2 Corinthians 4:16 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”
In a culture obsessed with painting the most perfect and beautiful version of ourselves to the outside world, it can be hard to separate real from superficial. This creates a cycle of comparison, worry, doubt, and often self-loathing. This cycle easily leads to a heavy toll on our mental health. It is inevitable. It’s this very same cycle that makes it almost impossible to believe some of the Truth that is given to us in Scripture. We can find comfort that “Our inner self is being renewed day by day.” However, before we get any further I will be transparent here: this is not a truth that I feel each morning when I wake up.
For those in the depths of your struggle right now, whatever it may be, I say this to remind you, you are not alone, you are not a ‘bad’ chrisitian, you are simply human—a beautiful creation of THE Creator living in a broken and sinful world. A world that tells us we are not enough.
The truth that I have worth and that I am identified worthy by Christ himself—because of his sacrifice on the cross—is a truth that I often have to work hard to remember. This work looks like spending time with Jesus—praying and reading his Word—and consciously choosing to speak positively to myself. It is a fight to block out the noise of the world and the lies that surround me. When I am not doing that, it is easy to remain seated on the merry-go-round ride titled “worthlessness.” I want to pause here, though, to speak into this a little further. I can do all these things—all the hard work—and still have bad days, still feel depressed, and still feel far from God.
Isaiah 40:30 is for all of the perfectionists out there: “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted”.
There is often a lot of guilt associated with the struggles of mental health, especially in Christian culture. You may have been made to feel at fault for your struggles, or like you are not doing enough. Yet you can be assured that God does not expect perfection from us. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26, emphasis added). God allows space for our imperfections, for our failures, to find rest and redemption in him. In fact, he knows we can’t do it on our own. That is why we need a Savior. I can assure you Jesus wants a life of worthiness for you, not a life without it.
The idea of being worthless… Wow, let me just say, this is not something that can be dug up overnight. It is deep-rooted and it’s going to take some time to shed light on. However, I am going to introduce a conversation that starts with the fundamentals of worth and what God has to say about it. Hopefully, from there we can establish practical ways to break the cycle. My prayer is that you leave feeling a little different, with a new understanding of your worth. That despite the yucky and dark feelings encompassed in mental health struggles, there is hope in a life filled with worth.
This next part does encompass a decent portion of Scripture for you to dig into. It is okay if that seems overwhelming. Just know that God has a lot to say on this too! It was even overwhelming for me as I researched the verses I wanted to highlight. Take it one step at a time. The internet can be your friend as you look up context or find a translation that works best for you. Sites like Blue Letter Bible can be very helpful. I currently read the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and highly recommend it for its readability, but play around with different translations to figure out what works best for you!
Fundamental Truth #1: We are made in the image of God.
Read Ezekiel 1:25-28.
Maybe you have been told that you are made in the image of God a thousand times before, or maybe you have never considered this in your life. (Reference Genesis 1 for more study material on our creation and God’s design of mankind). Either way, promise me you will stay with me. Push yourself to learn something new and apply that knowledge to your life to see exceptional change.
These verses paint such captivating imagery. Not only is the rainbow significant in the Bible, as it is literally God’s promise to us, but rainbows are seen as a sign of hope and beauty in secular culture, too. I love that the presence of God is directly compared to the presence of a rainbow. Ezekiel takes it a step further to say God is our rainbow on a rainy, cloudy, miserable day. Consequently, if we are made in God’s image, and God is described as a rainbow on a rainy day, we can be confident that we have the ability to be rainbows in the rain and lights in the darkness to others around us. We can bear God’s very own image here on earth while he is in heaven.1 When you find yourself feeling worthless, a loss of purpose, or even guilt for not having it all together, I challenge you to change the narrative. Remind yourself that your worthiness is tied to nothing other than how God made you: in his image. Your worth is not in the outside world, your job, if your crush texts you back, your current circumstances, or your presence on social media. His glory and his worth is unwavering. Yours is, too. Rest in that. He created you exactly how he wanted to. Down to every detail.
Fundamental Truth #2: We are made whole in our personal relationships with Jesus Christ.
Read 1 John 1.
This passage is solely about the importance of fellowship with God. We are designed to have a dynamic relationship with our Creator. John lays out a few other truths surrounding our personal relationship with Jesus as well. When we walk with Jesus, we are walking “in the light” (verse 7). Darkness cannot coexist with Jesus. He made it possible for us to walk in the light when he died on the cross. Therefore, as we continue in a relationship with him, we are made whole.
Read 1 Peter 3:18-22.
As the passage states, Jesus suffered for the sins of humans so that we would be cleansed and be in unity with God. Before Jesus, no one could be within God’s presence other than the high priest who had to sacrifice animals to atone for his sins and cleanse himself. It was a very complicated process just to enter into the temple to pray to the Father. God wanted to be with us and made this possible through the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
These pieces of Scripture give us just a snapshot of God’s desire for our relationship with him. Just as we as humans seek out companionship in our surrounding circles, we ultimately crave relationship with our Creator. Our problems do not disappear when we choose a life of following Jesus, but his teachings display his immeasurable love for us. His truth negates the lies that tell us we are not loved, we are not enough, or we are not valued. This is a truth that needs to be proclaimed from the mountaintops in our broken and truth-starved world.
Fundamental Truth #3: We are made for relationships.
Read Genesis 2:18, Philippians 2:3-4, Hebrews 10:19-25,1 Peter 4:8-11
When I am reading my Bible, I typically like to stay in one place. However, with this last truth, I could not pick just one area to focus in on. The Bible is SO clear in this truth that I wanted to give you a variety of places to camp out. Each of these verses give us encouragement, reminding us that we are stronger together—one in Christ and one under his name. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” What a unifying statement! From the beginning, God did not create man to be alone. He made all the creatures that crawled the earth and filled the skies and oceans, but thought Adam, the first human, needed another. I find this so fascinating because from the beginning of time, God had a clear plan. And we see that even within secular culture, studies are done on solitude or the isolation some people experience in prison, and how damaging that is to the brain. God did not create us to be alone. Why is this important when struggling with feeling worthless? Because, when we don’t feel enough, we often retreat into our feelings, we let the lies win, and we give up. Sometimes, we even feel what we are struggling with means we don’t deserve good humans in our lives to catch us when we fall. Some of us believe this without even realizing it.
Then, by consequence of those feelings, we isolate ourselves and build a wall—a wall that makes it easy to skip the hard conversations, the honest plea for help, and the vulnerability that must take place for us to grow. I encourage you if you are in this place: find your people! And if you have friends in this exact place, be there for them. Jesus’ greatest commandment for us is to love one another as himself. Let’s put that into practice and make sure we are prioritizing our needs to those around us, because you and I ARE worth it.
Application #1: Make your mental health a priority: treat yourself as though you are made in the image of God—because you are!
As I touched on earlier, God made man to not be alone. Another thing we learn from Scripture is that God made us in his image, different from all the other creatures of the land. I think this magnificent reality is often really, really hard to feel. Even when I can acknowledge all that the God of the universe is, I somehow still put him in a box when it comes to his plan and design of me. Yes, I am made in God’s image. Awesome. So why do I have no problem engaging in negative self-talk, telling myself I can’t do something, over-apologizing for who I am, and believing that I do not deserve the same love as my friends or my sister? The list is quite possibly endless. Friends, I hope you see the hypocrisy in my thoughts here. I would never tell anyone I loved or cared about that they were stupid or annoying or worthless, and I would sure never say those things to the God of our universe.
If you saw yourself in any of those words, first know you are not the only one. I think each and every person has struggled with these things. We live in a pressure-filled world full of distractions. Some days, I am really seeing myself through his eyes and it is peaceful and joyous and all the things. But many days, I am not. On those days, I have to make it a priority to consciously stop the thoughts that constantly swarm my brain. Please hear me, this is not an overnight change. It takes dedication and diligence to constantly fight the lies.
Being a counselor in training, I may be biased, but I think every human on this planet could benefit from counseling. Having an unbiased, educated, attentive human to hear your story can be a powerful thing. Yes, it is a little nerve-racking. And yes, it takes a lot of courage, but I believe it can spark the beginning of a new path—one that boldly proclaims, “I am a child of God, made in his image, and I am going to love and care for myself the way I should!”
Self care is a hot topic these days. Some people even say self care or self love is the opposite of the gospel of Jesus. I live in a wonderful space called the happy medium. I believe when I am feeling at one with God, I am loving myself the best. And I think when I am loving myself the best, I am best equipped to be a light to others and be most glorifying to God.
Disclaimer: We can most definitely glorify God in our suffering, pain, and on our bad days. Some of the most powerful testimonies I have heard are very far from sunshine and butterflies, but with hard work and dedication to their relationship with God, they were able to rely on him for strength and find a way to love themselves, God, and others.
Many churches offer counseling and mentor programs if a doctor office counseling situation is not really your thing. Do not feel like there is only one option out there for you, but know that it is an option. The world has expanded so much in mental health—even in the last ten years—and I am so excited for the conversation to continue. I have a friend who does a texting option where their counseling relationship is strictly through text messages! Everyone finds their own comfort level and that is 100% okay.
Application #2: Make education a priority. Knowledge is power. Power impacts change.
This one is near and dear to my heart. I have experienced and witnessed the way knowledge can empower a person to alter their life completely. So many domestic violence situations continue on for long after they should have because the victim has truly been convinced and manipulated into believing that they are worthless and undeserving of love. Our brains are powerful, powerful organs, so let’s make sure we are filling them with truth and educating ourselves on the affects our situations may be having on us. Start small; in fact, this article is a great first step. The Bible is a great next step. Whether you were familiar with all of the verses included today or not, everyone can use a refresher. God is always teaching us new things in his Word. Everything we need to know about God—who he says he is and who he says we are—is literally at our fingertips. Don’t underestimate the power of the Word of God.
By no means am I an expert, but at the bottom of this article will be a selection of resources for you to indulge in. There are so many books, podcasts, and organizations dedicated to the topics of mental health and faith and the interaction between both. My one warning is to guard your heart with what you let in. Not everyone who hosts a podcast or writes a book is qualified. Trust your intuition and do not just take any old word for the gospel (except the gospel). At the end of the day, we are all flawed humans, and none of us have it perfectly right—myself included. But through prayer, a trusted circle, and being in the Word, we can make some sense of our earthly lives. Do your research, talk to Jesus, and talk to your community.
Application #3: Make your relationships a priority—starting with Jesus.
Whatever you do, don’t do it alone. The worst thing you can do is search Google alone in your bed, desperately trying to figure out what you are feeling and experiencing. Been there, done that. All it has produced is a field day for my brain to take hold of all the negative thoughts and situations. Now, I bounce my concerns off of my trusted people. For me, that looks like saying some of the following”
“Hey I think balancing school and work this week has caused me to be pretty anxious this week.”
“I am not sure exactly what’s wrong, but I woke up today feeling pretty down.”
“I would love to still see you today for our hangout, but I had a bit of a rough morning and I wanted to let you know upfront.”
I have found these small statements to help so much. It allows a space for your feelings and emotions to be, without consuming and paralyzing you. These same thoughts can be jotted down in your prayer journal. Write them down or say them out loud to God. He already knows; he is just waiting for you to come talk to him about it. I have never left a car conversation with God feeling worse then I did before it started. I may feel about the same sometimes, or have a new perspective, but just spending that time in solitude with him and explaining my pain is therapeutic all in itself.
A few winters ago, I went on a trip with my youth group. During every morning of the week-long trip, we incorporated 30 minutes of “God time.” By the end of the week, I felt the typical spiritual high and I came home almost craving my God time like I do my favorite ice cream flavor from Handels. It was such a unique feeling to need my time with God. I felt purposeful each morning and I went into the day feeling lighter. I still had annoyances throughout the day—disappointments and maybe even some mundane tasks—but the presence of God felt like it never left me from that morning’s God time. Now, a few years later, I can confidently say God time is still a weekly commitment that I have to choose. Like any relationship, it is two-sided, and we have to nurture it in the same way we do our earthly friendships. The reality is, I do not naturally want to sit still for 30 minutes when I could be making breakfast, sleeping in, working out, getting ahead on school, work, etc. I say this not as a discouragement, but as a reminder that God is there all the time, waiting for us to choose him. Whether it’s been two days or five years, just like a best friend, we can always pick up where we left off.
A verse I will leave you with is Luke 12:28. Jesus asks the question, if God clothes blades of grass, how much more will he do for YOU? What a reminder! I hope throughout this read you have noticed a trend: God leaves so much of his heart for us in the Word. So many comforting reminders, pieces of wisdom, and examples of unwavering faith. Like I said from the beginning, this is not easy all the time and God doesn’t expect us to get it right every time. He knows we will retreat into the pit at times. Not only will he sit with us, but he will carry us back out. (Psalm 103:4).
I pray that as you have absorbed all these words, you leave feeling more understood, validated, or empowered than you did when you began. I definitely don’t have all the answers or even the right words, but I do believe in all of the truths and applications that I shared here today. There is no situation that cannot be rectified by Jesus, and I pray that you find the resources shared below helpful and educational.
Mental Health Resources
Songs for the Suffering – Julia Allspaw
Fighting Forward – Hannah Brencher
- While God is all-powerful and ever-present everywhere, his dwelling place is in heaven (Deuteronomy 26:15, Psalm 113:5-6).
Image Credit: Emilee Carpenter