You know what’s not fun? Being friends with someone who is depressed. The person may be distant, unresponsive, endlessly negative, and hopeless. She might cancel plans or bail at the last minute. She forgets to ask about your life and hopes you won’t ask about hers. She doesn’t want to see people but instead prefers hiding away in a cocoon of despair. When she does talk to you, the conversation revolves around her misery.
Yes, I have been just such a friend, but in spite of all of this, my friends stuck with me instead of leaving me to face the darkness alone. Here are some of the ways my friends have ministered to me while I have fought depression. I offer them as a way to help others know how to help a friend who is hurting, whether that hurt is caused by depression or some other form of suffering. A simple gesture goes a long way to ease an aching heart.
- Prayed for me at regular intervals throughout the day.
- Brought my family meals.
- Visited me at work and brought my favorite coffee.
- Surprised me at work with a card and CD.
- Checked on my husband when I was getting inpatient and residential treatment.
- Picked me up and took me a to a movie when I didn’t feel safe driving myself anywhere.
- Came to my house unannounced late one night after I shared that I had a really bad day (they did check with my husband first). They kept me company and made me laugh and made the darkness seem a little lighter for just a little while.
- Regularly called or texted me to check in on me.
- Sent me texts with verses of Scripture they were praying for me and reminded me of God’s truth when all I could believe were the lies depression fed me.
- One friend made a 2 hour round trip to visit me when I was hospitalized. Twice. This meant the WORLD to me. Seeing a friendly face when all around me was confusion and chaos comforted me immensely.
- One friend talked to me late one night when I was really upset and Stephen was working a late shift. She kept me safe.
- Brought me flowers.
- Paid for 5 weeks of Pure Barre classes. (Seriously. Such a generous gift for my body and soul!)
- Emailed me and answered my calls at random hours of the day when I was hospitalized and in residential treatment.
- Gave my family restaurant gift cards when I was hospitalized.
- Gave me Scripture verses printed on scrapbook paper that I could hang up in my room at Timberline Knolls.
- Wrote me cards and sent me pictures of my kids at various events that I missed when I was at Timberline Knolls.
- Went with me to Walmart to get supplies before I left for Timberline Knolls (I needed random things like a battery-operated alarm clock and ear plugs and unopened toiletries) and then paid for everything I got.
- Gave me a photo album of pictures of my family and friends to take with me to Timberline Knolls so I could look at them when I was homesick and remember how many people loved me.
- Several people gave me books that helped me: Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine, Suffering Is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot, Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray, and When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper. (All of these books are relatively short, which helped me tremendously, as reading–something I dearly love–has been hard for me since depression struck. My focus and concentration have really suffered, so the shorter the book, the better.)
This is just a sample of things that my friends have done to remind me that I am loved. This list is amazing on its own, but I left off the one event that showed me without a doubt that God loves and cares for His own. Back in March when I was on the way to be hospitalized for the second time, I sent a group text to several friends to tell them what was going on and asked them to pray. My phone was taken away from me when I was inpatient, but my friends used that group text as a way to update one another on my progress. When I got home and was catching up on all the texts I had missed, I saw one that instantly brought tears to my eyes. My dear friend Lauren texted everyone and said how burdened she was for me and that she wanted to have a time of prayer and fasting for me on a certain day. My friends all responded with enthusiastic support, and so on a Tuesday that happened to follow what was for me an awful Monday in the psych ward, my friends were lifting me up in prayer and forgoing their own comfort to bring me before the Father. Whenever I think about this selfless act of love, tears spring to my eyes. It was a gesture of faith and compassion I will never forget. Even when I feel like a burden or feel abandoned, I can look at this list and know that these were acts done out of love, not obligation.
One important thing to note about this list is that my friends wouldn’t have known to do any of this if they hadn’t known my need. Receiving from others requires that we open ourselves up and reveal the vulnerable, weak places of our hearts. It is not comfortable, and it is risky, but being vulnerable also brings with it great blessing.
I know that not everyone has the support system I do, and I do not even know how I ended up with these wonderful people in my life. But I do know that their existence is a provision from God, and they have been the hands and feet of Christ during a time when I often didn’t know if God cared at all. When doubt was high, my friends were there. When tears fell hard and fast, my friends were there. When I felt like I couldn’t bear any more, my friends were there. They prayed the prayers I was too tired to pray. They spoke the words of truth I forgot. They loved me in spite of myself. Because of my friends, I have seen the love of Jesus on full display. This is a gift I will not soon forget.