Depression is a common mental illness that affects 2.3 million people in Malaysia at some point of their lives. Symptoms of depression are feeling worthless, avoiding contact with other people, less energy than usual, unable to concentrate like usual, feeling hopeless and more. Severe cases of depression may also lead to suicidal thoughts. Some people around us may be suffering from depression. What do you need to do first when caring for them?
Let us look at 1 Kings chapter 19 and understand how God ministered to the prophet Elijah who was depressed and wanted to die. After the miracle at Mount Carmel in 1 Kings chapter 18, Elijah was being hunted down by Jezebel. Fearing for his life, Elijah ran from Judah and secluded himself in the wilderness until he could not take it anymore. 1 Kings 19:4 says,
 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (ESV)
Elijah was stressed, exhausted and depressed that he asked God to end his life. Thankfully, this was a prayer not answered for Elijah. Instead, this was what God did. 1 Kings 19:5-8 says,
 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.”  And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again.  And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.”  And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. (ESV)
God repeatedly provided Elijah rest and replenishment. At this point in time, God did not provide Elijah with a solution to his predicament.
God ministered to the physical needs of Elijah first and nothing else.
What lesson can we learn from the verses above? When we care for a person who is suffering from depression, we must first attend to his physical needs. Ask basic questions like ‘Are you eating well?’ and ‘Are you sleeping well?’ If he is not eating well, offer food. If he is not sleeping well, advise or assist the person to seek medical help. At this point, do not discuss the cause of the depression. Do not throw scripture at him and never provide a solution. The spirit needs to be fed but the body needs feeding too. Make sure he has enough rest and replenishment. This must be done repeatedly as one nap and one meal are not enough.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began early this year, some have lost their jobs. Some are having family issues. Many are feeling depressed as their future is uncertain. As a church, we need to care for these people. If they are non-believers, it will be a great opportunity for us to share the gospel of salvation with them when the time is right.
If you would like to know more on how you can care for the depressed, you can contact Elder Arnold Lim or myself through the church office. FBC Family Life Ministry is recruiting. The harvest is plenty but the workers are few.
Blessed week ahead!