By / Nov 24

COVID-19 has changed life and family dynamics in ways some people never expected. Recent Pew Research reveals that young adults are now living with their parents in the greatest numbers we’ve seen since the Great Depression. Since February, more than 2.6 million people have moved back home due to job loss or college campus closure.

Given massive layoffs and business closures nationwide, younger adults at the bottom of the ladder and pay scale were often first to lose jobs when COVID shut down the nation in early March. The Department of Labor announced in October that 2.4 million people have now been out of work for over four months, and 5 million were on track for long-term joblessness, many of them young adults

Another survey found increasing rates of depression among the same group, those ages 18-24 reporting 10 times higher rates of thoughts of self-harm and 47% seeing symptoms of depression, a number that rises to 60% among those who have lost jobs or been evicted. It’s a blow to the ego and the Western myth of invincibility. 

A newfound reliance on family 

In the United States, where individuality and personal ambition are practically national virtues, reliance on family has often filtered to the bottom of the priority list. Unlike in other cultures, like in African countries where as many as 10 members of an extended family may live together for a lifetime, Americans have tended to go in the opposite direction. Indeed, white young adults in the U.S. were the least likely to live with parents before family prior to the pandemic, and that group has seen the highest rates of returning to parental housing, according to the research. 

COVID changed the game, forcing people into living situations they never intended to enter again, and reminding us of vulnerability to forces greater than personal prosperity. Thinking critically about the long-term results of this shift is helpful in making distinct decisions that will guide them moving forward. 

 A safety net of connectedness in one’s life is a healthy resource that has been undervalued and underutilized in recent years, as Americans have shifted toward more isolative tendencies.

Philosophically speaking, the forced change in living arrangements is a stark reminder of the importance of maintaining strong family ties. A safety net of connectedness in one’s life is a healthy resource that has been undervalued and underutilized in recent years, as Americans have shifted toward more isolative tendencies. For single young adults, family has too often become a weighted obligation, rather than an appreciated harbor of support. Recognizing the value in having reassuring options in times of need may bring a helpful change in perspective. 

As Christians so often like to say, we were not meant to walk through life alone. In 1 Timothy 5:8, God says “anyone who does not provide for their relatives . . . has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever,” so our directive for family members in need is pretty clear. The family unit and church community are divine details that God created from the beginning, fixtures to enhance our lives and draw us closer to him. In times of struggle, these are tools to carry us through and see his work displayed through others in our lives. One’s parents, in this case, are surely performing that duty as they open their homes to struggling adult children. Like God our Father, good parents are happy to help their children in times of genuine struggle and will always welcome them back. 

Fighting against idleness

It is good to relish the help available from family, as young adults seek a pathway back to employment, but also important to be alert to the pitfalls of long-term financial reliance. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6-7, Paul warns against idleness, so being cognizant of doing so when possible matters, even now. 

When the pandemic first hit, we heard hopeful things like “15 Days to Stop the Spread.” In March, things were assumed to dissipate by “July or August.” Looking back, that was a quaint assessment, as we currently endure the ninth month of COVID, with cases still on the rise nationwide. For much of 2020, it was acceptable to cast excuses toward daily disciplines. Exercise and nutrition were abandoned, alcohol sales increased, and some parents even gave up virtual schooling efforts. But such lethargy cannot continue. 

Long-term habit creation can have detrimental effects for a lifetime, and it’s important to recognize these downfalls before a darker path emerges. Taking action to combat the darkness of depression, anxiety, and despair is vital. Prayer, therapy, medication (if needed), intentional community, and continuing to look for job opportunities are actions steps toward thriving again. 

Gratitude for the families that welcome young adults home is necessary, as is appreciation for how the pandemic forced us to pause and reassess certain aspects of our lives. It’s been a tragic wake-up call for too many who have lost loved ones and been forced to risk their lives in dangerous conditions. But creating action plans for personal and professional independence in the future is vital to cultivating hope, and important for squashing negative extended effects of this crisis. It is also stewarding well the resources God has given us, in mind, body, and spirit. 

Regardless of job status or living environment, Christians always have a promise of sustenance over our lives in the reliable promises of our God. As Hebrews 10:23 reads: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” 

By / Sep 22

I work as a biblical counselor primarily with teens and kids. Fresh in the field, I do not want to hold up my limited experience as an indicator of our culture or make overgeneralized conclusions. My observations, however, line up with evidence-based research surrounding teenage anxiety and depression. The problem of anxiety and depression in teenagers seems to have increased, and the struggle to find helpful means of coping persists. 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), anxiety and depression fall under the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in young people under the age of 18 (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). The research found in the Pediatric News journal also indicates that depression, suicide rates, and anxiety have increased (Swick & Jellinick, 2019). With anxiety and depression on the rise, what can we do in our spheres of influence in order to engage wisely with teens struggling in these areas?

A biblical perspective

From a biblical perspective, community and connection serve as conduits for growth. God designed us for relationships (Gen. 2). God did not intend for man to walk through life alone. We see clearly the relational aspect divinely created within us from the very beginning. Thus, it makes good sense that relationships would serve as instruments of healing. We have the opportunity, then, to relationally connect with the teens in our lives to help them navigate the murky waters of anxiety and depression. 

Oftentimes, in the midst of anxiety or depression, vision narrows. We tend to zoom in on the current troubles. Little problems turn into big problems that seem almost unbearable to endure. We begin to feel hopeless and helpless, and then the despair and anxiety kick in. Who will we point our teens to when that happens? 

As we walk with teens struggling with anxiety and depression, we have the beautiful opportunity to point them to Jesus Christ, who sees, understands, and cares.

Our greatest help and hope comes from the Lord. Throughout Scripture, we read of men and women who experienced real emotions. They dealt with significant suffering. Specifically, the Psalms give us beautiful examples of experiencing deep emotion while running to God in the midst of those heavy feelings. We are given permission to feel the hard emotions and also welcomed to bring them to our mighty yet compassionate Father. And Jesus urges us to come to him with our weariness and our burdens (Matt. 11:28). This reorientation anchors our souls back to truth that gives us the endurance to bear up under suffering that may not cease during our lifetime.

Practical steps

Here are a few practical steps that will help us point our teens to Jesus. 

  1. Perspective: Offer teens a different perspective. Reorient their gaze from the present suffering to Christ and the big picture. Ask questions like: “What feels heavy right now?” “How can I support you best right now?” “How might you see this situation from a different perspective?” 
  2. Redemption: After affirming their feelings and normalizing their experience, we can point them to Jesus. In Jesus, we have redemption, hope, and a future. If your teen’s experience reminds you of a certain story in Scripture or a specific passage, share it with them. 
  3. Awe: Jesus came to the earth to walk as a man. He sympathizes with our weaknesses, and he is the God of the universe. That reality should lead us to praise the God that would come to earth for us. Encourage your teen to keep a gratitude journal—a list of all the things they are thankful for. They can download a gratitude journal app or write it in a notebook. If your teen wants to take it a step further, encourage them to say a prayer of thanks to God, who has provided all these blessings. 
  4. Inspire: We have the opportunity to instill hope and inspire our teens to walk a different path than the world. God walks with us. He helps us. He strengthens us. He holds us. He sustains us. 
    Be honest with your teen about times you have been or currently are facing anxiety. This honesty not only builds connection, but it gives you the opportunity to model facing anxiety with courage from Jesus. Invite them into a conversation. You can say something like, “I am anxious, too. I don’t know how this situation will turn out, and that makes me afraid. Here is what I am doing to run to Jesus when I feel worried. What do you think?” 
    In addition, exploring how other men and women of faith dealt with their anxiety or depression can inspire teens, as well. Hearing others’ stories of struggle and faith lets them know that they aren’t alone and it provides a model of someone trusting Jesus in the midst of adversity. Here are some examples: David (Psas. 6, 27, 56); Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-39; Mark 14:32-36; Luke 22:39-45); Corrie ten Boom (A Hiding Place); and Joni Erickson Tada (Jonia: An Unforgettable Story).
  5. Surrender: As we walk through life, we do have a decision to make in whether or not we will surrender to Jesus. As we walk with teens, we will have the opportunity to work through moments of surrender with them. Who will they choose to follow: the world or Jesus? The battles of anxiety and depression oftentime happen in the mind. Help them evaluate: What am I tempted to believe in this moment? Is it true/untrue? How can I replace this with the truth of Scripture?
  6. Endure: When we choose Jesus, we then have strength to endure through trials, anxiety, and depression. This endurance in the midst of anxiety and depression with joy and peace tells the world that a different way exists. We act differently because Jesus has changed us. He walked a different way, which we reflect every time we respond to anxiety or depression with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus Christ. 

Although we might not be able to guarantee complete freedom from anxiety and depression, we can help our teens prepare for future moments of anxiety. Self-regulating tools are God’s grace to them in the wake of hard emotions. Here are a few examples:

  • Breathing Exercises
    • Box breathing 
    • 4-7-8: Inhale for 4 seconds. Hold for 7 seconds. Exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat at least three times. 
    • Breath counting: Take a few deep breaths. Settle into a pattern of normal breathing. Each time you exhale, count “one.” Keep counting until you reach five, and then repeat as needed. 
  • Grounding Exercise
    • Identify 5 things you see 
    • Identify 4 things you feel
    • Identify 3 things you hear
    • Identify 2 things you smell
    • Identify 1 thing you taste 


While life does not get better or easier by following Jesus, he gives us supernatural strength to walk with him faithfully. This produces character and joy in the process (Rom. 5:4-5). As we walk with teens struggling with anxiety and depression, we have the beautiful opportunity to point them to Jesus Christ, who sees, understands, and cares. 

What are we offering the teens in front of us? If it isn’t Jesus, it is a simple solution that offers the “just” remedy. “Just take care of yourself.” “Just think happy thoughts.” “Just tune out negative voices.” You get the idea. Good advice doesn’t start with “just.” It starts with Jesus. Look to Jesus. He offers himself, and in that offering, he gives peace and hope that significantly outweighs our present sufferings (2 Cor. 4:17) as we seek to fix our gaze firmly on him.


Swick, S. D., & Jellinek, M. S. (2019, June). Are anxiety, depression rates rising in kids, teens? Pediatric News, 53(6), 14+. Retrieved from

Unknown Author. (2020, March 30). Anxiety and Depression in Children. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

By / Mar 30

COVID-19 has brought on an uncertain, unprecedented season that will likely spur a mental health crisis. Multiple factors are involved:

  • Anxiety from the 24-hour news cycle; 
  • The inability to meet with people for gatherings like church and events;
  • Stress from adapting to ever-changing working environments, suddenly homeschooling, learning new technology, and not being able to afford childcare or find toilet paper; 
  • Bank tellers, grocery store clerks, pharmacy workers, gas station attendants, truck drivers working to keep things rolling; 
  • Healthcare workers risking their health and the health of their families to help others;
  • People in authority having to make tough decisions; 
  • Relatives unable to visit sick family members or nursing home residents; 
  • People closing their businesses and losing their jobs, wondering when and if they will receive a paycheck again and if the job will be waiting for them when this passes. 

As someone who has dealt with clinical anxiety and depression for most of my life, I can offer a few tips to those who are discovering this feeling for the first time.

1. Talk to someone

We need community because we weren’t made to be alone (Gen. 2:18). Now that we are unable to gather together physically, we need to adapt and build virtual community. Thankfully, technology is advanced enough to keep everyone connected. Churches can stream services. Small groups can video chat. You can send messages across a multitude of apps. Regular phones still work, too.

If you are struggling, talk to someone with whom you feel comfortable. Don’t feel ashamed. You are not alone and don’t have to bear the burden by yourself. If you can’t think of anyone, reach out to a mental health professional. Many clinics are doing telehealth visits and can help you over the phone.

If you aren’t struggling at the moment, be intentional about checking in on those close to you. Make sure they are doing well and have what they need. Send them an encouraging word or Scripture. Try to help direct their attention away from a constant influx of COVID-19 information.

2. Cling to God’s promises

God’s people have always needed reminders of what God has done for them and what he has promised to do. The Jews in the wilderness were worried about food but needed to remember that they had witnessed God part the Red Sea in order to save them (Ex. 16). God’s people who cried out for judges to deliver them quickly forgot their desperation for him and reverted back to their sinful ways (Judges). And there are many other examples throughout the Bible. James reminded suffering Christians of this beautiful truth: 

“As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:10-11).

If you are in a dark place mentally, I recommend grabbing a journal, notebook, or piece of paper and writing down the lies that you are believing, anxieties you are feeling, or negative thoughts that are on repeat in your mind. Then, write three biblical truths that combat what you wrote. Try to do this at every occurrence. Over time, this will come easier, and you won’t need to write it down. You’ll be conditioned to speak truth to yourself and will then be able to speak truth into others’ lives.

God keeps his Word. He will provide. It may not be what you want or are used to, but it will be what you need. God feeds and clothes the birds and the flowers; will he not do the same for his sons and daughters (Matt. 6:25-34)? If earthly parents give good gifts to their children, how much more will our Father in heaven give his children who ask (Matt. 7:9-11)? The Old Testament prophets held fast to the promises of a Messiah even though they didn’t see them fulfilled in their lifetimes. But we have more—we have the Christ—the promise fulfilled—and live for his return, when all will be restored.

3. Keep (or develop) an eternal perspective

Suffering is part of the Christian life. It will purify our faith and will result in glory and honor (1 Pet. 1:3-9). But it won’t last. When my fleeting time on this earth comes to an end, I will be in a place with no pain or suffering or anxiety. I will be where I belong—a home that has been prepared for me (John 14:3). That’s why I’m not afraid of a novel, widespread virus. It may make me ill or take my life, but I will gain the end goal, and that can never be taken from me (John 6:37-40). My inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and kept in heaven (1 Pet. 1:4). Christian, this is the hope that we have. And hope does not put us to shame (Rom. 5:3-5).

I pray that this hope brings you peace (John 14:27) and shines brightly to the rest of the dark world. Our living hope is the greatest witness to others in these times. Remain steadfast. I can’t tell you how long this season will last, but I can tell you that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He doesn’t guarantee tomorrow on earth, but he guarantees an eternity with him for those who believe that he sent his son to die for us (John 3:16). May peace be with you in these troubled times, and may these words from Peter be a balm to your soul: 

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet.5:8-11).


By / Mar 24

Kay Warren shares encouragement she would give to the Christian struggling with mental illness.

By / Feb 18

What does the person with mental illness want the Church to know?

By / Dec 19

When I was a kid, one of my favorite stories was “The Little Match Girl,” by Hans Christian Anderson. She was a poor child who sold matches in the frozen streets around Christmas time. As she wandered through icy alleys, she could smell hot food cooking in the houses. She could see warm fires and decorated trees sparkling through the windows. But then the cold overcame her—both physical and spiritual—and she began to see visions of the joy set before her, beyond this world, in heaven.

I relate strongly with that little girl. Like her, my father was cruel and unloving. Like her, the world around seemed cold and apathetic. Like her, I felt I was peeking through windowpanes at joy I could not have. I was an outsider. I was unwanted. A cold and callous world was indifferent to my plight.

At 15, I overheard my dad telling my mom what a beautiful figure he thought I was developing. I’d always known something was wrong about him, but as I matured, my understanding deepened. The hope that God would change him had long kept me from despairing, but that day, my hope died. As I heard those words, truth punched me in the gut. I realized my dad was a sexual predator, and he wasn’t getting better.

That afternoon, I sat on my bed with a razor blade against my wrist. Through tears, I begged God to forgive me for what I was about to do. I asked him to give me a sign that he loved me; that he’d take care of me; that he wouldn’t abandon me. I told God I couldn’t live in so much pain any longer, and I begged him to take me to be with him in heaven.

But something happened then which I consider miraculous. The Word of God from Hebrews 13:5 filled my whole being as he reminded me of his promise: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Immediately, my tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy. As Paul said in Romans 8, I was convinced that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation” could separate me from the love of my true Father through Jesus my Lord.

And so, I chose to live.

When you were saved, God began a process of healing in your soul. He began a good work in you, and though at times you may feel hopeless, he will carry his work through to completion (Phil. 1:6).

Had God not done a powerful work in my life, I’d never have grown up or met my husband. Our three beautiful daughters would never have been born. I still struggle with depression and anxiety, but I’ve learned to anticipate the grief that comes in waves, and those waves have grown smaller the farther I get from their source.

What I’ve learned about depression and suicidal thoughts 

I used to think my heart was like a scale; if I put enough joy on one side, I could outweigh the pain on the other. I’ve come to realize that happiness doesn’t cancel out pain. If you have a broken leg, all the joy in the world won’t make you rise up and walk. Just so, broken hearts must be allowed to heal. If you or someone you love struggles with depression or suicidal thoughts, here are some things I’ve learned, both from life and from God.

1. Suicidal thoughts are often lies rooted in reality

Often, we have good reason to be sad. We live in a world where people are evil, tragedy happens, and death reigns. Whether your depression is the result of a distressing experience, a chemical imbalance in your brain, or a combination of both, there is often a logical reason for it. Take comfort in this: You’re not nonsensical. You’re not imagining things. Your feelings are real, even if they are telling you lies. Acknowledging the reality of your grief, and identifying the cause, is the first step in learning to cope with it. Getting help, whether through counseling, seeking safety in the midst of an unhealthy or dangerous circumstance, or going to a doctor is crucial to helping you make it through your struggle. 

2. Sorrow isn’t sin

Too often, we’re told that depression is sinful. When we’re overcome with sorrow, we can feel as if we’re expected to pray our pain away or suck it up and rejoice in the Lord. That would be great if it worked, but this advice usually deepens our despair by making us feel inadequate. Now, in addition to drowning in sadness, we’re weighed down by shame. 

Yet, we can be comforted in knowing our Savior faced sorrow. He wept (John 11:35). And he was so distressed in the Garden of Gethsemane that he sweated blood (Luke 22.44). Jesus, the holy and sinless Son of God, knows how it feels to suffer and grieve. Your sorrow doesn’t separate you from God. Rather, it enables you to relate with him in a uniquely personal and profoundly beautiful way.

3. Suicidal thoughts are convincing lies

The most dangerous lies are blended with truth. Depression and suicidal thoughts are no exception. They take the happiest things in our lives—our loved ones, our accomplishments, our hope for the future—and constrict them in cords of pain. We fear we’re a burden to those around us; that we’re ruining our spouse’s life; that we’re damaging our children. As those cords twist tighter, we begin to believe everyone would be better off without us. 

But this is devoid of grace. We forget that we are merely human, that those around us never expected us to be perfect. We forget that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We forget that our deaths would bring sorrow and pain. We also forget that what makes us valuable isn’t some measure of perfection. Rather, it’s that we are loved by God and made in his image. When you were saved, God began a process of healing in your soul. He began a good work in you, and though at times you may feel hopeless, he will carry his work through to completion (Phil. 1:6).

4. Your feelings aren’t who you are

When I was a teenager, I knew a woman named Leah. She had never met a stranger. She was bubbly, exuberant, and had the most infectious laugh. But one day, Leah confided to me that she perceived herself as shy. She felt her anxieties, insecurities, and uncertainties, and those feelings informed her perception of herself. Regardless of how she felt on the inside, Leah was the life of every party.

It’s important to understand that even though you may feel hopeless, useless, or like a burden on others, you are none of these things. Your emotions are important, but they do not define you. Your feelings are real, but they don’t always reflect reality.

Depression can be like a mirror maze. We can’t always rely on our own senses to tell us what is real. We may need help from the outside to guide us out. So, as soon as you begin to feel trapped in that maze of sorrow, confide in a loved one or counselor. Tell them about the mirage of despair, the deception of hopelessness, and let them tell you what’s real and what’s false. Let them comfort you through the confusion, and be with you in the illusion of isolation.

5. God understands your despair

Did you know that God speaks about depression and suicidal thoughts in the Bible? In fact, there are three men in particular who struggled with despair:

Job wished he had never been born. He lamented not dying at birth and that his mother nursed him and kept him alive (Job 3:1-26). Elijah witnessed rampant evil going unchecked. When he held the wicked leaders in Israel accountable, they threatened him with death. Afraid for his life and exhausted from fleeing, Elijah prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (I Kings 19:1-4). And the Preacher in Ecclesiastes recalled despairing at the vanity of life, saying, “I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun” (Eccl. 4:2-3).

God responds to these men in three beautiful ways, all of which should be comforting to us. First, he reminds us that he is sovereign. In Job 38-41, God reassures Job that he is all-powerful. He recounts how he laid the foundations of the earth “while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy.” He created Job too, and he did so for a reason. No amount of sin or suffering can foil God’s sovereign plan. In response, Job says, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

Second, he cares about our health. In 1 Kings 19:5-7, God’s response to Elijah’s despair is strikingly practical. After Elijah takes a nap, God sends an angel. Rather than giving him a pep talk, the angel tells Elijah to rest and eat. God knows we are weak. He understands that our physical needs often affect our mental state. He wants us to take good care of ourselves; to sleep well, eat right, exercise, and seek medical care, especially when we’re struggling.

Finally, he assures us he is just. In Ecclesiastes, the Preacher concludes, “God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.” If your grief is rooted in a painful past, rest assured, God will judge the ungodly who have wronged you. There is no statute of limitations in the courtroom of heaven, and you don’t have to prove anything to him. God was there when you were wronged, God is with you still, and God is holy.

Combating lies with the truth 

Here is the conclusion of the matter: You were created for a reason. God placed you right here, right now, for a purpose. There is no pain you can feel, and no evil you can endure, that Jesus cannot empathize with. He will shepherd you through the valley of the shadow of death. We need fear no evil, for Christ is with us (Psa. 23:4).

Someday, very soon, you’ll meet Jesus face to face. Whether he returns in power and glory today, or you live out your years and join him in heaven, you will overcome this present evil age (Gal. 1:4). Then, at the perfect time, in the twinkling of an eye, we will be changed (1 Cor. 15:52). He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more depression, anxiety, fear, or evil, for the exhausting old ways of sin and death will die (Rev. 21:4).

This life is a season. These waves of sorrow are a season. Like grass, we wither, and like flowers, we fall, but those who love Jesus will never perish (1 Pet. 1:24; John 3:16). Jesus laid down his life for you, and he has defeated death itself. Like David, we can choose to live our lives in the knowledge that God is faithful, saying, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord” (Psa. 27:13-14).

By / Nov 19

Jennifer Michelle Greenberg shares how the gospel speaks of hope in the battle with depression. 

By / Oct 9

National Mental Illness Awareness Week is traditionally held in early October to draw attention to the struggles of the 20% of adults and children who experience a mental health disorder in any given year. I have been tremendously encouraged by the proliferation of churches implementing influential and creative ministry strategies to share Christ’s love with individuals and families affected by the full range of mental health conditions since last year's awareness week.  

Several influences are serving as catalysts to the new interest in mental health ministry. Research published by LifeWay over the past five years has pointed out the need for more effective ministry for families impacted by severe mental illness along with the need to reexamine church processes when members approach pastors and church staff because they are or a loved one is contemplating suicide. Several ministries with a national scope have emerged to resource churches with an interest in mental health. Finally, denominations and organizations such as the ERLC have done a wonderful job of increasing awareness of mental health concerns.  

Our Key Ministry team has connected with many churches seeking to implement a mental health ministry plan. Here are seven ideas we've seen implemented that churches might consider in the coming year.  

1. Preaching on mental health-related topics. According to the LifeWay study, the most common response from family members when asked how churches might better assist them in caring for loved ones with mental illness was to talk more openly about mental illness so that that the topic is not taboo. Pastors seeking an example of a sermon series on mental health might check out the messages Rick Warren shared at Saddleback Church in the aftermath of  suicide.

One senior pastor followed a weekend mental health training for staff and volunteers by opening Sunday morning worship with a prayer for everyone present suffering from depression. Our team has participated in Mental Health Sundays hosted by local churches to launch or increase awareness of their ministries. One of the most powerful experiences I witnessed during a Mental Health Sunday was a "conversation" hosted by the pastor between services in which several highly respected church members shared their personal experiences with mental illness.  

2. Offering biblically-sound mental health education and support groups for education, encouragement, and support. The Grace Alliance was launched nearly 10 years ago by a Baylor University neuropsychology professor and a Baptist pastor caring for his wife as she received treatment for bipolar disorder. They provide a model for Grace Groups for individuals, families, and college students hosted by churches in every region of the country. Fresh Hope is another national ministry organization offering Christ-centered peer support groups in over 25 states and six countries.

3. Helping members and attendees access mental health services, including high quality counseling. The LifeWay mental illness study revealed a huge disconnect between perceptions of pastors and family members regarding availability of mental health referral lists to members in need—68% of pastors (but only 28% of family members of someone with acute mental illness) reported their church maintains such a list. 

A large church in our home region supported the creation of Fieldstone Counseling, a network of counseling centers supporting the needs of local church members. Counseling centers develop partnerships with churches in the communities they serve. Khesed Wellness is a nonprofit organization in Colorado that places licensed mental health professionals who agree to see clients for a discounted fee in office space donated by local churches.  

4. Educating church staff and volunteers. More and more pastors and staff members are attending trainings focused on helping families of children with common mental health or developmental disabilities overcome the challenges they experience in attending church. We're seeing increases in the number of churches training staff in mental health first aidand trauma-informed careSeminarieshave begun to schedule mental health training events for pastors, alumni, and students.

5. Opening a mental health resource center. Crossroads Church in central Ohio opened a mental health resource boothin a prominent location with free resources from NAMI, other educational resources and brochures from counseling centers personally vetted by members of the mental health ministry team. A team member staffs the booth at all worship services to make personal connections. Jeremy Smith is a counselor who serves on their mental health team and authors the Church and Mental Health blog. He developed a series of mental health awareness cardsdistributed through the resource booth available for use by other churches. 

6. Establishing a suicide protection policy. Awareness of a need for churches to develop and implement suicide protection policies has intensified as a result of the steep increases in suicide rates reported among teenagers and adults in the U.S.; the observation that many Americans approach pastors as first responders during a mental health crisis; and the extensive publicity around the suicide of Jarrid Wilson, a young pastor, author, and mental health advocate. Here's one example of such a policy, available for churches to adapt to their local situations.

7. Providing tangible help to affected individuals and families. One simple, yet powerful way to express care for families in the midst of a mental health crisis is to provide casseroles and other prepared meals if the church does so for families experiencing other medical crises.   

The vast preponderance of families caring for children and teens with serious emotional disturbances have little or no access to respite care. Churches offering respite events for children with special needs can welcome families of children with severe mental illness by eliminating requirements for parents to identify their child's disability at registration.   

This list is not exhaustive, but it’s a start. Is your church doing something that's working well in ministry with families impacted by mental illness that you didn't see here? Our ministry team would love to hear from you and explore how we might help you share your church's strategy with a larger audience.  

By / Oct 7

I spend a lot of my time thinking through mental health and faith, as well as helping church communities do the same, and I’m encouraged. I’m encouraged by society’s attempts to reduce the stigma surrounding depression and anxiety. I’m encouraged by the Church’s efforts to do the same. My experience has been that Christians are willing to talk about mental health. Yet we can often struggle to know what to do or say. We want to help, but we don’t know how. Yet, this is a great start. 

A simple way to help 

I believe there’s one powerful way the Church can take mental health more seriously, and it’s so simple you may have overlooked it. 

One of the things I’ve realized during my journey of living with depression is the blessing that could be found in all the resources God gives us. He gives us doctors and psychologists to help treat us, and that’s a great mercy. This is not the Church’s role. We aren’t meant to diagnose. But there is something we can do to take mental health more seriously. Love. 

The Church can love.

One of the greatest heartaches of living with a mental illness is how unloveable you feel. Often the most difficult person in your world is yourself, and you can tell yourself all kinds of lies and words of condemnation. “I’m not good enough,” “What’s the point?,” “Why would anyone want to spend time with me? With this?”

We need to take mental health seriously because, like any other kind of frailty, our gospel genuinely makes a difference.

This is why the gospel is a soothing balm to the lies of mental illness, because we’re reminded at our core that we are so deeply loved, and that God’s love is not dependent on our lovability. The more the Church can represent that truth with its love toward one another, the greater the outcome can be. 

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship … Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality (Rom. 12:1, 9-13).

Three practical suggestions

We need to take mental health seriously because, like any other kind of frailty, our gospel genuinely makes a difference. And so, what does love look like in a context of mental illness? Here are three practical suggestions that may help you get started:

1. Be consistent. If your friendship is built on a common interest in watching or playing sports, keep offering to watch or play sports. If it’s spending time at a cafe, catch up at your favorite spot. Depending on how he or she is feeling at the time, your loved one may not always take you up on the invitation. But consistency shows that the relationship is safe, no matter what the season.

2. Listen well. Love is not a doormat, and if you think there is advice that would help your loved one in his or her time of need, you should feel free to speak it. But do it slowly. If you notice a change that you’re concerned about, make sure you ask plenty of questions first. Rather than leading with a statement like, “I think you’re depressed,” a question like, “You seem a bit flat at the moment, is everything OK?” allows your loved one to speak for themselves and creates a tone that is much more open to conversation.

3. Recommend a local doctor. If, after chatting further, you still have concerns, suggesting your loved see his or her doctor is one of the best things you can do. Doctors are the gateway to a range of many other health services, and so bringing them into the conversation can make a huge difference. You may even like to offer to go with your friend to the initial appointment, assuming this is something he or she is open to. 

Through it all, make sure you remember that loving your neighbor is not the same as saving, or fixing, your neighbor. It can be heartbreaking to see loved ones spiral into poor health, but we can’t control the outcome of anyone’s life. We’re simply asked to see what opportunities we have to love that are in front of us, and steward them for God’s glory and the welfare of one another. 

When I see that happening, I’m encouraged. But more importantly, God is glorified. 

By / Aug 8

The conversation about mental illness is becoming more prevalent in our society—and that’s a good thing. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that “approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year.” Mental illness, while not easily defined, can range from a plethora of different hindrances and disorders that make normal, everyday life a challenge or borderline impossible for the individual. For the context of this piece, the disorders I will reference are those more common in our larger discussions as a society such as depression and anxiety.

What does the Bible say about mental illness?

The conversation on mental illness and its validity have been controversial at times, especially among those within the faith. It is important to note that the Bible never explicitly speaks about mental illness in terms of how we would define it in modern times. Even so, more churches are experiencing the effects of mental illness within their congregations. Treatment and care have been topics that many have debated, and while these questions are not easily answered, the Bible provides insight on how we should view and respond to those who are battling with their own minds.

Mental illness can be a physical issue

We know that one of the consequences of the fall is the corruption of God’s good and perfect creation of our bodies (2 Cor. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:42; Psa. 73:26; Isa. 40:30). Our earthly lives are limited, and eventually, our bodies will fail us. This also applies to our minds. Throughout Scripture, we see biblical figures such as David (Psa. 38:4), Job (Job 3:26), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), and Jonah (Jonah 4:3) dealing with deep feelings of despair, anger, depression, and loneliness. While some of these things can be attributed to spiritual warfare, it can be of a physical nature. Since we know that our bodies are prone to go awry at times, it’s possible that what we are experiencing is related to chemical imbalances or other things happening within our brains.

If this is the case, Jesus gives an example of how we should care for one’s physical needs in the parable of the Good Samaritan. When the Samaritan comes across the badly injured man on the side of the road, he takes him to be bandaged and cared for until he recovers (Luke 10:34). Other places throughout Scripture show God’s people using elements from the earth such as leaves and figs to assist in the healing process from physical ailments (Ezk. 47:12; 1 Tim. 5:23; Isa. 38:21).  Taking medication in the midst of mental illness doesn’t show a lack of faith in the ability of the Lord to sustain us through the suffering. Rather, it may allow some to experience God with more clarity.

Mental illness can be a spiritual issue

Perhaps, in some cases, our depression, anxiety, or any other thing that we would consider to be mental illness may have a connection to our disobedience and sin toward God. While we know that those who have placed their trust in Christ have freedom from condemnation for their sins (Rom. 8:1), we may experience its earthly consequences. When we are confronted with the brokenness of ourselves and our sin, the conviction may be overwhelming and give us feelings of grief and despair. We see this take place when David is confronted with his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband (Psa. 51; 1 Kings 12). We also see characters where their mental state is somehow connected to their spiritual state (Dan. 4:28-33; 1 Sam. 16:14) Lastly, there are numerous accounts where the spiritual and physical seem to be connected, such as the account of Legion in the New Testament (Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39). From these examples, the hope we have in the midst of mental suffering is that the Lord knows, hears, can heal, and is always ready to forgive our sins when we come to him (1 John 1:9).

God is close to those who are suffering

What is constant throughout Scripture is that God provides comfort to the suffering and meets the needs of the brokenhearted (Psa. 34:18, Psa. 145:18). His Word promises that those who are in the midst of suffering, whether experiencing death or depression, have the hope that everything is working together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28). It is outside of God’s character to senselessly torment those he loves (Lam. 3:31-33). We know that the trials that we are experiencing on this earth, while difficult and uncomfortable, are for the testing of our faith (James 1:2), to produce endurance and character (Rom. 5:3-5), and are never without purpose.

How do we respond?

Mental illness can affect any of us. Whether a pastor, Sunday school teacher, or faithful churchgoer, the suspected struggle of mental illness should not be a source of shame or be kept hidden. The Church should be a place of safety and community, where those who are struggling can be honest, ask people to rally around them in prayer, and be assisted in seeking professional help.

When we encounter people who suffer with mental illness, we should be hesitant to provide our opinion on what the source is or how it should be solved. This issue and human beings are complex. Heath Lambert said it best: “Caring for people means being alert to physical problems that require medical treatments and spiritual problems that require Christ and his Word.”

Most of us are not mental health experts, so we should stick to what we do know: God is good, loves us, and does not forsake his people. Pray with those who are struggling within your church. Treat them as fellow image-bearers. Encourage them to seek professional and medical help, if need be. Be available. Walk with them, shouldering one another’s burdens in order to fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). Only then will we love as Christ loved and care well for those who are hurting.