Caring for the Depressed (2): Sympathy
Written by David Murray
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Reformed Practice - Depression

Thoughtful and prayerful study of depression should naturally and automatically increase our sympathy for those who suffer from it. By sympathy, I mean an ability to communicate that we truly understand the problem and the symptoms, that we are deeply concerned, and that we will do all that we can to help. In many cases such sympathy can have a powerful therapeutic effect on the sufferer. The lack of it can only multiply the pain and deepen the darkness. Consider the following quote from Russell Hampton, who suffered from depression:

If there were a physical disease that manifested itself in some particularly ugly way, such as postulating sores or a sloughing off of the flesh accompanied by pain of an intense and chronic nature, readily visible to everyone, and if that disease affected fifteen million people in our country, and further, if there were virtually no help or succour for most of these persons, and they were forced to walk among us in their obvious agony, we would rise up as one social body in sympathy and anger. There isn’t such a physical disease, but there is such a disease of the mind, and about fifteen million people around us are suffering from it. But we have not risen in anger and sympathy, although they are walking among us in their pain and anguish (The Far Side of Despair, 78)

It will greatly help you to sympathize if you always remember that you could just as easily be in the same position, suffering the same sorrow (1 Cor. 4:7). If you treat depressed people with impatient contempt, you may, like many others before you, have to learn sympathy the hard way.

This is an excerpt from Dr. David Murray's book "Christians Get Depressed Too." Dr. David Murray is the Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Before coming to North America, he was the pastor at Stornaway Free Chuch of Scotland (Cont.).  He blogs at http://headhearthand.org/blog.