There was a time in my life when I didn’t want to live. And there are many evangelical Christians who can empathize.
Christian mental health is one of the hardest things to talk about—but it’s too important to be silent.
Many Bible-believing Christians struggle with their mental health, now more than ever. This makes Christian mental health an important topic for the church community in today’s cultural landscape.
And as Christians, we can talk about it through practical, emotional, and spiritual lenses.
We do have the Book with the deepest truths about what it means to be human, after all.
So here’s where we’re headed:
- A Biblical Approach to Christian Mental Health
- 9 Scriptures to Lean On In Depression
- Christians and Depression: Does Mental Health Treatment Matter?
- Secular Solutions and Christian Faith
- How can I find Christian mental health professionals to help with my mental health issues?
- Tools for Improving Mental Health
- What practical steps can I take to improve my spiritual and emotional health?
- Jesus Experienced Mental Health Struggles, Too
First up, there’s a special man in the Old Testament I think we can all relate to. Let’s visit him in one of his darkest moments to shine light on where we can go from whatever cave we find ourselves in.
A Biblical Approach to Christian Mental Health
So we begin as a desperate King David sits alone in a cave called Adullam.
He’s on the run from Saul . . . again.
David’s situation has all the makings of a mental health crisis.
Then his family, full of stressed out, bitter, poor people join him.
David is barely hanging on himself, let alone for a league of the lost.
But he does something incredible. David heads to a nearby king and asks him to look after his family for a bit. Just until he knows how God is going to deliver him.
He was able to trust God in this crisis. . .
He doesn’t know how.
And he doesn’t know when.
But he trusts that God will.
While the Bible does not explicitly use the phrase mental health…
It does paint the edges of what it means to have the mind of Christ.
It does show us how to abide in him
And it does offer peace and direction in the face of mental health problems and offer promises of restoration and renewal that speak to our broken state and remind us where our help comes from.
Think of it this way:
The Scriptures are like tools in our toolbelt.
They are the hammer that smashes the anger and hardness. They are the wrench that tightens the bolts of faith that keep us grounded, and they are the sander that smooths out the rough place of our hearts and minds.
Jesus even showed us how to use them like weapons to tackle the mental health challenges that attack our minds and God’s purpose for our lives (Matthew 4:1–11)our spiritual well being.
And alongside God’s Word, prayer is our conversation with the one true Counselor. We can honestly share our thoughts, fears, desires, and struggles and receive guidance, strength, peace, and comfort in return.
You can be on a faith journey and struggle with the emotional pain of life.
Christian faith does not exempt us from the pain of mental disorders. Faith in God does, however, link us to the One who can help us through and give us wisdom to make the best decisions for professional help, community support, and wholeness.
Mental illness is an opportunity for healing.
Mental disorders are an opportunity for the Lord to show what He can do for those in need.
However, like I wrote about in my latest book, as someone who’s battled severe depression for many years, I know it is massively difficult.
Believe me, I don’t say this lightly!
So, before I go any further, here are 9 Scriptures that have stood the test of time to help when we hurt the most:
9 Scriptures to Lean On In Depression
- The Lord is always with you. He is the Restorer of your soul.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want . . . He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul . . . Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23)
- The Lord can renew your mind.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind . . . (Romans 12:2)
- God gives us power, love, and self-control to replace our fear.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (II Timothy 1:7)
- The world only troubles our hearts. God gives us peace.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
- God gives rest to the heavy laden.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
- God wants to hear your struggles.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
- Jesus offers us peace.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
- We can trust that the Lord will protect us.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped. (Psalm 28:7)
- God is our healer.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)
Christians and Depression: Does Mental Health Treatment Matter?
An estimated 7 million Christians deal with depression every year.
You or someone you know is probably in that number.
But even though there are so many of us battling the same struggle (and countless others battling other mental health issues), we hide our feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness from the Church. Shame and embarrassment keep us from sharing and seeking help.
But what if the evangelical church functioned as a support for the body of Christ? Counseling and support groups for the Body, by the Body. What if “Christian mental health” was a phrase we used on the regular?
We mean well, but “Read your Bible and pray” is not enough help for those in the thick of the battle. Our brothers and sisters struggling with mental illness need someone to get in the trenches with them and help them fight their way out.
Mental illness is warring against our church family. And it’s time we band together.
Churches should be encouraging congregations to seek deliverance from their major depressive disorder, their bipolar disorder, their anxiety. This is real-life hope in a busted up world.
Secular Solutions and Christian Faith
Okay, so now you’re ready to face the battle head on, with a band of believers behind you.
But where do you start? How do you get professional help without compromising your religious beliefs?
Let me just say, this is a valid concern! It’s important to receive sound, spiritual counsel. We want help rooted in faith in conjunction with practical solutions and coping strategies.
Imagine a treatment plan tailored to both your spiritual and mental needs. Imagine Holy Spirit being the guiding force of your mental and spiritual healing, and Jesus as the Cornerstone.
Enter: Christian counseling.
Christian counseling is the best of both worlds. It combines faith-based values with evidence-based strategies for healing mental health problems.
Psychological techniques join with spiritual discernment to promote healing and growth.
With Christian counseling, we get to lay a foundation of Scripture and build professional practices that provide care and support on top.
You don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.
How can I find Christian mental health professionals to help with my mental health issues?
Finding the right mental health professional – whether that be a counselor, therapist, or psychologist, is one of the most important tasks on your mental health journey.
Don’t settle for the first person you meet with. Don’t give up if the first one, two, five, seven counselors are not the right fit. And of course, don’t quit.
That’s part of the fight – finding the one who is a good match for you.
We’re looking for someone who makes you comfortable but challenges you, points you back to Christ, and specializes in your needs.
It’s a tall order, but it is possible.
This can be even more difficult when looking for a Christian counselor, therapist, or psychologist. But don’t lose hope! There is someone who can help!
- Research local therapists who specialize in faith-based counseling
- Ask for referrals from family and friends
- Contact your church’s pastoral staff for recommendations
Professional help is available—but what can we do right now? Or tomorrow? Or any time at all?
Here’s a wild scene that holds some answers…
Tools for Improving Mental Health
The prophet Elijah, sitting under a tree, asking God to kill him.
Elijah was worn out and burned out. He was mentally ill.
He’s on the run from Queen Jezebel after revealing Baal for the wannabe that he is.
God responds by feeding Elijah, not once but twice, and some time to nap
God knew the value of “self-care” long before it trended.
Taking care of yourself is at the core of your emotional and mental health.
We drink our water, practice our mindfulness, do our stretches, strength training, or Orange Theory. We’ve given Nosey Aunt Nell some boundaries, crafted the perfect morning routine, and adhere to a strict sleep schedule. We’ve even stopped checking our email after dinner and don’t pick up our phones until after we’ve brushed our teeth.
But self-care is equally important for spiritual health.
I like to call it Soul Care.
Drinking your proverbial spiritual water and implementing some rhythms in your spiritual life, builds resilience against negative thoughts and prepares us for the challenging times. The positive effects will blow your mind.
Just as Elijah’s nourishment and rest prepared him to receive God’s next steps for him, Soul Care girds up our loins and fills our heads with His promises before we need them. It readies our hearts to take on the mental battles.
What practical steps can I take to improve my spiritual and emotional health?
This is far from an exhaustive list, but here are three Soul Care ideas to get you started today.
1. Engage with your Bible.
I’m not talking about just picking it up and skimming a Psalm so you can get back to scrolling Instagram.
I’m talking about saturating your mind with the Word and digging into the daily Bread the Lord has for us – every. single. day.
This seems like the most obvious, overused suggestion on the block, but only about 14% of Christians are even picking up their Bible daily.
That means 86% of us aren’t even picking up The Ultimate Mental Health Handbook that God himself wrote.
Get honest with yourself about two things:
- How often are you engaging with your Bible?
- How deeply are you engaging with your Bible?.
No, for real. Pause and ask yourself.
Feed your soul often and intentionally. Here’s what will happen in Bible study:
2. Tend to the garden of your heart with prayer.
Your heart is a garden.
It needs to be watered and pruned.
If you want that juicy, spiritual fruit that is good for the body, spirit, and soul, you have to tend to your Heart-Garden daily with prayer.
If you want a flourishing relationship with Christ, you have to spend time in conversation with Him.
And if you want Him to relieve your burdens and renew your mind, you have to take your thoughts to Him.
Talking to Jesus has the power to:
Rest assured, God hears you. (I John 5:14)
3. Seek spiritual guidance.
The first verse of the first psalm tells us what happy people don’t do.
And what they don’t do is walk in the counsel of the wicked.
That means happy people aren’t taking the advice of the ungodly. They aren’t letting godless people determine their direction.
Instead . . .
Walk with the wise and you’ll be like them (Proverbs 13:20).
Let those who can instruct your mind, words, and actions in the way of the Lord be the signposts you read on life’s journey.
Jesus Experienced Mental Health Struggles, Too
Jesus suffered a real life physical issue on his journey to the cross.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, He was in so much agony, his sweat was like great drops of blood. (Luke 22:44)
Were Physician Luke a doctor today, he would diagnose Jesus with hematidrosis – a condition of blood-sweat whose cause is extreme anguish.
Jesus was so overwhelmed with sorrow by his task, he was at the point of death before He ever even made it to the Cross. (Matthew 26:38, Mark 14:34)
The weight of the world weighs us down, eats away at our mental and spiritual health.
But even in mental illness, we have solace and strength in Scripture.
Friend, dive into the Word – listen to what God says about Christian mental health, learn the Scriptures, seek help, seek Jesus Christ.
He knows our sorrow personally. He has carried it.
There is real hope for this busted up world. There is real hope for you.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33