By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
We are facing a mental health crisis like never before seen in the world. According to Mental Health America’s most recent report, youth mental health is worsening and the prevalence of mental illness among adults is increasing. We all need a lot more peace and hope in our lives.
As believers, we need to do better at normalizing the conversation around mental health. Struggling with mental health is something that affects us all, even if we don’t have a diagnosis. We all will face seasons of sadness, grief, or loss that may require us to reach out to receive support from others.
Supporting each other when we walk through darker seasons is what the church should be all about. Romans 12:15 puts it this way, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” The simple takeaway is to be honest, present, and supportive of others as they walk through both the highs and lows of life.
There are so many factors that influence our mental health, some biological, other times our circumstances or past trauma can steal our joy. When we find ourselves stuck in a dark mental place, it’s important to seek out treatment from medical professionals as well as taking the time to find support in other ways.
There are some lessons we can take from the Bible on how to help keep ourselves out of dark, emotional places. One thing is for sure, God wants to take your pain and bring you peace and joy! Isaiah 61:3 says, “and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” God wants to give you beauty rather than ashes and joy instead of mourning!
Here are a few biblical ways we can help protect our mental health:
1. Keep Our Lives in Balance
Ecclesiastes 4:6 says, “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” We live in a two handfuls culture. Rarely do we ever see an opportunity and say we should pass because we desire tranquility over success.
Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, is thought to be one of the wisest people to ever have lived. He saw that when our lives become all about work, toil, chasing, and getting after more peace is harder to find.
From the start of creation, God set the precedent that we need rest. When God set aside the seventh day to rest, he wasn’t doing this because he just couldn’t handle making one more new creature, God did this to send a clear message to humanity. He was telling us that we are people that have been created with the need for balance.
We have been made to work, create, and produce. We have been crafted to desire purpose and meaning in our days, but also we have not been given endless strength. Rest is key to keeping our lives in balance.
2. Avoid Comparison
Oh my, how hard it is to avoid comparing ourselves to others in our culture! Social media, while has many beautiful uses, also has a way of making it seem as though we are never able to measure up to the next person we scroll by’s life. The “highlights” we post can leave the viewers of our accounts feeling inadequate, but those handpicked snippets never tell the whole story.
Galatians 6:4-5 says, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.” God has called each of us to our own unique stories. When we strive to be or do things that aren’t ours to carry, we miss out on all that God has for us.
When I get stuck in my own head, I begin to believe the lie that no one else gets things as wrong as me and I begin to wonder why I am so uniquely broken. This is a trap of the enemy designed to steal my hope and self-worth. The Bible teaches first that we all are broken (so I am not unique in that) but that God works throughout our weakness! Jesus flips the script and takes the things that the enemy desires to use to hold us back as tools we can use to bring God glory.
In my life the struggles in our marriage, while have left me feeling hopeless at points, also have given me empathy for the relational struggles of others. When I am open about our great need for God’s grace in our marriage, I am then able to have honest and life-giving conversations with others that find themselves in the same place.
When we own our burdens and invite God to work in both our weaknesses and strengths God is able to do immeasurably more with our lives than we could ask or think! No need to feel bad any longer when we see someone else’s win…we can actually just selflessly applaud them because we are secure with the knowledge that God has placed you where you are on purpose!
3. Find Healthy Ways to Process Our Emotions
God has created us to be emotional people. With every event that we witness in our lives, we respond with an emotion. It is just how we were made.
I know I often hate that I am a creature riddled with confusing emotions! As a person that tends to feel things more deeply who is married to a person that processes life more rationally, I have struggled with the sense that all these feelings are problematic. The truth is that feelings are not the problem. It's how I choose to process them that can either leave me feeling filled with peace or filled with anxiety.
Healthy processing requires community. This is why therapy is so helpful for people! If we had the ability to work out the feelings, lies, and truth in our own heads then therapists, pastors, counselors, and your friends would be out of a job.
We see this right at the start of creation. In the beginning, the first problem that faces mankind is isolation, not sin. Genesis 2:18 says, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” After every other step of creation, God paused to say that it was good until he realized that Adam was all alone. It was the first time God said wait… something is missing here!
We Need God and Each Other
Don’t be afraid to bring all your brokenness to the Lord. He desires to hear and comfort us when we are battling negative emotions. Find a trusted, faith-filled person to confide in when your mind gets overwhelmed. Allow them to help you to find the right way to process your emotions and let them keep you accountable for your actions.
Our mental health is something that is impacted by our bodies, circumstances, but also our minds are the place where the battle for our soul is taking place. We cannot forget that a key part of us finding freedom comes through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. The bible teaches that there is an enemy on the prowl who desires to steal from our lives (John 10:10). But greater is he who is in us than that evil power that is in this world (1 John 4:4).
Be encouraged that God knows our struggles empowers us to find healing from all the pain this world brings into our lives. That is the whole message of the Gospel… that God so loved us he came to save us. There is no shame in our struggle. God knows we are desperately hopeless without him and wants us to partner with him to find freedom from the chains of mental anguish that trouble the hearts of all people.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/torwai
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.