Faith & Your Mental Health
May 23, 2021
May is the United States’ National Mental Health Month. It’s a reminder that millions around the country (and indeed the world) struggle daily with emotional and mental disorders like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, psychosis, addiction and so on. Many, including Christians and children, suffer alone in silence for fear of being considered “weak” or lacking faith. Many others avoid seeking medical help even when it’s appropriate because of the stigma that accompanies receiving psychiatric treatment. The result is inner torment, addiction, worsening psychiatric symptoms and rising suicide rates.
The Bible is quite vocal about mental health issues, especially depression. Many of its influential figures experienced it for various reasons—disappointment (John the Baptist), fear and exhaustion (Elijah), persecution (David), failure (Judas), grief (Job and Naomi), illness (the bleeding woman), disability (Mephibosheth), jealousy and envy (Saul) and rejection (Cain). Some of these cases had devastating consequences like suicide and even murder.
The Bible also recognizes the external societal pressures and the internal personal dispositions that contribute to the lack of inner peace generally and offers prescriptions for both. It encourages believers to not worry (Matt. 6:25-34); avoid greed (Lk. 12:15); mind one’s own business (1 Thess. 4:11); practice positive thinking (Phil. 4:8), pray continually (1 Thess. 5:17); be grateful (1 Thess. 5:18), avoid complaining (Phil 2: 14) and useless arguments (Titus 3:9); accept who you are (Jn. 3:27); forgive others and tolerate their weaknesses (Col. 3:13); exercise patience (Gal 6:9); avoid strife (Prov. 20:3), jealousy and envy (Prov. 23:17-18); and so on.
Above all, the Bible tells believers to trust God (Jn. 14:1). Trusting God is neither evidence of weakness nor a call to mediocrity, but rather an exhortation to recognize and accept our humanity and its limits. We will not always “win win win, no matter what!” as the popular song goes. Sometimes we will lose. Badly. Other times, life just won’t be fair. But other times we will indeed win.
When we choose to trust God in all seasons, we let go of the delusion of being in control of our destinies or those of others; we accept that all we can do is our best and that’s enough whether or not it measures up to the Instagram ideal of the moment or to someone else’s standard. As we do this, we position ourselves to receive God’s grace and the frustration and pressure within subside. Only when we trust God do we begin to experience the rare beauty of a mind at rest.
Prayer: “Dear God. I’ve struggled with internal turmoil for a long time. I’ve been chasing things that I now understand will never be enough and will never satisfy me. Please forgive me for being impatient and constantly competing with others. Help me to forgive those who have hurt me, so I can live free from anger and bitterness, and help me to forgive myself, so I can live free from guilt and shame. Above all, please help me to believe that you love me and are in control. I choose to trust you because I know that in your hands, I’m in good hands. Amen.”