Not All of Us Can Do Great Things

How Can I Serve If I’m Depressed?

by Denise Dilley

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Thank you, Sara, for inviting me to share my thoughts on depression and serving. I’m honored that you would allow me to take over your blog for the day and share my heart with your readers. That’s a big step of faith, and I’m honored.

One of my passions in life is to show the crazy love of Jesus in my community and in the world. What is crazy love, you ask? Crazy love is showing folks the same grace and love that Jesus shows us. In my world, crazy love is synonymous with serving others.

Sometimes showing crazy love is HARD. Especially for those of us who struggle with depression. If you’ve struggled with depression at any time in life, you know it can zap any motivation you might have. Simply getting up and out of bed in the morning can take all the energy you have. Forget doing the dishes or laundry! Depression can leave you so drained that all you can do is sit on the couch all day long.

Trust me, I’ve been there.

My own story of depression started as a young girl reeling from the death of my father. As a teen I struggled with feelings of intense loneliness and suicidal thoughts. Now, as an adult, I still struggle with bouts of depression. There are days when all I want to do is sleep because I can’t deal with the hand life has dealt me. Some days my dishes and laundry pile up and dust balls form in the corners of my house because I’m sad or angry or tired or simply just can’t do it anymore.

But there’s hope!

Yes, depression can and will leave you unmotivated and zap all your energy at times. And that’s OK. Cut yourself some slack and allow yourself those times of sadness and depression.

But don’t stay there.

How Can I Motivate Myself to Serve?

I’m a strong believer that once you take that first step to serve others, you will find your sadness and depression leaving. Here are a couple of steps you might find that help you towards motivating yourself to serve:

Step 1: Set low expectations.

This might seem counterintuitive, so let me explain. Setting high expectations for yourself while depressed is basically setting yourself up for failure. If you fail to meet your expectations, you’re likely to become even more depressed, making you even less likely to want to serve. If you set your expectations low from the start, you actually have more of a chance to stay motivated and meet your goal.

Step 2: Set small goals.

The same is true when setting goals. Start small. Make your goal specific and attainable according to your emotional abilities. Resist the urge to set grandiose goals that you might not be able to achieve just yet.

Step 3: Ask for help from family and friends.

We were never meant to do life alone. God placed us in families and gifts us with friends. Reach out to the people who are closest to you and tell them your goal. Ask them to help you reach your goal. Allow them to encourage you and push you (gently!) towards meeting your goal.

Step 4: Reward yourself.

When you complete your goal, treat yourself! Who doesn’t like to get rewarded for accomplishing a goal?

How Can I Serve Now That I’m Motivated?

Taking the first step towards motivating yourself to serve just might be the hardest. But then trying to figure out where or how to serve can be just as difficult! Especially if you don’t know where to start.

Mother Teresa is one of my heroes in life. She is often quoted as saying,

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.

I believe those words to be true, and try to take them to heart in all I do.

Serving others does not necessarily mean hopping on a plane and going to a foreign country for the rest of your life as a missionary.

Serving can be simple!

Here are just a few of my favorite ways to serve:

  • Smile at a stranger
  • Hold the door open for someone at the store
  • Buy a cup of coffee for someone who’s in line behind you at the coffee shop
  • Serve at a local soup kitchen
  • Donate canned goods to a local homeless shelter
  • Visit the elderly at a nursing home
  • Pack a shoebox for kids through Operation Christmas Child (Samaritan’s Purse)
  • Sponsor a child through Compassion International

We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “so whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Serving others is a way for us to bring glory to Him, the one who first served us and loved us. Even in the midst of our depression, He is there. He gives us grace and loves us, and gently guides us towards taking those steps towards serving others. In the end, all that we do is to bring glory to Him!

Denise Dilley is a wife, daughter, sister, and friend. She is a Jesus follower. Her passion is to show the world the same crazy love He has shown her. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Not All of Us Can Do Great Things

The Hope Toolbox

hope for depression

NEW! All of the Hope Toolbox resources in one easy location! Click here for the Hope Toolbox resource page. Includes all the daily Bible verses, journaling prompts, resources, and printables.

Click here for the My Hope Toolbox printable kit.

Today’s Bible Verse:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

1 Peter 4:10

Today’s Journaling Prompt:

How do you reach out to serve others in Jesus’ name? What other ways do you want to serve in the future?


Operation Christmas Child

Compassion International

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