Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.  Proverb 25:20 NIV

A friend was in deep sorrow due to the death of her husband whom she had loved so very much.  She was doing everything she knew to do, but her depression remained.  Well meaning friends would say things to her like, “Jane, you’ve got to stop this.  Samuel would never want you feeling like this.”  Jane said to me, “Do they think I am enjoying this?  Do they fail to understand that I don’t want this sadness and aching in my heart day after day?”

There was a time when a family member was deep in depression and I recall saying to her, “You need to get outside, get some fresh air, take some walks, just do something to help yourself.”  She hung up on me crying.  That is carved deep in my memory.  I knew immediately I had caused deeper pain; I had absolutely done the wrong thing.  I wrote her a letter of apology, asking for forgiveness.   Though I had not suffered depression and didn’t understand at all what it was like, I apparently assumed (unwittingly) that the reason I had not, was because I was smarter or stronger or something equally absurd.  She got the help she needed and eventually got on top of things but it was sure from no help from me.   

There is always a place for a Christian counselor in severe cases of depression, but this is about the kind of friends a depressed person needs during their trials.  Probably paramount is the need for gentleness and security with anything they need to say.  That person needs the safety of knowing anything they share will not be disclosed to anyone else.  What that person does not need is meaningless prattle — someone talking without kindness or helpful direction.  And the hurting one always needs prayer.  To know someone is fervently praying and covering the individual with love is a gift beyond measure.  That provides comfort and hope.

The New Living Translation puts Proverb 25:20 like this: Singing cheerful songs to a person whose heart is heavy is as bad as stealing someone’s jacket in cold weather or rubbing salt in a wound.   

That’s a sobering and seriously important piece of wisdom.