Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Friday, May 28, 2010 3:31 pm
The Messenger, May 27, 2010
Dealing with depression
by God’s Grace
By JUSTIN WESTOMORELAND
Special to The Messenger
Are you a depressed Christian? Do you want to help a depressed Christian? Archibald Alexander, one of the presidents of Old Princeton Seminary, offered the following advice based on his experience pastoring many who suffered with depression:
1. Don’t discount medical help. “There is danger that the bodily physician will look no further than the body; while the spiritual physician will totally disregard the body, and look only at the mind.”
2. Be kind. Remember you are just as susceptible to depression.
3. Avoid using scathing language. Harsh words will “but pour oil into the flames, and chafe and exasperate their wounds, instead of healing them.”
4. Trust them. Alexander relates, “These afflicted people never can believe that you have any real sympathy with their misery, or feel any compassion for them, unless you believe what they say.”
5. Don’t call on them to do what they are incapable of doing. He says, “Do not urge them to anything which requires close and intent thinking; this will only increase the disease. But you will ask, Ought we not to urge them to hear the Word of God? I answer, if they are so far gone in the disease as to be in continual, unremitting anguish, they are not capable of hearing, on account of the painful disorder of their minds.”
6. Do not say, “The Devil did this.” Alexander writes, “If you persuade them that all which they experience is from the devil, you may induce the opinion in them that they are actually possessed of the evil one… neither must you falsely accuse your friends by saying that they gratify (the devil).”
7. Do not express shock and awe over what they are experiencing.
8. Behave appropriately toward the individual, always being mindful of your words. Avoid terrifying or sad stories, but also lightness and levity, which connote that you have no sympathy for them.
9. Be careful not to communicate that their struggle with depression will be long. Do not shy away from communicating that God has quickly healed others and can do so again in any instant.
10. Perhaps they feel all alone, lower than Cain or Judas. Tell them stories of other Christians who have been healed of depression (ex: Robert Bruce, Charles Spurgeon, and John Glover in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs).
11. Pray for them. “As they have not light and composure to pray for themselves, let your eyes weep for them in secret, and there let your souls melt in fervent holy prayers. You know that none but God alone can help them. ‘If God stirs up your friends to pray for you, He will stir up Himself to hear their prayers.’ You ought to consider that nothing but prayer can do them good.”
12. Also, enlist other Christians to unite with you regularly in prayer.
13. Alexander concludes: “Put your poor afflicted friends in mind, continually, of the sovereign grace of God in Jesus Christ. Often impress on their minds that He is merciful and gracious; that as far as the heavens are above the earth, so far are His thoughts above their thoughts; His thoughts of mercy above their self-condemning, guilty thoughts. Teach them, as much as you can, to look unto God, by the great Mediator, for grace and strength; and not too much to pore over their own souls, where there is so much darkness and unbelief….Show them what great sinners God has pardoned, and encourage them to believe and to hope for mercy.”
He told of a Mrs. Drake, who, in her deplorable state of darkness, “would send a description of her case to distinguished ministers, concealing her name, to know whether such a creature, without faith, hope or love to God or man … who had resisted and abused all means, could have any hope of going to heaven? Their answer was, that such like, and much worse, might by the mercy of God be received into favor, converted and saved; which did much allay her trouble. ‘For,’ said she, ‘the fountain of all my misery has been that I sought that in the law which I should have found in the gospel; and for that in myself, which was only to be found in Christ … From my own experience, I can testify that the mild and gentle way of dealing with such is the best.’”
Oh, how often we Christians trouble ourselves by believing the deception that God still relates to us via the law and not on the basis of what Christ our Redeemer has done for us in the gospel! How might the message of God’s grace be a means to overcome depression and many other ills in our lives?
Editor’s note: Justin Westmoreland is campus minister for Reformed University Fellowship at UT-Martin. He, his wife Meredith, and children, Knox, Owen, and Grace, attend Grace Community Church in Union City.