Mental health is one of the greatest challenges our society is facing right now. Anxiety, depression, loneliness, insecurity, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts are just a few mental health issues ravaging our world. At some level, we all face one or more of these challenges. Even if you think you don’t, take a quick inventory of your life and emotions. You’ll probably find that at some point this week, you felt lonely or depressed over your job, anxious about an upcoming project, or insecure about yourself. Or, perhaps on a deeper level, thoughts started crossing your mind like, “I’m not good enough.” Or, worst of all, “The world would be better off without me.”
These are the very thoughts that are plaguing our society. These are the feelings that are dominating this generation. Anxiety and depression have become the new epidemic. Loneliness and insecurity are the new norms. Self-harm and suicidal thoughts don’t even faze us anymore.
Friends, this is not the way things should be. There is a better way to live. There is freedom to be found.
His name is Jesus.
Maybe you’ve been hurt by the church, and just reading that there is freedom in Jesus has you on edge. But before you drop out, please hear me. None of what I’m about to say is to downplay your story or the weight that you feel.
This article is not a quick fix to anxiety or depression. Your story is unique, and I want you to know that it’s okay to seek help. See a doctor and try to find solutions. Do whatever it takes.
But, regardless of who you are or where you are on your mental health journey, I’ve found that there is One who is greater than every mental health battle. There is One who is willing to carry the weight. There is One who wants to offer you freedom today.
His name is Jesus.
He doesn’t offer a quick fix, but He does offer to walk through the valley with you. He might not take away your depression instantly, but He will carry your burdens. Your self-harm scars might not immediately disappear, but He wants to heal your heart.
Jesus is much more than the guy we sing hymns about, and He’s more than a stained-glass cathedral or a cartoon cutout in Sunday school class. Because we need something weightier than all that.
We need the Jesus who is willing to hold us when we’re burdened by the weight of anxiety. We need the Jesus who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)
We need the Jesus who screamed out on the cross and died so we could live. The Jesus who faced anxiety and depression so He could relate to our struggles.
That’s the Jesus we need. That’s the Jesus I want to talk about today.
Throughout the pages of scripture, we see a God who is much bigger than all the churchy jargon we’ve become accustomed to. He’s not the God who says, “Just pray about your anxiety, and it will go away.” No, He’s the God who says, “Come to me.” He’s the God who’s offering rest for your soul.
That holds some serious weight.
Today, I want to highlight three Bible stories relating to anxiety and depression. In reading these stories, I hope you can find comfort in your own. Some of the greatest people in the Bible had to wrestle with their mental health, but they found freedom. You can too. It’s possible.
for KING + COUNTRY, “Busted Heart (Hold On To Me)”
Before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, He took a few of his disciples to a garden called Gethsemane so they could pray. Jesus knew what was coming. He knew all the pain he would soon be enduring. He knew that one of his closest friends was about to betray Him. He knew that in a few hours, He would be nailed to a cross, fighting to catch his breath. And He felt afraid.
Mark 14:33 says that Jesus became “deeply distressed and troubled.” The word “troubled” in Greek is ἀδημονέω (adémoneó) which means to “feel fear” or be depressed. Jesus wasn’t just a little anxious or upset about what was coming. He was so terrified that He began sweating drops of blood (Luke 22:44)–a rare medical condition called Hematidrosis, caused by extreme stress levels.
That’s how much anxiety He had. And He did pray. He prayed earnestly that His suffering would be taken away. But get this–the Father didn’t answer his own Son’s prayer.
Lately, I’ve found myself in this same valley. I found freedom from anxiety six years ago, but occasionally the weight of fear surges over me again. When I pray, it feels like there’s only silence. When I ask God to take the anxiety away, it doesn’t go away.
You’ve probably been there before, too. You pray and ask God to take the anxiety or depression away, but nothing happens. Maybe thoughts start echoing in your mind, telling you that God’s ignoring you or He doesn’t care. Worse, maybe you believe that He has utterly forgotten about you. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had for KING + COUNTRY‘s song “Busted Heart (Hold On To Me)” on repeat. There’s a line in it that says, “I’m screaming out Your name/Don’t let me fall on my face/I’ve got a busted heart/I’m in need of a change/Yeah, I’m desperate for grace/Hold on to me/Hold on to me/Don’t let me lose my way/Hold on to me.” I can’t help but wonder if that’s how Jesus felt in the garden of Gethsemane.
As Jesus was in the garden, falling on His face and sweating drops of blood, the Father never let Him go. It wasn’t in His will to heal Him right away, but He still held onto Him. Even as Jesus screamed in pain from the cross, the Father was still in perfect control. Once Jesus died and was buried, the Father still had a plan. And when Jesus rose from the grave, it all made sense–there was more to the story than pain and suffering.
I bet God has a similar plan for your life.
The pain might not make sense right now. The breaking of your heart might be the only sound you can hear. But this suffering is not going to be the end of your story. It wasn’t the end of Jesus’ story, and it won’t be the end of yours either. I believe the Father will use your story in a powerful, miraculous way.
It might feel like God has gone silent. You might feel like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane–begging God to take away the suffering, and nothing is happening. Honestly, I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know why God answers some prayers and not others. But I know we can look to Jesus’ life as our example. And for Him, when God was silent, it meant He had a greater plan in store.
In the meantime, until you can see God’s glorious plan unfold, remember. Remember the One who is holding onto you. He hears you and loves you deeply. When you suffer, remember you’re not alone in your suffering. Jesus suffered anxiety and depression just like us. He knows what it feels like.
Just like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, keep crying out to your Father. He won’t let you go. He has a beautiful plan in store for your life.
“Winter will come to an end/Soon the season will end/I surrender tonight/You meet me right where I am.”
Switchfoot, “Dare You to Move”
In 1 Kings 18:16-46, we read about a prophet named Elijah who bravely stood against the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He believed in God so much that he called down fire from Heaven and soon after had the false prophets killed. But in 1 Kings 19, we see a fearful side to Elijah. Once the King of Israel’s wife heard about what happened, she threatened to murder Elijah. So he ran for his life.
Terrified, Elijah fled to the wilderness, sat under a broom bush, and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors,” he prayed. Then he laid down and fell asleep.
Mind you, Elijah had just witnessed fire falling from Heaven. He saw God’s power on full display, yet, he was afraid. He wanted to die. On the heels of the miraculous, he was suicidal.
But that wasn’t the end of his story, and it doesn’t have to be the end of yours either.
As Elijah lay asleep under the broom bush, an angel came and woke him. “Get up and eat,” the angel said. Elijah looked around and found some bread and a jar of water. He ate and drank and laid down again. So the angel came and woke him up again. “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you,” the angel told him. Finally, Elijah got up and ate and drank. And what he did next is interesting–he went to Horeb, often called the Mountain of God. Once he reached the mountainside, he went into a cave and spent the night.
Once he got up off the floor, he didn’t run to a quick fix. He ran to the mountain of God. He knew the only way to get out of his mindset was through an encounter with Almighty God… and he also probably wanted to hide.
When God appeared to Elijah, he was not at all judgmental. He didn’t condemn Elijah for his anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Instead, God graciously asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” In other words, “Why did you run, and why are you hiding?” Elijah voiced how afraid he was. He said people were trying to kill him, so he ran. God knew that Elijah didn’t need answers or a quick fix at that moment. He needed an encounter. So God said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
So Elijah stood on the mountain, and a gust tore the mountains apart. But God wasn’t in the wind. Next came an earthquake, but the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. Then there was a fire, but God wasn’t in the fire either. Finally, there came a gentle whisper. And the whisper asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” The same question as before, but this time in a new context. Elijah answered as before, explaining how ruthless people were trying to kill him. But this time, I imagine he had a smile on his face. Because the script had flipped–he had just witnessed the holy presence of the Lord. He was empowered because of encounter.
After this holy encounter, God gave Elijah a mission. With newfound strength, Elijah lifted himself off the floor and pursued the calling God had placed on his life. All because of an encounter with the holy presence of God, Elijah’s life changed. He had a new narrative written on his life; one that would not end in suicide. With the power of Almighty God, he had a mission.
You have a mission, too.
One of Switchfoot‘s biggest hits, “Dare You To Move,” reminds me a lot of this story. The chorus says, “I dare you to move/I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor.” Elijah sat on the floor for a while, stuck in the downward spiral of his thoughts. But once he moved? He went straight to the presence of God and found freedom. Once he lifted himself up off the floor, he experienced an encounter with the Lord and was given a purpose and a mission.
I recognize the reality of your struggle. Perhaps you’ve battled with suicidal thoughts for a long time, and it’s at the point where you need to get professional help. By all means, please do. Getting help could be the first step in lifting yourself up off the floor. But when you do, I urge you to stand in the presence of God. Let His presence wash over you, and let His grace remind you that your story isn’t over yet. He might not immediately fix all your problems, but peace is found in His calm whisper. Lean in and tune your heart to His.
Freedom is found in encounter, and encounter is found in the presence of Jesus. Like Elijah, you can sit on the floor for a while. But, please, get up. You have a mission, and you’ll find it in God’s holy presence.
“Maybe redemption has stories to tell/Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell/Where can you run to escape from yourself?/Where you gonna go?/Where you gonna go?/Salvation is here.”
Brandon Lake, “RATTLE!”
Ezekiel 37:1-14 is a passage I often go back to when I’m stuck in the spiral of anxiety. Although the story was a promise to the Israelites that they would be freed from their exile, it was also a promise to us. It’s a promise that we don’t have to live held captive by the lies in our minds. God is going to open up our graves so we can live again.
The passage says that the Spirit of God brought the prophet Ezekiel to a valley covered in dry bones. “Son of man, can these bones live?” God asked. “Sovereign Lord, you alone know,” Ezekiel replied.
Then God said to prophesy to the dry bones. “Hear the word of the Lord,” God said. “I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Tendons and flesh will appear. Breath will enter them, and they will come to life. “Then you will know that I am the Lord,” He declared.
A rattling sound shook the valley. One by one, the bones came together. Flesh covered them. Breath entered them. They came to life and stood on their feet–a vast army.
Then God explained the significance to Ezekiel: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.'”
Maybe right now, you feel like the people of Israel who said, “Our bones are dried and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” But notice, that wasn’t the end of their story. God promised to open their graves.
You’re going to live again.
Brandon Lake has a powerful song based around this piece of scripture called “RATTLE!” I remember hearing Elevation Worship sing this at a concert not too long ago, and the moment was electrifying. Thousands of people joined their voices to declare, “Open the grave, I’m coming out/I’m gonna live, gonna live again/This is the sound of dry bones rattling.”
Anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and loneliness will not be the end of your story. Because you have the very breath of God inside you, you can live again. In the words of pastor/author Louie Giglio, “You and I have the gift of the sovereign breath of God, and the breath of God is our life.”
Anxiety is real. It’s a pit I sat in for years. But it wasn’t the end of my story, and it doesn’t have to be the end of yours either. God breathed life into me, and I believe He’ll breathe life into you, too. Freedom is a process, and it takes time to embrace “the gift of the sovereign breath of God.” But the process is worth it.
Go to therapy. Text a friend. Take a walk. Sit in silence with God. Do whatever it takes to get off the floor and take the first step toward freedom. Remember through it all that you are not alone. Your story matters and God is going to use it for great things. Let His presence overtake you, and His breath fill you. You’re going to live again.
“Open the grave, I’m coming out/I’m gonna live, gonna live again/Open the grave, I’m coming out/I’m gonna live, gonna live again.”
For immediate mental health help, you can text or call 988 and speak directly to a team of counselors who will provide the assistance you need to grow and thrive. For additional resources, visit twloha.com.
Grace Chaves has been a fan of all things Christian music since 2016. She is NRT’s news editor, and one of NRT’s youngest writers. Homeschooled, Grace is an author, loves Jesus, concerts, and road trips.