There is a common misconception that as Christians, we will always be happy. We will always be positive and full of optimism. That although worries come, we will be smiling through it all. However, this is seldom the case. A lot of things happen in our lives and around us that can affect our overall mental health. We will not always be ‘happy’ Christians. So as there are still many misconceptions when it comes to the topic of mental health within Christianity, how then as believers, should we navigate this struggle?
You are not alone
We first need to understand that we are not alone. Whether temporary or long term, many Christians suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. We can be drastically affected by the stressors in life which can lead to anxiety and fill us with insecurities. Fearful of the unknown or situations that take us out of our comfort zone, for example, a global pandemic, continuous lockdowns and not seeing friends or family for an extended period. Even if it’s for a moment, we become tired, stressed, lethargic and start to lose joy in life.
We are not the only ones. The bible is full of examples of faithful people going through their deepest laments, struggling with mental health issues and crying out to God about them:
- Job who was depressed, in the hardest part of his life, cried out multiple times:
And now my life seeps way. Depression haunts my days. At night my bones are filled with pain, which gnaws at me relentlessly.
I cry to you, O GodJob 30:16-17, 20
- Elijah who wanted God to take him:
It is enough now, O Lord take away my life1 Kings 19:4
- Paul who suffered affliction through a thorn:
I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me
2 Cor. 12:8
- Our Lord who suffered and cried in despair on the cross:
– “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)
There are many more “woes” from the prophets of old – the book of Psalms is full of distressed, depressed and downcast people. At times we can find ourselves crying out in the same manner. Our feelings do not display a “weaker faith” or “a lack of trust in God”. I have found when I struggle with my anxiety or low mood that I am reaching more for Jesus. “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:11) because Christ has said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9).
Why the Word is so crucial?
When I find myself struggling with my mental health, one of the most effective ways I have learnt to cope is through the Word (the bible). The bible can help us navigate the struggles of life. There are so many verses to help guide us through these times. We do not have to lean on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5). We can keep our hearts stayed on Him (Isa. 26:3), at all times, through the word, especially when we do not feel up to it.
As described above, people in the bible have struggled with similar issues. It is a greater joy to read of their continued faithfulness in the midst of this. When our mental health reaches a low, we can remind ourselves of the truth in the word.
The word of God constantly reminds us to not worry, to not be afraid or be anxious (Phil. 4:6, Matt 6:25, 1 Pt 5:7). Jesus calls us to cast our burdens unto Him, to come to Him when we are weary (Matt 11:28) when life gets a little too much. And in the Word, we are advised to not worry about tomorrow for we do not know what tomorrow will bring (Matt 6:34).
Ultimately, the more we think about these things, or meditate on them, the more we are likely to believe them. And thus, accept it.
Jesus, our hope
Christ is the living Word and through Christ, we are free. We should understand that He is a strength. Anxieties will come, we may not always have the confidence to speak, but there is nothing to fear with God by our side (Isa. 41:10). At a point where it may seem as we are surrounded by darkness, there is a light that shines brightest and the darkness cannot overcome it (Jn. 1:5).
When Jesus says “In this world, you will have trouble but take heart! I have overcome the world,” (Jn. 16:13), this includes our anxiety, stress, sadness and difficulties with our mental health.
To find out more about the topic of mental health and the Gospel, listen to this episode of The On The Table Podcast