Mental Health Awareness Month

May 15, 2023

Depression, panic attacks, anxiety, and PTSD are affecting a major percentage of our population. Current statistics show that it is parents’ number-one concern dealing with their children.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Scripture tells us that we are in a spiritual war, a war fought in our thoughts and mind. We are to take captive our thoughts, guard our hearts, and work with God to keep our minds in a healthy place. I don’t believe that you can truly address mental health issues without talking about and processing your spiritual life.

Dr Henry Cloud says that normally the number of individuals struggling with a mental health problem is in the high teens (15-17%). Now, after COVID, over 40% of Americans would be diagnosable with mental health or addiction. This is exhibited through mood problems or depression; anxiety; stressors or trauma; sleep struggles; addiction or substance issue.

The first step is becoming aware of these issues in ourselves and others. We people of faith are needed more than ever. Faith at its core is seeking and healing what is broken. As spiritual leaders, there are people hurting in your community, and your faith is needed. Dr. Cloud suggests that we must address four categories of mental health:

Connection vs. Emotional Isolation

Our responsibilities in the world require output from us all the time. We must develop safe relationships where we get healthy input as well. Realize the need. God is the only self-sustaining person. He’s the Creator, the rest of us are creatures. Be vulnerable. Find a safe place with safe people.

Freedom vs. Loss of Control

Once we’re in relationships, it’s easy to lose our sense of freedom. You do need to say “no” to people and situations who are hurting you. One of the first steps is getting people to take control of what they can control and let go of things they can’t control.

Develop your “no” muscle. Take extreme ownership and responsibility. Set limits on bad behavior, control, and manipulation. Sometimes it requires a necessary ending. You are a steward of the mission. Respect your own freedom and others’ freedom as well.

Acceptance vs. Denial of the Imperfection

The reality is there is a gap between the ideal and how I really am. How we deal with that gap is the difference between thriving and not thriving. What lives in the gap? Pain, shame, and guilt.

In the airline industry in 1996, there was one crash for every two million flights. 350 people died in that year. In the past 12 years, we have had eight billion passengers fly without one fatal crash. Now it’s one fatality for every 120 million departures. When we are safe to get curious and learn from our mistakes, we do get better.

Embrace vulnerability. Confess your faults to one another. Process your pain and grief. Develop

a growth mindset. Monitor the tone with which you address imperfections in yourself and others. Forgive, forgive, forgive. The good news of the gospel is that you have been accepted and forgiven for all the bad stuff. You need a place to go to do that. Take the sting out of the gap.

Adulthood vs. Remaining a Child

We must become adults psychologically. If you don’t, you begin to people please, and this keeps you from performing at your best.

Own your opinion and be willing to appropriately disagree with authority. Identify who it is you’re afraid to speak your mind to. Take people off pedestals and stop comparisons. Adopt the try, fail, and learn process. Adults increase their expertise over time. See yourself and others as different but equal. It does not diminish you because someone is smarter or faster.

Folks, we have a mental health crisis. The gospel is the good news for people in areas of pain. It’s the gospel of regaining self-control, confessing, and learning that they are forgiven and growing up and using their gifts and abilities. This is the calling of Jesus: “I came to seek and to save the lost.” This is your mission. You and I must lead the way. But sometimes we feel like, “One more responsibility? I can’t do that.’”

We lead the way in our families, our communities, and our work. Our responsibility is to seek Him first: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow…” (Matthew 6:33-34).

The call to seek God's kingdom is itself a mercy and a grace because it's only when I seek God's kingdom that I'm free from seeking my own. I don’t know if you’ve recognized this or not, but there’s a direct correlation between pursuing our own kingdom/desires and anxiety. Most, if not all, of your anxiety results when you’re attempting to sit on the throne of your life. Paul Tripp says it this way: “The most confident people I’ve ever met were those who rested in the provision and care of God. The most un-anxious believers I’ve interacted with are the ones who truly submitted their life to the will of their Father. Conversely, the most anxious people I’ve counseled were driven by earthbound treasure and forgetful of the gospel.

But let’s be honest – you and I are forgetful too. We’re blind to the gospel of creation, we’re forgetful of the gospel of family, and we often outright ignore the gospel of the kingdom. No wonder we’re anxious!

Yet in our anxiety, Jesus doesn’t yell at us. He doesn’t throw up His hands and says “Forget it! I can’t believe you fools would chase after the world instead of me.” No, in tenderness and patience He chases after us one more time and connects us with eternal, unstoppable, and glorious grace.

Connect with His grace, work with Him to release your anxiety into His capable hands. And then be about leading the way to freedom through your example and life.