Written by James Lynch (4/29/2020)
This current season of difficulty and uncertainty with the Covid-19 crisis has brought many challenges for all Americans, and believers in Christ are not exempt. We watch the same news reports, we hear the same controversies, we experience many of the same hardships that the rest of the world is going through currently. The coronavirus is, of course, a health concern, but the measures that have been taken to slow the spread of the disease have caused additional stress to many. This is a perfect environment for anxiety and depression to take root and grow. So, how can believers cope with these challenges and uncertainties? In this article, I would like to talk about these very real battles in which many believers find themselves in their daily lives.
First, let me state clearly that anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional disorders like them are real. It is unfortunate that many who suffer from these conditions have often been ignored, dismissed, or even chastised by other Christians for feelings that they seem to have no control over. If you have ever been treated that way by another believer, please allow me to apologize for their ignorance. There has been a culture in many Bible-believing churches that seems to give a message that real Christians do not have problems and are always happy. This is simply not scriptural! David spoke of feelings that we would call depression: “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” Psalm 69:1-3.
In fact, there are other examples of God’s servants in scripture struggling with both anxiety and depression. Daniel was anxious at what God was showing him about future events (Daniel 7:15), and even the Apostle Paul wrote this to the Corinthian church in his second letter, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” II Cor.1:8
Let’s take a moment and consider what anxiety and depression are, and why I have linked the two in this article. Anxiety is basically worry. Modern psychology has a term G.A.D. or Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It is characterized by constant worry, often about things that are unlikely to happen. Depression is a persistent sadness or depressed mood. The reason I wanted to talk about them both is because they often go together, and both can cause a person to lose interest in normal activities causing serious disruption in every area of life. Anxiety can show itself in many different ways. A person can be withdrawn and fearful as a result of anxiety, another may resort to excessive efforts to control everything and everyone around them in an effort to keep their worries from being realized. This can result in obsessive behaviors or unreasonable demands and angry outbursts toward others. Depression often comes into play because the anxiety causes behaviors with negative results. The fearful person is depressed because they begin to lose hope living in a constant state of worry and fear. The controlling person ruins relationships, and eventually realizes that they cannot control everything, and they lose hope as well. Both these conditions can bring a person to a place of hopelessness, and that is an extremely dangerous place to be.
As you can see, these conditions can seem overly complicated and they can have far-reaching consequences to those who suffer with them, as well as those who are around them. The fact is, they are not really complicated at all, but they are difficult to work through. If you know and love someone who has one or both of these challenges, please be patient and prayerful. You need the power of God to navigate through these issues, especially if you have never struggled with anything like this yourself. If you are a generally positive person, it may be hard to imagine why someone cannot just “ tough it out” or “get over it”. You do not have to understand to empathize, and you do not have to understand to pray. Ask God for wisdom, believing that He will give it to you (James 1:5-7).
If you are a person who fights feelings of anxiety and depression, let me tell you that there is hope! That hope is in non-other than Jesus Christ. It is not in a medication or a human counselor, but it is in Christ Himself. Don’t misunderstand, there may be a place for medicine and there is certainly a place for counseling, but the only true and lasting hope is in the person and work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you believe that, you can move toward a road to recovery, because that road is a walk of faith.
I cannot possibly explain all the principles you need to follow in an article. Each person and their experience are unique, but the basic problem and solution are the same. So, I will share just a few basic truths and some action points to begin with.
Four Vital Truths for battling Negative Emotions
- You are not in this alone. 1Co 10:13a … “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man”… Many others have and are where you are.
- God will make a way out. 1Co10:13b … ”God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Even though it may not feel like it, God has promised to make a way for you to endure.
- The feelings of anxiety and depression are not necessarily sin, but how you manage them is where the temptation lies. This is an especially important point. This is not to blame you for the feeling of anxiety, depression, or any other feeling. However, you are responsible for how you respond to the temptation. You may have never thought of your anxiety as a temptation, but that is exactly what it is.
- The “way of escape” is the path to enduring the temptation without giving in to it. Not necessarily the removal of the temptation itself…” that you may be able to endure it.”
Action Points for Dealing with Negative Emotions
- Recognize that this is a battle that must be fought by faith. Faith chooses God’s truth over present feelings. Rom 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Faith is the believing response to God’s revealed Word. Just as David believed that God would fight for him against Goliath, despite all his physical senses telling him otherwise, you must learn to choose to believe God over your emotions.
- Make a list with two columns. In the first column, write the specific things that cause anxiety and fear in your heart. In the second column record passages from scripture that reveal what God says about those things, or just worry in general.
- Pray through your list, confessing your unbelief to God and asking Him to grant you faith to believe what He has said. Every time you find yourself slipping into anxiety, take it to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6).
- If anxiety or depression has a grip on you that you are having trouble getting free from, please contact the church for counseling help. One of the ways that we love one another is to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). We are the body of Christ, and when one member hurts, the whole body hurts with you. You are not alone. You have brothers and sisters who love you.