“The third guy was depressed!” I scrawled on the back of an envelope and passed it to my husband sitting next to me on the pew. The third servant’s suspicion of the Master’s motives and his reaction of fear and self-protection reminded me of many people I know, most of all myself, when depression has the upper hand in our lives. Each of us, no matter how strong and independent we are, will encounter times in our lives when we need the faith of our brothers and sisters to carry us.
I have learned to recognize in myself and people I love that this pattern often corresponds to a medical problem, biologically triggered. When my meds are out of whack, I am unable to take risks, and the smallest deviation from normal routines feels like a risk much too large to manage. When depression gets bad enough, even the normal routines become impossible, and just getting out of bed in the morning becomes a risk we cannot manage.
Knowing as I do the incredible courage folks with depression show when they do manage to get out of bed, get themselves dressed, showered, off to work, to a doctor’s appointment, or sometimes just down to the kitchen to eat a little bit, I am not inclined to consign them to outer darkness! Someone who has never experienced that deadening blanket of lethargy and self-loathing that comes with serious depression may have no idea what a victory and act of courage it is for the person battling depression to exercise the tiniest step of self-care, let alone care for others.
When we see a sister or brother in our faith community who reminds us of the third servant—despondent, suspicious, avoiding all apparent risk—the invitation to Christ’s body, the church, is to bear that beloved child of God up before the throne of mercy. In NAMI‘s (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Voice newsletter, Jackson Day wrote, “Relationships are powerful because they can hold your hope until you are ready to take it back.” With patience and compassion we can support, encourage, and celebrate the tiniest steps toward risk, community participation, and faithful living. As we hold the hope of others, we will be graced with Christ’s presence, there in the midst of us.
Each of us, no matter how strong and independent we are, will encounter times in our lives when we need the faith of our brothers and sisters to carry us. We will need others to carry our hope for us. Even then—especially then—I pray that the Body of Christ will have a place of welcome for us, among those hope-bearing ones who have been busy investing and multiplying the love God has entrusted to them.
Christine Guth is Program Director for Anabaptist Disabilities Network. This article was originally posted in 2011.