Jesus Christ has taken her broken past and restored her to Himself. In doing so, He has also re-storied her, showcasing His beauty and might through her former heartache and suffering. God has restored and re-storied her and He is eager to do the same for the rest of us.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17
In my recent article, “How My Struggle with Anxiety Proves My Victory,” I ventured out of my comfort zone to address the complex topic of Christians with mental concerns like anxiety disorder and depression. Rather than make a person unfit for ministry, Christ uses these illnesses as the context in which His followers who have them are called to lead on His behalf in their everyday lives. Mary DeMuth is a prime example of this.A Christian w/mental illness is not unfit for ministry. Click To Tweet A Christian's mental illness is the context of his/her calling. Click To Tweet
As a woman all too familiar with depression, she chooses to live each day abiding in her Savior, allowing the Holy Spirit to work through her depression and use it to increase the Kingdom of God. Her life is dedicated to encouraging others to find healing and restoration through relationship with the Lord. She has accepted that depression is a part of her life, and thus, it shapes the context of her calling.
Upon my request, Mary graciously agreed to answer my questions regarding Christians with anxiety disorders and/or depression. I pray this interview will inform, encourage, and empower you in your everyday leadership. Most of all, I pray it will point you to our ultimate Healer, Comforter, and Strength – Jesus Christ.
When a Christian suffers a crisis that leads to anxiety disorder and/or depression it can be a real struggle to even get out of bed each morning. How can this person continue to serve the Lord and serve others during these times?
Mary: I’ve heard it said that one of the best ways to deal with depression is to choose to help someone else. In this last month, I’ve had some of those “I don’t want to get out of bed” days. And when I nurse my sadness, the bed seems awfully awesome. But when I choose even a small act of sacrifice for someone else, a little bit of my day brightens. (Even if it’s just writing a quick email of encouragement.) This is a suffering world, and we all need encouragement. Choosing to bless someone else with a gift, some kind words, or an act of service gets you out of yourself for a short time. Also, walking outside has really helped me, especially when it’s sunny. Neither of these “tips” diminish the very real monster that depression can be. I’m also for counseling and medication if it’s warranted.
How should the Christian dealing with anxiety disorder and/or depression respond to the shame they feel as a result of their struggle?
Mary: This is a battle of the mind. We’re all familiar with Romans 12:2 where Paul reminds us to renew our minds. Part of depressive thoughts stem from believing untruths about yourself. One practical thing to do is to grab 3 by 5 cards, and write a lie “You’re not worth loving” on one side, with a scriptural truth on the other: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” – Romans 8:38. Review these verses when you’re tempted to spiral downward in anxiety or fear or depression. Reviewing the truth of God’s word has really helped me retrain my mind.
On another note, read the Bible as a story. Remind yourself that the people in the Bible are NOT characters, but real people. Many, many struggled with depression and anxiety. Even Jesus seemed despairing in the Garden of Gethsemane. Remember, God is not after a perfect robot Christian. He is after broken people because those of us who are broken and needy actually NEED Jesus. And He does His best work in our weakness, not our strength. Therefore, depression and anxiety can actually be avenues God uses to further His kingdom through you. You’re at an advantage, spiritually. It’s the proud and those who pretend to have it all together who are far from the kingdom.
What are the first steps a Christian in this situation should take to regain a sense of stability?
Mary: Talk to friends who are FOR you, especially ones who will pray alongside you (and cry alongside you without making you feel emotional). Seek medical help. Find a counselor. Journal. Exercise.
In your blog post “When Clichés Just Make Things Worse,” you talked about Christian clichés that are said to be helpful but tend to have the opposite effect. How can the person wanting to help a loved one suffering from anxiety disorder and/or depression provide this loved one with real support?
Mary: Just keep your mouth closed. 🙂 Listen, listen, listen. Ask questions. Restate their feelings back to them in a non-creepy way. Offer to pray for them on the spot. Send flowers.
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