Sometimes mental health is the thing that gets pushed away, an afterthought, almost judgmental in some ways. “If he (she) only trusted Jesus more, all would be well.” “If he (she) read the Bible more, they would be fine.” There are many other phrases that we could put in this spot. And while trusting Jesus and reading the Bible more are important parts of our spiritual AND mental health; other things also enter into the picture. Most of those are things we probably don’t know about in someone’s life.
What does good mental health look like? How should people be during certain seasons of the year? Why can’t they be happy like me? I don’t know what’s wrong with him? He has a beautiful wife, terrific kids, wonderful grandkids, a beautiful house, a good job. Why is he depressed? I have heard most of these personally.
People had no idea what I had been dealing with.
The winter months can be hard on some people. For real. Some folks don’t do well with shorter daylight hours or cold winter months. Others have a hard time in the hot steamy months of summer. Some people are dealing with chemical imbalances that make them depressed or bi-polar or whatever. This does not make them bad people or even people to be pitied. When someone is dealing with some sort of mental health issue, it is hard to find the “good” among the “bad.” And what makes it worse is when those they love are not supportive. I am not talking about enabling bad behavior. I am talking about a true understanding of what someone might be going through.
How can we understand? That is the question.
Here’s a thought. Dive deeper and really get to know someone. Get to know who they are, what they like, what they dislike. As we get to know each other, really know each other, things start to become clearer.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
Exodus 17:12 gives us a beautiful picture of Aaron and Hur bearing the burden Moses was carrying.
Ever been driving and you are going through something tough in your life and then you do something stupid and the guy behind you is laying on his horn? Maybe even shaking his fist at you or worse? He doesn’t know what you are going through at that moment. His only thought is “what a stupid driver.” Now, have you ever been the driver with road rage? Laying on your horn because of the “stupid” driver in front of you or beside you? And you don’t really know what that person might be going through at that moment? I am not justifying poor driving habits. I am just pointing out that we don’t know what people are going through.
If we stop, think, pray and get to know someone, things would be so much better. Relationships matter.
There are all kinds of mental health issues. Depression and anxiety are some of the more “common” types. Personality disorders (Bi-polar, Schizophrenia, etc.), Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), PTSD and the list goes on. If you mix any of the “normal” stressors of life with any of those mentioned above or others, you have a really bad situation. Unfortunately, when things start to get really bad, we tend to isolate. That’s when things get worse. It truly seems like there are no good options. One feels very helpless and hopeless. Hopelessness is the absolute worst thing for that individual.
See the spiral downward? Depression (or any other mental health issue) + stress + isolation leads to hopelessness. Hopelessness feels like there is no answer.
How can we offer hope to those who are struggling right now?
Praying for each other is huge. Reaching out to those we know are going through very difficult times provides hope. Being a friend to someone struggling lessens the isolation. Pointing them in a direction of help, like a good Christian therapist (I know one if you need a name) or ministries like Celebrate Recovery and Ministry of Reconciliation can be a huge benefit to someone who struggles (which would be most of us). Being a good listener is a big deal. Undistracted listening goes miles in someone’s life who is struggling.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
I know we can’t dive deep into everyone’s life. But we can dive deep into one person’s life who is struggling, if they let you dive in, that is. We never want to force ourselves on others in an attempt to help. Remember, relationship matters first. When we know someone really cares about us, we tend to be more open about the things in our lives.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
There are many contributing factors that lead to mental health problems; trauma, brain disease, chemical imbalance, sin. Depression has been a part of the human condition since the fall. Sin has created all human brokenness. Throughout scripture, we see God’s people struggling with this reality, such as…
- David (Psalm 22:2, 42:11, 32:5)
- Elijah (1 Kings 19)
- Jeremiah (Jer. 20:1-11)
- Ezekiel (Ezek. 1)
- Paul (2 Cor. 4:7)
We know from Psalms 32 and 51 that unrepented sin can lead to depression, affecting body, soul and mind. We learn from David that healing from sin-caused depression can come with confession and repentance.
The subject and understanding of mental illness is very complex. Thankfully, we have a God who is bigger than all of this. He knows. He understands. He is in it with us. He pours out His grace and mercy upon us. And He calls us to love and walk alongside those that are walking through this difficult journey.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. (Psalm 34:17-20)
- If you are in good mental health, celebrate that.
- If you’ve never had a mental health struggle, celebrate that.
- If you know of somebody who is struggling with depression and anxiety or any other form of mental health issues, reach out. Pray, do life together and let’s see what God can do.
If you are struggling with any mental health issue, please don’t go it alone!
There is hope!