6 Ways to Love Someone With Anxiety or Depression

The following is a guest post I wrote for Anne Marie Miller’s website on June 16, 2014. It was republished by ChurchLeaders.com. I wanted to share it with you today, here on Average Us.—Lon


You’re probably familiar with this passage of the Bible written by the Apostle Paul:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.—1 Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV

We love these verses, don’t we? Beautiful written, wonderfully inspiring. You may even have had them recited at your wedding.

But what if loving this way involves supporting a spouse or a child with emotional health issues? What does 1 Corinthian 13 look like in that kind of real, often dark, life?

I live with three such women—one wife and two daughters, all in counseling, two on medication—and I want to share what I’ve learned about loving and supporting them as Paul instructs. I hope you’ll find inspiration and new courage to love a similar someone in your life.

❯ ACKNOWLEDGE IT

Love believes all things…

What your spouse or child is feeling?—It’s real. It’s not “just in their head,” not in the dismissive way we usually use that phrase. The single most loving thing you can do for someone struggling with a mental health issue is to let them feel the validating sense of relief that comes from being believed.

Let your loved ones know it’s safe to confide their weird, icky, creepy, dark, scary thoughts with trustful, trustworthy, compassionate you.

❯ DON’T GUILT

Love is not arrogant or rude…

Most mental health issues aren’t caused by sinful decisions a person has made. Being bipolar, or depressed, aren’t sins people commit. Rather, they are specific manifestations of the universal human fall into sin and misery. They are signs of the same broken, sinful nature abiding within you. Anne Jackson has written more about this in Your Anxiety is Not a Sin.

Let your loved ones know you still respect and admire them. They need to know your good opinion of them hasn’t changed.

❯ LISTEN PATIENTLY

Love is patient, not irritable…

You may hear the same, or similar, story over and over and over…

Don’t roll your eyes. Don’t let exasperation slip out, even if you feel it once in a while. Instead, listen actively, patiently. Ask gentle questions, not to fix “it,” but to hear “it.”

Give your loved ones the sounding board they need to process how they feel.

❯ KEEP LIVING

Love hopes all things…

“It” is real, but it doesn’t haveto be the 24/7 center of family life.

Keep your daily routines and annual traditions to maintain a sense of order and rhythm to life. The idea isn’t to pretend nothing is wrong, but to remind you and your family that life is still worth living.

Help your loved ones see the meaningful enjoyment of small accomplishments, and family games, Sunday sermons, and trips to the beach. Make fun together. Make memories together. Laugh together.

❯ PRAY TOGETHER

Love bears all things…

Pray with them. For them. Out loud.

Few things will fire more warmth and trust in a relationship than the simple act of asking God to help your loved one.

A childlike plea will do. Often, the very act of praying for a loved one in need becomes the answer in the moment of need.

❯ GET USED TO IT

Love endures all things…

Life as you knew itmay be interrupted for a while.

You may have to become a caregiver and life coach for a season. You may be needed at 3 am to sooth a panic attack.

You may have to make time just to help your loved one walk outside, to experience the sun and grass and flowers. You may need to do the laundry, at the last minute, just because. You may need to attend counseling or a support group. Maybe because he wants you to, maybe because she won’t go without you.

You may have to become more than you imagined you could.

But, love will endure all this and more.

❯ OVERWHELMED?

Where will you find the inner resources to love this way?

I’ve found that I have to rely on God for that.

I have to bring my weakness to Him to ask for His strength. I have to confess my inadequacy to ask for His sufficiency. I am the average husband and father who makes mistakes, speaks too harshly, listens half-heartedly, who sometimes, just doesn’t get it.

But God is great for us in His Son, Jesus Christ. God will pour out the Spirit of Christ to fill you with His love, patience, kindness, endurance, and all that you need to love the struggling person in your life well.

And even if this season of life lasts longer than you can imagine, set your hope on Christ’s promise of eternal peace and rest beyond the present suffering. Trust Him for this.

He is great, even when life isn’t.

Do you love someone, or are you someone, who struggles with anxiety or depression? Any thoughts to share? Please do in the comments below.

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4 thoughts on “6 Ways to Love Someone With Anxiety or Depression

  1. Thanks Lon. Thanks for sharing! I’m not sure if I’ve posted about this on your blog but … this is my story as well. I was diagnosed with depression at 16 via a mandatory state examination as part of my parents’ divorce. I have lived with it for 16 years. I’ve been to rehab twice for it. What has gotten better is my arsenal that I used to manage it when it comes. But it still comes. It’s the primary reason I was drawn to my former charismatic church because the leader was vocal about her deliverance from it and I wanted to be delivered. And in Christianity no one was really talking about applying faith to mental health/ emotional issues publicly except my former leader and Joyce Meyers. Very few churches even have mental health/addiction recovery groups. Here’s my arsenal, i like sharing and learning what other people have learned:

    1. Fav scriptures: Not my fault or my parents: John 9:3, something to always have me rely on God: 2 Cor 12.

    2. Over the counter sleeping pills if I can’t sleep, prescription meds during a crisis (like now after leaving my old church)

    3. Joyce Meyer materials when I feel led to. Her testimony is powerful, she was raped regularly by her dad for most of her life which made her moody, depressed, negative, etc. She eventually forgave them and that’s why her ministry is about enjoying her life. I like her Battlefield of the Mind book.

    4. I have to exercise every other day, especially cardio which sustains my mood

    5. Christian therapist – I see one monthly during a crisis and annually when things are good

    6. Listen to the Book of John on replay at night because when it comes it’s hard to pick up the Bible

    7. Force myself go out. It’s tough because you want to isolate yourself.

    8. Manage the depression around the scope of it. Most of the times its around major crisis or even mini crisis. This where it can have the tendency to come and go for a few months. Sometimes everything is fine and it comes. This is where it lasts like 2 days. When it’s a crisis then I will work through the crisis. Overall, depression for me is like my biological proclivity to stress. That’s the way I understand it.

    9. I also understand depression to be a related to my personality preference, brain and emotional makeup. Since I was a child I’ve always been very sensitive. Some call it empaths or spiritual sensitivity. I’m also an intuitive thinker whose brain moves very fast. I’m an engineer and I dream vividly and anlyze everything without trying. I am the MTB personality type INTJ. I am an introvert. I love people but after a while I have to be a lone because they drain me. I also soak up people’s emotions or vibes. Sometimes I can sense love ones in distress without them telling me. A christian author has written a good book on this called the Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity by Carol Brown. So sometimes with this awareness I can easily manage a mood or squash depression. But of course like I said before in #8, sometimes there is no reason. There is no crisis, no spiritual thing going on, you have every reason to be happy but your mood wants to shift.

    • Thanks so much for sharing this. I found it fascinating. I love that you have pursued understanding–in your own analytical way–the nature of your depression, it’s comings and goings, the form and shape of it. And in this way, you develop an arsenal for managing it. It very much reminds me of what I’ve read about Puritans, how they were “physicians of the soul” and sought to understand the nature of people’s brokenness so that they could effectively minister to them. I first read about this years ago in J I Packer’s book on Puritan’s, “A Quest for Godliness.” Thanks again for sharing. I hope just the act of writing it down here was a source of encouragement to you. Hope in God! Lon

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