Written by MM Team Member (and my hubby!) – Gary Steffaniak
And I’m not talking about just having a bad day here and there.
One friend who struggles with depression told me that when he’s in the midst of it, he’s no more able to “just snap out of it” as someone with the flu is able to run a marathon.
So, is there anything a husband or wife can do to help their suffering spouse?
Are there any examples to show us what to do?
Fortunately, we have a story in Scripture that shows us what God did to pull Elijah out of his depression.
Here’s the story in a nutshell: After three and a half years of experiencing God’s amazing miracles, one right after the other, and after demonstrating a fervent faith and heroic courage in the face of overwhelming odds, Elijah sinks into depression. Elijah’s story exposes the reality that even growing Christ-followers are susceptible to depression. In 1 Kings 19:1-21, we find not only the account of Elijah’s downward spiral, but also the process that God used to help Elijah restore his emotional balance.
Here are six very practical and helpful steps that you can take when your spouse is overcome by the darkness of depression:
- Encourage your spouse to take care of his/her physical needs. (verse 5) Often a depressed person stops eating. We can’t neglect our physical health and hope to recover from depression. Sometimes a physical exam can reveal a physical problem that has triggered an emotional problem that can be treated.
- Allow your spouse to ventilate his/her feelings without judgment. (verses 9b-10) Much of the thoughts and feelings that depression brings are irrational. In spite of this, being a good “listener” is much more beneficial than attempting to “fix” your spouse by “telling” them how they should think and feel.
- Pray that your spouse will recognize God’s quiet presence and His commitment to walk with them through their dark journey. (verses 12-13) Depression convinces us that we are all alone, forgotten and abandoned by God. Trying to convince a depressed spouse that this is untrue with our own persuasive arguments is not likely. Relying on prayer, asking God to reveal His presence and power, will have the greatest impact.
- Encourage your spouse to stay connected and involved in manageable ministry. (verse 15) Inactivity is a common response to depression and very unhealthy. A depressed person needs to remain active. Being used by God in His kingdom work can help a depressed person regain a sense of significance and can contribute to restored health.
- Help your spouse get clarity on the truth to correct his/her misconceptions. (verse 18) It is common for depressed people to embrace false beliefs and inaccurate perceptions. After they have felt heard and understood, it is essential that we help them re-connect with reality and regain a sense of stability based on God’s truth.
- Assure your spouse that you are committed to stay right by their side so they won’t be walking alone in their recovery. (verses 19-20) Depressed people often isolate themselves from others, usually leading to further depression. Be a supportive presence through thick and thin. In addition, encourage your spouse to connect with a broader support network – with others who genuinely care about them and their recovery.
What could you add to this list of ways to support a depressed spouse?
What has made the biggest difference for you when you’ve experienced depression?
Since it’s been a while since my hubby, Gary, has shared a post here with all of you, let me reintroduce you to him! He is the Pastor of Care and Recovery at our church, Metro Community in Edwardsville, Illinois. He’s also an avid Cardinal’s fan and can’t wait to see them “beat the socks” off of the Sox! Sorry if we’re offending all of you, New Englander Messy Marriage readers! We still think YOU are great, no matter how un-great your team may be! ha!