Joni and Friends Blog
Comfort When You are Depressed or Anxious
I so appreciate the increased focus on mental health since COVID-19 shutdowns rocked our world. The uncertainty, isolation, the grief, the disruption of routines… These hardships took their toll on everyone, and I’ve heard from so many people who have struggled with depression and anxiety in a way they had never experienced before.
It hit me, too. I’ve had my fair share of struggles with depression.
Both in the first few years after my diving accident and during the time I’ve been battling chronic pain: depression is no stranger to me. I’m familiar with anxiety, too, when the gnawing, biting pain in my hips and back doesn’t seem to go away. I remember a season when I was tremendously tense and fretful, thinking, how can I possibly manage even the next year with such all-consuming, soul-crushing pain? I felt overwhelmed, and at night, I even had to sleep with a light on! It took me some time to realize that my pain medications were contributing to my fretfulness. But even once I’d worked my way off the worst of those anxiety-inducing medications, anxiety was an all too familiar companion.
Still, during the worst of the COVID lockdowns when I hardly saw anything beyond the four walls of my house, I felt God challenging me.
I felt him pushing me to dig deeper into the truths of his Word – truths that have always been my primary weapon against dark feelings.
And so, on dark, gloomy nights I began making myself recite as many names of God as I could remember, finding refuge just as Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe” (NLT). I’d stare at the digital clock on the ceiling and slowly repeat one name after another, meditating on what each one meant: Lamb of God, Friend of Sinners, my Sure Foundation, my Good Shepherd, and so on.
Also, my husband Ken and I prioritized, like never before, Bible reading and prayer. First thing in the morning, after I sat up in my wheelchair, I wheeled to the kitchen table where our Bibles were opened. We made it a practice not to read the paper, check our newsfeed, or head to the computer before reading God’s Word. We wanted words from the Bible to be the first words to fill our thoughts for the day. Then in the waning afternoon, when tiredness tried to tell me that I deserved some time off from pain and discomfort, I’d reach for the first hymn I could think of and sing all the stanzas I had memorized.
This is how I have held depression at bay and stood up to my unruly anxieties – I gained comfort from the names of God, the Word of God, and the words of other Christians who have found God’s arm strong enough to lean on in their own distress.
That last part, about gaining comfort from the words of other Christians who fight for their faith instead of succumbing to dark feelings, is why I have appreciated the way more people are talking about mental health. COVID has brought mental health issues out into the open. For instance, I’ve loved hearing from special needs families like my friend Emily Colson and her son Max for whom isolation was dramatically intensified. It made for an anxious, depressing situation in their home, almost beyond what could be borne. But when I heard how God met them in that season, well… it helped me to “hang in there,” to keep looking up, like it says in Psalm 123:1-2:
I lift my eyes to you,
O God, enthroned in heaven.
We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy,
just as servants keep their eyes on their master,
as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal.
Friend, if that’s where you find yourself right now; if your struggles with depression or anxiety have become intensified, look to God to pour out his mercy on you. And please let us know how we may pray for you. What’s more, if you have witnessed God meeting you in a special way, tell others about it. Encourage them with the story. As you do, feel free to share my story, too. You never know just what kind of comfort it might bring a friend who is struggling with anxiety or depression. So, “keep looking to the Lord for his mercy!”
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