What happens when depression or anxiety strikes people who love the Lord?
The body of Christ should be the greatest place to get help, but there’s a problem. To begin with, for anyone, Christian or not, there’s more shame associated with emotional issues than there is with physical sickness, because mental health issues seem to reflect on our worth and value more than physical illness does.
But what makes it really hard for Christians to ask for help is the fear that, in addition to this, people will also question the reality of our faith or our walk with the Lord. And so we hide. And it gets worse.
I’m not a psychologist and I don’t have those kind of answers, though I certainly acknowledge the value of therapy and medication. But I do find help from my Biblical namesake. David fought many battles and also had a great many emotional ups and downs that went along with them. And he was quite willing to leave a record of them for us to read.
I am convinced that this statement from Psalm 34 is completely autobiographical:“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” The phrase “crushed in spirit” refers to an overwhelming discouragement or depression that comes from the fact everything in life has apparently gone wrong. And it is the righteous, like David himself, who will often find themselves in this kind of trauma.
It might be our stand for God that has cost us. It might be an aspect of demonic attack. If you are a threat, you are a target. And that is at least some consolation for those in distress. It might be you don’t really know why it’s happening. But David, who knew what it was like to be broken and in desperation, makes a bold statement about God. He will deliver the righteous out of all their troubles. The implication is that God will act to change our outward circumstances in order to bring inner healing. I can remember times where there was nothing more to do but trust God and try to put one step after another. And sometimes, that is enough. All you can do is all you need to do. God always does the rest, in his time and way.
There is no shame for a faithful servant of God to share these kind of battles. We need to create spiritual environments where this can take place without any awkwardness or judgment.
But there is hope. One commentator on this verse says God does not just make people feel better about bad situations. He acts to change those situations. Most trauma comes from bad things that have happened to us. God can bring healing simply by giving us a revelation of his love for us that totally invalidates the lies of the enemy. He can also bring healing by doing good things for us that show us that in fact we have great worth and value in his sight. It does a lot for a person when they know that God is for them, and not against them.
Earlier in the same Psalm, David wrote words which I think many of us can identify with:“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.” For a king to be that open with his weakness is quite amazing. So maybe you and I can be open too.
We all go through the valley at one time or another. Let’s make church the place of help and healing, not shame and judgment. And God will save us all.