I am sure I have been depressed. We all have been or will be. But I have never experienced the condition of depression. It is like the difference between having financial struggles and poverty. Poverty is not a rough patch it is a life long struggle. Some people have bouts with depression, for others it is a condition that steals life away moment by moment, year by year. Medication works wonders for some and for others the weight is too great.
For reasons I may never understand, God has always placed people with depression in my life. Well before I was a minister I have known them. At times I have been pulled down with them. I have prayed so many times for relief for friends and strangers, but never seem to see any difference…until a few years ago.
One Sunday after church a woman approached me and asked for prayers for her sister. She had been suffering from depression for years, but things were particularly desperate this time. Jane had not left her house for several weeks, maybe months. She was not eating. She was not bathing. She was not walking the dog. She would not talk to anyone.
She needed professional help and soon.
I offered to go with her and visit Jane. Our goal was to get her into a hospital. Fortunately she had a key to her sister’s townhouse.
It was a beautiful, sunny day. On the outside of the townhouse everything looked just fine, but when we entered it was clearly not. The smell hit me first. The dog had not been let out in some time. She greeted us at the door, but not in a happy dog way. This dog looked depressed herself. She was skin and bones with nothing but sadness on her face.
Though the entry way and every other room was stacked with stuff, one could see a hint of elegance and taste underneath. It had been a lovely townhouse.
Lucy, the dog, led us to where Jane sat in a clutter at the breakfast table. She wore a pink bath robe and her hair was stringy and unkempt. She did not look up much when we came in. She recognized her sister but continued to look at the floor. Lucy stood beside her. Jane’s gaze shifted to the dog.
Her sister introduced me and I pulled up a chair opposite her. And there I sat feeling as helpless as I always feel around people who suffer in this way, wondering what to do. So I started with the obvious. “Jane, you need help. Do you know that?”
It was almost as if her jaw was rusted shut. She could barely speak. “I guess,” she said staring blankly at Lucy.
“Will you go to the hospital with us?” I asked.
I tried to reason with her about. She was not listening. I tried to get her to talk about it. She would not. She was like a zombie.
I paused. Familiar words began to emerge in my head, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I said, “Jane, I am going to ask God for help for you.” I prayed. When I opened my eyes Lucy had placed her paw on Jane’s knee and looked imploringly at her. She looked like she was on the verge of speech.
I said, “Jane, your dog looks like she wants to talk to you. If she could talk, what do you think she would say to you?”
She met her dog’s earnest eyes and said, “I need help.” She pulled Lucy in and held her. “I need help,” she repeat.
She and her sister went upstairs and packed a bag. We all got in the car and drove to the hospital. We even chatted along the way a bit. I told her that I hoped she would join us for church when she was feeling better. She said, “I think that would be nice.”
Several weeks later after church, I was greeting worshippers as they filed out on their way to lunch. A visitor came through the line. I had never met her before. She wore an elegant pink dress suit, her hair was perfectly coiffed, and she stood before me smiling like we were old friends. She hugged me much to my surprise and said, “I made it.”
I stared at her for a moment before I realized that it was Jane. She was utterly unrecognizable! “Jane? I can’t believe it!” My heart swelled with joy.
“Lucy and I are doing much better now.”
Seeing Jane like that gave me great hope. I think of that day when I pray with people with depression knowing that there is indeed help.
I know her struggle is not over. She has her good months and her bad months. Depression is a disease, but it is not permanent. God is bringing about a day when depression will cease.
For now I just trust the words of my savior calling, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I read it often. I quote it often. I pray it often. And one time I even heard a dog speak it.