By: Associate Pastor Douet Stennett (Dr)
The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, financial hardships, an unfavourable medical report, marital problems or divorce, unresolved childhood issues and the list goes on and on of possible triggers for anxiety and depression.
Oftentimes as a Christian, I am under the impression that I am exempt from mental health struggles such as depression, anxiety, anger, and or trauma. Sometimes I wonder if something is wrong with my faith or if I am not trusting God enough. Sometimes when I experience feelings such as depression, anxiety, worry, and stress, I used to believe that as a Christian, I should not be experiencing those feelings.
As a devoted Christian, I have a relationship with God, I study God’s word, I attend church, attend Bible study, and I am very active in ministries within my church, however, that did not make me immune to the unpleasant emotions and internal battles I sometimes struggle with.
There are times when I get weary, tired, I feel overwhelmed, and drained. Yes, prayer changes things. Yes, God is a healer. Yes, the Lord works miracles and yes, I believe that God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we can ever ask, think, or imagine, but that does not mean I am shielded from experiencing vicissitude of life. Sometimes I try to pray the pain away or I try to engulf myself in service for the Lord to be alright, only to find that eventually the very emotions, fears, and trials that I have been running from manifest into depression, resentment, anger, fear, and overall emotional distress.
The word of God tells us that faith without works is dead, St James 2:17. “How does that Scripture apply to addressing mental health concerns?” you may ask. Christians should recognize that God does make help available for us via counsellors and other mental health practitioners. Counsellor was one of the names of the son of God (Isaiah 9:6) and throughout His time on earth He counseled most of the persons He came in contact with. In St. John 11, we see Jesus counselling and comforting Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died.
While prayer, church attendance, and Bible study are indeed powerful and effective, sometimes we do have to take it a step further and seek godly biblical counsel from a trained professional. Proverb 15:22 tells us that “without counsel purposes are disappointed”. We are all fallible, nobody gets it right all the time. The most wisest and godly among us are subjected to human errors and disappointments, as external factors this sometimes may trigger anxiety and depression within us.
As Christians, whenever we get anxious and depressed, we do not have to stay there; we need to recognize that we are not weak, faithless, or hypocritical if we ask for help. God usually provide vessels here on earth to help us heal. It is oftentimes easier for us to see a doctor if we have a medical condition, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, asthma than for our mental health issues, we seem to put that into another category. The same way physical conditions requires professional attention, mental health conditions, particularly persistent recurring ones, may need to be addressed professionally.
In conjunction with our prayer, Bible study, and church attendance, the Lord has created safe, confidential, and professional spaces for us to gain healing, freedom, and peace of mind from our troubles. We just have to be willing to ask for professional help.
In addition to seeking professional help, we need to acknowledge our challenges and encourage ourselves in the Lord like King David (I Samuel 30:6). In Psalm 23 the Lord promises to comfort us and as Christians, we should have the confidence, that the Lord will never leave us nor forsake us. We ought to seek divine guidance in selecting the right persons to counsel and walk alongside us during our periods of difficulties.
In conclusion, I believe that feelings of anxiety and depression are normal for Christians, according to King Solomon in the book of Proverbs:
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad”Proverbs 12:25
Anxious cares and grief, can depress our spirit, and disables us from exerting yourself with any vigour in fulfilling our duty in our place and station, and from bearing with fortitude the sufferings to which we are exposed, in the course of divine providence; but a good word makes us glad. A compassionate and encouraging word, from a friend or minister, affords us relief and comfort, and enables us to go on our way with tranquility, peace and joy.