There’s no shortage of troubling circumstances in life that can make you feel anxious and depressed. Whether you’re anxious about the future or depressed about the past, your negative emotions will prevent you from living the healthy life God wants you to enjoy right now. Depression can weigh heavy on you. Many Christians feel that their depression is a result of a lack of faith or spiritual shortcomings. Those times when we feel our faith is fruitless can be incredibly frustrating. The more we believe we’ve fallen short, the more we think God can’t help us through our suffering. But God can. Depression is not a spiritual deficit, the result of a lack of faith or a sin in your past. There is nothing you can or can’t do in your spiritual life to change how your brain functions – it’s completely out of your hands. But you can understand that God is with you, especially during your darkest hours. He understands your anxiety and depression and will walk beside you through it. Here are five ways Christians can fight anxiety and depression:
Fix Your Eyes on Jesus
One of the first steps you can take if you’re dealing with anxiety and depression is fix your eyes on Jesus and trust that He is right there with you, even in the face of what you’re dealing with. When you’re in need of strength, one of the best things you can do is call on God for direction. One of the worst things about anxiety and depression is the fact that it distracts us from our relationship with God. Anxiety is a crippling disease. It can take over not only our minds, but also our hearts and ultimately plunge our thoughts into darkness. God doesn’t want us to walk through life full of worry, anxiety and fear. He wants so much more for us. The Bible tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication and thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:6). When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we can rest assured in God’s promises that He will get us through the darkest valley.
Focus on God’s Truth
Changing your way of thinking doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen on your own. As Christians, it’s really important that we are surrounded by a loving faith community as they too are crucial in your faith journey and your recovery. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul instructs us as to what our needs should be focused on. We’re to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). When we focus our thoughts on God’s truth, found in the Bible, we are better off than when we set our minds on the challenges in our life and the things of this world.
What’s also important to remember is that anxiety and depression isn’t what the Church sometimes makes it out to be. It is not a spiritual disorder, a character defect or an emotional dysfunction. It’s also not a choice. It’s certainly important to have faith in God’s ability to heal; however, to deny medical or psychiatric treatment to someone suffering from mental illness is really no different than denying them to someone with a physical illness. The difference between the two is that the first is invisible. While we should be on guard as the enemy will try to exploit any weakness, depression is real. It is not a result of spiritual inadequacies or a lack of faith.
If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, one of the easiest but also transformative things you can do is pray. Every time you speak, God is listening to you, including your concerns and needs. Even when you doubt that God is listening, He always proves that He is. He doesn’t have a dial that he turns up and down when He feels like not tuning in. Sometimes, you need to turn the volume of the world down to hear God’s voice. When life gets hard, allow His voice to speak over your fears.
The Lord is the Great Physician. There’s no wonder that there are so many accounts of Jesus healing people during His earthly ministry. The Bible tells us that Jesus was sent to heal the broken-hearted (Luke 4:18), that He will restore our health and heal our wounds (Jeremiah 30:17). Jesus not only carries all of your pain, but also has the power to heal you. Even in times of difficulty and uncertainty, God wants us to know that He is present and able to make us whole again. The beautiful part is that when God heals and restores, our lives are transformed. Trust in His power.
Turn to the Bible
God is eternal and His Word stands forever (Isaiah 40:8). God does not change and His Word does not change. Because it comes from God, who Himself is the truth, the Word of God is true. For every occurrence in our lives, big or small, positive or negative, there is no shortage of counsel available to us. While the Bible is full of wisdom and encouragement for those suffering from depression and anxiety, it doesn’t come in one-verse doses. “Be anxious for nothing” and “do not worry about your life” can easily be taken out of context which is problematic. Doing this not only fails to appropriately handle Scripture, but also carelessly misconstrues the large intent of the passages. A true look at depression in Scripture shows that there is no easy, one-and-done solution. In fact, God’s hand isn’t always apparent. Rather than only taking in a bit of a verse without its context, a better strategy is to look at those instances of mental suffering and recognize that even the saints struggled.
Walk With God
God is walking beside you in times of anxiety, depression and trouble. Scripture makes mention of how God stays beside us through it all in many verses, including Psalm 138:7, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life. You stretch out Your hand against the anger of my foes; with Your right hand you save me” (Psalm 138:7). God is not silent when we suffer and He offers to walk with you. When we allow the fear and anxiety related to our depression control us, we limit ourselves. With this mindset, it’s hard to fully trust God in our circumstances. The key is remembering the promises God makes. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Don’t wait until the anxiety and depression passes to seek God. He’s not waiting for you to come out of it before walking with you, but He’s eager to walk with you in the midst of it.
If you are struggling with anxiety or depression of any kind, reach out to someone you trust. You are not alone in this, and you do not have to go through it by yourself. God does not promise that the journey ahead will easy or error-free. It may be long, but all you need to do is take one step. When you need, God knows, when you ask God listens, and when you believe, God works. When life gets hard, trust that God is on your side and that He has a plan bigger for you than you have for yourself. He will never leave or forsake you.