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October 17, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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By Kristen Hollis
Have you ever struggled with something you felt nobody would understand, especially those in the church? I felt this way a lot growing up with my life-long relationship with anxiety and depression. A lot of times, the church community can fail us when it comes to making us feel comfortable about sharing our struggles with mental illness. Or, we can be so caught up in the idea of looking like we’ve got everything together when we actually need support from our community and Jesus.
For me, growing up, it was a mixture of both. My dad was the pastor of my church, so asking questions always felt like I had failed somehow, or I was worried that my mental health struggles would reflect poorly on him. Whether our dad is the pastor of a church or not, I think we can all get caught up in the mindset of not looking good enough as we represent our heavenly Father. After all, aren’t Christians supposed to have the joy of the Lord?
Your story doesn’t make you a poor witness.
Your story doesn’t make you a poor witness.
It wasn’t until I was about twenty years old when I finally grasped a healthy and realistic view of spirituality and its relationship with mental health. You see, your story doesn’t make you a poor witness. In fact, it makes you a strong one. In Mark 5:1-20, Jesus comes across a demon-possessed man and sets him free of the “legion” taking over his mind and body. When the demons left the man, he begged Jesus to take him along. But Jesus responds, “‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you’” (Mark 5:19 NIV). The man obeyed, and when he told his story “the people were amazed.”
So what can we do when you find ourselves trying to manage something like anxiety or depression? Well, we don’t have all the answers, but here’s what we know:
Even David, a man who God claimed to be after His own heart, had multiple depressive and anxious episodes (Psalm 22, 23, 69). While sometimes our depression and anxiety can be directly linked to a specific situation or spiritual issue, it is just as often a side effect of being human. Having the knowledge that you’re not alone can be so freeing. In fact, 1 in 4 pastors and churchgoers have dealt with some form of mental illness. While we’re in no way comparing mental illness to demon possession, the man Jesus encountered in Mark 5 was clearly struggling: “Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones” (Mark 5:5 NIV).
There’s no shame in seeking out help when you feel like you need it. Oftentimes, we can feel afraid to reach out for support because of the stigma around mental health, or we worry our problems may be too much for others to handle. Mark 5:2–3 (NIV) says “a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet [Jesus]. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain.” Even when all hope had seemed lost for this man, he still approached Jesus for help.
Reaching out for help can feel overwhelming when you’re dealing with depression or anxiety, but we have some ideas on what might be some safe first few steps for you.
If you have a trusted friend or mentor in your life, talking to them about what you’re dealing with can certainly take a huge weight off your shoulders. A good friend or mentor may lend an ear to allow you to put thoughts into spoken words if that’s what you need. And, when appropriate, they could point you to a few Bible verses for some needed encouragement to help you meditate on during this time.
Maybe you don’t have a trusted friend or mentor, or you would just feel more comfortable talking to a trained therapist or biblical counselor that isn’t involved in your day-to-day life. Having that separation can sometimes bring more clarity and solace that what you confide in them will stay confidential. We highly recommend making an appointment with a therapist or through our Biblical Counseling Ministry at Calvary. This will allow you to talk with a trained therapist or counselor who can give you insight from a non-biased perspective and begin a treatment plan, if necessary. Calvary’s Biblical Counseling Ministry offers services through lay biblical counselors. Your counselor will help guide you as you cope with personal, relational, and spiritual issues by using God’s Word as the foundation.
You’d be surprised how beneficial it is for your mental health to be a part of a consistent community. Joining a group will give you the opportunity to build trusting relationships and have a consistent connection point on your calendar. Routine is so important when it comes to managing life with depression or anxiety, and having others around you can help lighten your load.
If you need biblically-based help with an immediate crisis, please call 954-977-9673 or come to our church office during regular church business hours, and we’ll have someone meet with you. If you’re struggling with suicidal or self-harming thoughts, please call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.