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"I Wish I Were Dead" : How to Love the Depressed

Recalling Job – After God makes a deal with the devil concerning Job’s family and wealth, and God takes everything from Job, Job’s now classic response was this: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed by the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). And the scripture adds, “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (Job 1:22).

But round two saw to it that Job’s health was taken from him so that he had a miserable physical existence. Job’s three friends came “to sympathize with him and comfort him” (Job 2:11). They stayed quiet for seven days, “for they saw that his pain was very great” (Job 2:13).

Job was the first to open his mouth and speak after seven days of silence. We know he was silent because just after the mention of the seven days of silence, the text tells us “Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth” (Job 3:1). Job asks many questions:

Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire? … Or like a miscarriage which is discarded, I would not be, as infants that never saw light. … Why is light given to him who suffers, and life to the bitter of soul, who long for death, but there is none, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures, who rejoice greatly, and exult when they find the grave? Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and whom God has hedged in? For my groaning comes at the sight of my food, and my cries pour out like water. For what I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, and I am not at rest, but turmoil comes.” (Job 3:11, 16, 20-26).

Job Had a Suicidal Mentality, And His Friends Were in Hush Mode – Clearly, Job would rather be dead than experience such emotional and physical pain. This is the suicidal mentality that inevitably flows from a miserable existence. When you are in so much pain that you cannot rejoice, cannot find hope, cannot see things getting better, and cannot live a normal life due to the pain, why even live? Especially for Christians—why not be at home with the Lord where all our pain is gone? This makes suicide especially attractive to believers—they know where they will go if they kill themselves. Yet, it is precisely the Christian who desires to be with Christ that also desires to please Christ and therefore not commit such a grave sin as suicide. This makes the struggle all the more complicated for a believer.

Two things I desire to point out about the book of Job so far. 1) Job wanted to die. Although God testified of Job that “there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil,” when suffering of such great magnitude came upon him, though he still loved and had God to hope in, he nevertheless wanted to die. He cursed the day of his birth and was utterly depressed. 2) Job’s friends were silent when they saw Job’s calamity was great. Even these men—who assumed that Job must have sinned for God to allow such great calamity to fall upon him—even they held their tongue at the sight of Job’s suffering.

Both Love and Answers Help, but Love Before Giving an Answer – Just one application from this: When people are suffering greatly, what they need most is for someone to listen, try to understand their pain, and grieve with them. “Weep with hose who weep” is not a suggestion, but part of how we “let love be without hypocrisy” (Rom 12:15, 9). If your only reaction to someone who shares their grief with you is to start intellectually analyzing a person’s situation in light of biblical truths that you think apply to their situation, your heart is cold. Counseling one who suffers from depression is not like solving a math problem. It’s not as easy as 1) “What is your problem?,” 2) “What does the Bible say?,” 3) “Here’s your answer.” If we fail to weep with the suffering, we fail to love them. Someone who is hurting greatly needs your compassion more than they need your biblical analysis of their situation. That’s not to say people don’t need to be counseled with biblical truth—such counsel is essential to their recovery, especially if the sufferer is deficient in biblical understanding and Christian worldview. It is, however, to say that love must express itself first and foremost in compassion, not in analysis and biblical solution. The old adage, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is proverbial genius.

Love and Pleasure – Love for God & people is what makes the Christian Hedonist’s heart tick. If you understand better how to love, and what love looks like when you want to help someone who suffers with depression, your capacity to love, and therefore to expereince pleasure, grows.
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