The Upside of the Downside


"For when I am weak, then I am strong."

- The Apostle Paul -

I am a people watcher.

I was early for a meeting this morning, so I stood at the foot of The Flatiron Building watching people on their commute.

Some seemed as if they were engaged in a race to get across the intersection first. They’d bump into people like a spaceship clumsily navigating through an asteroid field.

Others were different. They moved in a more fluid fashion, cruising through the crowds like a glider being gently guided by a graceful wind.

I like to watch people because I see myself in them- those “me too” moments we all experience from time to time.

Someone bounding up out of the subway stairs only to stop, turn around, go back down the stairs and come back up again helping a mother with her stroller. “Me too.”

The guy who runs right into someone face-first because he’s so immersed in his phone. I chuckle to myself, “Me too.”

The guy sipping his morning coffee, not realizing that the lid isn’t fully attached as it spills down the front of his freshly ironed shirt. “Ugh. Me too.”

We see ourselves in others- the ordinary, the extraordinary, the average, the good, and yes— even the bad.


It’s been reported that 6.7 percent of the U.S. population struggles with depression.

I have some close friends and a few relatives who struggle with depression. It’s likely that you know someone in your life who struggles with depression, too. Maybe you even struggle with it yourself.

In the same spirit of “people watching” I’ve also noticed something about those who struggle with depression that I rarely see in those who don’t.

While people with depression seem to go through life tortured by all that is dark in the world, they also seem to possess an uncanny ability to notice others who are also going through their own seasons of darkness.

Depression-free people often seem to lack this ability. It’s not that they aren’t compassionate people or don’t care for those who are hurting. They do many kind things for people, but this particular “gift” (if you will) of “noticing” just isn’t in their wheelhouse.

Charles Spurgeon, the British Theologian and Reformer often spoke of being touched by seasons of “melancholy.” When they arrived, he found that relief only came by helping someone else who was going through the very same thing he was.

I think there’s a lot of truth in that.


If you are reading this and you know someone who struggles with depression, I would like to challenge you to look at them differently. Could it be that they are uniquely wired to sense human suffering on a level that you are unable to?They just may be the “lens” that you are missing in your life to help you see a fuller spectrum of humanity.

If you are reading this and you struggle with depression; by all means seek clinical help. Do all that you can by way of therapy and medicine if need be. But if I might also challenge you to do one more thing? Remember that what you may think of as a handicap can also be a gift. When you know what it’s like to be at the bottom, you feel things on deeper levels that so many others do. And that can be a very good thing.

When you’ve been to the bottom of the well you can show others the way back out. Maybe that’s what it’s all about.