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Despair, Serving and an Opportunity for Mission

The distinguished American psychiatrist, Karl Menninger, when speaking at a conference was once asked, “what would you advise a person to do if he felt a nervous breakdown coming on?” Many evidently expected he would say go and consult a psychiatrist but instead he replied “lock up your house and go across the railroad tracks to find someone in need!”

Many might reply “simplistic” and others “dangerous” advice but not withstanding the wisdom of seeking help from the helping professionals when required, I think it is profound.

In reflecting the scriptures, Proverbs 11:25 says, for example, that a “generous man will prosper, he who refreshes others will be refreshed”, Menninger was going to the heart of our human problem. For so many reasons life can become intolerable and ever so difficult for many to bear. Sometimes it is a result of our own choices, other times as a consequence of others behaving awfully toward us, from time to time, circumstances take their toll on our equilibrium and more often than not they conspire together to rob us of joy. Yet all the time this profound truth, of serving, of seeking good welfare of others remains true and has been a proven antidote to despair, pity and despondency.

When “other-person-centredness” invades our thinking, becoming our dominant attitude and motivation and filters through into our day by day conduct, we will be building into our very being, big doses of positive outlook that will see us better equipped for the down times when they knock on our door.

Far from being simplistic, Menninger’s advice reminds us of the powerful therapeutic benefit of thinking of others before ourselves.

When despair or depression come close to us, we will always be wise to seek help from a physician and if necessary the counselling professions. We will be equally wise to seek help from trusted friends, from the living and loving God and to help ourselves by adopting a lifestyle that has a focus upon others.

Since the best medicine and exercise is always preventative, the advice of Menninger to serve others will not only do others good, but bring immense personal benefit.

And at the same time if our motivation is to serve others because of what Jesus has done for us then this will no doubt give plenty of opportunities to share the gospel with those we serve.

Adapted from an article by Peter Brain