Faith and Mental Health
I wonder what you think of when you hear about faith and mental health. Sadly, many people have experienced criticism in the midst of struggles – “You shouldn’t be feeling like that when you trust Jesus.” or “Don’t take medication for feeling down. Ultimately, we know we have a deeper joy.” Most of the time, these comments are from people who mean well and include aspects of truth, but don’t understand how it feels to struggle in this way or have a lack of awareness of mental health challenges.
The reality is that it can deeply affect your relationship with God. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, often my experiences make it really difficult to approach God, despite the head knowledge that He is a loving Father who wants to listen to his child. My mind can be flooded with guilt and self-criticism, leading to a cycle where I just feel increasingly worse about the situation I find myself in and feel that I can’t approach my Source of peace and strength.
So how can we stop ourselves from reaching that point? We often can’t control or manage these tricky parts of our being, but there are a few things that I have learned along the way.
1. God IS a loving Father who wants to hear from his children, even if it means us just inviting Him in to how we are feeling. If you can’t bring yourself to praise and worship, still spend time with Him. For me, this sometimes looks like me listening to worship music, or simply just sitting with a cup of tea in the knowledge that He is there and knows my thoughts. God promises to provide the strength we need, but we can’t live out of that strength without spending time in His presence (the secret place – see Rosie’s blog last month).
2. It’s not wrong to get help. Yes, ask God in faith for healing, but in the nicest possible way, use your brain and the resources tat He has given us as well. Counselling, therapy and medication, along with living more healthily, can help to lift some of the struggle. If you’re concerned, ask God about it! You can be receiving help and still have faith for the day and for healing long-term. You can be identifying triggers, creating plans for the tough days and taking medication without abandoning the fact that God is your provider and your strength for each day. I take antidepressants and see a therapist because I know that they can help me in my day to day, but I know that the real strength and peace comes from my daily time with God.
3. Tell others! Talking it out can be really helpful, and letting others in allows them to help. Sometimes it may feel like no one can help, but having them know allows them to pray for you (which is one of the best things that they can do) and does lessen the burden. In addition, they can help put plans in place for things that you struggle with. My feelings of anxiety make going to church a real battle, but having a few people know that I find it difficult and know a couple of things that help can make the difference between me leaving and staying.
Don’t let struggles with mental health stop you from pursuing God. I often think of Paul, who said that he boasts in his weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). My weakness in this area deepens my relationship with God and often pushes me to rely on Him more. In the toughest moments, it is only in that place of reliance and trust that we can find true peace and security. So take it to Jesus, who has experienced our struggles, and trust that He can use different people and things to help, too.
Abbi is part of our CCM Fallowfield site. She loves worship leading, playing the piano and is a bundle of northern joy!