Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT2)6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
The church has a problem talking about depression because we somehow believe that Christians should not get depressed and talking about it can be uncomfortable because we don’t know a lot about it. In the church,there has long been a prohibition of talking about certain things or not expressing our feelings when we are hurting is certain areas like money or sex we often putting lipstick on a pig so to speak. We are masking how we sometimes hurt so we don’t get help. I use to hear some old time preachers and old time mothers talking about the church being a hospital well if you can’t talk about your sickness what kind of hospital is it. Is it only one that deals with the common cold or a stubbed toe and not drug addiction or sex addiction, or depression?
If you can’t bring your deepest problems to the church because you are afraid of what others may say, or where people have to pretend that “..there lives are picture-perfect”, there are two problems that result.
1) the issues or problems will sooner or later come out and either they will result is gossip or the leadership will tell them not to come back until the problem is handled or
2) then can’t take the pressure of trying to put up a false face for the church so they drop out.
Those on the right side of the cross (believers) and those on the left side of the cross (unbelievers) both face hardships. “When we meet Christ, we are saved from the penalty of sin, but we do not escape the effects of sin --whether that’s our own sin of other people’s sin or simply the broken world we live in. Church is the place where we need to go for healing not the place to pretend that we’re perfect. It shouldn’t be the place we run from when we feel overwhelmed it should be the place we run to. That is where Jesus will meet us and change.
Denial Doesn’t Help It Hurts
Truth Heals: 5 Reasons to Stop Hiding Anxiety and Depression
By Hope Bolinger
I didn’t see my first therapist until I’d reached my junior year in college. My parents, in my younger years, had often threatened to take me “to see someone” if I “didn’t change my behavior.” Not understanding why I felt the way I did, and not wanting to cause any trouble with my family or their finances in having to pay for professional help, I did my best to hide it.
It, I later discovered, better fell under the label of severe functional anxiety and depression. In other words, I could make it look like I handled life just fine, but inside it was tearing me apart. Christians who wrestle with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression often feel the need to hide these struggles from their brothers and sisters.
Perhaps they encountered a member of their church who told them anxiety came from a lack of faith and they needed to just believe more. Worried about their spiritual standing, they tried to exercise more belief, but this didn’t take away the anxiety by any stretch.
Or maybe they met with another well-meaning Christian who told them depression “is all in your head” and they needed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and keep going.
Whatever the case, many Christians hesitate to let other Christians know about their internal battles with anxiety and depression.
Here are 5 great reasons why you should talk with a believer you trust about your mental health:
1. Satan Wants You Isolated
This especially applies to those who have depression. Depression tends to make its bearer want to disappear and hide away from those who could offer help and healing. By nature, it is self-sabotaging and attempts to rip apart those who have it in silence and isolation.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT2)9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone?12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Two people can:
- Complete projects faster than just one person setting forth to finish a task
- Help each other up when they fall down
- Keep warm during cold, wintry seasons
- Overpower an enemy who tries to attack
Although the first one doesn’t necessarily apply to anxiety or depression, the last three certainly do. Anxiety and depression knock down whoever has them. But in close proximity to a believer who knows your struggle, you can have someone to help lift you up. I have a number of believers whom I trust and go to during my severe episodes.
They can also keep us warm during winter seasons. Anxiety and depression can turn a positive outlook into a cold one in microseconds. It can come at any time without warning and stay for months—years. Yet, fellow believers can help warm us. They can give encouragements and help us to “take heart” and wait for spring to come again.
Psalm 31:24 (NKJV)24 Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD.
Although depression and anxiety are real diseases that have resulted from a fallen world, Satan can and will use symptoms of these to convince us that we are alone, that we do not deserve to have a place in this world, and that we will never overcome these trials. In those times, believers can help us overcome the enemy through prayer, instead of us having to fight him alone.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT2)12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
A cord of three braids is not easily broken. This means, in addition to going to other believers with our struggle, we need to go to God—the third cord. Satan cannot tear apart this braided strand of community.
2. People Can Pray for Your Specific Struggle
In small groups and meetings with fellow believers, we might lift up depression and anxiety as an unspoken prayer request. While the Holy Spirit can help translate these prayers, it’s better to have something specific to pray for.
Romans 8:26 (NLT2)26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
If others know what you struggle with, they might remember more often to pray for the exact thorn in your side. Not to mention, if they know someone who has gone through anxiety or depression before, or have dealt with it themselves, they can pray more specifically.
If they’ve dealt with anxiety, they might ask for peace to wash over you. If they know the horrors of depression, they may pray that God encourages you and helps you to know your worth.
3. Christians Who Have a Mental Health History Can Help
We take comfort in the fact that Jesus walked in our shoes. He endured temptations of all kinds, but He overcame all of those struggles, and we look to His example.
Hebrews 4:14-15 (NLT2)14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.
The same applies to believers who have dealt with or deal with our same afflictions. When my parents divorced, I took greater comfort in the advice of those whose parents had also split than those who never knew the pain of parental separation. In my struggles with depression and anxiety, I took great joy in hearing the stories of believers who had a similar history.
We can look to our Creator for such comfort, too. Although Jesus may not have had a mental health history, He did experience sorrow to the point of death. That sounds a lot like what depression feels like.
Matthew 26:36-38 (NLT2)36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
In the same garden of Gethsemane, He experienced so much anxiety that He sweat droplets of blood. Even the God of the universe understands the intensity of great sorrow and apprehension.
Luke 22:44 (NLT2)44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.
4. This Can Help End the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health
The church has often claimed that those who have mental health issues have problems with faith and not with their cognitive faculties. We often forget that the brain is an organ.
Brain scans have shown physiological differences between the brains of control subjects and those subjects dealing with mental disorders.
Yes, God can heal all diseases, and depression and anxiety are by no means an exception.
Psalm 103:3 (NLT2)3 He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.
But Christians should approach depression and anxiety the same way we approach any other disease. If my friend has asthma, I can’t tell her, “Get over it and push forward. It’s only in your lungs.” In the same way, we can’t tell someone who has depression, “Get over it. It’s only in your brain.”
If we become more open about our mental health, we can help to end the stigma that surrounds depression and anxiety. When we realize how many people struggle with this within the church itself, we can move forward to help each other overcome it.
5. Healing Comes from Acknowledging the Problem
For a long time, I didn’t want to believe I had depression or anxiety. I resisted seeing professionals and therapists. But I couldn’t receive the proper medication, diagnosis, or treatment plan unless I went to them and admitted what I was struggling with. Only when we acknowledge the struggle can we find the healing we need.
Jesus calls Himself a physician.
Mark 2:17 (NLT2)17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
He can heal us from our afflictions if He chooses to. But we cannot embrace that possibility until we acknowledge we have a problem in the first place. He may choose to leave the thorn in our side, as He did with Paul.
2 Corinthians 12:6-9 (NLT2)6 If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,7 even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
If He does so, we can rest in the fact that His grace is sufficient for us, and through our weaknesses, God can do great things.
The answer to our anxiety, fear and need for order is to focus all our attention, thought and worship on Jesus. He is the only one who provides lasting purpose to fulfill our deepest desires.