An Epidemic of Hopelessness
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. There’s been a lot of talk in the media about it, and that’s a good thing. For too long the rule of thumb was “We don’t talk about that.”
I’ve battled depression all my life, and I’ve also wrestled (especially in my youth) with suicidal thoughts, so I think it’s high time we began discussing these issues.
Statistics prove my point. There are over 47,000 deaths from suicide every year. (To put that in perspective, that’s 1 suicide every 11 minutes). And there are over 1.3 million attempts every year. Note that these statistics are for the United States alone.
These facts are sobering. There’s an epidemic of hopelessness sweeping this nation, coupled with an unprecedented increase in mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. The pandemic, the economic recession, the wild fluctuations in weather, the war in Ukraine, the proliferation of mass shootings, devastating natural disasters– all this and more are elevating stress levels to the breaking point. What’s the solution?
The Bumper Sticker Is True
Well, for me the answer came when I went from religion to relationship. My healing began when I became a born-again Christian. The young woman who led me to Christ told me, “You’ll know this is real because things you haven’t been able to change will start changing.”
For years I had been plagued with terrifying nightmares. I had a recurring dream in which I was at the bottom of a deep pit. I could see a round patch of sky above my head. Then a man’s hands and hairy forearms would reach across. When the hands retreated, they were holding a shovel. Dirt would come pouring down on my face. At that point I would awaken myself screaming.
That night I had no nightmares. The being-buried-alive dream never returned. And I found my depression decreasing.
My healing wasn’t instantaneous. It was a slow process, and the depression ebbed and flowed. But as my relationship with Jesus deepened, I experienced more and more change.
The Bible says, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, love, and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Some versions translate “sound mind” as “self-discipline” or “self-control,” but the principle is the same. It is God’s desire for us to have a sound mind, to have our thoughts under control and not to be ruled by our feelings.
Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Believe me, when your mind is filled with tortured thoughts, it’s exhausting. Rest and peace will come as we give our lives to Jesus.
During the Jesus People movement, a popular bumper sticker declared, “Jesus is the Answer.”
He still is.
What Does The Bible Say About This?
So the need for evangelism is greater than it’s ever been before. After all, there are more people alive now than ever before! We are closer to the Second Coming of Christ than we’ve ever been. The time for harvest is NOW!
Beyond salvation, we also have the Bible. The Word of God is now available in many translations, and many formats. There are Bibles for every reading level, and if you don’t like to read, you can listen to it. You can have the Bible in print or on your cellphone. Thanks to modern technology, everyone can have access in any way they choose.
That is truly good news, because the Bible has a lot to say about mental health! In fact, in the following verses you can discover a 5-step formula for freedom.
1. RELINQUISH Your Struggle To God
The first step can be found in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” God loves you. Let me say that again: God loves you! He is concerned about what concerns you. So the first thing you need to do is give it to God. Whatever you’re struggling with, picture yourself putting it into His hands. He doesn’t expect you to carry this alone. You can’t fix this on your own. Ask for His help.
When we give our anxiety and fear and depression to God, He will in turn give us His peace. We will sense an assurance that He’s got this. Philippians 4:6-7 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.” Relinquish it to God, and He promises to send peace to your troubled mind.
2. REMEMBER Who And Whose You Are
As a Christian, you belong to God. He says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). God knows you by name; He knows everything about you– all your flaws and failings, all your weaknesses and worries– and He declares, “You belong to me.” That will never change.
Not only do you belong to Him, but He promises that you will never be alone. God is always with you: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8). God will not abandon you; He will never give up on you.
Still having doubts? Look at Psalm 34:17-19: The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” God’s talking to you here! Trust in His strength to get you through this.
3. RENEW Your Mind
You can depend on God to do His part. He’ll keep His promises. But there’s also a part you must play, some things that you must do. You have an enemy, Satan, who seeks to kill, steal and destroy. You need to fight him where the battle is: your mind. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). All your life, Satan has been planting thoughts in your head and you have been believing his lies. Now you need to fight.
How? By replacing those lies with the truths of God’s Word, what He says about Himself and about you. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Tear down the lies and replace them with the truth. Begin to see yourself through God’s eyes.
Psalm 42:11 says, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Notice that the psalmist is speaking to himself. We all do– it’s what psychologists call self-talk. You need to start changing your thoughts with the Word of God, and you also need to change your self-talk. Be sure that what you’re telling yourself lines up with the truths of God’s Word.
4. REPLENISH Your Heart
As you begin to change your thoughts and your self-talk, you also need to begin monitoring your input. What do you allow into your mind and spirit? What are you reading, watching, listening to? Proverbs 4:23 advises, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Romans 8:6 adds, “The mind governed by the flesh is death; but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
Our minds are affected by our feelings, and vice-versa. Feelings are fickle; they aren’t always based in reality and truth. They are a poor foundation to build your life upon. Focus instead on God and His goodness, and the power of God’s Word. Replenish your heart with the positive, and follow the advice of Philippians 4:8: “Finally, my brothers and sister, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things” (emphasis mine).
5. REJOICE In God’s Promises
There are so many wonderful promises in God’s Word! Look at this one in Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Notice all those “I” statements! These are God’s promises to you. What an awesome, faithful God!
David wrote, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 30:11). What God did for David, He will do for you, too. The more you renew your mind and replenish your heart, the more you will find yourself living the transformed life.
But God will do something even more amazing. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “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.” Not only will God set you free from mental turmoil, but He will then use you to minister to others who are also mentally troubled. How exciting is that!
I love this quote from author Fern Bernstein: “Only God can turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trial into a triumph, a victim into a victor.” Amen!
Yes, there is an epidemic of hopelessness in America. But there’s also a God of hope who is moving mightily in this nation and around the globe. Let’s lift our voices and let them know Jesus is the Answer!
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“What You Need To Know About Depression” http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-depression
“Stamping Out The Stigma Of Mental Illness” http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/stamping-out-the-stigma-of-mental-illness
“I Sat In Darkness” http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/i-sat-in-darkness