Written by Rachel Gunn, LSW
If you have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue, I am here to tell you there is hope. As a mental health professional, I want to remind you a diagnosis does not define you. Symptoms do not define you. It may not even be permanent. You are a child of God and he always provides us what we need to weather the storms of life.
What do we have at our disposal to address our circumstances? First and foremost, talk to Jesus. Of course, he already knows your trouble but please don’t assume he is going to step in, snap his fingers and poof it all away just because he can see your struggle. He doesn’t go poking around uninvited. He longs for you to be in relationship with him, to invite him into the darkest recesses of your soul. James 4:6-8 tells us “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” He is ready and waiting for you.
Next, find a Godly friend or mentor you can trust to share your struggle. Please do not let concern for what they might think keep you from seeking support. The enemy is no doubt doing everything he can to keep you in your emotional muck. His goal is to steel your peace, kill your joy, and destroy your hope. Your friend is there to support you, to remind you how much God loves you, and to offer her shoulder when you need a hug. She does not have the answers to your problems, but she knows the one who does and is there to consistently direct you back to Him.
If you are lacking an amazing friend who can walk alongside you during this time, is your pastor available to speak with or does your church have a counseling ministry? Solid Christian people who can help remind you of what God’s word says, listen, and pray with you. If not, ask your pastor to refer you to a good Christian counselor in the community. (Also, make new friends.)
If your situation is such that support from a friend or pastor is not quite enough to help you out of the muck, please seek professional help. There are plenty of people out there telling Christians “If God can’t fix it, no one can” and that somehow going to a professional means you lack trust in God. From where I’m standing, these are more lies from the enemy. Yes, I am a professional counselor. But notice, I strongly recommended you seek God first and a friend who will help support you with scripture and prayer. Then came the suggestion for help from a professional if necessary. I promise I am not trying to drum up business!
For some people, experiences from our past coupled with a lack of strong support in our upbringing have led us to develop negative thinking patterns which need to be altered in order to effectively combat our depression and anxiety. Your friend or pastor might be able to help identify these, but if not, wouldn’t it be worth seeking the help of the counselor in order to gain freedom from the bondage in our minds? Paul wrote about having a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan which he pleaded with God to remove. Who’s to say this wasn’t depression or anxiety? We don’t know, but we do know how God responded to his request. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9.) Psychotherapy or counseling won’t keep us from ever having a depressed mood or anxiety again, but what it can do is help us see the things that trip us up and keep us in those depressed moods for longer than necessary. And sometimes medication is a helpful tool to get us to the point of being able to address our needs in counseling. It doesn’t work for everyone and it is certainly not the entire answer but can be part of the process.
More often than not, God is more interested in growing us through our pain than changing our circumstances. This might especially be true when it comes to mental health. Specifically in regard to depression, there are so many factors and thought patterns that brought on these symptoms. If God were to just poof away our mood, what would we learn from that? How would we learn to depend on him to keep ourselves from spiraling down that black hole again? The enemy knows exactly where and when to throw his fiery darts to keep us from seeing the truth in our situations, in our relationships, and most importantly in ourselves.
If you have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue, please do not suffer in silence. God designed you with special gifts to use for blessing his people. Please seek the help you need to live life according to his plan for you.
Written by Rachel Gunn, LSW Rachel Gunn is a wife, mother of three, and a mental health therapist in the field of addiction recovery. She is currently working toward a clinical license as well as a certification in biblical counseling. She serves her local church in volunteering counseling services. And she loves to collect eggs from her 19 chickens.
Photo by Esther Trantham.