If you missed part 1, you can catch up HERE.
And now, part 2. If you’re a Christian reading this, and you choose to continue reading, you may want to do what my dear friend Beth Hollingshead says, “Take your feelings and put ’em in your purse and zip it up real tight.”
The truth is Christians say the worst things to people with depression. And I know because I’ve said them.
I will never forget one day standing in the driveway with a loved one of mine. No one knew she was struggling with depression, and I was the one to witness the first signs of it, there that afternoon. I saw a person who was strong, in every kind of way, a leader in her church, a woman who loved Jesus and served and knew him. And, I, in my naivety said, “It’s going to be ok. You know God’s got it.” And that’s when she began to tear up. A person I’d never once seen get emotional, was about to start crying right in front of me.
Years later, the same kinds of words were spoken over me, and although they were meant to be encouraging, they only made me feel even more foregone.
I’ve explained depression to others as the feeling of drowning- that’s how it is for me. So, in my dark season, I felt like a buoy in an ocean. I knew I wouldn’t sink because I was a buoy, but I also knew I was in a storm, and it had been storming for a long time, and the waves had yet to cease crashing over me. When people make comments to a Christian who is in a place like this, it feels like an enormous weight is pressing down on you and pushes you, the buoy, under the water. It’s a physical struggle to force yourself back up, and when you do get back up, it’s still storming.
Common comments in regards to postpartum depression are…
“Have you tried praying about it?”
“Maybe you should trying joining a small group?”
“Children are a blessing from the Lord. Think about how many women would do anything to have what you have.”
One day I turned on our television to watch an HGTV show and finally eat my lunch while my kids napped, and the TV was turned onto God TV. Yes, for those of you who do not know, there is a channel called God TV. And yes, we try to always leave it on God TV so that way when I turn the TV on to queue up a recorded episode of Daniel Tiger, there aren’t half-dressed women stroking a bare chested soccer player in a cologne commercial on the big screen in front of them. Fragrance commercials drive me batty. But, I digress…
I turned on the TV and was hitting all the buttons on my remote to find one of my recorded HGTV shows, and while I was navigating to it, a female speaker was talking in front of a congregation. I never caught her name, and I’m sure she’s a very nice person, and I’m sure she didn’t mean for what she said to shame anyone, but when she said what she said, my buoy was plunged 20 feet under water.
Basically, what she said was that she believed our society would be a lot less medicated if we were living with the joy the Holy Spirit fills us with.
So what I heard was, “This journey of postpartum depression I’m walking through is my fault. I did something wrong or I am doing something wrong in my relationship with Christ, because obviously, because I take anti-depressant medication, I’m not filled with that joy she’s talking about- I’m filled with depression.”
Christians, please understand something, it is possible to be filled with the Holy Spirit and have depression at the same time. I have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit working through me to do SUPER NATURAL things. He is in me. There are men and women I know, personally, who walk with Jesus, who spend daily time in the Word with Him, who serve Him in numerous ways, who too were struck with this, severely.
So, when you make comments like those above, even though you mean for them to be encouraging, they often bring shame upon the person you’re speaking to.
Are your feelings still in your purse? Put them back if you just took them out.
Shame is sneaky. The Enemy uses shame to bind. So, it’s no surprise to see how the Enemy of course would use the words that [often] well-intentioned, caring Believers offer to their friends and family when they see how they are hurting. HOPE is being extended, but the Enemy translates it to Shame.
Again, I’ve been that Christian who has said something well-intentioned, something that was TRUE, but it was still the wrong thing to say to a person with depression.
So, “What do you say?” the Christians are wondering, because Christians, it’s true… God is in control, of course we should pray about it; we should pray about everything. Yes, a small group is a great idea, but you know what, you can’t always join one right when you need to. And many church’s small group schedules take breaks, so what are they going to do when it’s the middle of summer and you tell them to go join a small group? And for the love of EVERYTHING, do not tell a woman who has postpartum depression that children are a blessing from the Lord and that other women would do anything to have what she has. Yes, this is true true true, but believe me when I say it will offer her absolutely no encouragement- all she will feel is shame.
So, “What do you say?”
I’m not a licensed counselor or therapist. So, all I’m going to share here are the statements that helped me…
“It’s going to be ok. It’s going to get better. You’re not alone in this.”
“You are not alone. In fact, _________ dealt with this too. I’m sure she’d love to talk with you if you wanted to.”
“What can I do to help? You’re not alone in this.”
Those statements loose Shame’s grip.
I fear that there are so many Christian women sitting in their houses, sobbing on the floor, feeling like they’re 20 feet under water, who are only hearing the Shame statements from the other Christians in their life. People who love these women, who love Jesus, and of course would never, ever want to make that woman feel worse! Yet, I fear this is happening far more than anyone realizes. Because I was that woman. And I am forever grateful for the Christians who said the right things to me- because there were Christians who said the wrong things too. But, the Christians who said the right things, including, in my case, going to talk to my doctor, God used to pull me up to the surface of the water. To give me air. To give me strength to stay afloat.
Shame has lost her grip on me. So, sweet sister, who read this whole thing that’s walking through depression right now, I’ve been there too. You’re not alone in this. It’s going to be ok, and it’s going to get better.
Until next time,