Feeling down? How to make it when the days aren’t merry or bright

Becca Garvin

The merry-go-round of lyrics that inhabit our minds from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve is in full swing. For many, Christmas is a time for joy and a time for cheer — the lights, the delicious smells, the family, the presents.

For some, though, the holiday season is not so merry and bright.

This time of year can be hard for believers and non-believers alike. We all have different stories of how we got to where we are, but depression doesn't discriminate. Different recipes, same defeated feeling.

For some, this time of year can reveal emptiness more than ever before. The heightened joy that surrounds us on every side can highlight a lack of joy for those struggling with depression. Although it is characterized by giving, Christmas time can serve as a reminder of what is missing.

Maybe right now you don’t have the joy that, according to the movies and your neighbors, is supposed to be overflowing from your windows and flashing along with the lights on your tree. Perhaps you feel fine, but you have a loved one who seems to spiral downwards this time of year. Both ends of the spectrum are very different, but Jesus can bridge gaps of understanding to bring joy to—and through—all of us.

Five Ways to Help Someone Struggling with Depression

1. Understand that depression is rooted much deeper than it may appear.

Coming from someone who has personally struggled with depression, I can tell you that circumstances definitely trigger pain, but it is rooted much deeper than that. My depression has stemmed from numerous things: traumatic past events, overwhelming present circumstances, chemical imbalances, hidden hurt. There is not always a single or direct correlation.

Depression attacks at the level hardest to separate from reality: feelings. But unlike some other feelings, depression is rarely something people can choose to walk away from or end.

2. Don’t expect depression to be removed by your own efforts.

Jesus is the only healer. Let Him use you to show His love, but leave the miracles up to Him.

3. Talk to them.

Asking someone to be vulnerable can be uncomfortable. But darkness becomes much weaker in the light of transparency (John 1:5). Encouraging people to talk about their wounds helps them process it and gives you a chance to speak the truth where lies have been planted.

4. Pray with them and for them.

Prayer is our most powerful weapon, and it works. Praying with someone can be the best thing to do, especially when you may not exactly understand or have advice to give.

5. This is an incredible opportunity to share Jesus.

Jesus' power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). You have been given an opportunity to share the key that unlocks this power in your loved one’s life.

Three Reminders for the Person Struggling with Depression

1. God is not mad at you.

God is not looking down on you because of your struggles. Psalm 34:18 says the Lord is close to those who are hurting and feel defeated. Don’t let Satan trick you into believing that your emotional state pushes God away from you. He is closer than ever before and He loves you more than you can imagine.

2. You can be grateful for the miraculous gift of Jesus’ birth even if you don’t feel festive.

Our faith is not defined by our feelings, and Jesus doesn’t base our salvation on how we feel. Your Christmas spirit is not indicative of your relationship with God.

3. This will not last forever.

2 Corinthians 5 reminds us that faith in God is what keeps us going through tough seasons of life. It also tells us that the hard times we're in right now are only temporary. Even when things seem hopeless, we cling to the God of hope who promises us that the best is yet to come.

Let’s embrace this opportunity to share and experience the love of our Savior. The gift of Jesus is the best present we can give anyone this Christmas.

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