How can I help when others are depressed?

What a helpless feeling! A friend, spouse, sibling, co-worker shows all the signs of depression. The person has gone from full of energy and life to tearful, lethargic, unmotivated and overwhelmed. The change from positive and confident to pessimistic and hopeless is heartbreaking to observe. You desire to help your loved one, but how do you? What can you do? Perhaps you have tried to cheer them up or invite them to functions so that they can get out and be with other people. Maybe you have attempted to talk them out of their depression by telling them it will get better soon or encouraged them to look at the positives in their lives. Despite your efforts, does it seem like nothing you do really helps?

There are things you can do to help someone you care about who is depressed. You can be a loving listener, an encouraging voice, and a praying heart. You can remind them of the many blessings that they have and help them identify the times in their lives in which they have not felt depressed. You can encourage them to seek the counsel of a physician, therapist, or minister. However, the most important gift you can give them is to remind them that they are loved unconditionally by Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the only one who understands their suffering completely. The Bible explains how God became a man, in Jesus. And He lived on this earth with all its challenges. Jesus suffered as He endured pain, hunger, fatigue, rejection, loneliness, and more. Ultimately, Jesus even experienced death on a cross. The Bible says in Philippians 2:6-8, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Not only does Jesus understand what it is like for us to suffer but he did all of this so that we can be saved. Jesus died for us that we may receive the ultimate blessing of eternal life in heaven. Sharing this gift with someone we care about who is depressed is perhaps the best medicine!

Where is contentment to be found?

A farmer who had lived on the same farm all his life began to long for something better. He finally decided to sell it. He listed it with a real estate broker who promptly prepared a sales advertisement for the farm. The ad, of course, listed all the farm’s advantages: ideal location, modern equipment, healthy stock, and acres of fertile ground.

When the farmer saw the ad in the paper, he hurriedly phoned his real estate agent. “I’ll buy it!” he exclaimed. “It’s exactly the place I’m looking for!”

Contentment is a matter of perspective. How many times have you lived out the cliché, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone?”

There is a place where contentment is found, and you don’t need to take a religious pilgrimage to find it. Look at the people, possessions, and pleasures in your life and see them not as your own but “on loan” from God. He gives them to you for a purpose. He wants you to take care of them, and to manage them faithfully.

Some people have received talents from God that are most appreciated by the company’s upper management. Other people have received talents that are noticed most by two-year-olds as they live securely in a loving home. Both kinds of people can be content.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” one Bible writer happily urges. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:4,12-13).

Contentment is a happiness and appreciation that comes from God tapping you on the shoulder and saying, “I’d like you to do something for me. It’s not the same as everyone else is doing, but I know you can do it well. Here’s what I want you to use.”

Rejoice! No matter what the circumstances, you can be content when you see what you have as a gift from God. Part of that gift is the purpose behind it, an improvement project that improves not just the gift, but also the one to whom it is given.

Perfection

A group of special friends comes over for dinner. You spend hours preparing for the meal. You vacuum your house or apartment. You bring out the best dishes in your cabinet. You want everything to be just perfect. Any food improperly cooked or signs of a dirty house could take away from the specialness of the evening. Everything must be perfect.

Our desire for perfection can be seen not only in the home but also in the workplace. Your employer expects you to do your job well. Mistakes will cost the company time and money. If a company is to run efficiently and profitably, everything must be just so, perfect. Further, you feel the best when you have done your job perfectly. And what about your leisure time? What is it that keeps you coming back to play that round of golf again and again? Isn’t it those few perfect shots in a round that motivate you to return again and again?

The God of the universe also is one who expects perfection in the people he has created. The Bible says, “Be perfect, for I the Lord your God am perfect” (Matthew 5:48). God knows that if his people are going to be what he expects them to be, they will be perfect.

The big problem here, as we all know, is that none of us is perfect. Some of that food that we prepared for those guests doesn’t always turn out right, our house has dirt and spiders even though we clean it often. That perfect golf shot slices and ends up just off the green. The assignment at work ends up with a mistake or two. The same holds true in our relationship with God. He has given us 10 commandments. But we break them. We say harsh words. We think bad thoughts. Being the just God that he is, our God must punish us. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Fortunately, a person named Jesus came into the world. He wanted to rescue us. Thus, he lived a perfect life. And that perfect life has been credited to us. We receive Christ’s perfection as our own. Then he died a death for all the times we messed up and weren’t perfect.

Jesus is God’s perfect solution to our imperfection.

Parenting

A sign along the freeway shows a picture of a worried mother with her teenage son. The caption reads, “Too bad children don’t come with instructions.”

Every parent is faced with many dilemmas, frustrations, and heartaches throughout life, and it seems like sometimes there is nowhere to turn for “The Instructions.”

But in actuality instructions ARE available. It’s just that so many parents either don’t know or overlook the instructions. It’s called the Word of God.

You see, we parents don’t create children. God does. Science can explain the process to some degree. But only the Creator can create new life.

Now, along with that new life, He wants to bless parents and children with a deeply caring relationship that will last for time and eternity.

First and foremost, the Lord God made it possible for our family bonds to last forever. God the Father sent his one-and-only Son to bring forgiveness of wrong doings, to rescue the world from death and hell, and to give us the gift of heaven on top of it all! It’s a “done deal” through the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus!

Now when your family has Jesus in the center of its life, that makes for a loving and rewarding home life, too. Not easy, not trouble free, but richly blessed.

These instructions really WORK! If you could list every valuable piece of advice from books, newspaper columns, radio talk show hosts, and clinical counselors, you’d find that all the best advice has been said before—in the Bible!

Consider, for example, this one piece of advice from the Apostle Paul: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Parents, don’t toss the “Instructions” away. Take the time to read the Bible. It works.

Why Am I Suffering?

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.—Romans 8:18

This article is meant for those who know what it is like to suffer because you are going through it right now.

Some of you have joints that are screaming from rheumatoid arthritis. Some of you are miserable from chemotherapy. Some of you have back pain so severe you can only stand, sit, or sleep for short periods of time. Some of you get frequent headaches so massive that any kind of light or sound is torture. Some of you are reeling from multiple surgeries, barely recovering from one when doctors tell you to get ready for another. And some of you possess one of a thousand other maladies–physical or emotional. What they all have in common is that they all define what it is to suffer.

It’s often when our suffering is at its worst that the devil walks in, ready to attack our faith. Many times, he points out other people similar to us in age and circumstance. He leads us to think that they don’t seem to have anything near the suffering and pain that we have. And with that, he lets our sinful nature do the rest. He lets our sinful nature drag us away into the dungeon of self-pity.

But the Lord of your life has something to say about this. He speaks through the apostle Paul who knew all about severe suffering. He grappled with a terrible problem that appeared to plague him until he died. Instead of comparing himself to others who did not have to suffer as he did, Paul made the comparison that really matters. He said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

What is the specific reason why the Lord is allowing you to suffer? That is not for us to say. Perhaps it is to nurture within you a faith that is heroic and robust. Perhaps it is to give others around you a living, breathing sermon on Christian courage. Perhaps it is to bring you into contact with a lost soul the Lord will save through your witness. Perhaps it’s for an entirely different reason.

Never forget, however, the comparison that matters. Your temporary suffering is a droplet in comparison to the oceans of joy that await you in heaven. That’s why Jesus came. That’s why he suffered and died for your sins. That’s why he rose. That’s why he lives.

Overcome Evil with Good

A Christian friend shared this story from his life. He was driving across town and irritated another driver on the roadway. That driver accelerated past him, yelled some choice words, made an obscene gesture, and sped on by. Not long after, the Christian man saw that same car stopped on the shoulder with car trouble.

What would you have done if that sequence of events happened to you? Would you have laughed at the other driver’s misfortune? Would you have said a prayer or even stopped to help?

Throughout our lives, people are going to say and do evil things that will cause us pain and hardship. Our sinful hearts will want to avenge these wrongs. Our sinful hearts will think that the best way to overcome evil is with evil. God tells us in his Word: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

This is only possible through a good God who alone can deliver us from evil and who has overcome the evil of our sin. This is only possible with a God of peace whose forgiveness allows us to live at peace with him and whose peace enables us, as far as it depends on us, to live at peace with everyone.

So, what did the Christian driver do? He stopped behind the other car. When the driver saw who had stopped, he feared that the man he had treated so poorly would now treat him poorly. But this Christian man hadn’t come to repay evil for evil. He came to offer help and assistance. He overcame evil with good. May our God equip us to do the same!

Romans 12:17-21
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Money Trap

Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

The secret to an effective trap is to keep your prey from seeing the menacing end that lies ahead. Instead of seeing a mouse trap that should scream DANGER, all the mouse sees is the piece of cheese. By the time the trap is tripped, it is too late. The mouse is caught. Its fate is sealed.

In this portion of God’s Word a seasoned pastor named Paul is warning a young pastor named Timothy about the trappings of wealth and having a lifelong ambition of being rich. Wealth can be like a piece of cheese. We want it so badly that we don’t realize what we stand to lose in getting it.

Do you know anyone who has given up too much in an attempt to get rich? How about the woman who lost her marriage because she was working 60+ hours a week in an effort to get the big promotion? Or maybe it was the man who always had time for work, but never for his family. Now his children resent him and won’t even talk to him. Perhaps you know someone like this, or maybe you know this type of pain firsthand. As bad as these consequences can be, an even greater pain would be to have riches destroy one’s relationship with God.

Paul’s words to Timothy are meant to warn us. But they also are meant to encourage us. We are encouraged to fight greed with contentment. One way to pursue contentment is to count blessings. We do well to remember that God takes care of all of our physical needs. He gives us food and clothing and provides all that we need for our body and life.

As great as it is to have our daily needs met, an even greater source of our contentment comes from the spiritual needs that have been filled by Christ. Every day as we consider the wrongs that we have done, even the sin of being greedy, we know that Jesus has forgiven it. He took all our sins to the cross and paid for them there. On a daily basis we can count our blessings of love, care and concern that come from our gracious God.

Take the apostle Paul’s advice and save yourself from a lot of misery. Be content with the blessings God gives to you in your life. Give thanks for the physical and spiritual gifts he gives to you. Pursue godliness with contentment.

I need a break!

Once the kids are born the time demands never seem to end. It starts with the 3 am feeding. Next we have teething and earaches. We run the daily rat race from home to daycare to work to daycare to home to bed. And that’s a slow day without tee-ball, soccer or dance class! My life revolves around my children. I don’t have any time to myself.

Do you feel this way? Have your family concerns and obligations sapped your strength? Take heart, you are not alone!

One of the toughest lessons for me to learn as a parent was that taking quiet time for myself does not mean that I don’t love my children. As a matter of fact, taking time to be alone can be one of the best things I can do for my family. I learned this truth from Jesus.

Many times in the Bible, like in Matthew 14:13, we see that Jesus took time for himself. This verse says “Jesus withdrew privately to a solitary place.” Jesus is the perfect Son of God who gave his life on the cross for mine, yet he took time on this earth be alone and pray to his Father in heaven. We don’t need to feel guilty when we do the same.

I understand now that I need to take time alone. I am a parent, yet I am God’s child. I need time to be held by him. I need time to hear how much he loves me. I need time to talk to him. I need time to listen to him. Spending time alone with my Father in heaven gives me strength. He is my perfect parent and a model for me to follow. Spend time alone with him you will find the same.

Trust your faithful Lord and Savior

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

“Do not fear.” “Do not be afraid.” “Fear not.” God has spoken those reassuring words to his people throughout history. Scripture contains dozens and dozens of instances where the Lord spoke such words of comfort. Whether it was to Abram before his big move or to Joshua trying to fill the shoes of Moses or to Mary and Joseph about to become parents of the Messiah or to the Israelites in Isaiah’s day facing war and destruction, God has lovingly said to his people: “Do not fear.”

When do you need him to say those words to you? Maybe you are about to have surgery. Maybe it is when you are anxious because it is your first day on the job or your first day of retirement. Perhaps it is when you are trying to get up the courage to speak to your friend about Jesus. Or maybe it is when you recently lost a spouse and don’t know how to move forward. On such days as these, your Lord says: “Do not be afraid.”

‘That’s easy for him to say,’ we may think to ourselves. ‘He’s not the one going through what we are going through.’ Dear friend in Christ, please realize that when the Lord says, “Do not be afraid,” those aren’t just nice words meant to flatter us for a moment or to give us a quick pep talk. Those words are spoken by the Almighty God who has already backed up his words with powerful action. The One who tells us not to fear is the same one who has achieved our salvation by sending his Son into this world to live and die for us. Jesus’ death and resurrection in our place prove that God will always be there for us. He will never leave us alone. He has planned our future and it is eternal and perfect and glorious.

God’s encouragement for us not to be afraid comes with words of power: “I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God knows exactly what we need and what we are going through and he knows exactly what he needs to do to keep us safe and finally bring us home to heaven.

Whatever you are facing today or tomorrow or the next day, don’t be afraid. Trust your faithful Lord and Savior to get you through each day and to bless you with strength and faith and everything else you need for this life.

Calming Fears

When someone you know is really scared, what can you do to help them overcome their fears?

Do you know what most people do? They try to divert their attention away! If they’re afraid of heights they yell, “Don’t look down!” If they are afraid of lightning flashing at night, you close the curtain.

But the person is still way up high and lightning still flashes. There must be a better solution to help those who are afraid.

God wants you to trust in him. In the Bible he provides the answer to quieting fear: “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go” (Genesis 28:15). And also, “Cast all your anxiety (fear) on him (Christ) because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Do you know someone who is afraid. Maybe you can share God’s promise with them.

Do you regret not knowing what to say to such a person from the Bible? Then perhaps you can read your Bible more and learn what to say.

Hiding from fear won’t last. Distracting one’s attention from fear won’t last. Only one thing will help someone overcome their fear. Share God’s promises with them.

It is God’s love for them that will help them overcome their fear. God proved this love for us by sending his Son, Jesus, to take away the sins of the world and give us his true peace.

Direct people to Jesus’ love and you will help them overcome their fears!