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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Have You Seen Our Most Recent Guest Post?

Hey there!

Lon here, letting you know that I recently had the privilege of guest posting on Anne Marie Miller’s blog!

The post explores what 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) looks like in real life when the person you love struggles with depression or anxiety. It was quite well received on Anne’s blog and I hope you’ll find it honest and helpful, too.

Here’s the link to Loving Someone with Depression or Anxiety on Anne’s blog.


Anne Marie Miller

Anne Marie Miller is a popular blogger, speaker, and published author of several books. Her newest book, Lean On Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable, and Consistent Community, is due out in October 2014.

More about Anne

The Incarnation: Somebody Loved You

A good friend who wanted some advice asked me this week how I handled Dawn’s struggles with anxiety and depression.

Without hesitation, I offered a one word answer: love.

What I Meant by That

I didn’t mean that I feel romantic, warm-fuzzy feelings for Dawn (though, I have them a-plenty) that counter-balance whatever personal loss I might experience (which, I don’t at all) by having her in my life.

I meant that I handle her issues by actively loving her. I think of love primarily as a verb – an action, a decision, a commitment; not as a noun – a feeling, a state of being. Our culture typically defines love as the happy, warm-fuzzy feelings another person makes us feel, or worse, as the erotic passion another person makes us feel. (Have you noticed that no one is pretty, or elegant, or handsome, or cute anymore? Everyone is “hot”? But I digress…)

A better, more biblical understanding of love is this: love is committing oneself to act in a way that benefits someone else. Take, for example, the story of the Good Samaritan. The hero in that story was the hero because he actively loved someone else.

Love is committing oneself to act in a way that benefits someone else.

What Love Can Cost

Noun-love is self-centered; verb-love is other-centered. It is costly to the self, though it often comes with personal rewards, too.

I try to love Dawn this way. I want my life to be a series of actions intended to make her life fuller. I admit though, that in my case there is so much I admire and enjoy about Dawn that my commitment to love her (it’s a verb) makes any personal cost I might experience invisible to me. I never feel like I’m losing anything.  It’s easy to love her.

But what if she had less I could admire and enjoy about her? And, what if her “issues” were a thousand times worse? Would I still find it so easy to actively love her? Would I be as committed to her welfare?

All I can say is, I hope so. I’m only an average man. I have issues, too – pretty complicated, nasty, ugly ones, actually. As a result, I probably don’t have the capacity for great, great love. I would need to tap into Someone else’s supply.

What God Meant by That

And that brings me to why I’m writing today. My friend’s question reminded me how wonderful it is that God wasn’t content to feel a cosmic warm-fuzzy toward me. Instead, He loved me so as to benefit me, in spite of my issues, and He never gave the cost a second thought. The incarnation of His Son was an infinitely costly, supreme act of love toward an unremarkable me. That act of love will ultimately free me from my issues, and empower my own capacity to love Him and others.

God looked down on me and you, a mass of average people with nothing admirable to recommend us, and He verb-loved us anyway…

with the best He had to offer.

How has God’s verb-love made a difference in your life?


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