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 talks about the benefits of two people versus one.
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 wintry 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” (Psalm 31:24) and wait for spring to come again.
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 notes that a cord of three strands 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 (Romans 8:26), it’s better to have something specific to pray for.
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 (Hebrews 4:15), but He overcame all of those struggles, and we look to His example.
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 (Matthew 26:38). That sounds a lot like what depression feels like.
In the same garden of Gethsemane, He experienced so much anxiety that He sweat droplets of blood (Luke 22:44). Even the God of the universe understands the intensity of great sorrow and apprehension.
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 (Psalm 103:3), and depression and anxiety are by no means an exception. 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). 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 12:7-9).
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.
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 300 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 2,700+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog, which receives 63,000+ monthly hits. Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) comes out June 3, and is up for preorder now. Find out more about her here.
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