The topic of mental health has come up a lot lately in the news. Celebrities opening up about their struggles with depression, anxiety, and such. Articles written about the need for mental health vacation days. Studies reporting the higher levels of stress on employees and millennials.
I have struggled with depression on-and-off for about 10 years now; ever since I was 14. Honestly, I think it even began to manifest when I was 13. And I’m not just talking mood swings due to raging hormones. I mean full on feelings of despair, worthlessness, hopelessness, anxiety, worry. It’s a terrible place to be. Many times have I felt my heart literally being broken and crushed within me. Countless nights I’ve cried myself to sleep. I lacked joy and vigor. I seemingly walked through life without really being a part of it, feeling fatigued and lethargic.
Mental health is a serious issue. If left unchecked, and unattended, can lead to some dark places.
David, a great king, a man after God’s own heart, appears to have struggled with this too. Many times throughout the Psalms he talks of his thoughts and being distraught, in pain and sorrow, crying out to the LORD for relief and comfort. The thing is he knew Who brought peace and comfort; Who could ease our mind and soul; restore to us joy.
“Hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught.” Psalm 55:2 NIV
“How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” Psalm 13:2 NIV
“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again–my Savior and my God!” Psalm 42:5 NLT (42:11, 43:5)
I know during many of my times fighting with a bout of depression, I was more focused, if not solely focused, on my circumstances – mean girls gossiping and slandering me, betrayals by people I should have trusted, the lack of job and finances (with seemingly no opportunity in sight), losses of various kinds, and sitting idly in life watching my dreams disappear from reach. You name it.
I let my circumstances fill my mind rather than the hope I have in Christ.
There are several things we can do to focus and help facilitate our mental health. (Like hiking and exercise! Seriously though, hiking is an incredible way to boost endorphins, get fresh air, and enjoy the beauty of creation!) The most important being God’s Word. What does He say about our mind?
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 NLT
“Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2 ESV
“Now set your mind and heart to seek the LORD your God.” 1 Chronicles 22:19a ESV
God tells us to not focus on the things here on earth, our circumstances and our pain. Can that be hard? Oh, absolutely. But what does He tell us to focus on? The things that are good, that are lovely, that are heavenly, and Him! We need to set our minds to look upon the face of our Savior, the One who has released us from bondage to pain and circumstances, and seek Him.
If we continue to seek God in our thoughts, we will find our thoughts to be less focused on what’s going on around us and more on what He desires for us.
“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:5-6 NIV
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2a NIV
“Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” Ephesians 4:23 NLT
Our mind has a lot of control over us. It is what responds to stimuli. It tells the body how to act and the mouth what to speak. It invokes the emotions we feel. But what are we feeding it? Are we feeding our mind with lies? With destructive ideas? With negative and unhealthy notions? With ungodly behavior? Or are we feeding it truth? With wisdom? With peace and hope?
“…and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5b NIV
Search through Scripture and find what God’s Word says about what you are experiencing. Write them down and surround yourself with them! When I was about 15/16 I did this – I looked for Scripture that related to my circumstances, wrote them down, and plastered them to my wall around my bed. Then, when I was hurting, I would go and sit and read them. Later on I found, even when I had absentmindedly been reading them, they would come to my mind throughout the day. By doing this I was fixing my mind on things that were good and honorable, true and of God.
“And finally, from the words, “He restores my soul,” I have learned to wait for God in my periods of depression and lifelessness, and to look for hope and beauty and power in His creation, but mostly in His Word.” John Piper
“Fix these words of Mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols to your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 11:18-20 NIV
“Obey My commands and live! Guard My instructions as you guard your own eyes. Tie them on your fingers as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.” Proverbs 7:2-3 NLT
“I have hidden Your Word in my heart…” Psalm 119:11a NLT
My prayer is that none of you experience the depression I have. I know many of you will, or you’ll face anxiety or worry, but remember that your hope lies in the goodness of our God. I still have days when my depression comes back ready to fight my spirit and mind, but rather than let it have control, I am choosing to fight back no matter how weary I may be. I choose to let the Word of God fill me, to be my sword to battle the lies of worthlessness and hopelessness, and rest in the goodness of my Savior. By filling my mind with Scripture, I am equipped to fight whatever ungodly thing that comes my way, whether it be depression or something else.
“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 ESV
When you are having a bad mental health day, take the necessary time to dive into His Word, to cry out to Him, and seek things worthy of thought. And above all, choose to live His Truth out, both in mind and action.
“And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” Mark 12:30 NLT
*All words in bold are mine.