Concerns about mental health are on the rise, and not without warrant. According to KFF, over 32% of all adults report symptoms of an anxiety and/or depressive disorder (nearly 50% for those ages 18–24).
And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Substance abuse, overdoses, suicide, eating disorders, PTSD, personality disorders, and the like all seem to be a common occurrence in our world today. It is no wonder that 90% of the public believes “there is a mental health crisis in the U.S.”
God cares deeply for our well-being, which of course includes our mental health, and Scripture is filled with his support, wisdom, and guidance. Here are a few passages about mental health and some thoughts on what we can learn from them.
Don’t Go It Alone (Galatians 6:2)
Perhaps one of the most important points that God makes about our mental health (and life as a whole) is that we were never intended to figure it out all by ourselves. Over and over again, the Bible beckons us towards godly community and instructs us to support and love one another. It is put plainly in Galatians 6:2:
Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (CSB)
And while we may find ourselves willing to carry the burdens of others, offering our own burdens to the community can be scary, especially in regards to our mental health. Whether because of shame or stigma, we shy away from sharing our mental health struggles and seeking out the help we need.
But God calls us towards the support of community. There is no shame in walking with trusted friends and family, Christian counselors and therapists, and medical professionals as you seek the mental health and wholeness God desires for you.
Throw Your Anxiety on God (1 Peter 5:6–7)
When it comes to this passage, often verse 7 is presented by itself, but verse 6 (and the entire chapter, really) provides some helpful context. Together they read:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares [anxiety, NIV] on him, because he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:6–7 CSB)
In this passage, humility—to bow oneself low—is not about thinking less of oneself, but about placing oneself under the protection of God.
Often with mental health struggles, we look to solve all our problems by our own strength, hoping to will ourselves to greater health and wholeness. But we were never intended to face these issues alone. Not only has God surrounded us with community and support, but he himself wants to support us.
It is in this context that we are called to cast (literally, to throw upon) all our anxiety on God. When we release trust in our own strength and surrender our situation to God, he will guide us through and protect us with his strong and loving hand, “so that he may exalt [lift up, NIV] you at the proper time.”
Search Your Heart with God (Psalm 139:23–24)
The Psalms provide us a model through which we can learn to pray. These songs of corporate worship run the gamut from prayers of praise and trust to prayers of deep lament and confusion.
A perfect example of this is Psalm 139. David begins the psalm by proclaiming God’s intimate awareness of the king’s life and mind, as well as the Lord’s persistent pursuit of David. Beautiful and often quoted verses are highlighted, such as:
Where can I go to escape your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. (vv. 7–8 CSB)
For it was you who created my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise you
because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. (vv. 13–14 CSB)
What is generally not highlighted is how the psalm shifts towards the end and David begins to declare his immense hatred for his enemies and his desire for God to slaughter them. Though a bit extreme, we see here David offering his most authentic self to God.
So when we finally reach the conclusion of the psalm, we can almost feel David catching his rage-filled breath as he asks God to search him in the midst of these hateful desires and lead him to a better way of thinking and believing—the everlasting way:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my concerns [anxious thoughts, NIV].
See if there is any offensive way in me;
lead me in the everlasting way. (vv. 23–24 CSB)
With this, we learn that God is not afraid of our emotions. Whatever our anger, sadness, fear, or anything else, God already is aware of it and desires to guide us to a healthy way of responding to these emotions. So when we echo David’s prayer, search me, we are inviting God into the depths of our thoughts and emotions, presenting them authentically to him. We do not need to filter ourselves with God, nor are we called to pretend like everything is fine when we pray.
Instead, we are encouraged to show our true selves to God, and ask him to lead us to a healthy response to our emotions. In this, we are being true to ourselves and seeking to trust God simultaneously.
Rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 4:4–7)
Often we can think of rejoicing in the midst of difficulty as being fake or phony. But as we covered in the last section, God is never calling us to inauthenticity. Instead, to “rejoice in the Lord always” is a call to shift our focus towards the good and to shift our trust towards our God.
Philippians 4:4–7 reads:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (CSB)
Here, the apostle Paul provides us wisdom as to how he has learned to hold a continuous posture of rejoicing. First, he rejoices “in the Lord”; his trust is not in his situation, nor does he expect to never face difficulty. In fact, Paul is writing this letter from prison, arrested because of his work for the gospel (see Philippians 1:7). However, he is able to rejoice in the love and life he receives in Christ.
In this context he encourages us to not “worry about anything.” This isn’t just a white-knuckle, do-it-through-sheer-willpower command that Paul is giving. God knows that it isn’t as simple as just telling ourselves, Don’t worry. That is why we are given an active response to our worry. Essentially Paul is saying, When worry arises, don’t dwell in it, but instead, “through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
This shifts our focus to God and the blessings we have in life (“with thanksgiving”), but, more than that, there is real power in prayer to help our situation, uplift our spirits, and fill us with God’s peace “which surpasses all understanding” and “will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
These are only a taste of the tremendous wisdom that can be found in Scripture about our mental health and how God wants to support it. We encourage you to continue to lean in to what God has to say as a way of learning about your mental health.
If you are struggling with your mental health, we also encourage you to reach out for support from your church or Christian professionals trained to help. Dial or text 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for immediate support.