How to help a depressed spouse

Depression can wreck marriages. Ignoring it, minimizing it, denying it, or delaying dealing with it will only increase the chances that your marriage will be damaged or even be destroyed by it.

Recently I came across a couple of great resources on this subject. First, here’s a short CCEF podcast answering the question: How can I help my spouse through depression? Main points:

  • Understand that as deeply you love your spouse, you don’t have the ability to cure their depression.
  • God is calling you to something simpler and more important than curing it;  just being a faithful witness to God’s love in it.
  • Love your spouse in simple ways that communicate to them that they are not loved depending on whether or not they are emotionally well.
  • Love, regardless of whether you are seeing “results.”
  • Don’t communicate: “If you were just trying harder or if you were more spiritual, you wouldn’t have this struggle.”
  • Instead of thinking: “How can I end this depression?” Think: “How can I love God and serve others in this depression.”
  • Use Gospel freedom to express your groans and darkness to God, as the Psalmist did.

Second, there’s this article, How to cope with a depressed spouse, from Reader’s Digest. Yes, Reader’s Digest! Main points:

  • Be alert to small changes. Depression can come on slowly, almost imperceptibly. Most are reluctant to recognize it and identify it. It may look different in different people.
  • Don’t wait for your spouse to hit bottom.
  • Break the ice gently yet firmly. Don’t blurt out: “You’re depressed!” or announce: “You better get help!” Approach your spouse with concern and with an action plan.
  • Get a diagnosis — together.  Going to the doctor together helps to describe the problem and remember the advice.
  • Know that the odds are in your favor.  The success rate of depression treatment is as high as 90 percent.
  • Keep on learning about depression.  The more you know, the better you can cope and fight.
  • Be alert for relapses. 50% of those who suffer a bout of major depression will have a relapse.
  • Find support. Choose a trusted friend to confide in. Accept assistance when offered.
  • See depression as an intruder in your marriage. Like any other illness, depression is an outside force — an unwelcome visitor wreaking havoc with your spouse’s health, your marriage, and your home life.

That last point is the only one I would seriously question. I would encourage Christians to see depression as from the Lord, part of His wise providence. If it’s from His hand, it’s not a hostile intruder, but has wise and good purposes behind it. I’d also want to add to these lists:

  • Regularly read the Bible, pray, and sing together.
  • Keep going to your local church, and get involved in serving others to a limited extent.
  • Exercise together, preferably taking leisurely walks in Gods creation.
  • Keep conversation positive rather than negative, focusing on the good in others rather than their faults.
  • Help your spouse to establish regular & healthy eating and sleep patterns
  • Use Ed Welch’s book A Stubborn Darkness, to gently probe the possibility of any spiritual causes

Anything else you’ve found helpful?

Check out

Jews reclaim Jesus as one of their own
Could this be the beginning of the long-awaited and eagerly desired fulfillment of Romans 11? Let’s pray so.

Make room for suffering
“Any theology that leaves little room for suffering is a suspect theology.”

Why on Sunday?
“This question can be embarrassing, can’t it? Why do you worship on Sunday? Doesn’t the Bible say that the seventh day is the time God consecrated for his people? Where does the Bible say that Christians should sanctify the first day of the week, rather than the seventh day?” O Palmer Robertson offers some answers.

How sermons work
eBook now available at Amazon

“Death, you shall die”

“O death, I will be your plagues.” (Hosea 13:14)

Disease brings death. The grave destroys. But here God promises a radical reversal. Death will be diseased and the grave will be destroyed. Israel’s enemies will themselves be defeated and Israel will be released.

Paul borrows this language and the principle behind it to anticipate the ultimate victory of the Christian over death: “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?’ (1 Cor. 15:54-55)

This great climactic victory will be seen in all its glory on the day of the general resurrection of God’s people. As the Lord Jesus comes to claim the precious dust of His saints and to transform them into His glorious body, He shouts, “O death, I will be your plagues; I grave, I will be your destruction.”

But we need not wait until then to see foreshadows of this victory. Every time a Christian defeats the fear of death and its soul-paralyzing power by trusting in Christ to save his body and soul from death, the victory shout is heard, “O death, I will be your plagues; O grave, I will be your destruction.”

Every time a Christian faces terminal illness and death with faith and confidence in Christ, death is plagued and the grave’s power is destroyed.

Every time a persecuted Christian faces the firing squad and looks heavenward with peace and confidence, all heaven celebrates the victory, “O death, I will be your plagues; O grave, I will be your destruction.”

As you face your own end in this world, may this great divine ‘I will’ make death and the grave weaken and wither before you. May you look forward to the day of full and final victory when “we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (I Cor. 15:51-52).”

That should be me

Baruch was meditating on Abraham’s willingness to offer Isaac to God. Convicted by his own half-heartedness, he dedicated himself anew to Jehovah and promised to be more whole-hearted in his faith and life.

The Volunteer (Lev. 1:3)
In token of this promise, and to seal it to his own conscience, he decided to bring a burnt-offering to the Tabernacle that day. He rose from his knees, went through the tent door, and started walking towards a small pen containing livestock. Every step was full of cheerful willingness. There was no reluctance nor compulsion, no formalism nor hypocrisy – simply the eager happy service of a believer who desired a closer walk with Jehovah. He went to “offer it of his own voluntary will.”

The Value (Lev. 1:3, 10)
Standing by the fence, he surveyed the few animals he possessed. What would he offer to express his devotion and surrender to God? His eyes passed over the handful of doves. “Too little,” he thought. He looked at his one bull. The flesh started lusting against the spirit, suggesting many reasons why he should not offer it this time. “Yes,” he reasoned, “I will reserve my bull for another day.” So, it had to be a sheep or a goat. Again, temptation started getting the better of him. “Remember that old, weak-looking sheep which has not been gaining weight?” suggested an inner voice. “No,” Baruch replied out loud. “If I want this to be a real turning-point in my spiritual life, I will offer my best lamb.” Looking at the possible options, the choice was clear.

The Transfer (Lev. 1:4)
Approaching the door of the Tabernacle, he paused. Turning to the lamb, he placed his hand on its head and confessed, “O Jehovah, I deeply regret my lukewarmness and half-heartedness in your service…I want to be wholly and completely yours…” As his tears began to flow, and his passion for God overflowed, his hand pressed ever heavier on the lamb’s head.

The Killing (Lev. 1:5)
Baruch dreaded this part of the ritual. He looked into the eyes of the lamb he had helped deliver into this world, the lamb he had fed and cared for, the lamb he treasured above all the others. “Must you die for me?” he whispered. As he took the knife and began to cut, he cried out with deep longing, “Oh, for the Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world…and the need for all these sacrifices?”

The Sprinkling (Lev. 1:5)
Life drained from the lamb, the priest gathered the blood in a basin and sprinkled it on the altar, as Baruch repeated again and again, “Precious blood, precious blood, precious blood…”

The Flaying (Lev. 1:6, 9)
As Baruch dissected the carcass of the lamb and washed the various parts, his trained eye could see the value of each and every part more clearly. He wondered how the value of the ultimate sacrifice for sin would be measured and publicly displayed.

The Burning (Lev. 1:9)
The moment was always awesome and solemn. The priest used long forks to maneuver the body parts into the flames, stoking the fire higher and hotter.  Baruch watched entranced as the life of the lamb was turned to ashes in the fierce heat. “That should be me…that should be me…” he whispered.

The Blessing
As he left the Tabernacle, the image of the lamb consumed by the flames was burned into Baruch’s mind. That evening, he not only prayed for the Final Perfect Sacrifice, but also for what the sacrifice symbolized: whole-person devotion to God, “Lord, make me burn for you. Take all I am and have and use it for your glory” (Rom. 12:1).