Much research has been done on the subject of depression and there is a fairly significant amount of information specifically on depression in the elderly. As with all depression, there may be physical as well as spiritual reasons. For a psychologist or psychiatrist to treat physical symptoms without acknowledging possible spiritual problems is a great error. It is also a great error for the Biblical counselor to assume there are no physical conditions causing or at least affecting the spiritual well-being of the counselee.
But, having acknowledged the possibility of physical conditions which may be affecting the depressed individual, I hasten to add that ministering to the soul-needs of a lover of Christ will always be of great value to that friend or loved one. It is something every believer can and must do. In a short blog it is impossible to speak of the details of how Christians can best respond to other Christians who are struggling with depression. It is a complex matter but it is not a matter beyond the ability of our Creator and Sustainer.
I say those things to dissuade those who might be prone to say "Take two Bible verses and call me in the morning". I also say those things to dissuade those who might argue that the only real answer to depression lies in some magic combination of mood-altering drugs which are now so readily available.
But, to keep this blog at a readable length, let me get back to the story of my mother-in-law. She has taken medicine; she has delved more deeply into Scripture than ever before; she has had a compassionate and helpful family. Even with those things, overcoming depression has not been easy. There has been much darkness of her mind and soul and there have been days when the old saying of "two steps forward and one step backward" seemed too optimistic.
My mother-in-law called my wife, Deborah, a few days ago. She rarely calls anymore but seems content to have Deborah call her several times daily. So, it seemed strange and a little unsettling when Deborah saw her mother's name on Caller ID. Deborah answered and her mother, with a real spark in her voice, immediately said "Deborah, I've learned to whistle!". In her 87 years she had never learned to whistle but, sitting there in the darkness of a depressed mind, the song "Amazing Grace" had come into her thoughts. She began whistling the tune! Deborah adjusted the telephone speaker to where I could hear and, sure enough, there came through the phone a clear and on-key whistling of that song.
That little story may not seem like much to you but it speaks volumes to us. It speaks volumes about the need to remain patient when our loved ones battle depression. It speaks volumes about how we must encourage them to get in the Word, stay in the Word, and contemplate the Word whether or not they feel like doing so. It speaks volumes about compassion. It speaks volumes about hope when all seems hopeless. Most of all, that little story speaks volumes about our good God who allows us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death without having fear of evil. What a glorious God He is; what a Savior; what a song in the night He becomes; what a light in the darkness He is. Through the dark nights of our lives we serve a God Who often uses those times to teach us to whistle in the darkness. Amazing Grace- a great song to whistle and a great song about a God Who yet brings His children through many dangers, toils and snares.
Keep whistling, mother-in-law. Keep whistling. It is worthy praise to your Redeemer.