I’ve spent the last couple of weeks working hard on this book, particularly in the last few days. Yesterday, I returned from fishing with my boys in the morning to find that my oldest daughter had been using my laptop and had run down the battery. No problem, except my laptop reset to three days ago, losing all my most recent work. I was devastated… I spent an hour of so in distress and frustration. I grumped at my family and felt overwhelmed...
The key to managing ourselves in the midst of everyday frustrations is to look to Scripture. There we can find what we need to experience peace, joy, rest, contentment, and hope.
Believe it or not, the Bible has a lot to say about emotional distress, especially in the areas of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and depression. You have probably tried to get better in your own way. You might have even spent money on doctors and psychiatrists and counselors, and you’re still not better. If you’re reading this, there is hope. Let’s look at what God has to say about these three areas.
First, on anxiety, Scripture is clear.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7, NASB)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6–7, NIV)
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Anxiety, worry, fear... do these emotions sound familiar to you?
After Martha [my wife] died, my anxiety ballooned into full-blown hypochondria—worrying about my body, about what ailment I had, or what could be fatal inside of me. Yet Scripture tells me that I’m not to worry about my health or my future. In Matthew 6, Jesus went on to say, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (verse 34).
Looking back at my laptop incident, I was able to stop and reason with myself. The truth was that if I lost all my work, life would go on. My world was not over. I also realized that I might be able to recover the files. Those were truths, and they set me free.
The lie I initially believed was that this mishap could be nearly life-threatening, and I could not have peace when such things happened. I believed the lie that I could not recreate what I had written, and on and on. My brain went into a panic, which released adrenaline, which gave me the false impression that everything was doomed.
But this was a lie. I was able to walk myself through the Scriptures quoted earlier and bring myself back to a healthy place, which my family was glad about.
Second, what about obsessive-compulsive behavior? When we obsess, and obsess, and obsess, we eventually wear down our bodies to the point where the body just doesn’t work anymore. If you are obsessive, your mind constantly runs away with you to a dark place, dwelling on the extreme and horrific. Instead, we’re told:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8, NASB)
We are to let our minds ponder what is right and pure and lovely. We are commanded to train ourselves to think about these things—about what God wants us to center on, not about what our brains run to that causes such distress. Proverbs 3:5–6 (NIV) says,
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Understanding implies that we feel a need to be in control or to make sense of something before we can rest. We think that when we are in control, we can keep life in the order we want. This is all about self. We are keeping order in our world so that we will be comfortable, often at the expense of others…
We must trust God enough not to have to understand. The way you trust God is to give the situation over to Him. I had to give losing my work over to Him and trust that He would walk me through it. This starts with spending time in God’s Word. The more you read your Bible, the more you’ll know God. The more you know God, the more you will trust Him. The more you trust Him, the more you will experience peace, joy, rest, hope, and contentment.
Finally, what about depression? Rest assured that depression is talked about in Scripture. God understands and often addresses depression.
In Psalm 42, David is having a my-spirit-battles-my-flesh moment with himself and says, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?” (NASB).
Have you ever felt disturbed? Have you ever been in despair?...
I can’t tell you how many depressed people I’ve counseled who say, “I feel like God has abandoned me.” They think He has just left them alone to suffer. This is a lie. Scripture says that God is always near believers; we don’t have to feel alone in our distress...
Sometimes that comfort comes in the form of peace in the midst of the storm, and other times it’s protection from the storm. In one instance, Christ woke up from His nap on a boat and calmed the storm for His worried disciples. Another time, He walked out on the water to the disciples in a storm and brought the boat safely to shore while leaving the storm alone.
The important point is that peace, rest, joy, contentment, and hope are found in the Bible. Be willing to accept God’s help in the way He chooses. You may ask God to solve your problem, but beware of wanting to have it solved only your way. You may want the storm to go away, but God may choose to carry you safely through the storm while letting it rage around you. You have to be willing to trust God in the midst of the storm...
So many Christians are struggling or have struggled with emotional distress. God knows where you are, and He won’t leave you there. He has given His words. Be patient. Be faithful. Be courageous. Be at peace!
Today more people than ever are suffering from emotional distress. Whether they are dealing with depression, anxiety, obsessiveness, fear, worry, or stress, their lives are limited and compromised by the ill-effects. People who suffer from emotional distress often feel isolated and unloved, either by God or by others, and often believe that there is no hope and no way out.
There is good news, however! A truly biblical approach to healing emotional distress focuses on a holistic cure that integrates the mind, body, and spirit. Even when we feel truly alone, God is holding us in His hand. Even when we feel truly hopeless, God offers comfort and purpose. And even when we feel like we will never escape the pit of emotional distress, God sets our feet on firm ground and promises to never let us go. No matter what we have been through or what we are going through now, God can bring critically needed healing and transformation into our lives when we adjust what the authors refer to as “stinkin’ thinkin’.”