At an early age, I began to experience anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Life started to feel unbearable. Each day was a battle. These challenges riddled me throughout my adolescent years, and I felt alone throughout it all.
As a kid who grew up in church, I remember the church being mostly silent on this topic. I started to view my struggles as separate from my spiritual life, and wondered if God cared or had anything to say about them.
Years later, God led me through a journey of healing and freedom. The journey involved recovery group meetings, meetings with pastors and therapists, Bible study, and implementing proven principles from biblical truth and brain science into my life. Perhaps someone you care about deeply has experienced similar struggles. Or perhaps your story is similar to mine. Perhaps you struggle with your mental health but don’t see what God has to do with it or what the Bible says about it. Here are three things I want you to know, and that I wish I knew years ago.
1. God cares deeply about our mental health.
God went to great lengths throughout Scripture to ensure we knew this. Over 850 verses in the Bible speak to mental health, including verses about fear, anxiety, peace, sorrow, and more. For example, 1 Peter 5:7 says to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” The psalmist in Psalm 94:19 says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”
One of the reasons God cares about our mental health is because he is reversing sin’s effects on all of creation. Our mental health challenges were not part of God’s original plan for creation and the garden of Eden. But when sin entered the world, it wreaked havoc on all creation, including our spiritual state, bodies, relationships, and minds. God is in the process of making all things new. He cares deeply about us and the renewal and restoration of our minds.
It is a holy thing to invest in our mental health. It is a holy thing to seek help through God, his word, friends, and a therapist. It is a holy thing to not merely wait for, but to seek hope, healing, and freedom here and now.
2. We are not alone and our struggle is not the result of a lack of faith.
Mental health challenges are on the rise among people from all backgrounds and walks of life. From 2019 to 2021, the number of adults in the US reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression rose from 11 percent to 41 percent.
In addition, we are not any less spiritual, nor do we necessarily lack faith for struggling with our mental health. Some of the godliest people in the Bible struggled with their mental health. (The following observations are not an attempt to diagnose mental health conditions among these figures, but rather observations that each of these figures struggled at times with their mental health in different ways.)
For example, King David was anxious and traumatized (Ps 139; 1 Sam 21–23). Elijah was suicidal (1 Kgs 19). Jonah was angry and wanted to die (Jonah 4). Jeremiah was lonely (Jer 20). Job, who was called a “blameless” and “upright” man, after losing his health, wealth, and family, was so depressed that he wished he had never been born (Job 3). And Jesus himself faced immense emotional pain and grief (Mark 14).
3. Our mental health challenges are not random.
God created each of us as relational beings with relational needs. He created us with heart desires and longings that drive everything we do (Prov 4:23). We have legitimate needs and desires, such as being accepted, loved, affirmed, made to feel safe, and more. God desires to meet these desires through himself and other people. But in a fallen world, these longings and needs go unmet or are outright rejected. And when that happens, we can experience mental health struggles.
For example, constant critical words from a parent or a friend can lead to anxiety in future situations and a fear of rejection. This leads to fixed neurological pathways—fixed ways of thinking and responding to similar situations in the future, leading to more and more anxiety.
Our mental health struggles aren’t random, they’re signals to be answered. Anxiety is a messenger, alerting us that something is threatening our sense of safety, acceptance, and so on. Depression and suicidal thoughts aren’t random: it’s rejection, comparison, trauma, and a sense of failure or worthlessness that leads someone there. Loneliness isn’t caused by a lack of friends, it’s caused by a lack of meaningful connection.
Our unmet needs and desires often lead to mental health struggles. Once we discover the “why” behind the struggle, we can figure out what we need and move towards a solution. Ultimately, our mental health struggles are signals to be answered. They’re not random, they’re signals for deeper longings that, when fulfilled, can lead to a thriving life.
But this can only happen when we start questioning our mental health struggles rather than simply condemning them or seeing them as mere problems to get rid of. By questioning them, we will begin to discover the pain we have gone through, the ways we have learned to survive hardship, and the acceptance, love, and safety that we long for, and that can be found in relationships with God and others.
No matter where you are today in your journey, remember that God cares about your mental health. You are not alone in your mental health struggles. These issues do not mean that you lack faith, they mean that you are human. And they are not random, they’re signals to answer. Signals that can pave your way towards freedom and healing.
May I encourage you to take the next step in your journey today. Perhaps it means admitting to yourself for the first time that you might be struggling and need help. Perhaps it means telling a close friend, mentor, or pastor what you are experiencing. Perhaps it means finding a good therapist in your area and scheduling an appointment. Still, it could mean diving deeper into the three points mentioned above and exploring how they intersect with your journey. God can bring healing and freedom to your life. I know this firsthand, as he used each of the above steps to bring relief and sometimes complete healing from mental health challenges in my life and in hundreds of people I’ve had the privilege of serving and ministering to.