In high school, I suffered from anxiety that most teenagers suffer from; how I would do on tests, if a boy liked me, or what my teachers and peers thought about my character. However, as I grew into young adulthood, this mild anxiety developed into paralyzing diagnoses.
Growing up, I heard myths about mental health that miraged my view of what it meant to fight something no one could see. I denied my struggles for years and avoided asking for help.
Shortly after I finished student teaching and graduated from college, I began facing serious health concerns. After numerous trips to the ER, a colonoscopy, and days on end of physical and mental agony, I was diagnosed with anxiety, IBS-C, and a tortured colon. The culprit was a genetic disposition of a curse that was never dealt with well by myself or predecessors: anxiety, fear, depression, and mental health.
A few months before these diagnoses, I started hurting from what I now know were severe panic and anxiety attacks—mind spinning, crying at the drop of a pen, feeling overwhelmed to the point that I thought I’d have a heart attack, and almost blacking out from fear while driving was what made me realize my anxiety was not healthy.
Finally, I listened to the advice of loved ones, and dared to seek counseling, something few had been advocating for me to try for years. Still, I could hear the stigmas.
“Only crazy people go to counseling. I must be mad.”
“If I’m such a good Christian, why can’t I conquer this anxiety on my own?”
“You need to pray more. Have you tried reading your Bible and praying? Are you trusting God?”
The thoughts and comments from prosecutors filled my cup while emptying it simultaneously.
Perhaps you’ve faced the same challenges while seeking help for mental health, praying that someone would reassure you you’re not that crazy. If that’s you today, it’s my prayer that in debunking these three myths the church often believes about mental health, God will bring light, blessing, hope, joy, and restoration to your life.
1. You Need to Pray More
Before starting counseling, many Christians told me I needed to “pray more” and ask God to deliver me from these issues rather than seek outside help. While I believe in the divine healing and peace that comes from Christ alone, praying more isn’t always the answer. Yes, we should continually be in prayer, thanksgiving, and supplication (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), however, our need and dependence to fight this battle reveal an opportunity for Christ’s power to be shown through our weakness.
I firmly trust that He’s given us resources for when we struggle and need some extra help. I go to a Christian counselor and recommend that for additional spiritual support.
Scripture tells us that Christ is our Great Physician. From Hezekiah’s terminal illness (2 Kings 20:1-11) to a blind man (John 9:1-12), Naaman’s leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14), or the woman with never-ending bleeding (Luke 8:43-48), it is clear that our Creator has healing encounters with people daily.
I’ve known people who have prayed to be healed and are cured on the spot. The number of testimonies I’ve collected in my memory of God’s grace and providence bounce off the walls in my questioning mind. Yet, I’m also familiar with unanswered prayers. I’ve prayed for things and people that haven’t come to fruition and watched family members suffer, wondering what God’s plan is in all the chaos.
But when God doesn’t heal, that doesn’t mean we’re doing something wrong. Especially when I first contemplated counseling, I questioned this. I kept wondering why my struggle with anxiety or depression wouldn’t go away amid my hours of praying, pleading, or reading Scripture.
When God chooses not to heal your mental illness, please know that it isn’t because He loves you less or because you’re sinning. Many things result from living in a fallen world, and we will never comprehend them. You’re not alone or crazy, and it’s okay to seek outside help and support.
2. You’re Not Trusting God
While many are quick to say that mental health issues are spiritual demons or stem from sins, such as not trusting God, the reality is we’ve all been given thorns in the flesh this side of Heaven (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
In John 11:1-25, a man named Lazarus was sick. As the brother of Mary and Martha, it was known that Jesus loved this man and his sisters very much. However, when word got to Jesus that Lazarus was dying, He waited days to go to him. Do you think Lazarus questioned God when He didn’t show up to heal him? It’s not certain, but Mary and Martha certainly challenged this intention.
“’Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘I wish You had been here! Then my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give You anything You ask for’” (John 11:21-22).
Even in believing that God would heal, Martha still asked God why, and I think it’s okay for us to ask Him why, too. Similarly, perhaps John 9 demonstrates this best when Jesus heals a man born blind.
“As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world’” (John 9:1-5).
While I cannot speak to your specific circumstance, I know that God works all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Reaching out for mental health help does not mean you’re not trusting God. Prayer, support from friends, godly advice, worship, thanksgiving, journaling, Church, and reading the Word are important, but God doesn’t condemn us for seeking additional help.
3. You’re Sinning
When you get a bad cold, where is the first place you go? Many people reach out to a doctor for help after trying home remedies or over-the-counter prescriptions. As you go to a gym to keep your body physically in shape or the doctor or dentist for a yearly check-up, why do we approach mental health any differently?
In the example given above with Jesus and the blind man, we can see that many Pharisees, hypocrites, and disciples have questioned God’s silence with the supposition that healing hasn’t come because someone must have sinned. Job’s friends were experts at this (Job 4:7-5:27).
God wants us to pray and believe in His ability to heal, but assuming we’re sinning when we can’t handle a situation on our own and need outside help contradicts the Gospel.
Jesus Christ was born as a lowly child, lived the perfect life, and died for our sins on the cross so that we could spend eternity with Him. He came to earth from God the Father and blessed us with the gift of the Holy Spirit when He ascended because we couldn’t fight this walk of life alone.
The Church has often misconstrued many beliefs about mental health, and it’s time we preach truth to those who are hurting. Mental illness is real, and our feelings matter to God, especially when we’re broken and afflicted.
Martha was a worrywart (Luke 10), Moses doubted his abilities (Exodus 4), Job suffered great calamity and cursed the day he was born (Job 3:1), and Jonah asked to die (Jonah 4:3)—the list is expansive. Even King David, a man after God’s own heart, faced great turmoil and went from mania’s highest highs to the lowest pits of depression.
Years later, it is no surprise that we as humans still suffer mentally; after all, we live in a fallen and broken world that needs a Savior.
When We are Weak
At the end of the day, rest assured that even in combating myths about mental health, Christ can and will make us strong.
“Because of how I suffered for Christ, I’m glad that I am weak. I am glad in hard times. I am glad when people say mean things about me. I am glad when things are difficult. And I am glad when people make me suffer. When I am weak, I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).