With the new complexities of life, people are beginning to look honestly at mental health. Over the last 18 months, the realities of poor mental health have gone mainstream. In the midst of a global pandemic with new work and social protocols, poor mental health has become as common as poor eating or sleeping habits. Fear and anxiety are showing up in the middle of church pews and followers of Jesus are seeking proper ways to love others, including those people with fear and anxiety, as Jesus loved us.
There is a good possibility I will offend quite a few of my readers in this article. What I am about to say is quite hard to hear, much less admit. I know because I went through the same struggle of accepting this truth. I am not here to convince you this applies to your situation, I simply want to share my experience.Mental health is complex. Know that this certainly does not apply to every form of anxiety and fear. We should never apply blanket statements to mental health. Each person’s experience is different and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Here Is Your Sign
As believers, we were never meant to live out our lives in our power, in our strength, according to our motivations. What I have often found is that when I experience fear and anxiety, it is a sign. It serves as a reminder, a clue, a tap on the shoulder meant to show me that I am leaning too much on myself. It is not a reason to be embarrassed or experience feelings of shame. It is simply my body’s way of telling me I am doing it(life) wrong.In a prior article titled, You’re On Your Own – Living In Your Own Strength, I discuss the battle commonly referred to as living by the flesh versus walking in the Spirit. This is a challenge faced by every believer. Living by our flesh often leaves us exhausted, frustrated and empty. Moreover, we miss out on a rich relationship with the Holy Spirit. When we neglect this relationship, not only are we tired and frustrated from our failed attempts, but we miss out on the full life that comes from a relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Dependent By Design
Many believers might say that our choice to follow Jesus changes us. We only have to look at 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT to see that “…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” From this, we can safely say that following Jesus does change everything. We are different people, we live our lives from a new source of truth, and we hold a new worldview.
We should model our new life after God’s perfect design. When God calls us to himself, he does so knowing we can not live out our unique, God-given purpose on our own. This is by design. Not only is our definition of success different, our way to achieve success is entirely different as well. We only need to look to John 15:4 to see that believers cannot be fruitful unless we remain in relationship with Jesus(the vine) John 15:4-5 1.
God’s calling on our lives will require both the resources and fellowship of the Holy Spirit. When we go about life pursuing God’s calling without the help and fellowship of the Holy Spirit, it can result in a variety of downfalls from exhaustion, to frustration, to poor mental health.
A Recipe For Disaster
In no way am I suggesting that choosing to live in our own strength leads directly to poor mental health. Much like our physical health, our mental health is influenced by a variety of factors. Some of these influences include, but are not limited to genetics, biology, our environment, trauma, and our thoughts. I understand that in no way is mental health this simple, but I caution you not to put yourselves in such a bad position.
Choosing to live out God’s calling without the Holy Spirit is a recipe for disaster.
A Recipe For All Believers
In the book of Acts 1:4-5, Jesus has been appearing to his disciples during the 40 days following his resurrection. Before Jesus’ ascension into heaven, he gives the disciples a command. Out of everything Jesus told the disciples before ascending to heaven, this is what the author of Acts shared. He, Jesus, commands the disciples, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised…”
Think about this. During his precious time while Jesus was preparing his disciples for their ministry here on earth without him, we get one command. One. This is the one command from Jesus which stood out enough for the author of Acts enough to share it. To me, this highlights not only the significance of the Holy Spirit for the lives of the disciples, but also for modern-day believers.
It is dangerous to go about living our lives apart from the Holy Spirit.
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5 NLT
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Matthew 16:24-26 NLT
: <[https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/strive]> Merriam-Webster 1: to devote serious effort or energy : ENDEAVOR
strive to finish a project2: to struggle in opposition : CONTEND
“For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.”
Romans 8:7-8 NLT
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT
“Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” Mark 8:34-36 NLT
: https://bible.com/bible/116/2TI.1.7.NLT “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
Definition of sovereignty
1a : supreme power especially over a body politic
b : freedom from external control : AUTONOMY
c : controlling influence
2 : one that is sovereign
especially : an autonomous state
3 obsolete : supreme excellence or an example of it
“Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.””
Acts of the Apostles 1:4-5 NLT