Taking the time to connect a depressed mother to lament is an act of patient compassion (1 Thess. 5:14). She needs reassurance that “spiritual power and growth feel like weakness, as if we just barely make it through the day.” Indeed, there’s a special kind of strength God gives when we are free to feel weak (2 Cor. 12:9-10). But just as we help her to take comfort in the realism of lament, we explain that these God-given prayers mean to serve a redemptive purpose in her life: the deepening of her dependence on the Lord and the purification of her faith in Him (1 Pet. 1:6-7).
Are you counseling a mother who feels depressed, discouraged, and desperate to feel better again? Those are common sentiments to hear from a woman wPreview (opens in a new tab)ho feels imprisoned by the darkness she’s in. Maybe she yearns to be strong and stable, but she can’t shake the sense that she’s failing at life. She’s not “rising to the occasion” as she hoped. She’s frustrated with herself for not “suffering well.”Among all the other mental, physical, relational, financial, and circumstantial loads she carries, she also feels crushed by a burden to perform—as if faithfulness means faking her way through her feelings.
It’s hard for a mom to be a pillar of strength for her family when she feels like she’s falling apart.
As we seek to better understand a depressed mother’s experience (and the hurt and confusion that go with it), we may find that she doesn’t feel free to feel weak—to feel any other way but “fine.” So how can we counsel the weary woman who thinks she should always feel strong and steady? How might we begin to lift the burden of performance off her back? To be sure, we could escort her to many places in the Scriptures. But connecting her with the realism and redemption of biblical lament is a conversation that ought not be overlooked.
The Realism of Biblical Lament
When a melancholy mother thinks she ought to feel better than she actually is, we, as biblical counselors, have a tremendous opportunity before us. Namely, we get to meet her in the midst of her weakness—just like Jesus does (Heb. 4:15; 1 Thess. 5:14). We invite her to hear the laments of afflicted Psalmists and sit with her in the tension of those desperate prayers for a while (Ps. 88, 102). We explain that to groan our way to glory is not only human,“[it’s] Christian, for now.” We let the official songbook of God’s chosen people debunk the “myth that faith is always smiling.” Then, together, we ask the Spirit to steady her as He gives voice to her distress through His Word (Ps. 77).
Real life is really hard for God’s people—we hurt ourselves when we think it shouldn’t be (Matt. 7:14).
Another way to connect her to the realism of biblical lament is to lead her to hear Christ’s own cries. We revisit the realities of His miseries (Isa. 53:2-6; Matt. 27:27-31). We see that Jesus wasn’t always strong and smiling (Matt. 26:37-38; John 11:35); His human nature needed strengthening and steadying, too (Matt. 4:11; Luke 22:41-44).