By: Rick Robledo
Each year, one out of every five American adults experience some form of mental illness such as depression and/or anxiety. Teens and children also struggle with their mental health. Since Shepherd Church has more than 12,000 members, this means that potentially 2,400 people in our congregation are dealing with some type of mental health issue—many of whom are suffering in silence. An unfortunate stigma surrounds mental health, but it is important that the body of Christ does not remain silent. Humans are complex beings, made up of both body and spirit. Our mental health as well as our physical health can benefit from medical support. There is no shame in seeking the help you need to be well, whether through medical care and/or wise Christian counsel.
From a biblical perspective, there are ways of dealing with and overcoming anxiety. The Bible is the Word of God, 100 percent true and full of messages of encouragement. Philippians 4:4-6 reads, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!...Do not be anxious about anything…” In 1 Peter 5:7 we are told to, “Cast all your anxiety on Christ...” Often it seems impossible to rejoice when facing anxiety. When these verses don’t change our situation and our feelings remain the same, we begin to believe that there is something wrong with us, that we are ineffective Christians, or we may begin to doubt that the Bible is true. However, the problem is not God’s Word, but rather our inadequacy of putting His words into practice.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” “Renewing” is a continual process of right thinking. By God’s grace our salvation is not based on works. We are saved by the perfect and completed work of Jesus. When we receive salvation through Christ, He is continually refining and sanctifying us, so even when we don’t feel like it, there are still practical steps we can take to remember that God is in control.
1) Identify the anxious thoughts. We are presented with information constantly, much of which is false. It is essential to identify anxious thoughts and declare that these thoughts are destructive. When we properly identify our thoughts as destructive, it reminds us that this is not how Jesus looks at us or wants us to think about ourselves. Proverbs 3:5-6 reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Often, anxious feelings are rooted in something that is untrue. Instead, we must align our thoughts with the truth of God.
2) Give the power back to God. When we attempt to “be better” or “stop being anxious,” we are trying to get well on our own merit or overcome our problems by our own strength. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” We are to invite God to do the work in us, rather than by our own power. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God is able to “lead us in the way everlasting.” God will lead and guide us through our pain and anxiety. Then we can stop living in the anxious thoughts of “what if…” and start looking to the One “who Is.”
3) Change our focus. Philippians 4:8-9 instructs us in this way: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Focus on positive, God-honoring thoughts. Our enemy, Satan, wants to keep us bound in our negative thoughts, but Jesus has set us free! Because we are free, we can think on whatever is true, whatever is right, and whatever is praiseworthy. Fear and anxiety will have no power. When we face anxiety, it is often helpful to change your environment such as going outside, exercising, or practicing a hobby. This will allow our minds to refocus on giving God glory, which in turn will bring us joy.
These are just a few ways to live out our faith in regard to anxiety, even when our feelings deceive us. Jesus declared that He came to give us life abundantly (John 10:10). If you are feeling the burden of anxiety in your life, please reach out to us. We are happy to support you in any way we can.
Rick Robledo is a Pastor at our church that is involved in Community Care as well as our Renew Mental Health Ministry.