when you don’t understand but you want to help
I know it as soon as my eyes open. It’s going to be one of those days.
The day feels dark and overwhelming. My legs feel sluggish and my mind is slow to start.
There isn’t anything in particular that makes me feel this way. I haven’t just received bad news, no relationship in my life is on the rocks, and the day ahead looks very similar to what the rest of the week has looked like. There isn’t anything that triggered this sudden onset but in my mind it feels like everything has.
Depression and anxiety don’t always operate by a formula. What looks doable and sunshine-y yesterday looks insurmountable and devastating today. Despite having the right tools to be proactive and head off depressive or anxious thoughts, they sometimes find a new way to come in.
I have 3 children who need me, so I go through the motions of the day. I know the motions by now and can hide the hard parts from the kids while I shuttle them off to school. But, once they are out the door, and the house sits in silence with me, the dark thoughts are a little harder to fight.
I make it to about mid-morning, accomplishing little, when the phone dings. It’s a text from a friend. She’s just reaching out to say she was thinking of me and wondering how I was doing.
It didn’t make me do a 180 on my mental state. I continued through my day as I had before, struggling. But, the load was just a bit lighter. The cloud wasn’t as dark and the fog in my mind had lifted slightly. That text definitely helped.
The journey of anxiety and depression and mental health can be a tricky one. Sometimes we think we have all the tools and we’re doing well and then the next day we’re in a pit. It can be a roller coaster, but not the fun type.
If someone comes to mind for you – call them, text them, or write them a letter. You may be exactly who they need to hear from at that moment. The shorter days of the winter months can be particularly hard for people, especially those who live in places where it’s overcast for most of the winter.
If you have been prompted by someone coming to mind – reach out. Because, those who are low and depressed don’t always, actually – rarely, ask for it. They need it desperately but they won’t vocalize it.
Truth in scripture
God encourages us in His word from James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (ESV)
Even when our mental state can shift from day to day, we have a God who never changes. There is no variation in Him. What He has promised will always remain true. But life continues to throw changes at us and sometimes it can be hard to keep up. How can we encourage one another when the road seems long and the constant flux is exhausting?
If you have a friend in your life that struggles with anxiety and depression, the smallest acts of kindness can speak volumes. By reaching out and showing you care, you can be the ‘good and perfect gift’ that the Father has sent to your friend. And, when a good and perfect gift, in the form of a reach out from a friend, comes your way, you can trust it’s just one more example of His care for you.
Practical ways we can intentionally care for the anxious friend in our life:
Deeply and compassionately. Do not tell them that what they are anxious about is “not a big deal.” They probably already know that. But, their mind is telling them differently. That’s the thing about anxiety, it’s rarely rational. Being present with them and allowing them to put a voice to what is rolling around in their mind can help them start to bring some rational to the situation.
DO NOT RUSH THEM
Often the feeling of losing time and being late can compound the anxiety. They already feel like time is being wasted. Helping them to slow down and take some deep breaths can help bring them back to the moment. Keep them company and let them know that their anxiety is not a burden to you. And, if you are going to be the one who is late, give them a heads up. Because, most likely, they have already started worrying about you.
ASK HOW YOU CAN HELP
Don’t try to fix anything, but ask what they need. They may need you to take something off their plate, just be present with them, or remind them of God’s truth. Ask if you can pray for them at that moment.
SHARE GOD’S TRUTH WITH THEM
Praise the Lord, O my soul… who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your life with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s… The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love… for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him, as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgression from us…” Psalm 103:1-22
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 58:8+9
This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30
PRAY WITH THEM
Father, speak peace to my friend’s heart right now. Calm the anxious thoughts that are running circles in their mind. Give them clarity in their mind so that they can see the situation for what it really is, and not through the lens of depression or anxiety. Send a person or an event into their life today that will encourage them, help them to see the good right where they are at, and to give them hope. Give me wisdom to say the right thing and be the friend that they need.