As a professing Christian my whole life, I have found it easy to think that I know what the Bible says, what it means, and how I need to apply it daily. The hardest part then is realizing there’s an alarming difference between knowing the Word and believing in the Word. How many times have I heard Psalm 23 “I will fear no evil, for you are with me,” and yet been overcome with intense fear and anxiety? Don’t get me wrong, fear and anxiety are real. As someone who has dealt with panic attacks my whole life, I understand the crippling reality of what an anxiety disorder can do to someone’s mental health. But then where does my faith come in? It seems to me like our faith community lacks an understanding and awareness of how mental health impacts our faith…
I am only one year (1 year, 2 months, 5 days to be exact) into my recovery from PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder and I can tell you that when I was in the fight (I still am – but am making progress), crawling my way out of my fear and anxiety was and still is one of the toughest battles I’ve faced. For the longest time, I was ashamed of how I felt, and was also too naïve to consider that my fear and anxiety were responses to deeper issues: shame, guilt, and unresolved trauma. I put the blame on myself and when flashbacks of the pain rushed to my mind, I became numb and isolated to cope.
I say all of this really to cover ground so that what I’m about to say has merit – so that what you read you understand as coming from a professing Christian who has been through the darkness. After processing my trauma (I always recommend with a counselor) and understanding the root issues of what was causing my fear, anxiety, and doubt I learned a couple things:
- Feelings are valid – but they are not facts. My feeling of overwhelming fear with or without an immediate threat has to confront what the Bible says – what God promises to me. He promises me safety, security, and protection in the midst of whatever I am facing. I have to constantly challenge what I feel with what the Word says. I have to ask myself the tough, vulnerable question of: Do I truly believe what God says?
- The Enemy (Satan, the prince of the power of the air) is real. He will do whatever it takes to take me down. He will derail me from my purpose, overshadow my confidence with crippling doubt, and enslave me to sin like no other. He will override my thoughts so that everything I’ve learned and known about God my whole life – will appear as false, unreliable, and unloving.
- Sometimes, most times, when fear sets in, I have to “sing a little louder, louder than the unbelief.”
When my lips proclaim who the Lord is and how His might, His power, and His plans thwart the Enemy, the lies have no place to settle. This has always been the hardest action for me – that in the moment of my weakness, in the moment of my despair, in the moment of suicidal thoughts – I turn to God. Whether it’s a plea, an outcry, a whisper into the dark – I have to cling to His promise for dear life.
- I really should have said this first but last – mental illness is real. Some of us are more susceptible to mental illness based on genetics, brain chemistry. There is real evidence that shows how our brain chemistry changes with exposure to trauma. Bodily conditions – such as thyroid dysfunction & chronic illness – can be contributing factors to your depression. It is not all in your head. You cannot will it away. All the coping mechanisms in the world will not cure your plight. I’ve learned that coping mechanisms are short term solutions to the bigger problem – what we really need to do is talk about what’s really causing our illness with a trusted counselor, tackle the root causes, take the right medications, & keep our gaze fixed on our Eternal Father.
dear friends, I am only now learning the abundant grace & love of my lord and savior, Jesus Christ…I am only now becoming softly aware of how my faith & the Word is a weapon to be used in every battle. I am only now beginning to understand how integrated recovery is supposed to be. There is no one stop solution. There is no formula to success. But there is one True King, one Savior, and one God that fights on our behalf. My hope, as I continue to share about my recovery, and lean into the guiding of the Holy Spirit, is that you would be blessed.