The negative impacts of the pandemic, social distancing, and isolation have taken a toll on many people’s mental and emotional well-being to one degree or another. Many people have struggled with a sense of hopelessness. Some have experienced depression. Some have had suicidal thoughts. Some Christians think these are matters not to be talked about. But emotional distress exists, regardless of whether we talk about it or not, and by not talking about it, we have left many of our brothers and sisters stuck in isolation and spiritual doubt.
Carley Marcoullier has written about myths that too many Christians believe about mental health.
Myth 1: My Feelings Don’t Matter to God
This false assumption is grounded in a distorted view of God. Every one of us matters to God—feelings and all. We should not assume that when God does not respond to our emotional distress in the way we want that means our pain is not acknowledged by God. God does care. Our struggle is not a result of God’s lack of goodness or attention to our needs but rather is the consequence of our broken world which will be redeemed one day and set right again.
God created us to feel, to connect, to experience pure joy. As a result of human sinfulness, we have also been exposed to pain, disconnection, loss, fear, shame, discouragement and more. Jesus does not once dismiss these, but gently offers relief, hope, grace and healing.
God hears and sees the brokenness of our world. Our feelings are real, maybe not always rational, but knowing that God loves us, messy and undone, helps us to be honest with our emotions and allows God into the raw and real feelings we may be dealing with. This is why scripture reminds us repeatedly to pray and to worship.
Even when emotions are deep and pain is present, we can rejoice in the truth that our God is going to make all things new, and prayers will be answered in the promise of Christ’s return, where he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain. (Revelation 21:4)
Myth 2: I Just Need to Have More Faith
One of the most common, and shaming, beliefs held by some Christians in response to mental health concerns is the assumption that people just lack faith. But if we start to believe that all emotional distress is a measurement of our faith, we are missing the Gospel completely. We can have faith and struggle at the same time. Scripture calls us to remain steadfast amidst our trials, not to deny our discouragement and distress.
Faith is trusting God even when we do not see or feel that he is working amidst our pain. The Gospel invites all who seek healing to acknowledge their insufficiency and in faith accept the hope that Christ offers.
We are all broken, regardless of the source, and God invites us to wrestle and to find rest. Seeking support through counseling or other avenues does not negate our foundation of faith nor should it replace our prayers for direction and peace. By reaching out, we allow others to join our journey of faith, seeking endurance and encouragement.
Myth 3: If I Take Medication for Emotional Distress, I Will Be Judged
This belief, unfortunately, is too common in the Christian community. The reality is that people judge because they do not understand. Taking prescribed medication is not somehow immoral. God’s church is called to learn the function and purpose of mental health medications so that members of the body may better support and encourage one another in seeking wellness and balance within our lives.
As believers, we are to talk about how we actually feel, without fear of rejection or judgment and to remind each other: “It’s okay to not be okay.”