Doing & Depression

When I counsel with people who are struggling with a sad mood there are many things that can help lift them from their melancholy. One of them is serving others in the sense of Christian service. When I was a young physician I remember reading a newspaper column by Dr. George Crane. At the time Crane was a well known and widely read physician who wrote about lots of subjects. The one that has stuck with me was a column in which he told the story of how an older doctor told him how to help patients who were depressed.

The older doctor had a drill that he used whenever a patient came that was in a dark mood. He would write them a prescription that directed them to read a chapter of the gospel of Luke daily. (Luke of course is the patron saint of physicians since he was one.) Then they had to walk 2 miles a day. The last assignment was to find someone who needed help. They had to be worse off than the patient and could not be a relative. The patient could take nothing from them. They had to serve for 2 hours a week and would do this indefinitely.

The old doctor knew something that most people do not know today. Sadness seems to focus our attention on us. It also can result in sitting around a lot. So, the old doctor aimed to focus the sad struggler first on God and then the needs of others. And, then he made certain they would be physically busy.

Counseling people with sadness will require that most of them will need to be doing things. We know that Christians do them by God’s Grace. But, what we teach them from the scriptures may not help them much unless they act on what they come to know. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24 “the man who hears my words and acts on them may be compared to the wise man…” James said that we must be doers of the word and not hearers only. Counseling that has an active component of doing the things taught has a strong benefit for the sad struggler.

For more about dealing with sadness and depression see Good Mood Bad Mood.

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