The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has brought fear, chaos, grief and isolation into our lives in a way many of us have never experienced. Every day, I hear about strained marriages, lonely seniors, anxious students, despairing business owners and grieving families who’ve lost someone to the virus.
Many people are experiencing intense depression and anxiety right now, including Christians. I believe there are three things we should do when depression and anxiety threaten to overwhelm us.
1. Be honest with God.
Although it may come as a surprise, many people in the Bible struggled with depression. Moses, Elijah and Jonah — to name a few — all experienced disappointment, disillusionment and despair.
In Numbers 11, we read how Moses, feeling hopeless and overwhelmed in the wilderness, prayed that God would end his life. Elijah did the same in 1 Kings 19:4 as he ran from Queen Jezebel. Jeremiah, the author of Lamentations, mourned his own birth (Jeremiah 20:14-18). In their darkest moments, they cried out to God in agonizing honesty.
Scripture teaches us that these men were just like you and me. The apostle James writes that Elijah “was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). If these men who walked so closely with God — all of whom were prophets — so powerfully struggled with their mental and emotional health, then I think God understands when we do, too.
If you are experiencing depression, anxiety or other mental or emotional health struggles right now, you are not alone. Don’t believe the lie that you aren’t fit to be God’s child. Hear and respond to the life-giving, soul-healing truth of God’s Word. He heard the cries of Moses, Elijah and Jeremiah, and he hears yours.
2. Participate in community.
In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness….” (NIV). From these words, we infer that God exists in unity and community. After he creates the first man, God says that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18) and then he creates the first woman. Division and isolation came into our world as a result of the fall.
According to a 2019 report by Pew Research Center, “…in the U.S. and many other countries around the world, regular participation in a religious community clearly is linked with higher levels of happiness and civic engagement (specifically, voting in elections and joining community groups or other voluntary organizations).”
Of course, Covid-19 has changed how we participate in community. While churches are finally slowly beginning to gather, many people are still not able to meet in person because of valid health concerns. But the wonderful thing is that the virus has not canceled community, because the church is not a building. Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). We can stay connected through phone calls, text messaging, video chatting, letter writing and socially distanced visits. It only takes two to make a church gathering.
3. Ask for help when you need it.
While prayer and community are certainly helpful, there is no shame in seeking professional help for depression and anxiety. Sometimes, our brains and bodies simply don’t work like we’d want them to. Sometimes, circumstances really can be too much to bear.
Talking to a doctor or counselor can be immensely helpful in understanding and managing mental health issues. I know — I have battled depression. Some days are harder than others. And that’s okay. Depression and anxiety are a real part of life in this broken world.
God has promised each of us that we can find wholeness, peace and security in him no matter what trials we are facing. So in these challenging times, let’s be honest with him, participate in community and ask for help when we need it.
Dr. Jack Graham is the pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in America. He is also a noted author, and his PowerPoint Ministries broadcasts are available in 92 countries and are heard daily in more than 740 cities. Follow him @jackngraham.