Challenges to Humanity

Yes, God is with You (and Other Truths for Anxious and Depressed People)

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Anxiety and Depression—these words and the difficult realities to which they refer can seem omnipresent in our society. Of course, the mental health crisis is not ubiquitous, but the data is clear: people are hurting, including people in our churches.[1]

Seeing people, especially young people, suffering from chronic anxiety and depression over the last few years has grieved me deeply.[2] Thankfully, as Christians, we do not mourn the current mental health crisis without hope. Indeed, as Tim Keller said, the Christian faith gives us “unparalleled spiritual resources” for dealing with suffering, be it physical or mental.[3]

The world is in desperate need of the spiritual resources the Christian faith provides those suffering from mental health problems, as secular therapy and medical intervention are not resolving the issue.[4] We certainly need to address the biological contributions to the mental health crisis (sleep, nutrition, chemical imbalance, etc.), but it appears what our “secular age” is missing is an antidepressant for the soul.

In this article, I don’t plan to address all the causes of the increase in mental health issues (e.g., smartphones, secularism, community distance, work/rest imbalance, etc.). Instead, I want to explore how God’s presence, power, and promises provide a unique remedy for the dark night of the soul.

God’s Presence

I used to live and work in New York City. I spent three years working in the fashion and entertainment industry—an industry that is undoubtedly familiar with mental health struggles. You deal with a lot of scrutiny and rejection in the entertainment world. It is a cut-throat business, and there are definitely no participation trophies.

One of the loneliest places in Manhattan can be the casting or audition room. You are surrounded by competition and people (typically strangers) who are paid to evaluate your looks, fitness, and ability to perform under pressure. In the arts—like in sports, academics, or dating—fear of rejection can cause anxiety, anxiety often produces poor performance, poor performance often results in rejection, and rejection can lead to depression. It’s not a great cycle.

One time, I was at an audition for an eyewear commercial, and, to my surprise, one of my roommates was at the same audition. We got lost in conversation, so much so that I forgot how nervous I was. We ended up being paired together for our on-camera interview. Our camaraderie carried over into the audition room. He and I were so comfortable with each other that we might as well have been at a family barbecue instead of a one-take audition.

Later, it dawned on me that my roommate’s presence had stabilized me in a moment of heightened anxiety and given me much thicker skin. I wasn’t immune to disappointment, but the prospect of disappointment had lost its controlling power over me. Why? Because of the presence of someone I knew loved me unconditionally. (If you were curious, we actually ended up being offered the job, but both had scheduling conflicts.)

God’s sovereign power is like a harness: it ensures our eternal security.

What was true of my friend at that casting is true of God everywhere: He is always with us (Deuteronomy 31:6). Anxiety and depression may seem omnipresent, but God is omnipresent. And when we are anxious or sad, His loving presence can do for us what my friend’s presence did for me: significantly dim or cast out these negative emotional states.

So, when you feel anxious or blue, attend to God’s presence. He is “close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

God’s Power

Growing up, I attended and worked at a Christian summer camp in the East Tennessee mountains. One of the activities at camp was rock climbing. Inevitably, each year we would have people terrified at the prospect of falling. To help them conquer their fear, we would have them sit in their harness at a low height. This activity would help them realize how secure they really were, even if they were to fall. The feel of the harness’s support would calm people’s nerves and give them the courage they needed to begin their ascent up the rock face.

God’s sovereign power is like a harness: it ensures our eternal security. Next time you are feeling anxious or depressed, think about the fact that God “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3) and promises to “uphold [us] with [His] righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).

Anxiety and depression may feel like they are all powerful, but God is sovereign over everything, including our anxiety and depression. Nothing befalls you that God has not allowed. Not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from His say-so (Matthew 10:29). And nothing happens to you that God does not use for your ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

So, when you’re feeling anxious or blue, attend to God’s power. Rest in the harness of His absolute sovereignty and know that everything is ultimately going to be okay.

God’s Promises

Borrowing an illustration from Tim Keller, imagine someone on the subway who gets robbed. A thief takes all 500 dollars the person had on them. Now imagine the difference in response if that was all the money the person had left in the world, and they needed it to feed and house their family versus if the person was set to inherit 500 million dollars the following week. In the first scenario, the person would be devastated by the loss; in the second scenario, the disappointment would be real but outweighed by imminent financial gain.

Five hundred million dollars is peanuts compared to what we are set to inherit. We are in the second scenario. As Paul says, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). We may temporarily lose our peace of mind or joy, but we cannot lose the perfect peace and joy we are promised at Christ’s return. Indeed, we have an “inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:4).

So, when you’re anxious or blue, attend to God’s promises. Remind yourself that a day is coming when “everything sad will become untrue.”[5]

Next Steps

Individually and corporately, we draw near to God and experience the benefit of His presence, power, and promises through prayer, the Lord’s Supper, and the reading, singing, and preaching of the Word of God. When you’re struggling with anxiety and depression, you can draw near to the God of comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), endurance (Romans 15:5), and hope (Romans 15:13) through these means. And when you do, God promises He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

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[5] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 951-952.

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Jonathan Darville

Jono Darville is a former Global Master Trainer with The Center for Leadership Studies and Co-Leader of the New York branch of Models for Christ (an international non-profit bringing the gospel to the fashion industry). Due to a decade-plus long battle with chronic illness, Jono almost lost his life in 2017. After spending a number of years bed-bound, God graciously intervened in 2020, using UNC Hospital to restore Jono’s health. Jono is now finishing an M.A. in the Philosophy of Religion at SEBTS, while serving as a Ruling Elder and Youth Director at Peace Church in Cary, NC. He and his wife, Jillian, have one son, Jono Jr.

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