Struggling with anxiety and depression doesn’t make you less of a Christian. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. It doesn’t mean you don’t have enough faith. It’s more than just being “nervous” or “sad.” It’s a lack of emotion. It’s every emotion at once. It’s fear, despair, hopelessness, panic, and desperation. There isn’t necessarily a cause, or a theme. They aren’t always there, but they’re never far away. They are living breathing monsters who take a toll on the lives of Christians every single day. They are not something that we should feel embarrassed about or ashamed of. They most certainly are not something that we should point to as faults in our brothers and sisters.
If you’ve battled these beasts, you’ve heard all of the canned responses. Be happy, think about good things, stay positive. Of course there’s always: Your life is great. What do you have to worry about? Telling someone who battles anxiety/depression to just “cheer up,” is about as effective as telling someone who has cancer to stop having cancer. There is no one-line cure. Scripture addresses it in verses like Philippians 4:6-7 which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Which is exactly what we should do in times when anxiety is weighing heavily on us. There is, however, no scripture in the entire Bible that says we won’t go through hard times. Or that we will never face struggles.
A few days ago, I found myself in the very struggle that you are reading about here. It wasn’t the first time. It may not be the last. I’m in the process of having some dental work done. Suffice to say it made me nervous. Couple that with the stresses of the everyday life of a person who has for years dealt with depression and anxiety, and it made for a volatile situation. As is the case for anyone who knows these monsters, it may not have been an issue at all on any given day, but on this day it was. I recited the verse above to myself a few times without much change in my anxiety level. I made a brief, ambiguous post about my feelings on Facebook and asked for prayer. Doing a little better now, I thought. Then I sent out a more specific text to a handful of people who I knew without question would pray for me immediately in that moment. They all responded, letting me know that they were praying for me in my specific need. Two of them shared how they face similar issues. In that, I felt the presence of God with me as I went through my trial. THAT is the key as Christians. A pat on the back, and a good ole, “Everything is going to be OK” just doesn’t cut it sometimes. Having a circle of godly friends that will pray and offer encouragement without judgement, and even put themselves into the struggle with you. That will point you toward the loving arms of the almighty God every time.
Why do I face these demons? I’ve been on stage in front of hundreds of people without being nervous. I have a beautiful wife, two amazing children, a job and a ministry that I love, and tons of people that love me. What do I have to be depressed about? Maybe it’s so I can offer encouragement to others. Maybe it’s so I’ll continue to seek and trust God instead of myself.
If you take nothing else away from this article, at least you can say that you now know someone who knows this struggle. Someone who despite that, still has faith in God, and still shares his faith with others. Someone who isn’t “crazy” or “damaged” in some other way. Just a guy. Then again, maybe you already knew that person. Maybe it’s the person you see in the mirror every day. Just remember, you are not alone. Especially if you are in Christ!
Danny Burnham Religion Contributor