Facebook regularly reminds you of things that you were doing “on this day” in past years, which can often be amusing and sometimes sad. One of the happy memories that came up the other day for me was of lunch with a friend – but it was tinged with sadness, as he took his own life two years ago.
I still miss my friend and I remember when I heard the news how guilty I felt: when he had been in touch with me during the preceding days and asked for advice (not showing any sign of being that low in spirit) had I missed saying the right thing? Had I actually said the wrong thing? How could I – how could any of us who called ourselves his friends – have failed to understand the depth of his depression?
And as I thought of him, I thought of other friends who are passing through depression or who feel they have more downs than ups in their lives. It’s difficult enough ministering to people who are unwell at home or in hospital, but being with people who are in the Slough of Despond (as John Bunyan described it) or who feel everything is hopeless is another matter, where answers do not, perhaps, come quite so easily.
As I thought and prayed, a verse from Deuteronomy came into my mind, which has been a great encouragement to me ever since: The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deut. 31: 8). It’s not a catch-all answer, but perhaps it can offer a small glimmer of hope, the tiniest step forward.
I found myself thinking of all those people who are feeling desperate, who are feeling that their lives are going nowhere, who feel they have nobody to turn to, who see no light at the end of the tunnel. And I hope and pray that if we are friends to any of these people we can offer words that are more than platitudes, we can be fellow travellers offering the hope of light in the darkness and offering the warmth of our ongoing friendship through all trials and tribulations that we may together see the sun rise on a new day with all its promises and possibilities.