|Photo Credit:Kristina Smith|
Have you ever been around someone who you would swear it costs them money to offer up a word of encouragement, to give a hug or even smile at you? I have and it can be so incredibly disheartening when you are in need of love, kindness, compassion, empathy, etc. and the person you find yourself with in the moment or the people you are surrounded by in life have clearly given themselves a limit on how many positive words and actions they can extend that day, month or year! Thankfully I serve a God who is available to all those who will call on Him, and he is the perfect comfort in times of need. BUT, just because He is always there and just because He is the one we should be turning to first does not mean that the rest of human kind is off the hook when it comes to this ministry of encouragement.
("Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." ~Gal. 6:2)
Those of us who live in Maine were saddened today to hear about one of our meteorologists who was found to have committed suicide. It is incredibly sad anytime we hear of someone succumbing to the depths of their despair and taking their own life, whether they are a local "celebrity", a family member or the neighbor we hardly thought of...and it happens daily. This affects not just adults but youth as well. In one of my counseling classes we learned that every 24 hours an estimated 6 teens will commit suicide; about 1500 will make an attempt! People of all ages are broken and they are desperate for healing. People who are struggling begin to reach for anything that will anesthetize the pain and emptiness. And sometimes the only option they feel they have is to end their life. Many Christians will say and have said that, "if only they knew Christ this wouldn't have happened." While I agree a life in Christ, surrendered to the one who can make all things new is a great first step to healing, it is NOT a cure. Christ-followers are just as capable of deep depression and despair as someone who has no relationship with Christ because sin still exists in us. One of our dear senior saints, who was a Christian and who was a member of our church for many, many years took his own life a few years ago. So, please, don't be so insensitive and ignorant of the issue as to insist that if a person only had a relationship with Christ, these things wouldn't happen. It's not true and its an incredibly dangerous and discouraging mindset.
I believe every single person on any given day needs to be uplifted. And God uses us to be ministers of His love and compassion so we do have a responsibility to make sure we are building up those around us. I want to make it clear that I know suicide is a desperate last move to put an end to the pain and suffering and it in no way compares to someone who is having a "bad day". Depression and a "bad day" are very different and we need wisdom from God to know the difference. That being said, we are surrounded with people who are suffering on so many different levels and they often suffer silently and alone because they are embarrassed, they don't want to be a burden or they feel many around them are too busy to be bothered to help them. To be uplifting, or to "build up" or "bear one another's burdens" is FREE! It costs you nothing except time to offer words of encouragement, a listening ear or to visit with someone who needs a friend and "time"...time belongs to God. Each minute we are allowed to continue living on this earth is ordered by God. He controls our beginning and our end so we have no right to behave selfishly with time that is given to us as a gift. We are all busy with so many things but we need to make sure that we are not so busy that we can't take time to minister to someone who is hurting or discouraged. Sometimes all it takes is a "word fitly spoken" (Prov. 25:11) to bring someone up out of a bad day.
So what is the practical application to all of this? I'm glad you asked! Educate yourself on the signs of depression, first of all. Depression is a real thing and it exists among Christians and non-Christians alike. Know the signs and be ready to offer help to someone who is showing signs of depression. This is an area I feel the church is neglecting, some are even ignoring but its prevalent, which means it is needful to understand and know how to help those who are suffering. Not everyone who is down is depressed though and this is where wisdom comes in. Make it a point to pray and ask God to show you who is in need of being uplifted and then listen to His leading. I promise you each one of you reading this will have contact with at LEAST one person today who would benefit from a compliment, a text asking how they are doing, a card in the mail, a phone call, a hug or a smile or maybe even a visit. Not sure where to start? Start at home. Who do you live with and what do you think they could use from you? Family members are often the most overlooked when it comes to building up and yet they are the ones God gave to you...so don't neglect them. Then look to your neighbors, your church family, co-workers, the cashier at the grocery store or the lady at the post office. People are everywhere and they need to be uplifted. Start today being a vessel God can use to minister to those who are hurting.