
Anna Mannarino, writer at Relevant Magazine, speaks from a place of personal experience when sharing advice on this topic. After suffering through depression herself, here is what she has to say to others who may not know how to help their friends through depression, but want to:
1. DON’T JUDGE
Despite the flakiness, or the confusion I may cause. Please don’t judge me. Pray that your heart will be filled with grace for me.
2. DON’T TELL ME TO BELIEVE THINGS I ALREADY KNOW
I know God is good. I know He works everything for good for those who love Him. I know I should find joy in God. And I know it is good to be reminded of these things, but please tread carefully. I know these truths should thrill my soul, but right now my soul is wounded. It isn’t a lack of faith or unbelief. Please don’t imply that my spiritual deficiencies are the cause of my depression.
3. LEARN TO LISTEN
I will express my pain in wrong ways. I need you to tell me true things, but first I need to know that I have been heard. Don’t immediately shoot me down. After actively listening to me, you can attempt to correct my faulty thinking, By this point, I may actually be able to hear you, because I feel heard.
4. DON’T TRY TO FIX IT
You can’t. There is nothing you can say that can convince me to be happy, and most attempts will lead to frustration on both sides.
5. SIT WITH ME
What I need most is someone who is willing to sit with me in my darkness. Hold me while I cry. Only after you hear me and hold me will there be any chance that I can hear the truth.
6. IF YOU GIVE ADVICE, BACK IT UP WITH SUPPORT
Tell me to do something only if you are prepared to hold my hand through it. If that is too much commitment, don’t give the advice. I am weary of hearing what I should do without the strength to do it. I don’t need cheap words. I need someone who is willing to sacrifice his or her time and comfort to something they truly believe will be helpful to me.
7. PRAY FOR ME AND WITH ME
There are several reasons why this is good:
Practical reason: If you pray with me right now, both of us know that your well-intentioned promise to pray is not taken up by life’s little urgencies.
Relational reason: Hearing you plead with God for me gives me another opportunity to feel heard. When I hear you tell God what I’ve told you, I know you have paid attention.
Like everything else, don’t expect immediate fixes from prayer. We serve a powerful God, a God who heals, but as far as I can see, He usually heals depression gradually.