The mind is a great tool, but it can make a terrible master. It’s hard to navigate life confidently when your thoughts have become your worst enemy. If no one else in your life seems to understand this, I get it.
Battling with depression and anxiety can feel shameful. We carry this insecurity that if something is deeply wrong with us, then God isn’t with us or can’t use us. I’ve actually had multiple priests tell me that to my face and during their homilies. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the truth is that God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). He draws near to our brokenness. He’s not ashamed of us. He called you according to His purpose with your shortcomings in mind. You were fully taken into account when He crafted you into this world.
If you’re battling with mental health and feeling less than Christian, I want to take the time to speak faith into your spirit from someone who has fought and overcome and continues to navigate this journey. Here are some important things to take to heart.
1. It’s a human issue.
Depression and anxiety do not discriminate against age, race, gender or faith. We live in imperfect bodies in a broken world. As long as we’re human, illness and suffering are inevitable. As Christians, we can face this with hope because Jesus has saved our soul from ever perishing, which is so much greater than these physical and mental illnesses.
I explain all of this to say don’t be so quick to shame your faith when it’s really just a part of being human. There are so many causes surrounding a breakdown in mental health such as genetics, chemical imbalances in the brain and traumatic events in life that have reshaped the way we think. The good news is recovery is available to you with the proper help! God has endowed counselors and professionals with the gifts and skills to help reduce some of our suffering and equip us to live fully functioning lives again.
2. You are not your struggle.
You may be struggling with depression, but you are not defined by depression.
You may be struggling with anxiety or a psychiatric disorder, but that does not define who you are as a person.
Don’t let intrusive and shaming thoughts convince you that you are what you think you are. You are not your thoughts, either.
There are so many other aspects of yourself to consider! You are a daughter, a sister, a student, a professional, a leader. You have your own passions and skills to offer the world. You are so much more than how you feel.
Be able to separate your struggle from your identity. No matter what you face, at the core you are who God says you are and that’s final. He has already defined and marked you as His. Mental illness can’t change that.
3. You are not alone.
Ever since I started opening up more about the relationship between faith and mental health, so many Christians have poured out to me about their struggle. I even started a Christian Support Group on Facebook specifically dedicated to those struggling with and serving in the mental health arena. If there’s one thing this experience has taught me, it’s that there are hundreds of amazing people in the Christian community who have great faith and love Jesus wholeheartedly, but are still human and battle with mental health like any other person.
You are not the only one in your church or in the Christian community who is committed to the faith and faces depression, anxiety and so on.
4. God is not surprised.
If anything, you must realize this: Your battle with mental health has not taken God by surprise. Psalm 139:16 says that all our days were laid out before God. He knew that this was going to be a part of your story. He always planned on using you in spite of yourself. He was always ready to help see you through.
You may be wondering, “If God knew I was going to face this, then why did He let it happen?”
That’s a valid question.
In my personal experience and throughout the Bible, we see there are many reasons why God may call us to endure instead:
- It gives us the humility and compassion to connect with the hurting around us.
- It builds our spiritual strength and dependence on God.
- God uses these experiences to help us support others who come to face the same battle.
- It shows others that though we are broken and flawed, God can use anyone, and it becomes a witness of His power.
Surround yourself with supportive people who have a proper perspective. Don’t stop fighting the good fight of faith. Be encouraged, because struggling with mental health doesn’t make you any less Christian—it just makes you human.