We all have troubles, right? Please tell me I’m not alone. Life is hard, sprinkled with aggravation and sometimes thoroughly horrible circumstances. The news is depressing and it seems kind of like the sky is falling.
Take heart! Things weren’t any better 2,000 years ago as a man named Cleopas and his buddy were walking to Emmaus, talking about the recent crucifixion of Jesus.
Seriously…take heart. Things may not look any brighter in the here and now, but in this story, we are pointed back to the prophets who told of the Messiah’s first coming and assure us of His second coming.
I really struggled with what to write about this week. Nothing was coming to me naturally and every time I tried to force something out on paper, it was just that, forced. And then it occurred to me why: my anxiety is pretty high these days, which makes me want to “go ostrich” and bury my head in the sand. (Though, now that I’ve googled that particular phrase, I am well aware the way we use it is highly inaccurate. I trust you get my point.)
So…here I am. Anxious. My heart is racing. My blood pressure, I’m sure is up, though testing it seems like wasted energy. Depression levels are sinking. I’m overwhelmed, under-rested, and would rather be in bed with my favorite blanket and the remote control.
This isn’t terribly uncommon.
In fact, if you’ve ever suffered from depression or anxiety, chances are you can relate. Likewise, if you’re a Christian suffering from either of these or a whole host of other mental health issues, you’ve also been told all the reasons you shouldn’t ever be depressed or anxious.
You’ve heard it, too, I’m sure…
It seems to me, the most-oft quoted scripture I hear is Matthew 6:27, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” This is, of course within the context of a much larger portion of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus gave his magnum opus in the preaching world.
To be sure, there is great wisdom in that verse and the ones surrounding it in regards to trusting that the God who created us will also care for our needs. I dig that. A lot.
But here’s the thing: anxiety and depression have little to do with those concerns. When someone says they suffer from anxiety, they’re probably not talking about worrying about how the bills are going to get paid. That can certainly be a part of it, don’t get me wrong.
Anxiety vs. Worrying
Anxiety, though is less about ‘worrying’ about things and more about being paralyzed to do anything about what causes normal worry. At least, for me.
Most people, when they worry about bills getting paid, they find a way to increase their earnings, through a second job or selling some goods. Likewise, most people, when their homes start to get messy and cluttered, they take a day and whip things back in to shape.
Sometimes I can do those things, too. A lot of time, though, I become completely overwhelmed and unable to see what next step to take. That leads to frustration because I know I should know the answer. You know?
Instead, I pace the house, seeing clutter and mess all around and I can’t figure out how to make it go away. I get jittery and snappish with the people around me. Even if they try to help in one way or the other, odds are their help will feel threatening and they’ll still get snapped at, anyway. (It’s a barrel of laughs, yeah?)
Christians Suffer, Too
It’s just not enough to tell Christians that they shouldn’t suffer from these issues. It’s not fair to say that because we’re Christians we shouldn’t need medication or therapy and even then, continue to battle with it on an on-going basis. To suggest, in any way, that followers of Christ are supposed to somehow be happy and content at all times, is dangerous and needs to stop.
The fact is, we live in a fallen and broken world. If you turn on the news or look at social media for five seconds, it’s pretty clear just how broken and fallen we are. It’s easy to find 100 things that cause stress on a daily basis without even trying hard.
When we look through scripture, it is riddled with people of faith who suffered greatly and wrestled with their own falling societies and cultures. Moses, Gideon, Jonah, Ruth, David, Esther, Paul, Jesus himself. They all lived in times of serious upheaval and societal pressure. Only one of those listed (and the list is quite a bit larger, just read your Bible), was perfect. I imagine Jesus, though He grieved at the knowledge of what He was being asked to do in His final hours, didn’t succumb to worry or anxious thinking.
But I do. And so do lots of other people of faith. You might even be one of them. You’re not alone.
Stop the Stigma!
The more we address this very real and growing epidemic that is ravaging the people in our churches, the less stigma there is surrounding mental health care. We are bold to pray for healing for people with cancer, but mental disease is the modern-day plague of Biblical times and we run around crying, “Unclean! Unclean!” as though depression were highly contagious. (Hint: it’s not.)
So, here I sit with this anxiety weighing me down. I’m able to stave off an anxiety attack; I’ve learned pretty well how to fight those back. But the general sense of overwhelm and lack of motivation is a very real battle I fight almost daily.
Look, I know where my Hope is. I know who I am and to whom I belong. I know that God has my present and my future safely locked in His hands and my eternity is secure. But that kind of knowledge still won’t help me get my To-Do List done.
So, if you’re feeling like I am today, let this be our plan: one foot in front of the other. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Repeat as many times as needed. Take a nap if possible. Do the next thing.
And at the end of the day, find that cozy blanket and remote. You did amazing.