Handling a Depressed Christian

As many of you know, I’ve been through the ringer of depression (more like a black hole). I had a major breakdown in March of 2010. It came out of nowhere and has been a periodic uninvited guest in my home ever since.

I sometimes joke(?) with people that I can never be sure which “me” is going to wake up tomorrow. Will it be joyful me? (who I love). He’s the one who sees life positively and has no time for worry? Or will it be broken me (who I hate)? He can’t dwell on anything but the bad and sees no hope in life (and doesn’t even act like there’s a God)? I have stabilized a lot over the years and wake up six days a week as the joyful me.

This is one of those six days so I thought I would write some things about depression. I’ve accumulated a list of seven things depressed people (Christian’s especially) are told. They’re meant to help them out of their depression. I’ve had these things said to me. I’ve (unfortunately) said most (if not all) of them to others who were depressed. I often said the first one to my depressed sister who took her life. But these things are wrong.

Please Note: None of these things necessarily come from evil intentions. These come from people who sincerely want others to recover. However, they do come from the evil flesh that dwells in all of us: judgmenalism. I hope this becomes clear as you read.

1. “Just Snap Out of It”

I don’t know how many times I said this to my depressed sister before she took her life. “Just snap out of it, Angie.” From my perspective, I thought you could. I thought that being depressed or happy was an act of the will. If you just make the right decision, you can think your way out of it. But more often than not, depression is not an act of the will. It is an interplay between the mind and the brain that you can’t snap out of. Don’t you think that people who are depressed would “Just snap out of it” if it were that easy? Remember, they don’t want to be depressed. It is the worst torture that one can possibly imagine.

2. “Think Positively”

Again, this might seem right. Please realize that most of the time a depressed person can’t think positively. That’s why they’re depressed. If I were to tell you there’s a giant elephant in your room, would you believe me? What if I said that all you have to do is close your eyes and trust it to be true? You’d probably say, “I can’t!”Telling someone who’s depressed to “think positively” completely misses the problem. They can’t think positively any more than you can believe there’s an elephant in the room. They don’t want to think negatively. They just can’t stop.

3. “Confess Your Sins”

Trying to find a sin trigger in the life of the depressed is a hard proposition. There may be some evident sin in their lives that they need to deal with, but consider this:

1) Everyone Sins But Not Everyone’s Depressed

There is evil in everyone. According to Martin Luther we’re all, simul justus et peccator which is Latin for “at the same time just and sinners.” Additionally, according to the Gospel of John we have to admit to sin in our lives:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:8 (ESV)

All to often a lengthy (and often judgmental) assessment of every sin the depressed person has takes place. Once they’re identified they’ll try to get rid of them one by one. This is both impossible and can cause deeper depression. The depressed may believe you and think getting rid of all these sins is the answer. When they realize that this cannot happen this side of heaven, the depression deepens.

2) They Can’t Change the Past

Sometimes the sins that led to depression are from a years of lifestyle choices. They build up over the years. However, bringing these up does little good. They can’t back up and change their choices. If they could, they would.

3) They Already Know They’re Sinners

The depressed person likely knows if it’s sin that’s causing their depression. If it’s alcohol, drugs, sexuality struggles, etc. bringing this up may only harden the person. It can make them defensive. If sin is causing the depression (and that’s a big “if”) tact and prudence should be used in abundance. This will allow them to recognize their sin without becoming defensive.

4. “Get On Some Meds Immediately!”

I am no Tom Cruise. I believe that psychiatric medications are often the answer and are a gift of God. I believe that there are many out there who are not taking these drugs due to a taboo or stigma attached to them that shouldn’t be. However, the use of mind altering drugs also needs to be considered very deeply. I also think that they are prescribed too easily without a plan of attack.

As hard as it is to say, I believe that some people need to go through the darkness without an immediate way out. Many of the Psalms might not have been written had these drugs been available to David. His ups and downs would have been leveled by a script from the doctor. But we needed David to go through his mental bipolar disorder (if that is what it was). The same might be said of Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation. He definitely needed to be on something! However, God used his mental anxiety for great things.

For some people—as difficult as it is to hear—God wants you to go through this darkness. But this is not for everyone. These drugs are a blessing of God when used properly. For some, they can get you over the “hill” of darkness and are only needed for a short time. For others, they are needed permanently for the stability of the mind.

All I am doing is asking you to consider that the depressed person may be a David or a Luther to the church. Don’t immediately demand that they get on these drugs.

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Book Suggestion: Genius, Grief, & Grace: A Doctor Looks at Suffering & Success (Biography of great saints of the past who suffered greatly, but were used greatly.


5. “I’ve Been Through Worse”

I had a relative say this to me with absolute resolve and conviction in her voice. She said, “Michael, whatever you have gone through, I have been though worse! So don’t try to give me your sob story.” She meant well, but this is not something to say to a depressed person. It may be true that you have been through worse and been able to get out of it. What you may not know is that this is meaningless to the depressed for two reasons:

  1. Once you’re in the black hole of depression, the hole itself is the worst thing you’ve gone through. The tragic events that might have brought you there often pale in comparison.
  2. Suffering is relative. There are always going to be people who have it worse than you. This isn’t the issue. It’s how you perceive and internalize your suffering relative to who you were before. For some, the loss of a job can make them suicidal. For others (who live in harsher climates of society) even the loss of a child is expected and absorbed with less depression.

So depression is a very relative thing. Letting people know that you’ve been through worse—while it might be objectively true—can be both unwise and irresponsible. It will only harden the person in their depression.

6. “God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle”

This is in my top ten things of what the Bible does not say that Christians often quote as Scripture. There is nowhere in the Bible that says God will not give us more than we can handle. It does say that he will in temptation provide a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). But never does it say that God will not give us more pain and suffering than we can take.

Many Christians have suffered to the point of death at the hands of executors. Many suffer to the point of death at their own hands. All we can say is that, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18). This may not solve our depression, but it does give us perspective. Even if our depression has caused us enormous doubt this can be helpful.

7. “Depression Is a Sin. You Should Have Joy In Your Life”

This always comes from the person who has never experienced real depression. Once you have, you would never say something like this again. Unfortunately, this often is preached to us by those who feel that it’s their job to deliver us from this evil. But is depression a sin? I don’t think so.

Matthew 5:4 says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” This mourning should not be thought of as some temporary bout with suffering. It’s not purely circumstantial (like mourning for the death of a loved one). The Greek word for mourn (pentheo) is a present active participle. It is actually the best word to use for “sadness” or “depression.” Christ is saying that those that are always (present, active) sad and down, will be comforted. The comfort, in the context, does not come in this life, but in the life to come.So far from being a sin, depression is often going to be the progressive state of the “blessed.”

How You Bear the Burdens of the Depressed

So, if these are the things you don’t do, what do you do? If you have a loved one who’s depressed, it is hard to handle. It can cause depression in you if you are not careful. You feel so helpless. All you want to do is solve it. Please understand, it’s not your job to solve the depression. You may be able to be a great influence in getting the depressed to feel better, but God has not given you the responsibility to deliver a loved one from depression. Let yourself off the hook. Don’t make yourself responsible for something you cannot do. Though you maybe used by Him to bring the depressed to wholeness, you are not the Holy Spirit.

Most of what you “say” will only cause more depression, as shown above. This was the mistake of Job’s friends. They stayed silent for seven days (Job 2:13). They should have stayed silent for good. After seven days they couldn’t take it any more and made all the mistakes we’ve looked at.

Silence, with your arm around the depressed is the best advice. There may be a time for verbal inquiry, but this needs to come naturally and without judgement. You’re not given a podium to give a sermon to the depressed; you’re given arms to hold them. Even if this doesn’t “work” your goal should not be to bring them out of their depression. Your goal should be to be there for them their entire life if necessary. It is a terrible burden to bear when this is a loved one, I know. But this is how we bear the burdens of the depressed.

“Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts.” – Margaret Runbeck

When someone is there for you without all the answers and requiring you to follow their advice “or else…”, you have a true friend. And, unfortunately, these friends have been rare from the beginning of time.

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    33 replies to "7 Things NOT to Say to a Depressed Christian"

    • Allan

      Thanks Michael. Very helpful.

    • Susan Saterfiel

      Michael, you have been a great teacher to us and I had no idea of what you have been through. I am now praying for your recovery and for your continuing to be a light in this dark world. I praise God for you and for your ministry. Thank you for all that you do.

    • Wayne Greulich

      I, myself have had to deal with depression, so I know much of what you speak of. I also realize that each person is an unique individual and all cannot be put into the same box.
      However, I have to disagree with your claim of #6 that this is not found in Scripture. Unfortunately, you only quote part of the verse. The Greek does make it clear that God will not put us into “trials/testings” which are beyond what one can bear. The Amplified Bible brings this out: 1 Corinthians 10:13 (AMP) – “For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently. ”
      Scripture also makes it clear that “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NASB). If Christ is not sufficient to take us through the circumstances of life, then why should one submit to Him? I am not saying that medication may not be needed for a time, but Christ either is the “Lord God, Who healeth thee” or He isn’t. He is either the Christ, who “Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:17) or He isn’t.
      I don’t claim to have all the answers – or even the majority of them. However, I think sometimes we don’t take an aggressive stand on what Scripture clearly reveals (Matthew 11:12).

      • C Michael Patton

        I do agree with you about temptation. God will give us a way out of temptation. But depression is not a temptation.

        • Wayne Greulich

          I think a deeper look at the Greek word used for “temptation” [πειρασμός peirasmos, the noun form] and “tempted” [πειράζω peirazō, the verb form] will help to expand our understanding of what our God offers to His children.

          As well as “temptation,” peirasmos” also means “trial, testing, experience.” Likewise, the verb, “peirazō” means “tempt, try, put to the test.” We find this to be true to the Scriptures where it is used. While the verb is often translated in the NT as “tempt” or “to tempt,” there are modern translations which give the “testing” and “trying” meaning to word. We find an example of this in Hebrews 2:18 (NLT2) – “Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested” (see this verse also in the Amplified Bible).

          The noun form is translated “trial” or “testing” more often in modern translations than the meaning of “temptation.” Examples of this are: James 1:2 (NASB) – “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,”; 1 Peter 1:6 (NIV) – “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”; and Galatians 4:14 (NASB) – “and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself.”

          I don’t know about you, Michael, but in hindsight I would have to describe my years of depression as a trial.- a long trial. I praise the my God, who is able to deliver us from trials and testings, as well as temptations.

          If the redemption and restoration of Christ does not extend to every destruction of sin in this world and the lives of His children, then is not Christ’s finished work insufficient and/or a delusion? But Christ and His work ARE sufficient for ALL trials, sicknesses, and hurtful, destructive experiences His redeemed come into. “Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.”

          I will be the first to admit that I don’t understand it all – but I do understand that Christ calls us to stand in faith upon His Word and His purchase of our healing, health, and wholeness – in body, spirit, soul, and mind.

          Should one submit to the limited and sin-warped evaluations and conclusions of earthly “experts” or submit to the complete, unlimited, omniscient love of the Lord of lords? Should a disciple of Christ go with the pop psychology of the time or with the eternal Scriptures?

          It is not that the earthly “experts” have nothing to contribute to the issues of so-called mental illness, but does not the testimony of Scripture supercede all? Did not Christ heal those with “mental illnesses” when He walked the earth – be they demonic or other-sourced based? Did He not come to “destroy the works of the devil?”(1 John 3:8). Since “Jesus Christ is the same today, and yesterday, and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8), why do we not look to Him for deliverance, healing, and wholeness.

          There is much more I could share on what Scripture teaches. However, I believe that, in Christ, God provides all we need in this life to have faith in Him and His Word, which brings us victory over all trials, testings, temptations, diseases, sicknesses, weaknesses in this world (1 John 5:4).

        • C Michael Patton

          It could be. But the context determines word usage. Just because a word could have such connotation, does not mean that it does. I think the reason why nearly all translations (except for—-that I know of—-The Good News and the NET Bible (irony, pure irony!)) opt for “temptation” rather than “testing” is because of the sins Paul was talking about before and the idea of human experience tied to “a way of escape”. And most importantly the idea of suffering connected to testing and escaping. If God was saying that suffering always had a way of escape, we have a terrible success rate, especially when it comes to the best Christians. Think of the sufferings of Paul himself. They were definitely testing as well, but what was his escape? Not to have them cease. Not to have his life spared of prison then the sword. The same with the other Apostles.

          Suffering is the lot of the Christian. This type of testing we will not escape. Depression is also suffering. I don’t think it is wise to tell people God will not give you more than you are able to bear helps or is Biblical.

          Depression often is more than we can bear, but we often have to bear it anyway. When you tell someone that God has a way of escape for them and they are not finding it or choosing not to take it, I don’t think you understand the nature of some depression and I think you have broadened the interpretive gap of that passage so far if just makes the depression worse. Here is a good article on it.

        • Clark Coleman

          The bottom line here is whether it is possible for a chemical imbalance to affect the brain and cause depression. If so, then this is no different from taking heart medication that is prescribed for a chronic condition. If not, then it is all mental/spiritual.

          If you know of any Bible verses that inform us that chemical imbalances in the brain never occur, I would like to see them. Or, if you want to be consistent and apply the verses you quoted to other purely physical ailments, then do so. On the other hand, if you have medical proof that chemical issues in the brain that affect behavior do not exist, then that should be posted, also.

        • Gregory Anderson

          Thank you for your comments, Clark. It saved me from doing a poor job of it myself. I find it irritating personally, as a disciple/student of Jesus when folks talk about not taking things out of context while they proceed to do just that. And I mean either in the spiritual or the secular domains.

    • muzjik

      I think a lot of depressed people feel a tremendous amount of guilt. Yes, often people fall into depression following sad and hard events, that spirals into the pit. But sometimes everything is wonderful and there is no external cause to identify…which contributes to the sense of hopelessness. How can things “get better” if there really is nothing so terribly wrong in the first place?
      I can’t image your aunt’s “I’ve been through worse” being at all helpful…which, of course, why you included it as a “do not say”.

    • Ken McLaggan

      When reading your article, I could not help but notice that all efforts to “get better” and overcome this awful condition, were inwardly focussed.
      It was a matter of “what can I (me) do to fix this thing?”

      Even claiming scripture was really the same thing.

      I used to have bouts of depression too (not nearly as bad as yours, though).
      I found there is one sure-fire method to break the yoke and it is so simple!

      All you need to do is go out and do a really good deed for someone in need.
      It does not necessarily have to be an acquaintance or friend.
      Do it with all sincerity and expect no reward.
      Only have the good of that person in mind, in other words, focus on them, not yourself.
      Try it, I think you will be amazed.

      A word of advice though….your body will scream out at you not to do it.
      It will find every excuse under the sun to ” rather try something else “…maybe even prozac!

      Here’s the thing…you will need to muster strength of character and overcome these negatives and do it anyway.
      That’s the key!

      If you do try this crazy method, I would love to hear how it works for you 

    • Susan S.

      Wayne, I wouldn’t say that taking drugs for longer than “for a time” necessarily has anything to do with not trusting Him as healer. Our bodies are fallen and so are our brains. Sometimes parts of our body just don’t work right and drugs help to restore normal, healthy function. For example, I am hypothyroid, so I take Thyroxin, and will have to every day for the rest of my life. One symptom of hypothyroidism is depression, which I was certainly experiencing before an endocrinologist diagnosed me. I knew nothing about brain chemistry till my husband and I started seeing a psychologist. Almost everyone has certain areas of hypo and hyper-activity in the brain. A person who has hyperactivity in the basal ganglia lobe of the brain will likely experience anxiety and irritability, for example. Some brain chemistry imbalances can be corrected with the right medication, thus translating to a relief of symptoms, which often improves one’s interpersonal relationships as well as one’s own ability to perform at their best, and even to make them literally, happier. Our psychologist explained that balancing brain chemistry can allow for a person to serve the Lord more effectively. If there are side effects that outweigh benefits, you stop the drug and try another. Many people have elements of brain damage from concussions or other head trauma that they aren’t even aware of. Sometimes these areas of damage influence behavior as does brain chemistry. People are typically afraid to take such drugs, but many who finally try them realize how much of a positive difference it can make in their lives. In our case, it totally changed our marriage (after 25 years!).

    • Susan S.

      Michael, in addition to my comment to Wayne, I see that (#4) is the wrong response I engaged in when responding to your depression….but not with “immediately”, and not as an imperative , more just as a suggestion because we’ve learned how much it can help, even to the point of improved relationships with all who surround a person. Unfortunately, people tend to view these sorts of drugs with greater suspicion than other classes of drugs.

      David and Luther didn’t have the option of such drugs back then, nor did they have the option of heart surgery, or the pain relievers and vaccines that we have today. If one has a brain chemistry imbalance that is impeding their effectiveness, and negatively impacting their family, then it seems quite alright to avail themselves of drugs that will aid them. Our psychologist did say though that its not advisable to put someone on anti-depressants who is grieving the loss of a loved-one. Wisdom is necessary.

      Thanks for the tips though, I have a friend who has suffered with severe depression for the better part of the last 10 years. I was almost afraid to read your list lest I find that I had done any of these things with her. Thankfully, I haven’t. One thing I have learned from her through is to stay away from negative topics of conversation; she just can’t handle anything that might add to her depression. Thanks for the suggestions on how to bear the burden of the depressed. My mother once told me that we are to bear the burdens of others to the Lord, not to carry them ourself (in such situations).

      BTW, the sermon we heard this week was from Job, about the wrong things jobs friends were saying to him. The pastor confessed to being in a very difficult place in his life right now, with tough decisions to make.

      • C Michael Patton

        Thank you! I was talking about immediately giving people drugs when they are down, sad, or depressed. Depression is a natural response to many things and, for the most part, does not need drugs to heal it. We have a built in mechanism that heals it usually. So most of the time, drugs are not necessary. But more importantly, my point was that it is something we should go through. God has built in sadness as an experience that is necessary to see, both for ourselves and others.

        The drugs should only come when our brain is broke and won’t heal itself. I remember a girl telling me that she went to the doctor and he asked her how she has been. She said “a little down lately.” Without asking her anything else, he just said “let’s fix mommy” and write her a script for Zoloft.

    • Brian

      Wayne Greulich, I believe that there is no promise in that scripture for complete and utter healing. Yes, Christ can and will take us through our bouts with depression. But that isn’t a promise to stop the bouts or irradicate the experiences once and for all. Otherwise you could apply it to every type of hard experience for every believer and you would end up with some holiness doctrine which the Bible does not outline. And then we would also miss the learning and the fellowship of sufferings which we get in them. Ultimate we DO get full healing and glorification. But that isn’t going to happen to any of us before this time period on earth ends. Michael already pointed out that truth. Perhaps, since the focus of that scripture is “temptation,” it would be better applied as an argument against ending ones life while struggling in depression, a “Don’t give up” kind of message. At least it appears a better rendering of the logic of the passage in my humble opinion.

    • Keith Miller

      Thanks for the well written article about what not to say to a depressed Christian. There is wisdom in this paper. I’m not being critical but you quoted the First Epistle of John and said that it was the Gospel of John.
      You wrote “according to the Gospel of John we have to admit to sin in our lives” Then you quoted the first chapter of First John ( verse 8 ). You have mixed up the Gospel of John with the First Epistle of John.
      No big deal. I just thought I would bring it to your attention. God Bless.

    • George Geno

      Michael, I have been watching you and your ministry life for over 10 years and would love to shake your hand and say thank you for all I’ve received starting back from TTP. During that time I was prescribed anti-depressants to deal with migraines. The research doctors here at Washington University had found a solid link between epilepsy, migraines and depression. I had a seizure disorder that was well controlled but the (related) migraines never were. The research suggested that there really was depression lurking inside as well. So, I took the Rx. The change was miraculous for my mood. The migraines dropped in regularity but didn’t fully stop. Now, 16 years later, the migraines have stopped (due to aging) and I’ve decided to get the anti-depressant out of my system to deal with its own nasty side-effects. The resulting clarity of mind and recapture of cognitive ability has been as incredible as the mood lift was originally. My wife believes me to be now slipping into some depressive moments. I am not sure of that assessment, but I do see myself as not like I was in 2002 when I started the drugs. I am still saved and still the same person with the same ethics and moral bents as I was when medicated; now, I am far, far more alert and sensitive. That may be what my wife is seeing after so long. Beware the drugs, they have their own evils that are hard to deal with. I level out the down days with a regular devotional period knitted into my work day patterns (I am not an early riser/starter). I know that to be a huge help. And I’ve learned to refocus on people and eternity; it tends to help tame the downward slips. Blessings to you brother. I know the challenge.

      • C Michael Patton

        Well, maybe one day we can shake hands. Thanks for sharing and thanks for your vulnerability.

      • C Michael Patton

        Thank you brother. I appreciate your comments.

    • D. Hughes

      I appreciate the attempt to deal with this important issue. but it is flawed in many ways.

      The 7 things not say are all supposedly bad, yet you still say, “All you want to do is solve it. Please understand, it’s not your job to solve the depression. You may be able to be a great influence in getting the depressed to feel better….” What??? Almost all people, including pastors, are unqualified to treat depression. People with depression are the worst qualified of all of course.

      Yes, I have some standing to say that after earning a grad degree in counseling and doing Clinical Pastoral Training at a state psychiatric hospital. I also did an internship at a residential treatment center for socially and emotionally abused adolescents. In addition, I served at Christian counseling centers and did stints on a suicide prevention hotline.

      Also saying, “Silence, with your arm around the depressed, is the best advice….” is bad. It may be chicken soup for the pastor or other people who are bumbling around and don’t know what they are doing, but it’s meaningless to the depressed person. I know this is most often the case as a result of my work at the suicide prevention hotline.

      The error in most of this post is that the goal of depression treatment is to get sufferers to “feel better.” That misses the point entirely. The goal is to get them to “think differently.” Once people change their thought processes, including self-talk, their feelings will change. If people cannot learn to change their thought patterns through cognitive processes, they may have a brain chemistry problem. In that case, they need meds and close psychiatric care.

      There is only one way for pastors and others to deal with people depressed more than a few days. Refer them to a trained, qualified, licensed, certified clinical psychologist or board certified psychiatrist. Pastors need to have a vetted list of such qualified people and not be afraid to use it.

      • C Michael Patton

        Boy, you don’t even know how to have tact on a blog post, how can you expect to have tact with a depressed person? First of all starting anything with a sentence that ends with “but is flawed in many ways” is not good medicine. I would prescribe something different. Also, do away with the really bad attempt of trying to encourage the writer: “I appreciate the attempt…but.” It’s a bit like leaving a one dollar tip. Just keep it; you need it more than I do. I would change this to: “Great work.[makes me not think you are a hostile witness like the other one]. This is something that needs to be talked about [Qualifies the compliment in your mind (it is great work to talk about this after all), but keeps your integrity safe since you don’t really think the author has done a great job dealing with it]. Here are some of the ways I deal with the same problems.” Now, at this point most of those who have been depressed in the past will wonder if you have been through it yourself and, like it or not, if you have not, they are not going to listen too closely because, frankly, you would not really understand.

        I hope you don’t deal with depressed people like you do bloggers. We are very sensitive about our writing (like all are). Be sensitive to the situation. That is my advice after blogging and listening to people’s comments for 14 years.

        And if you did it for the sake of the audience, they will probably not listen. First, your list of qualifications goes too far. Just say “I have had the privilege of working with depressed people for ____ years”. With so many accolades for yourself, people will say he is substituting the letters after his name for something. Most will see you as either a hostile witness or one who is so self-absorbed they won’t listen to you. You don’t want to do that because at that point you will only attract those who already agree with you.

        Finally, nah . . . I’m just having fun with you. Thanks for your comments.

        • D. Hughes

          Thanks for the attack. The fact that you positioned your comment as “fun” at the end makes your passive-aggressive personality rather obvious. That can be as bad as depression and should be treated in the same way I described above. If I knew where you lived, I’d refer you.

          Should you really be complaining about me when you have done the same, or worst, to me? You seemed to show less tact than you say I did. It is likely that you are as unqualified to be a helper as you say I am.

          I did not realize you were writing for accolades rather than to offer sound advice, An emotionally fragile person needing approval should rethink what they are doing in life. Outbursts when you don’t get the acclaim you think you deserve is likely to be a problem to all around you.

          This post is for your personal, private reflection if you desire, not to further advance your flame war. So, in conclusion, let me affirm that my initial observations about depression are sound. You are misguided when you to attempt to denigrate my experience or the people I have aided over the years. That’s all I have to say on this matter.

        • C Michael Patton

          I know brother, I am sorry. I was just in one of those a goofy moods yesterday and it came at your expense. If I meant what I said I should have said it in private. Please accept my apologies.

        • C Michael Patton

          And, as a side note, all of us writers are writing for accolades, aren’t we? Otherwise, why would we be writing? 😉

          (That winkie-face really does mean I am just kidding…kinda)

        • C Michael Patton

          But on a serious note, engaging what you said, I have quite a bit of experience as well, some of it very close to home. Having a family member who commits suicide makes you think about these things quite a bit. However, I think that I am just more convinced that so much of this is a mystery. And with all the time we have had to deal with this it seems we are still trying to write the books Job’s friends would have written. Silence is so golden and hard for us to accomplish. We always see things from our perspective and can’t really know the chaos of circumstances, genetics, and chemicals that go into what is creating such sadness, but the Bible has a lot more to say about silence than it does talking.

          Being there for someone, sitting by their bedside for years as they cry there eyes out, listening to them as they say the same things over and over (“my brain is broken Michael, and it can’t be fixed”) taking them to the counselor and psychologist for years, sitting by them as they did shock therapy 17 times, attempting to cast the demons she said she had in her out, trying to help the emplement the dozens of different streams of advice that came from the Ph.D.s, picking up the different drugs they were prescribed and giving them a glass of water to wash it down is what I did and she still killed herself. So I don’t offer this as the best way to make them better. Just as a How not to make them worse.

        • VT

          I am so sorry you had to go through that experience…Depression….no all “mental illness” is very complex – it’s very rarely as simple as many people think it should be. I remember shutting myself in my dark closet not knowing how to process the cloud of worthlessness that was enveloping me, I thought I was broken and was so ashamed of myself for feeling what I was feeling….and terrified that I *couldn’t* escape it….I would pray God would tell me what I did wrong – I must have been really bad….
          Often these times would hit out of the blue and take me down hard and for no apparent reason, I had a good family, never abused or mistreated….I had no excuse and that made it worse….

          It would have meant the world then and the myriad occasions since just to have some one climb down into that dark place to sit with me in a spirit of empathy…not judgement…not pity…not “how can I fix you”. Just to sit and brave the ugly me….this would have spoken volumes to the lying voices that were crying out that said “no one cares” “you aren’t worth the trouble” “they can’t handle this”.

          The people who are saying these top ten things are usually friends and family around us that have zero expertise in the area of “mental illness”(though they may think they do) with whom we’ve taken that dreaded step of vulnerability and have dared to open up about our struggles….we are crying out for change and help! But these statements often just reinforce our worst fears; “people really don’t understand” “I am alone” “they do think it’s my fault” “They really do think I am broken – but I can’t fix it” “I am hopeless” “I make them uncomfortable” “It would be much easier for them if I were not here….if I never were born”. We shut down and become extremely hesitant to reach out to anyone again…we don’t want to create another opportunity for these voices to be justified because every time they are, they become louder, more obnoxious – and we lose even more of the little control we have over them.

          I have spent a lifetime trying to conquer my reoccurring depression and anxiety and educate myself on how to cope when it would rear up(*side note* if someone told me to try harder!? oh my…Help me LORD JESUS!!!) you can know all the “right” things and still find yourself scarily close to the edge many times…and I did for sure. I don’t know why God spared me but by His grace he did.

          In the last few years I have found out I have ADHD which explained a lot of things….. and just this year I was diagnosed with a chronic tick borne disease along with a confection. Symptoms are vast and often include a myriad of mental manifestations like extreme depression(suicidal ideation, anxiety, panic attacks etc). The ADHD explained my emotional regulation difficulties when I was young(which was before I contracted the tick borne illness) and these infections explained why things began to ramp up several years ago and continue to get worse and bringing along a bunch of physical symptoms like fatigue and brain fog to name only a couple.

          Someone could have told me to try harder, think positively, put me in therapy, put me in any of the classic boxes we Christian like to use for people with “mental illness” and I can say with perfect confidence it would not have helped me…it would have made it much worse.

          Listen, have empathy, don’t judge.
          Thank-you Mr Patton for putting this message out there. It is very encouraging to hear this message coming from someone in the Christian community….unfortunately it is not heard often enough.

    • E

      Thank you, Michael, for your vulnerability and honesty. I am so glad to hear that six days of the week your joyful self greets you on awaking. Knowing the other self may show up without warning is hard. I lift you up to the Lord.

      I think the best description I’ve read of depression is that it is like “pacing the floors of hell.” Not to minimize hell at all, but to highlight how buried under a thick gray blanket can be the joy and other balanced emotions and perspectives in a person gripped by depression.

      In years past, I’ve been fairly mercilessly under such comments as you recommend people not make, and some not from those of good intent. As I ponder these comments, one thing jumps out at me: timing.

      Just as some of the well-intended comments to people experiencing normal grief, comments to those experiencing depression often miss the mark, in part, by being ill-timed. As you so well point out, someone experiencing depression doesn’t have the same access to shift-perspective resources as those not experiencing depression…or the same person when he/she isn’t experiencing depression. When I was experiencing depression, it seemed to me far more compassionate and helpful for someone to meet me where I was and look out with me. Some conversations like that, by those with deep compassion and Spirit-led insight, were extraordinarily helpful. They were typically “wondering together” – good questions, listening, considering, affirming what is worthy of affirmation – rather than directives. What was an additional burden was when another stood, as it were, at a distance and called to me to come on over here.

      There may well be the ability to go upstream against the downward pull – as in doing some exercise, taking a walk outdoors, praising the Lord (even while sobbing), helping someone else, journaling, etc. But some of my experience in fighting hard against episodes of depression that used to ravage (often unpredictably…so disorienting) is that those efforts could be exhausting. Worth doing…I did daily, arduously…but there could be weeks in which there seemed no lifting of the heavy blanket.

      At least for me, the breakthroughs did come, but they weren’t formulaic. They were encounters with God that I can see, in retrospect, were part of an unfolding journey He had for me that I could never have seen nor anticipated. I could only continually cry out, stay in the Word and prayer and humble gratitude, be as good a steward of my whole person as possible, and take hold of even little glimpses of hope. There were no formulas.

      I can say that years of Bible study, Bible memorization and seeking after God diligently didn’t spare me, but were lifelines that I held onto with everything in me. I had no idea what, if anything, would help, and had no sense of guarantee that in this lifetime things would be brighter. But where else could I go? The Lord has the words of eternal life. Immersion in God’s living Word didn’t quickly lift a long process of journeying many years through a painful valley, which included three years of daily crying out to God to take me home, for I wasn’t afraid of dying…I was afraid of living.

      That is one set of fervent prayers I am so very grateful God didn’t answer the way I desired at the time. Depression has deeply tenderized my heart to the pain of others. It has also left me in absolute awe of a God who doesn’t let go even when, from my perspective, He seemed inaccessible. He wasn’t.

      One invaluable lesson in that season was that I learned to walk by faith, not feelings. Even when my whole experience was dark and desperate, I saw no other hope than to trust that God is true, His Word is true, even when my whole experience screamed otherwise. That is a very hard place to be for a long time and not a place for anyone else to enter lightly with formulas and presumptions and the 7 things not to say.

      God hold you up and heal you, Michael. I praise God for the life He has given you, the gifts you steward in Him to the benefit of so very many, the saving (I am confident) of who knows how many, and the praise of God’s glorious grace.

      • Jim Lee

        Such a compassionate and loving response. Our Lord and Christ has blessed your life. I have been bipolar my whole life, and have experienced many times the searing cold burn of depression. I can only describe it as a searing cold burn because it seems as if it wants to burn my flesh away in order to reach in and freeze my heart. I have now, in that dark pit of the burning cold wind, a light in the center, and in that light stands a blood covered Cross I cling to, knowing the living Being of Christ will protect me. If this is the thorn in my side given me, then so be it, for it draws me to Him, and in that I find joy and peace. It is far better than the sword of arrogance and pride I plunged into my heart almost everyday of my old, now dead, life.

    • Gregory Anderson

      Michael, thank you.
      LIke Job’s “friends”, and his wife no less, some folks need to learn when to practice being silent. They needed Job to intervene for them before God, for what they said was not right. I’m not saying that, God did.

      Like God’s children in all times, we absorb our cultural and sub-cultural environment. For some of us, we have to wrestle with the worldliness in the congregation and family while in very dark times.

      I’ve printed out the article and all the responses to date. I’m going to use it as a catalyst for an in-house discussion which may end up going many sessions. May God have mercy on all of us, who walk by faith and not by sight.

      • C.Brian Ross

        “May God have mercy on all of us, who walk by faith and not by sight.”

        And, perhaps, even more on those who walk only by sight, and not by faith!

        Blessings, and shalom.

        • gregory anderson

          Shalom, C.Brian. There have been several passages and more than one verse that has helped me in my periods of walking with Christ Jesus through wet cement. I’m glad that God’s mercy is no exhausted even when it is infinitely supplied to each of His children. Surely God does have mercy even on those who will end up in eternal death (as in the opposite of our being in eternal life).
          I cannot personally grasp the practical application if I think of faith being assurance and hope God tells us about in the start of Heb11. A little further into the chapter I believe this is clarified when faith is defined as the active belief that 1) God is, and 2) God rewards them that seek the one and only God that is.
          I know I was one that only walked by sight for so many years, even after I had grasped for God’s hand by faith.

    • Erin

      I love this article and you are so right. Most responses are so annoying I’ve found it better not to bring it up half the time if struggling. I know the intent is good – mainly – but especially #2 there are so many who act like it’s a simple fix to just think positively. They then rant on medicine and crutches. They are ultimately saying it’s the persons fault for thinking wrong, and thus the solution to fix it is easy if they would just work at it. That makes a depressed person feel HORRIBLE!!

      There is another one also — Diet. I have a friend who just says it is diet if a person develops mental problems. What they put into their body pollutes their mind. While diet IS helpful and important, this is not true for depression and illness in all cases.

      When you said this: “All I am doing is asking you to consider that the depressed person may be a David or a Luther to the church. Don’t immediately demand that they get on these drugs.”

      This is true too. I have seen so many in the past say of the mentally ill, they should just go to a doctor and get something. However, a lot of people DO do this but the drugs don’t always work. It took years for me to find drugs that did anything, most find the same, and many unfortunately never find a combination that works.

      The disconnect from the depressed to the non-depressed is incredible. Not to mention, those who were depressed and got over it (like a temporary thing or it just lifted, and then they think it’s that easy for everyone). It’s frustrating.

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