“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” Matthew 11:28-30, ESV.
I have dealt with depression since I was a child. I became a Christian when I was nine. I know the difficulties that accompany being a Christian with depression.
As I was growing up, people would often say things such as, “If you trusted God, you wouldn’t be depressed,” or “If you really had faith, you wouldn’t be depressed.” Others would tell me to “get over it,” “just be happy,” or “other people have it worse than you.” Although these are very common responses, they are not helpful to someone dealing with depression. So from my perspective as a Christian with depression, I would love to consider why these typical answers are unhelpful and offer suggestions of how to talk to someone with depression.
When People Say “If you trust God or really had faith, you wouldn’t be depressed.”
This remark is not only unhelpful, but it’s also not true. For Biblical context, several people in the Bible believed in God yet suffered from depression. The most prominent example is the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah is often called “The Weeping Prophet.” Elijah told God in 1 Kings 19:10 that all the believers were gone, and he was the only one left. Elijah didn’t want to eat, drink, or move; he just wanted to die. Many of his symptoms point to severe depression.
Rather than accusing Christians who are struggling with depression of not having enough faith, I would suggest offering to pray with and for them. Let them know that you genuinely care and are there for them.
When People Say “Get over it.”
When I feel depressed and someone tells me to “get over it,” I feel about ten times worse because not only do I feel depressed, I also feel awful about feeling depressed and not being able to “get over it.” I wonder, “Is there something wrong with me?” or “What am I doing wrong?” These questions circle in my mind, causing me to sink further and further into depression.
Instead of telling people to get over their depression, I recommend telling them you’re there for them. Let them know that you are available if they want to talk.
When People Say “Just be happy.”
If I could “just be happy,” I would, but I cannot at the time of depression. This is why it is called depression; it’s depressing, not happy. This seems simple, yet people often do not understand this. No one is choosing to be depressed, and no one is depressed because it is fun. I am not choosing to be depressed.
It’s often better to just let the person know they are okay. You are not judging them, and you accept where they are in life.
When People Say “Other people have it worse than you.”
This is an issue for two reasons. One, I am not totally out of touch with the world; ergo, I know people have it worse than me. Two, it doesn’t help the issue. When I’m told people have it worse than me, I think, “Great. These people are going through poverty, abuse, and trafficking and I’m just a little depressed.” So now I am depressed and feel awful about these other people who have it worse, which makes me feel even more depressed.
Instead of discounting their pain, I would encourage you to empathize with them and let them know they are allowed to feel the way they do.
These are all possible responses you could use when speaking to someone dealing with depression. However, sometimes what a person needs most is not another’s words but simply a listening ear. If you aren’t sure what to say, listen and offer a hug. Sometimes listening in silence speaks louder than words ever could.
If you are dealing with major depression and starting to think about suicide. Please do not do it. You can call 1-800-273-8255 or dial 988, and you will be redirected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.