As Christians, we are commanded to find our joy in the Lord (Philippians 4:5). And yet, many Christians struggle with bouts of depression and deep anxiety. How is it possible to overcome these? How come Christians struggle with these issues in the first place seeing as they can rest secure in God’s love for them?
When God was disobeyed
Depression and anxiety entered into human existence right when God was disobeyed for the first time. Up until then, Adam and Eve had complete peace with their Maker, with themselves and with each other. They did not have to work on this, it was theirs naturally. As soon as they disobeyed God, this peace fled away from their hearts and anxiety and fear reared their ugly faces; they hid themselves for God (Genesis 3:8-10).
As soon as the relationship with God was disrupted, the relationship between man and wife became problematic as well and on top of that their view of themselves altered. They were now ashamed of themselves (Genesis 3:10).
The Bible is very honest
The Bible is very honest when it comes to anxiety and depression. Heroes of faith struggled with it and they did not hide this fact. Elijah wanted to die (1 Kings 19:4). He thought he was the only one who still followed God (1 Kings 19:10). Moses is at the end of his tether many times and one time actually accuses God of ‘dealing ill’ with him (Numbers 11:11-15). David poured out his anxiety in the Psalms, like in Psalm 22. Jeremiah lamented the utter darkness in his life (Lamentations 3:1-21). Psalm 88 is a psalm with not a single ray of light. Anxiety and depression are real. We live in a broken world.
Jesus reconciled us
Praise God, Jesus has reconciled us on the cross with God and other relationships are included. Because we are in Christ and we know Him, we can know real joy and real peace which transcends understanding (Philippians 4:7). We can live in peace with our fellow human beings. We can be at peace with ourselves because Jesus has made things right for us (Ephesians 2:13,14). But it does not come as effortlessly as before the Fall; Paul actually commands his audience to work on it (Philippians 4:4-8).
How to overcome depression and anxiety?
1. Turn to God with your emotions
Number one, turn to the Lord with all of your emotions. Do not try to hide them. It does not matter how raw they are. God can handle raw emotions; the Psalms and the book of Job are proof of this, as well as the above mentioned passages.
2. Put the yoke down
Second, remember that Jesus says: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). This means that you need to acknowledge the burden you have placed on yourself. Is your anxiety caused by you being too hard on yourself? Put this yoke down; take if off your neck. “Take my yoke upon you“. Set your mind on finding out what yoke Jesus wants to give to you; it will not be too heavy but just right for you, custom-made. “I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls;” Jesus invites you to be like Him, humble and kind, and when you become like him, your soul will find rest. This is a wonderful promise. Stay close to Jesus, cling to him. He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:5).
3. Seek help
Third, it might be necessary to seek help. We are not put on this globe to be on our own. Pray to God that he provides someone who can listen to you: a friend, or a wise person, or your pastor. Maybe it is time to find professional help. In that case, it is best to find a Christian professional, because problems of the heart are linked so closely to our relationship with God and this must be understood by your counsellor or psychologist. A professional is trained to ask the right questions, thus helping you to understand where your feelings of depression and anxiety stem from; and second, to help you deal and cope with these feelings.
4. Do not turn away from God
But whatever you do, please do not turn away from God. Please understand that He is near, even if He seems far (Acts 17:27). Remember that Jesus has gone through everything, including intense anxiety (Hebrews 4:14, 15; Hebrews 5:7). He knows it is scary to be us. But He does not let it end there. He is with you, every step of the way. And a short time, and all suffering will melt away in the brilliant light and warmth of the glorious future Jesus has prepared for you (2 Corinthians 4:17). Once again, peace will come to you effortlessly.