Unless you have either experienced anxiety and depression yourself, or have sat present with those who have, then it’s pretty easy for us to make trite comments or give cliche answers to those around us. This is probably the single reason why I wrote The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good?. I had heard the cliche answers myself, and so many clients that came into my office had heard them in the Church as well — whether from pastor, bible study leader, or friend.
I think at the heart of these cliche answers for many is a desire to help others, as well as a desire to move people as forward as fast as possible because it’s difficult and uncomfortable to sit in seasons of anxiety and depression with them. So we get good at trying to give people efficient answers in terms of their mental health, but we are often quite anemic in terms of our ability to just be present with those who are suffering.
I’m someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression at various points in my life and I know many of you have as well. These are huge issues that impact many people in our communities. The numbers are quite staggering.
Anxiety can cut us off from many things in our lives, but I also see it as a great opportunity for us to grow.
This month is Mental Health Month which creates a great opportunity for us to engage this topic more in our communities, whether it be church, work, hobby, or neighborhood. And rather than just tell people to get over their anxiety or depression, maybe now is a great time to ask lots of questions about anxiety and depression. Ask these questions of your own anxiety and depression. Ask others these questions.
What would it look like for you to explore anxiety and depression with yourself and others, rather than just label and judge and give a cliche and trite solution in the midst of someone’s suffering?
I’m very thankful to the many people in the Church who continue to blog with authenticity about their own struggles with anxiety and depression and who are of great help to people on this journey. Check out:
And I’m very thankful to the Gathering on Mental Health and the Church that met at Saddleback Church back on March 28th. I was not able to be there for that gathering, but I am hopeful that there seems to be a groundswell of work on the topic of mental health in the Church. Why? Because so many clients I work with in my private practice are Christian, but the Church is often the last place they look for help because they feel unsafe to talk about it in their faith community. But I think that is changing and I’m excited about that.
So I encourage you to use this month as an opportunity to open your eyes to those around you who are suffering from anxiety and depression — and to ask yourself what it would look like for you to engage and be present with them in a loving and caring way. And if you are suffering yourself, I encourage you to look for those who can embrace you on this journey.