Intercession is a way of loving others.

Some people have needs that we cannot personally meet. That’s when we pray. Intercession is a way of loving others. ~ Richard Foster





What a husband or wife does or says in relation to a depressed spouse can either exacerbate the symptoms or help relieve them.

Dolly, my bride of over 50 years, doesn’t understand depression experientially. 

She’s optimistic and outgoing. Her emotions stay on an even keel. She handles setbacks with simple faith in a loving God. Whether it’s in response to a comic strip, a humorous pet video someone sends her on social media, or part of a phone conversation, her laughter reverberates daily off the walls inside our house. 

What a priceless gift my wife is! Despite her inexperience with depression, she’s wise and sensitive in how she handles my bouts with the darkness. If you’re a spouse of a depression-prone person, learn from these four reactions that describe my wife.



1. Dolly tells me she’s praying for me.

When she knows I’ve had consecutive dark days, I often get a short but inspiring message on my phone at work. “Just want you to know I love you, Babe, and I’m praying for you today.”

In Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Richard Foster writes, “Some people have needs that we cannot personally meet. That’s when we pray. Intercession is a way of loving others.”

Let your spouse know you are interceding for the sustenance needed to meet the day’s demands.


2. If I confess suicidal thoughts to her, Dolly reminds me of specific reasons I have to keep living.

The remarks that follow don’t reflect the exact words I’ve heard from her, but they do capture the essence of things she’s said:

  • “God called you to write. You have books, articles, and blogs still inside you that other people need to read.”
  • “You’re a good teacher. Your students need the wisdom and experience you bring to your classes.”
  • “Your family loves you and would miss you. Your grandson adores you and would miss not having you to wrestle with and tease him. I love you, too, and wouldn’t appreciate it if you left me by choice.”

Notice how her words affirm me and my contributions, instilling hope that the future includes eternal usefulness for me.

Back in the early 1990s, when I first mentioned the option of suicide in front of Dolly, she did what a family member should do: she took it seriously! She called our pastor for an intervention. When he met with me, he talked me into obtaining medical intervention for the first time. For the next few years, medicine brought noticeable relief to the frequency and depth of my dark moods.

3. Dolly does not berate or belittle me on my dark days.

Dolly has never belittled me or made me feel spiritually less mature because I suffer from depression.

She knows my family history. She realizes that rough days can occur even when there is no circumstantial reason for the downward mood spiral. Never have I heard anything remotely resembling a glib remark, such as “Snap out of it!” or “I know how you feel,” or “Just trust in God, and this will pass.”

It’s what Dolly doesn’t say that may be her most effective ministry to me when I’m despondent. 

Dr. Michelle Bengtson, who knows depression both experientially and through academic studies, wrote this in dealing with depressed loved ones:  “Do not suggest that they snap out of it or pull themselves up by their bootstraps. The worst thing you can do in your words, attitudes, beliefs, or behavior is to convey that your perception is that they can control it. Believe me, if they could snap out of it, they would. No one likes feeling depressed.”

4. When my depression shows disrespect for her or threatens the health of our marriage relationship, Dolly confronts me.

Depression often spawns irritability. For me, this includes hypersensitivity and defensiveness because of my low self-esteem. I have misinterpreted her words or nonverbal cues more than once, erroneously accusing her of a slight or criticism of me that she never intended. When depressed, I tend to project my own self-loathing, which causes me to misinterpret her words or body language, resulting in a harsh tone directed at her when she didn’t have me in mind at all.

Rather than excusing my unfair remark or edgy tone, she doesn’t let the sun go down on her anger (Ephesians 4:26-27). Without raising her voice, she says, “You had no right to speak to me like that. You owe me an apology!” 

Thank God she holds me accountable when what I say and do crosses the line into sin. She doesn’t blame me for depression, yet she does expect me to tap into the Holy Spirit’s strength to control how I treat her. 



Dolly is an incredible example of how to walk alongside a suffering spouse: she’s sensitive and comforting without being maudlin or spineless! She gives me her love unconditionally yet doesn’t pamper me. Compassionate understanding can go a long way in keeping your marriage strong and making sure the struggling spouse is supported when bouts of depression occur. The response of the healthy spouse can be the difference between despair and hope. 

First published at penetratingthedarkness.com, December 2017. Published with permission.

Dr. Terry Powell

Dr. Terry Powell

Author and Professor

Terry is a Faculty Emeritus and an adjunct professor in Church Ministries at Columbia International University. He and his wife, Dolly, have been married for 50 years and share two sons, a daughter-in-law, and a grandson. Terry writes about faith and depression at Penetrating the Darkness. His latest book, Oh God, I’m Dying! How God Redeems Pain for Our Good and His Glory tells of God's sustaining grace in the life of co-author Dr. Mark Smith, who is an effective Christian university president despite suffering daily pain from a near-fatal accident.

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