A serious one for you guys today.
Lately my mental health has not been excellent, which makes it hard to do things. Like study and sleep and eat healthy. But it especially makes it hard to feel like I’m being a good Christian.
The Bible says don’t worry. I am worried about every little thing. It says to rejoice always. That’s hard to do when you’re depressed. It says to love as Christ first loved us, but I’d rather stay curled up in bed than see other humans.
I could probably go on all day, but I’ll cut to the chase. The big one that’s been getting me lately is this: If Jesus died and rose again to free us from sin and death, that is a really incredible and life-changing thing! Something I should be unceasingly joyful about. Something that should affect my every thought and action. But I’m not and it doesn’t. Clearly I’m doing it wrong.
This post, however, isn’t about how I’m an awful Christian, or about how much I’ve messed up. Because Jesus did die for me, and I am forgiven. And contrary to “popular Christianity” my faith has very little to do with how I feel, but everything to do with my actions.
Christianity is not a walk through the theme park of spiritual highs and free popcorn prayers. To be brutally honest, lately it’s felt a lot more like walking late at night in the pouring rain, hungry, tired, and cold, and still a long way away from home. Except for the part where for everyone else it’s a warm sunny day – I’m the only one getting rained on. Having depression and anxiety is like having your own personal raincloud that you know is making you miserable and making your thinking all waterlogged, but that you can not for the life of you shake.
Maybe if you pray harder, the Church says, God will set you free. You just don’t have enough faith. Why can’t you just snap out of it? God is good! Be happy!
But this post is not a rant about how the church handles the issue of mental health, either. It’s about asking, what do you do when you find yourself caught under that proverbial raincloud?
The answer, I have found, is to hold on. And, despite everything, to keep moving forward. Hold on tight to the things you know are true. Keep pressing into God’s love, even when it feels He’s not there, or that you don’t deserve it. You are fighting a war, my friend, and sometimes people will underestimate the courage and effort it takes to go about your normal, daily life.
Because this war is not between people. In fact most of the time it’s entirely invisible to anyone but you. It’s a battle between negative thoughts, anxious feelings, crushing self-doubt, all those failures, and you – the you that God made you to be. It’s choosing to get out of bed anyways. It’s forgiving yourself for failing to forgive yourself for you failures. It’s letting yourself let others in. It’s asking for help when you need it. It’s leaning on God as best you can.
That takes a lot of bravery, friend.
Takes a lot of strength.
So let me let you in on a little secret: Even with a cloudy and waterlogged head, a thousand doubts and worries you can’t let go, and a heart that still clings to its injured pride, you are still good enough for Jesus.
This lent as part of my lenten observance I read through all four of the gospels. And God kind of blew my mind. There is a lot of stuff in there, and I didn’t have time to process it all, or even part of it. People can and do devote their entire careers to studying the gospels, and even they don’t have time to process all of it. But what I did learn, or start to learn, was this: Jesus has done something for me that I can never repay. Not in a thousand years, even if I never messed up again, could I pay Him back for his sacrifice. And that’s the point. The question I had to ask myself was what do I do about it?
I had two options: the anxious, depressed side of me said that I should give up and be miserable and sad because of how awful and sinful I am etc. etc. etc. The better side of me, or perhaps the Holy Spirit, said that I should just be still. Stop trying so hard to do something impossible – the impossible has already been done! Be still and Know that He is God. Give thanks to Him for what He has done. Apologize for messing things up. Ask for the strength to move forward.
Here is another secret: God follows through. Even though things may seem bad right now, we have hope in Jesus. God will not and is not leaving you to struggle through this on your own. He surrounds you with friends and family to support you, and He is walking beside you, kleenex and band-aids in hand, telling you that you were worth dying for.
You were worth dying for, and you are so, so loved.