We are now about two weeks into the month of May, and it’s mental! May is mental health awareness month, shining a light on mental health and allowing for those who haven’t opened up a chance to know that there is always hope. That’s why I love this month. For a long time, especially in the Christian community, mental health hasn’t been talked about. Not only has it not really been talked about, but many times it has been seen as a weakness, something that makes you less than those around you. It’s tragic because we have lived and treated others in this lie that Satan has convinced us of. We get in the mindset that we have to be perfect, that in order to follow Christ, we have to have no flaws. The truth is, if we believe this, we will live our lives believing that we are never enough, but the power of the gospel is that Jesus says all we need is to walk with him. Jesus doesn’t want perfect people, because he knows people aren’t perfect. All Jesus asks of us is to follow him, and he’ll help us sort out the rest.
The same is true with mental health.
Just like every other part of our lives, we need to trust in Jesus. Trust in our creator who designed us with a purpose and loved us so much he sent his son to die on a cross and take our sins, and then raise again to defeat death.
I want to talk about mental health today. I won’t be able to speak from a professional medical perspective, but I want to speak as someone who has battled mental issues in my own life. I want to address a stereotype around mental health as well as a key to fighting through mental struggles. I hope you are encouraged by this and I hope you are able to live in freedom in Christ, refusing to let the enemy or people around you say you’re not worthy. You are worthy of love and you are made in God’s image.
It is not a sin to struggle with mental health.
I think this is the biggest issue when it comes to the church and mental health. We often don’t talk about the battles in our mind like anxiety and depression, and often if it’s mentioned, it’s viewed as something you just shouldn’t have. What this does is create a culture of shame, we convince others that they are less than another person. This is what Jesus called out in the Pharisees during his ministry. Whatever you may be dealing with, depression, rejection, anxiety, fear, loneliness, the myriad of things that can invade our minds and affect us, God has used countless people in the bible to do great things.
Elijah fought against depression. Joseph was rejected by his own brothers. Moses had to go in front of the pharaoh, that would sure fill me with anxiety. The disciples were called to build the church in the face of an emperor that burned Christians in order to light the Roman streets at night, it’s almost certain they were filled with fear and alone many times. Their mental battles that Satan was throwing at them were not a sin. If that upsets you, I encourage you to look into why you might be feeling that way.
In my own walk, I have battled anxiety for a long time now. It’s difficult, you assume the worst on many days and panic can creep into every decision in front of you. There have been great people who have loved me in my weakness, but I also understand having people shame you. I once brought up with some people the importance of talking about mental health and how God loves us despite how our emotions might be. I then shared about my own struggle and walk, but was quickly blown over and told that it wasn’t good for me to be like that. Geez, could that have been the worst response to that ever? What I took away from that moment is that some people will try to blow it off and say you should just be happy, but in those moments to never stop fighting to receive help and counselling, as well as share with others the importance of awareness for mental health, especially as believers and the church.
This leads into the second aspect I want to share about.
The beginning of healing starts with honest conversations with trusted community.
You need people. You need people surrounding you. These people need to be trusted. These people need to be the ones who continually love you, on your good days and bad. You don’t need to share and confide in shallow people. Kristen Ivy said, “The opposite of shallow is not deep, but personal.” You need to have people who are willing to be truly personal with you, and we need to be willing to get personal with people who need to confide in us as well.
I know for many of us who struggle with mental health, we often hide that fact, but wish someone would ask us how we are truly feeling; why then don’t we go first? What’s stopping us from asking personal questions to the people we love? We have to be ready to communicate better, to be intentional with people around us. We ourselves need to be honest with others about what we are walking through, even if it’s something you can’t fully express.
It’s okay to tell people you feel “off” today, you don’t have to be seemingly perfect, it’s okay to struggle.
With conversations about mental health, this is the first step, but it’s not the only step. Not everyone in your life is a mental health professional. Talking to a doctor or a therapist is not a sign of weakness, but a strength in your battle. Their advice is based on years of research, and while you and I may have great self-care tips, the best thing is to address the root issue for healing. Get help, your life has value, no matter what might be going on and what thoughts may be swirling in your mind, there is hope. You are so worth loving and made in the image of God.
I always love getting to shed light on this topic. I’m by no means an expert, but I believe a conversation needs to open the door for true healing and hope. As Christ followers we need to be careful not to shame, but to help our brothers and sisters around us to find new life. Be personal with the people in your life. Be an ally with those who may be fighting a battle you don’t always understand. If you are battling, talk to someone you trust. Seek counseling and know that you are not unworthy because of your emotions and thoughts, you are loved by a big God. A God who is supreme over all things.
Start a conversation and ask someone how they are.
About the Author: Joshua Thomas is a writer by day and superhero by night. When he’s not writing and crimefighting, you can find him reading a good book, sipping warm tea, taking pictures, or dreaming. The young writer doesn’t fully know what he’s doing, but is enjoying the journey of it all. You can tweet memes at him on Twitter @joshua_thomas__ or follow his hipster photos and Jack Kerouac musings on Instagram @joshua_thomas__
When I write on topics like anxiety and depression, I know how dark life can seem. I know that you feel alone and hurt, but there is hope. There is always someone there for you and I never want you to feel like you have no other option. If you are feeling suicidal thoughts, I want you to call this number (844) 359-6685
There is always hope, and your life has value. You are so worth loving.