Yesterday was World Mental Health Day to raise awareness about mental health. In honor of that, I would like to share a thought with you. Did you ever think about the fact that Jesus understands anguish?
The night before Jesus was crucified he went to the garden to pray. In Matthew 26::38 he said to his disciples:
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Luke 22:44 gives a little more insight to what Jesus was experiencing at the moment.
And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
Jesus knew he was about to be tortured and crucified, so he was filled with anguish.
When we come to Jesus in prayer, we are praying to someone who understands anguish, someone who understands emotional pain.
If we struggle with depression or anxiety, we can come to Jesus in prayer knowing he has experienced sorrow and anguish.
My young friend Ty’s grandmother texted me yesterday to let me know he showed up at school yesterday and came home after school. It was a sigh of relief for me. He has a lot to deal with in life and has been seeing a therapist since his parents died when he was in Kindergarten.
I have taken mental health issues for teens and for everyone seriously for quite sometime. That increased in September 2011 when a young woman from Vietnam, who had been part of my weekend group, completed suicide. I will never forget how deeply it affected her family and the other young people who were part of my group at the time. The following weeks, I spent a lot of time checking on them. That experience prompted me to go through suicide prevention training, which has been put to use twice.
Darkness seeks to envelope people with feelings of hopelessness and despair, Darkness whispers thoughts of suicide into the thoughts of people who are struggling. But Jesus brings hope and life. Jesus said in John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Jesus wants to help all people to have life to the full. He brings healing for our minds, souls, and spirits. We can cry out to Jesus in our darkest moments. We can also ask for help. It is okay to ask for help.
In the USA, it is a simple number to call or text for help- 988.
In Canada- If you’re in crisis — Call 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to: 686868 for youth; 741741 for adults
In the UK- 116 123 – 24 hours a day or text SHOUT to 85258
In Australia- 13 11 14
I would like to share two videos that speak to this. One says to stay another day. The other reminds us that our story isn’t over yet. Remember with Jesus we can always have a new start to our story.
I started counseling in the beginning of the year with the thinking of it helping me stay on top of depression. Living with chronic illnesses that all can cause depression is why I have depression. After hearing my pastor encourage people about seeking counseling, I decided to do so. I had no idea that what was about to happen would occur.
The first three sessions were mostly my therapist asking me questions and getting to know my back ground. At the end of the third session, she told me, “my diagnosis is PTSD, Dysthymia, and General Anxiety.” My reaction inwardly was, “crap I am a mess.:
My PTSD is actually Complex PTSD, Complex PTSD is repeated exposure to trauma or traumas over a period of time including childhood. It is something I was not concerned about dealing with because my focus has been on serving Jesus and letting the rest go thinking when I get to heaven, there won’t be any problem. But is it telling that I do not have any pictures of myself before the age of 20.
However, my relationship with Jesus has brought healing and there have been aspects of Jesus’s earthly life that helped me to cope with trauma while I prayed to Jesus. So in May, I felt led to write about that. I asked my therapist if she would write a paragraph that I could include in my book’s forward-hopefully published in September just waiting for my pastor to finished reading the draft to write something for the forward. This is what my therapist wrote.
“Matt stepped into my office in January of 2022. He seemed sincere, honest, funny and well-spoken. However, after hearing of the heinous trauma he had suffered, I wondered if I was qualified to help him. I was transparent about this and suggested a few Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapists. Matt was adamant that he had prayed and Jesus led him to me, he wanted to continue working with me. He put his faith in Jesus and in turn put his faith in me. Looking back I am pleased that he did, because it has been rewarding watching his healing journey. Matt continues to grow mentally and in his faith. His book, Jesus Understands, is a testimony to both. After reading the book I felt honored and humbled, but mostly comforted. Maybe because of Matt or through Matt I found solace in knowing that He understands and comes to our aid. No matter the suffering we have endured, if we put our Faith in Him he will show us the way. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
My hope and prayer is that Jesus uses my book to reach thousands who struggle with PTSD or Complex PTSD.
One thing I encourage people who feel overwhelmed to remember is step by step. When we experience difficulty, it can seem like the whole thing hits us in the face all at once making it feel overwhelming. Especially those of us who might struggle with depression and anxiety. By breaking down what can seem too big into smaller steps, it breaks it down for us. Yes, I practice what I preach. 🙂
Another aspect that helps with that negative self talk is to remind ourselves each day, maybe more than once during the day, of the steps we have taken. Negative self talk can lead to self defeating behavior. By reminding ourselves of positive steps taken, it helps us avert negative self talk.
One important step is to remember to ask God about it. I love the truth Jesus shared in Matthew 6:8-“Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” God knows what we need each step of the way.
I also include asking others to pray for me and asking others who know more than I do. Case in point when my van died.
Setting up my Go Fund Me was an idea I had and one others encouraged me to do. One thing I readily admit to is that I have no mechanical ability. So when it comes time to look at vehicles, I have friends I can ask to come with me. They know what to look at. Involving others in the process who know more is always a good idea.
Thanking God for each step taken is part of step by step. God does not need that from us, but we need it. It helps us stay connected with God through the process.
The books I am writing are something I have included in my own step by step. Yes, I am the one writing, but I have asked others to read the google doc and share their response. I met with a friend of mine who understands finances to ask him to review what is involved for the business part of it with Amazon to self publish. I hope to have them published in September. The delay has been due to God giving me ideas of sections to add.
When we are faced with adversity, let’s remember-step by step.
When I say depression, it is more than the normal feeling sad. We all have times of feeling down and have our valley moments in life. Depression is a persistent thing that a person doesn’t just snap out of. When a person is depressed, the inclination is to isolate because the feelings we relate to are ones like numb, hopeless, disconnected, lethargic, foggy, empty.
Being a Christian and knowing the bible verses people tend to quote as a quick fix can actually make it worse. It’s like rubbing salt into a wound.
A therapist once told me the antidote to depression is to not isolate which goes against every inclination one with depression has. Getting out and being with others can feel like it will zap any energy we have, but it is so important to be with others.
Finding a counselor we can connect with is so helpful. Confiding in a few friends we trust is helpful. Confiding in a pastor can be of great help as long as we are in a church that does not stigmatize mental health issues. If we are in such a church, it is best to find a different one.
Some may need medication. If we think about it, the brain is a physical part of our physical bodies. We would not hesitate to take medication for other issues like diabetes or asthma. If we need medication for depression, it is a medical thing and not something to feel inferior about.
Depression can affect our relationships including our relationship with God. The good news is that God knows all about us including struggles with depression and loves us deeply even if we can’t feel it. Jesus invites us to come to him in Matthew 11:28
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
We can be honest with Jesus in prayer. We can share with him how we are doing. We can rest in knowing he loves us and trust him to bring healing for our souls and spirits.
There is hope for those who struggle with depression.
Trigger warning. This post deals with suicidal thoughts. If that makes you uncomfortable, please click away.
As an American I have never understood why the UK keeps a monarchy nor the fascination with the Royal Family.. As someone who is busy with ministry and teaching, I have never been a big fan of talk shows like Oprah. I have always felt I have better things to do with my time. But when I saw a promo clip of the interview with Harry and Meghan, I decided to watch it. My motivation was simply to listen to someone give voice to what so many people struggle with- Depression and what some people struggle with- Suicidal Thoughts.
In the interview she shared that she confided in her husband Harry about her suicidal thoughts and that she needed help. Sharing that so publicly will hopefully help others to share with and confide in loved ones or people they trust.
She also shared that though she asked for help other than from her husband, she was not given help. That is very concerning.
Living with four chronic illnesses all of which have depression and anxiety as possible symptoms, I understand depression. I talked with my doctor and he prescribed medication for me to treat depression and Fibromyalgia. When I confided in one of my pastors, and he said, “Matt it is medical. You do not need to resign your ministry.” it was a moment I will never forget.
My experience has reinforced for me that God does indeed care. Jesus cares and works through other people. God wants us to ask for help.
There is hope for depression and struggling with suicidal thoughts. It is not only okay but wonderful to seek help. If family is not a safe place to confide in, there are school counselors, pastors, mental health facilities. There are hotline numbers.
In the USA-800-273-8255
In the UK- Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate) Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom) Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate) Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)
In Canada- 1.833.456.4566
There is always hope and we can ask for help. If we have depression, we can seek help. Talk with a doctor, a pastor, a trusted teacher, talk with someone. If medication is needed, it is not only okay but important to do so. If suicidal thoughts, PLEASE SEEK HELP.
I love the message in these videos. Stay Another Day and Your Story Isn’t Over Yet.
Even when I cannot see, You are moving Even when I cannot hear, You are singing over me Even when I can’t hold on, You won’t let me go You are faithful, You are faithful
I love the lyrics to Faithful by Sarah Reeves. So many times in my life I thought I could not hold on, but Jesus never lets go of us. He is always with us. He will never leave us.
Singing over me? Where do we get that from? In Zephaniah 3 we read:
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing”
Jesus rejoices over us with singing. Have you ever seen a mother sing over her child? God is our father who sings over us. That is how precious we are to God.
When we can’t see the way out of a situation, a problem, a trial, God is at work. He knows the outcome because he is there and with us now at the same time. I experienced that recently. Last summer was dismal for me and put me behind financially, but God was at work. First my dear Vietnamese friends helped their old teacher. Then three weeks ago I received an extra missionary support check. Last week I received anonymous letters with money. Now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
God is faithful. He is faithful even when we are not. Whatever we face in life, he is with us.
Struggle with depression/anxiety? Jesus is there for you.
Struggle with chronic illness? Jesus is there for you/
Financial problems? Jesus is there for you.
Uncertain about the future? Jesus knows your future and is already there. He is there for you now and in your future at the same time.
In the worst moment we can think of which is death, Jesus will be there for us waiting to welcome us into heaven if we have accepted him as our Savior.
A little over a year go, I began to share in my blog about living with depression and anxiety which for me were symptoms of living with chronic illness. It felt a bit risky at the time, but I found that many people responded to my posts whether through comments, likes etc.
Yesterday a woman I respect a great deal for her work with children who have been traumatized, responded to me sharing a few posts on her Facebook Wall. She had given me permission. I let her know that I share from a Christian perspective. She responded that we should seek to bring Christ into mental health issues. After I posted a few links on her Facebook wall:
“Matt, Thank you for sharing these blogs. I pray others read it as you candidly shared your personal experience in a very relatable way. We are all searching to be heard & understood. Especially searching for our deepest desire: Jesus. Some might not believe or understand His healing power & gift of Salvation is waiting for them in the most deepest hurts, mental health, medical problems & any sin. He indeed experienced trauma. Stories like yours lead people to the Lord because you spoke biblical truth & love in despite how hurtful your trauma was you looked Him & found healing & peace.”
To receive such a message from a woman who is a Christian and also a Licensed Mental Health Counselor meant a lot to me. I felt it gave me confirmation to continue to share.
My desire is to share with others the comfort Jesus has given me whether it is regarding depression/anxiety or about living with chronic illness. I always think about the truth of 2 Corinthians 1:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Her message was confirmation for me to continue to share about how God has helped and is helping me to press on with my ministry and life living with chronic illness and also with depression/anxiety. After my day Friday with friends, and also with the extra support from my home church, seeing my colleagues message Saturday, I feel God is telling me to continue.
On another note, a few of my followers on this blog recently went to my short stories blog- Encounters with the Ancients. I am thinking about making one of my short stories into a book. I would like HONEST feedback from my followers on this blog. I would like to ask you to read a story I wrote a year and a half ago- Jessica’s Encounter at the Harbor Coffee Shop.. What I want HONEST feedback about is if a book version would be of interest.
Yesterday the pastor of my church taught about what it means that God is love as it says in 1 John 4. It was a wonderful message. The message basically was:
God is love means that love is part of God’s core being. He doesn’t love because of what we do, who we are, or anything else. He loves because it is part of who he is.
When we come to God, our motives are not pure. We do not bring anything to the table that God needs. God does not need anything from us, but he loves us because it is part of who he is.
We bring to God our failures, our sins, our struggles, our depression, our anxiety, our illness, our doubts. our mess. God loves us. Not because of what we do or who we are. He loves us because he loves us.
I love this video by Laura Story. The lyrics of the song so beautifully express the truth of how God loves us even though we are a mess. I hope the song blesses you as you start your week. 🙂
Living with chronic illness has also meant dealing with symptoms I did not know would accompany two of my chronic illnesses, depression and anxiety.
I will never forget the day that I finally started taking the prescription my doctor had given me for them. It has since changed for one that also addresses nerve pain associated with Fibromyalgia. I did not want to start medication. I was not even sure if it was the right thing for me to do. There is still stigma in some churches when it comes to Mental Health issues.
God spoke to me through watching a movie. The movie was Brain On Fire. It is based on the true story of a woman with a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the brain. She was about to be sent off to a permanent stay at a psychiatric hospital when a psychiatrist tested her for the autoimmune problem. She was placed on a medication for the problem and it cleared up her problems.
After watching the movie, I realized that autoimmune problems can affect our whole body including the brain. I researched it as well. So I went ahead and started the medication the doctor prescribed. Within a week, I felt much better.
I will also never forget the response of the pastor for missions and outreach had when I offered to resign my ministry as a home missionary if taking medication would be a controversy. I have always been aware of the stigma in some churches when it comes to Mental Health issues like depression. His response was, “Matt it is medical. You don’t need to resign.”
Jesus said in Matthew 11:
“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.”
Jesus wants us to come to him with everything. If we struggle with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, or any other mental health issue, his invitation is to come to him. 🙂
I wanted to share a bit of my story in case it helps someone. Also in honor of World Mental Heath Day I want to share a few videos.
First a Spoken Word Poem video by Racheal Stevens- Your Story Isn’t Over Yet.
And a music video by Jenn Johnson- You’re Gonna Be Okay.