As we actually become more like our Savior, we begin to see how our worth, purpose, and hope is intrinsically tied to him, not to our feelings or present circumstance. When we identify with Christ, we abide in him and become more like him. The result is that we see our worth without decay (like Christ!), our purpose without boundaries (like Christ!), and our hope without fear (like Christ!).
This is the final post in a three-part series on depression. We looked at two passages of Scripture to help us build new habits of praying, thinking, and seeing. Now, we turn our attention to doing.
Passage 3: Matthew 7:12/2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Loving and Comforting Others
My mom owned a dance studio while I was growing up, and I was in classes throughout my childhood. Being the semi-whiny child that I was, I would inevitably come up with some excuse to get out of class such as, "My tummy hurts," "My feet hurt," or even once I tried, “My thumb hurts” (as if that would get me out of class). My very wise mother knew exactly what I was trying to do (i.e. complain so I wouldn't have to do something hard), so she came up with an infamous phrase that has stuck with us to this day: "Dancing is good for that." Whenever I would give her a reason to get out of going to class, she would simply tell me, “Well, you know, dancing is actually good for that." We joke about this now, but at the time the effect was straightforward. My excuses were silenced.
Sometimes the best remedy for depression is to simply do what God tells us to do without excuse. God cares for our feelings, and he prompts us to find our comfort and strength in him (Ps 18:1-2). He welcomes us to pour our heart out to him as the psalmists did and as Job did. And, wonder of all wonders, he answers us through his precious Word. Even so, sometimes we forget the effect that simple obedience has on our soul. Consider Jesus' command in Matthew 7:12:
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
This passage’s command is so simple, yet completely counter-intuitive. Do you long for someone to care for you? Go and care for someone else. Do you want someone to listen to you? Go and listen to someone else. Do you desire someone to appreciate you? Go and appreciate someone else. In the very act of doing to others as we would have them do to us, we turn our gaze from our own situation and look out to see how we might bless others. As we make a small difference in other people’s lives even in our own time of need, we cultivate humility knowing that they are important too. As we become the hands and feet of Christ to others, we also see new purpose, value, and worth as we use our gifts for his kingdom and other people’s good. So, when we begin to feel down, I wonder if we could employ a new phrase: “Loving others is good for that.”
At this point you may say, “But don’t I need comfort and care too?” Yes, we are constantly in need of comfort and care. Praise the Lord, we are not left without it. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
God is the source of all lasting and true comfort. He is the one who holds the universe in balance. He is weaving together the experiences of your life so that you might know his love for you. He is the one who has the power to act, save, protect, and strengthen you. When you trust God in all circumstances, you have infinite access to an abundance of comfort from the one who can do something about it.
Again, let’s go a little deeper now. The comfort we receive in our discouragement, according to this passage, is not intended solely for our own ease, but he comforts us for a purpose. When we flourish in the rich comfort of God, we can share that comfort with others who desperately need it. As we realize first hand that God really is good in all circumstances, we can turn around and point someone else to that fact as well. While our experience may not be the same as theirs, our God is the same, and we can help them look to him for their comfort and strength.
A Step Towards Others
This God-centered, others-directed lifestyle found in both of these passages is a daily habit that can not only transform our own despair, but also bless others in the midst of their own. Here are some practical ways that you can begin to show others care even in the midst of your own depression, because after all, “loving others is good for that”:
- Pray for others daily. Ask people how you can pray for them, and then commit to doing so. Follow-up about the prayer later and see what God is doing in their life.
- Write cards to people that may need encouragement. Even just a short note can mean so much.
- Visit the sick, lonely, or lowly. Bake some cookies and make yourself available for conversation. You don’t have to stay long, but you will show them that God’s people reach out.
- Ask your church leadership where you might serve to build up the body of Christ. God has given his children gifts to be used for the strengthening of the church.
May we be women who are not stagnant in our despair, but actively seek God’s comfort that we might be a comfort to others. May God give us the strength to act and obey even when we don’t feel like it. And may we find that in the act of obedience, we are never without purpose or hope.
Kristen Ferguson is a member of Lakeshore City Church. As a wife, mom, and Director of Online Education for Gateway Seminary, she strives to make Christ's name known around the world.