I have a good friend who is a troubled person, having suffered a lot of abuse as a child and later as the wife of an abusive husband. She suffers recurring emotional pain because of this, yet I admire her for the courage she has had to survive. I love her dearly and tell her this often.

Yesterday I told my counselor what it meant to me to hug her and tell her how I love her. “It gives me a wonderful feeling to do that. She’s the sponge and I’m the water, pouring my love into her.”

My counselor said something that had never occurred to me before. “If you so love to show your love to this friend, imagine how God must feel when he loves us. Imagine how good God must feel when he pours his love into us and when we accept that love like a sponge soaking up water. All of us are broken people, needy people, thirsty for God’s love. Yet it can be so hard to truly own that love.”

We’ll never “…grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:18)

The following email came to me from a person very much longing for such love:

“I am a Christian, but I feel so very alone in my battles and struggles. I know I shouldn’t, but I feel ashamed and embarrassed to ask for prayer related to my disorder. I guess I still don’t want to admit I have bipolar disorder. In addition, I feel like a failure with regards to my career outside the home. Heck, I feel like a failure with being a stay-at-home mom and wife much of the time! I could go on and on, but what I really want to ask is what resources or support groups might be available to me that take into account that I have bipolar but am also a follower of Christ? I need his strength, but I also yearn for the support of those who hold the same worldview/belief system.”

There were several Living Room groups at that time. (at one time, sixteen across Canada) I hope she found a group for herself. She needs the friendship of believers like herself—those who will try to understand her needs and remind her of God’s love.

At one time, I became frustrated when someone I was giving support to didn’t seem to want to be well. At least, she didn’t pursue wellness as I hoped she would. Whenever we talked, she turned everything positive I said into a negative. It was annoying.  I wondered at what point I should back off.

She reminded me of the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)

The disabled man had been an invalid for thirty-eight years, saying he wants to be healed, but in actual fact, having given up receiving healing in the medicinal pool. He had become quite comfortable in the place he had in life.

Yet Jesus healed him. Out of love for him, he healed the man. He firmly told him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Vs 9

A friend told me that she believed this person needed “to step up to the plate.” “If you continue to allow her to ‘take’ from you, you’ll have nothing left. And if she decides that life isn’t worth living, ultimately that’s her decision.”

But I thought back to what I felt like when I was depressed, and how difficult it was to be well. It was important for me to have the people I loved not give up on me. I can’t see myself giving up on others. Perhaps backing off a bit and not staying too close would be good for my own health, but I feel I need to stay available.

I believe that we need to keep reminding people that they are loved and not withdraw that love when they’re going through hard times. One of the most important things a person with depression needs to know is that someone who understands will always be available.

I’ve given support to quite a few people. It’s not always easy, but it provides satisfaction. Though I walk with them through their valleys, I also join with them in the relief they feel when they climb out again.

When I feel helpless and don’t know what to say, we pray together. Those prayers are powerful. I feel the presence of God’s spirit in them. We call on God to give the person strength and patience. We ask him to embrace them and to help them feel his love. We turn it all over to God, able to leave it all behind. It’s now in God’s hands, not mine. This is how I’m usually able to support individuals without it getting me down.

As a Christian I feel I need to be a conduit of Christ’s love. And I’ve found joy in that. It’s rewarding to walk with someone through their dark times. It’s a privilege to talk with them and to help them go to God with their pain.