|Submitted Questions: How can a struggling depressed person be open and vulnerable to fellow Christians in the church without over-burdening, discouraging or stumbling them? Yes we need to be open and ask for support, but is there a need to find some kind of balance while doing so? How can we be gentle and helpful in dealing with the depressed when they lash out ?|
If you are depressed and struggling, but still opening up to ask for support from the community – you are in line with biblical guidance. We are meant to stay within a loving Christian community – even as we are in distress. God is the source of our comfort, but He has also planned for His comfort to be shared and experienced in community.
In asking for support, we have already recognized our weakness and vulnerability. As someone asking for help, we can afford to be a little less worried about over-burdening, discouraging or stumbling those around us. Our honesty is often helpful, as it gives others a clearer picture of what is going on. It will then be more of others’ responsibility, to learn how to best respond to your honesty (perhaps through more workshops and courses!)
And yes, you will be burdening someone else, somewhat. But that is often good. As Christians, we are called to carry one another’s burden, and this will come at a cost – a cost that edifies those who incur it, as they imitate Christ’s sacrificial service. (And if the cost is jogging/running together for months alongside someone asking for help – there are probably physical health benefits too!)
Yet, It is also godly to think of our Christian brothers and sisters’ well-being as they care for us. If there’s a “balance” to be had, perhaps it is to remember again that God is still the fundamental source of our comfort, and our church family is but a channel with which He provides it. This means that we still personally pray to Him and refresh ourselves in His Word. In speaking with others in the church, we are seeking reminders of His counsel in the bible and joint prayer to Him.
In so focusing on Him, we will naturally put aside idolization of our human helpers and counsellors, who are mere weak vessels. Perhaps we might even find ourselves helping to remind our caregivers to remember Him, as they tire or face personal struggles themselves!
In any human relationship, there will also be mistakes made. Depression and other ailments can exacerbate irritabilities on all sides, especially if they are long-drawn. Tempers can flare, as exhaustion sets in.
We should have honest conversations about the negative impact of such mistakes, and get mutual feedback about how communications can be improved. For instance, there could be guidelines on whom should contact whom, at what time, so that conversations can be paced out and everyone involved can maintain their energies.
However, fundamentally we again should remember Him. We are in His care, even when people around us are insensitive and hurtful. We can also remind each other of God’s grace to us, even as we continue to rebel against Him. His grace will transform our hearts to be more Christ-like, increasing in graciousness and strength.
It is also important to say that we are not God, and we cannot be in a deep relationship (either as someone seeking help, or as a helper) with everyone in the church at this point, even as we mature in Christ-likeness. God has given each of us a number of relationships to tend to – similar to how He has assigned us lots in life (1 Cor 7) . Some will have more, some will have fewer. We can pray for wisdom and faithfulness in relating to those He has given to us.