Wowwwww! I cannot believe we have come to the end of February. The year seems to be going by so fast. I wanted the month of February to be a month where we go through practical life issues that we may experience as Christians yet no one ever wants to discuss. This blog post is all about mental health and this is a topic that is not often spoken about in the Christian Community because we believe that struggling with mental health negates faith. Another thing that we believe is that if a person is struggling with mental health, that must mean that they are possessed by an evil spirit that needs to be cast out. Do not get me wrong, I totally believe in deliverance and I have gone through deliverance as well but mental health issues are not something that can be completely fixed by casting out the demon. This topic is near and dear to my heart because I used to struggle with severe depression that led to self harm. Christians simply figured that depression was something that needed to be prayed away. I am from a Nigerian household which means that we do believe in the operation of demonic activities so after my mother found out that I was cutting myself, she immediately took me to my pastor at the time. After I arrived at the church, I was told to go on a three days water fast and he proceeded to pray for my deliverance. When I concluded my fasting, I left the church hungry, tired and still depressed. This is not to say that the pastor was not anointed because I believe that he was but this is to say that overcoming depression needs more than just prayers and casting out a demon.
Recently, I had a moment. I just returned from a great conference and honestly I was surprised that depression chose to hit me in that moment. It is like a wave that I never saw coming so instead of jumping over it like I used to, I gave it the power to sweep me away. Granted, my emotions were triggered by an event but what happened is not as important because what is more important is my response to the event. I sat in my hotel room bawling my eyes out, frustrated because I thought I overcame depression. I have been years clean from self harm so I knew I could not return to that state. However, thoughts of death ran freely in my mind. I know that suicide is a sin so that was not an option which is why I just prayed for God to take my life instead. I texted one of my friends the lock code to my phone, I texted another one of my friends to pray for my mind because I knew this was not normal, I left some instructions on my phone just in case God did decide to answer my prayers and I called on FaceTime a guy that I know should not be in my life. Finally, I went to bed. The next morning, the Lord woke me up to get up and eat the Word.
I shared my story because something that God led me to see was that my story was similar to the story of Elijah. This story can be seen in 1 Kings 19 but let’s take a look at a few verses together. “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” -1 Kings 19:3-5. In this story we see Elijah who was a servant of God struggling with mental health. Here was a man who experienced moments of great victory, he was the same person who called down fire from heaven yet we see him in this verses praying to God that he might die. Elijah was not demon possessed simply because he was suicidal. As an encouragement to anyone who may struggle with mental health, I simply want to let you know that your mental health struggles does not disqualify you from being used by God. When I experience moments of defeats, I find out that I tend to retreat to a familiar place of comfort that I know has no power to save me in hopes that I will die in that place. In moments of deep sorrow the only place that you can truly find comfort is in Christ. The devil will try to bring to our remembrance the defeats of our past or our ancestors. However, in those moments remember that your past only has as much power as you give to it. From the scriptures we see that Elijah was indeed much better than his ancestors but he believed the lies of the enemy. Do not give the voice of the enemy an audience in your life. You are not your defeat! Yes, you may feel defeated but the truth is that you already have the victory. Counter the lies of the enemy with the truth of God for your life. The truth is that Elijah was a prophet of God, he was powerful and He was much better than his ancestors. What is the truth over your life?
You are not alone in your struggles with mental health. Numbers 11 shows how Moses also struggled with mental health. “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me if I have found favor in your eyes and do not let me face my own ruin.”- Numbers 11:14-15. Moses was a servant of God who was chosen to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt yet he had moments when he prayed for death. Even Jesus experienced deep anguish while He was on earth. Hebrews 4:15 says that “We do not have a High Priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses…” Jesus understands how you feel in your weakest moment. Your struggles are a platform for God to get the glory. You are still anointed and chosen although you have your struggles.
When you find yourself struggling with mental health, it is important that like Elijah, you simply Rest then get up and Eat. Rest in the Lord whenever your emotions seems to be out of your control. Rest in His love whenever you feel lonely. Rest in the fact that you have a Father who cares about you. A lot of times we find ourselves drained emotionally because we have not taken enough time to simply rest. In addition to resting in God, we also have to feed on the Word of God. We cannot simply lay down and play dead with the adversary; It is time to get up. Although you may want to give up on life, on your purpose and on God; Get Up And Eat. We have heard it said by snickers that “You are not yourself when you are hungry.” I find out that I struggle with depression more when I am not spending sufficient time in the Word of God. We need to realize that when we are not feeding on the Word of God, we been fed by other things in the world by default. The angel of the Lord told Elijah to get up and eat more than once which means that you have to consistently get in the Word of God to be strengthened. To have enough strength to continue to do the work God has called us to, we have to be in the Word consistently.
Another way to deal with mental health struggles is to focus on joy. Happiness is an emotion but joy is a choice. Hebrews 12:2 says “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” We see from this verse that during one of the toughest moment in the life of Jesus, He choose to look ahead towards joy. When we focus on Jesus, enduring hard times become a lot easier. We choose to have joy even in deep sorrow. Struggling with mental health may not mean that you are possessed with an evil spirit but it does mean that you need to shift your focus. Shift your focus from your weaknesses to His strength and from your problems to the one who can solve them. Choose joy in the midst of sorrow. Philippians 4:4 says “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” In this verse, Paul tells us to rejoice twice because choosing joy may not be easy. However, no matter how difficult it gets to choose joy, I want to encourage you to still REJOICE. A great way to shift your focus is through worship. Worship God even when it hurts. Worshiping God allows you to reaffirm yourself that God is still in control. It allows you to show the enemy that he cannot win the battle over your mind.
Another thing to remember when struggling with mental health is that morning is coming! Psalms 30:5 says “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” The night time does not last forever and soon, the darkness will give way to the brightness of the morning. I love Lamentations 3 because it exposes the raw emotions of Prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah in this scripture expressed his deep anguish and frustration. He even blamed his afflictions on God but the promise of morning kept him grounded. Lamentations 3:22-23 says “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Although Jeremiah was going through despair at the moment, he remembered that the love and faithfulness of God never changed. Our emotions are fleeting but the character of God remains the same. Because God is faithful, we can be sure that the morning will bring us new love and new grace. I simply want us to be encouraged because seasons of despair do not last forever.
I also want to remind you that hard times are meant to strengthen you and not to take you out. For the heart to grow stronger, it must go through moments of stress. Hard times strengthen our relationship with God. Luke 22:44 says “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Here we see that Jesus was experiencing a moment of anguish and in that moment, He chose to press into prayers even more. If you find yourself struggling with mental health, do not simply lay down and die but choose to use that moment to get closer to God. “The Lord is close to the Brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”-Psalms 34:18. God is close to you when you are broken so choose to use this time to talk to Him more. Let Him know how you feel and realize that He understands. Press into prayers more and engage in spiritual warfare if you need to do so.
In addition to the spiritual principles I mentioned, I also want to encourage you to seek counseling. Counseling does not make you weak and it does not negate your faith. Take each day one day at a time. As Christians, we do not have it all together. There may be days where you go through deep depression but in those moments choose faith over your feelings. Deliverance is a process and the process does not only involve casting out a demon. A part of deliverance is also when you choose to cast down negative thoughts and teach them to obey the voice of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5). Deliverance also takes place when you choose to open up about your struggles with a friend. Deliverance takes place when you choose to endure even through the hard times. Deliverance also takes place when you choose to go to a therapist and they can walk you through your healing. In those moments, Spend time with friends, go to the gym and do whatever needs to be done for you to get through that season. In addition, I am here for you if you struggle with mental health. I definitely know how it feels so I am here to be a listening ear or to war in prayers as needed. I love you all and I am praying for you.