I find it hard to confess that I was emotionally wounded because people might question my faith. Worse yet, they might accuse me of not trusting God enough or tell me that worry is a sin. They might say I’m not praying enough, reading the Bible enough, or applying it correctly when I tell them I’ve been feeling numb, lonely, anxious, or depressed.
But mental health issues happen to everyday people — even to believers who are strong in faith and have friends. I know this because it happened to me.
Unfortunately, some Christians made me feel shame for my emotional struggles, but as I discovered God’s view on healing, I realized it wasn’t my faith that was flawed; it was others’ view toward mental health and faith that was skewed.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in four people suffer from anxiety, with one in five suffering from depression. Think about it. Whether you’re sitting at church or laughing with friends on Friday night, odds are someone near you is suffering emotional pain, even if they appear happy, sociable, and capable.
We tend to suffer quietly and anonymously, but it shouldn’t be this way as people of faith. Jesus calls us to love one another unconditionally the way He loves us, but how can we be a light to the world if we can’t even be a light to each other?
Because of the shame I was made to feel, it was easier for me to hide my struggle with anxiety and insomnia. I didn’t want anyone to think I was broken, so I kept quiet and prayed it would all go away.
But God wanted to heal me, not shame me.
During one of the happiest chapters of my life, I suddenly started having panic attacks and debilitating insomnia. I was happily married with two boys, had an optimistic view of life, loved God, had friends, and yet the panic attacks came. They were completely out of the blue, and I didn’t know why.
It turned out that because I was now grown-up and safe, all the painful things I had experienced as a child began to surface. It wasn’t because my faith was faulty but because God loved me and it was time to heal from the past.
My post-traumatic stress disorder therapist told me that a soldier doesn’t experience trauma when he’s brave and fighting on the battlefield but when he’s finally home, safe to face what was too difficult to process at the time. It’s actually God’s design for our bodies to protect us when hurt, fear, or loss are too overwhelming.
However, I was confused. PTSD from childhood trauma? I had never experienced physical abuse or anything as traumatic as what soldiers on the battlefield have. But what my therapist said next stopped me in my tracks, “Did you know emotional abuse has the same impact as physical abuse? You need to heal from emotional PTSD.”
It made sense to me, but in a culture that prides itself on entrepreneurship, self-reliance, and curating Instagram-perfect lifestyles, speaking up about the emotional pain I once survived was like running into a wall. The message from the Church culture was this: If you’re feeling emotionally broken, your faith is weak or broken. It’s actually the opposite though. Healing parts of your heart may be the most powerful act of faith that God is calling you to make today.
MYTH: Jesus commanded us not to worry in Matthew 6. If you worry, you’re sinning.
TRUTH: Jesus encourages us not to worry about money.
In Matthew 6:25, Jesus was not issuing a command that makes worry an act of sin, but He was giving us the reason why we can’t serve both God and money. He was also encouraging us not to worry about money because God will provide for us as He does for the birds of the air and the flowers in the field. So be at peace. God understands why you worry, and He loves you. He is a God of comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles (2 Corinthians 1:4).
MYTH: If you don’t have peace or joy, you must not be trusting God enough.
TRUTH: Emotional honesty is part of faith, and faith is the intimate act of trusting God with your real self instead of hiding how you feel or trying to do or be more.
Jesus tenderly whispers, “Don’t hide.” He invites us to come, and He promises to give rest to our souls (Matthew 11:28). We’re invited to come to Him weary, confused, numb, anxious, angry, or stressed. Jesus tells us to simply come as we are — imperfectly His.
MYTH: If you read God’s Word more, pray more, praise more, give thanks more, rejoice more, you will have peace that surpasses all understanding.
TRUTH: Faith is not emotional amnesia. Faith gives us courage to face the brokenness of life and heal from the losses we’ve suffered.
Jesus Himself obeyed, prayed, praised, and gave thanks perfectly. Yet He suffered emotional trauma, overwhelmed by impending physical and emotional abuse, abandonment and betrayal.
My soul is deeply troubled, overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Going a little farther, He fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.
Mark 14:34-35 (NIV)
When the Apostle Paul encourages us not to be anxious but to pray, give thanks, and present our requests to God (Philippians 4:5-6), he was encouraging us to experience the peace in taking our problems to God rather than finding peace in our ability to solve them with our own understanding.
MYTH: The Bible says to forget the past and focus on what’s ahead.
TRUTH: God remembers the moments that break us. We go back to heal our past with Jesus, experiencing His love intimately and recovering all parts of our hearts with Him.
When the Apostle’s Paul said, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” he wasn’t talking about erasing his past. If you read the rest of Philippians 3, you’ll discover he was referring to forgetting his old way of life as a Pharisee, focusing his worth on how things appeared and his spiritual performance. Paul was now focused on knowing Jesus intimately and sharing in the sufferings of Jesus.
MYTH: You don’t need a therapist. You just need Jesus and God’s Word.
TRUTH: If you look at most instances of healing in Scripture, someone had to step out in faith and take action to go somewhere, see someone, or ask for something.
If you’ve been hurt, you deserve to take care of yourself now that you’re safe to heal with Jesus. God’s Word will give you strength to heal and investigate your emotional wounds. Just like God uses skilled doctors to help us heal from physical wounds, God uses therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists to help us heal our nervous system and process events that have wounded us.
You are worth valuing, your story worth remembering. Again, God wants to heal us, not shame us. Let Him love you as you walk the journey toward healing, and I pray you’ll be amazed by the beauty and be transformed by it as I have been.
What helps you experience God’s healing touch for the emotional wounds in your life?
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God wants to heal us, not shame us. -@thebonniegray: Click To Tweet