We know in our heads that God is with us always (Isaiah 41:10), that He will never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6), but sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we cannot see God, hear God, or feel His loving Presence in our lives.
Five chapters into Job’s story, we read, “human beings are born to trouble as readily as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7 NRSV) We are broken people, living in a broken world, surrounded by broken family and friends – every single one of us “born to trouble.”
MENTAL ILLNESS CRASHED INTO THE WORLD
Mental illness crashed into the world the moment Adam’s teeth broke the skin of the forbidden fruit, and it has waged war with God’s precious people ever since.
In Psalm 88:6 NASB, David wrote, “You have put me in the lowest pit, In dark places, in the depths … You have afflicted me with all Your waves.”
And in his nineteenth century sermon, Honey in the Mouth, Charles Spurgeon said, “The mind can descend far lower than the body, for in it there are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour.”
God knows us intimately, and He understands our struggles completely. There is not a single hair on a single head that He hasn’t counted, or a briefest shadow that He’s missed, or the smallest mutation of DNA He doesn’t know. He is with us every moment of every day, without fail, even when we cannot see Him or hear Him or feel Him.
Anguish, despair, grief, loss, pain, and sorrow fill the pages of Job’s extraordinary story and line the Psalms of lament:
- “If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the san of the seas…” (Job 6:2-3 NIVUK)
- “I will not keep silent. In the agony of my spirit, I will speak; In the bitterness of my soul, I will complain.” (Job 7:11 VOICE)
- “Sorrows fill my heart as I feel helpless, mistreated—I’m all alone and in misery! Come closer to me now, for I need your mercy.” (Psalm 25:16)
- “Why am I so sad? Why am I so troubled?” (Psalm 42:5 GNT)
- “I have wept until I am exhausted; my throat is dry and hoarse; my eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to act.” (Psalm 69:3 TLB)
- “My soul is deeply troubled, and my heart can’t bear the weight of this sorrow. I feel so close to death.” (Psalm 88:3 VOICE)
Yet what God allows, He has also purposed. We rejoice in, celebrate in, boast in, shout our praise even when, and “glory in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope.” (Romans 5:3-4 NIV)
“And hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts with God’s love. (Romans 5:5 VOICE)
“[T]he short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
One day there will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more darkness, no more anguish, and no more tears. “Behold,” says Almighty God, “I am making all things new.” (Revelation 3:4-5 AMP)
HOW TO LEAN INTO THE KINDNESS OF GOD WHEN YOUR HEART IS HEAVY
WORDS TO PRAY WHEN YOUR HEART IS HEAVY
Soul’s True Shelter
Please, God, show me mercy!
Open your grace-fountain for me,
for you are my soul’s true shelter.
I will hide beneath the shadow of your embrace,
under the wings of your cherubim,
until this terrible trouble is past.
(Psalm 57:1 TPT)
Break Into My Confusion
Break into my confusion, Lord.
Help me to know who I am
and what I am meant to be.
Guide, uphold, and strengthen me
as I leave behind the world
of limits and labels.
My Heart is Heavy
Father, my heart is heavy. I feel like I have to carry the burden alone. Words like “overwhelmed,” “distraught,” “exhausted” seem to describe where I am. I am not sure how to let you carry my heavy load, so please show me how. Take it from me. Let me rest and be refreshed so that my heart won’t be so heavy in the morning. In Jesus’ name. Amen. prayerist.com
Lord, hold me in this darkness.
Comfort me with Your unceasing love.
Fill me with Your abounding hope,
Sustain me in Your Spirit
and remind me often on
this winding journey home,
that these are precious days
of mercy multiplied.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
You Are So Loved
Do you love yourself like God loves you? Do you live like you’re valuable? Do you live like you’re set free? You have only ONE identity, and it’s found in Jesus Christ. Only He is qualified to define you, to remind you of who you are, of who He created you to be, and of who you can become in Him as He sets you free.
Verses to Comfort & Encourage
The most significant thing we can do when we’re lonely, anxious, afraid, or overwhelmed, is to turn to the One who knows us and loves us completely – the God of all comfort.
Emotions Wheel • 14 Ways to Make a Difficult Day Brighter
A tool designed to help us identify and communicate our emotions. It begins at the center with six core emotions (angry, bad, disgusted, fearful, happy, sad, and surprised).
Stewardship of Courage
The stewardship of courage begins with a deep faith in God, accessed by prayer, and lived out in patient waiting and hopeful trust.
Biblical Purpose • Understanding Our God-Given Purpose
Understanding our God-given purpose is the reason something exists or was created, the reason we act or choose not to act, it encompasses intentions and objectives.
Build an Ebenezer • Remembering God's Faithfulness
God’s people built Ebenezers to anchor them in truth in the midst of frightening, painful, difficult, or challenging circumstances.
Anxiety • Sensory and Gratitude Exercises
When the winds of anxiety begin to blow and the waves roll and the thunder comes, God invites us to lean a little deeper in Him. Each of these exercises is designed to help breathe a little easier and lean into arms of God.
Writing a Psalm of Lament
Step in slowly. Sit with God. Allow yourself time and space to feel and experience your pain. When you’re ready, take up your pen, and explore the precious and life-giving gift of lament.
Depression Self • Care Action Plan
Depression can make it difficult to practice and implement healthy self-care. Building an Action Plan gives you quick concrete steps each day.
Praying the Psalms & Writing a Psalm of Prayer
What is your favorite Psalm? Why? When did you choose it? What was happening in your life at the time? Have you ever considered writing your own Psalm?
Prayer for Mental Illness
What if instead of trying to get rid of anxiety we learn the strengths that come with it? I believed anxiety was a powerful enemy. I’m learning it’s a potential ally.
Slowly, God’s promises and grace penetrated the lies I had believed and replaced them in my mind. God's peace passes all understanding.
The way I see it, anxiety’s not always a criminal who picks the lock of your soul and takes you hostage until you give something up, whatever that “something” is. Though it does feel as if anxiety breaks into our souls like a thief, he doesn’t seem to want to take something and go. He stays. He lingers.
This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Breaks into Our Darkness
Amid the daily realities of sickness and isolation, disappointment and pain, it can be profoundly difficult to grasp the real goodness of God. But this is where God breaks into our darkness with beauty. In the wonder of creation, in art or film, story or song, in the kindness of his people and the good they create, God breaks into our pain in a tangible way, teaching us to trust his kindness and hope for his healing.
Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions
Do you ever feel like your emotions are working against you? We may sometimes find ourselves stuffing down our emotions, exploding with emotions, or reacting in unhealthy ways, but it’s possible to make our emotions work for us. The good news is, God gave us emotions to experience life, not destroy it. Learn to use our emotions for good.
The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd
John Piper invites you into the lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd to discover how God takes the privilege of faith and strengthens it with trials so that we experience a greater hunger for him. The perseverance of these godly servants exemplifies the essential fruit that affliction can produce in your own life.
A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God In the Lost Language of Lament
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- Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:45)
- Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. (1 Samuel 12:16)
- Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lordby ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. (1 Samuel 12:23)
- You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. (Nehemiah 9:6)
- Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! (Psalm 4:1)
- In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)
- Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. (Psalm 5:1-2; 11)
- But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13:5, 6)
- May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion! May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans! May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions! (Psalm 20:1-5)
- I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul. (Psalm 31:7)
- Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:8, 18-19)
- Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:8)
- But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy! Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the Lord; exult before him! (Psalm 68:3-4)
- Summon your power, O God, the power, O God, by which you have worked for us. (Psalm 68:28)
- You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. (Psalm 71:20)
- When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. (Psalm 94:19)
- I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted.” (Psalm 116:10)
- My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! (Psalm 119:28)
- The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. (Psalm 138:8)
- Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:8)
- Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:18, 20-21)
- O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble. (Isaiah 33:2)
- When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2)
- Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:4, 13-14)
- For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish. (Jeremiah 31:25)
- Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:27)
- Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:18)
- And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
- Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah (Philippians 1:6)
WHAT TO SAY/WRITE/TEXT
- Know that you are loved and prayed for today.
- My heart aches with you and for you today.
- I have experienced loss, and I am so sorry for what you are going through.
- If you have a specific prayer request, I’d be honored to pray for you. But in the meantime, know that I’m praying for you and asking God how to pray for you best.
- You are so loved! What specific thing can I do and/or provide that would help you right now? Let me know – and if you don’t have any ideas, I have suggestions.
Taken from Fight Back with Joy, Margaret Feinberg, pp. 180 – 182.
- The Shalom of Neurochemistry, Krispin Mayfield, Christianity Today: The Behemoth
- What Christians Need to Know About Mental Health, Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience
- Suffering and the Heart of God: Interview with Diane Langberg, PhD, Richard Doster, byFaith, May, 2016
- Reaching Out to the Mentally Ill, Susan Fikse, byFaith Online
- Can Churches Separate Mental Illness and Shame? Christine Scheller, Christianity Today
- Loving the 26 Percent, Amy Simpson, Christianity Today
Sacred Sorrow, by Pastor Lawrence Bowlin
- The Valley, Ellie Holcomb
- Joy Beyond Sorrow, Indelible Grace
- Praise You in This Storm, Casting Crowns
- Our God, Chris Tomlin
- Beautiful Things, Gungor
- How Great is Our God, Chris Tomlin
- Mighty to Save, Jeremy Camp
- Come as You Are, Crowder
- 10,000 Reasons, Rend Collective
- Bring on the Wonder, Sarah McLachlan
- Be Still, The Fray
- Healing Begins, Tenth Avenue North
- You Are More, Tenth Avenue North
- My Help Comes from the Lord, The Museum
- Lift Up Your Face, Third Day
- Grace Like Rain, Todd Agnew
- Good, Good Father, Chris Tomlin
- Why Exercise? Anxiety and the Brain (Part 2 of a 6-part series), L.L. Barkat
- Why Exercise? Depression and the Brain (Part 3 of a 6-part series), L.L. Barkat