When I heard the weather report last week, I physically felt the anxiety rise in my body. The forecast called for a high of 70 degrees on Sunday but predicted that the temperature would fall to 28 degrees with a possibility of wintry precipitation by Thursday. The weather people claimed the artic blast would not match the drama of the previous February when ice blanketed Texas for a week. But the memories of the past winter event panicked me. “I just hope it’s not like last year,” I said. My twelve-year-old son Clay responded, “Why? That was fun.” The look on my face conveyed my shock. “Not the rolling black outs, but the rest of it was fun,” he said.
My recollection of events differs quite a bit from Clay’s. I remember the negatives – the cold house, hurriedly plugging in our devices when the electricity came on for short spurts, the inability to leave because of the frozen roads, the fear that our pipes might burst like those of numerous neighbors. But Clay remembered the good things like playing in the snow, days off from school, and the way we worked together to make meals in the dark.
Clay and I have different personalities though. He is more laid back than me and more go with the flow. And while I realize he doesn’t worry about things like I do as a parent, I also understand that he has the innate ability to see things in a more positive light. He’s a glass-half-full guy, while I’m a glass-half-empty gal, or at least I worry about what we’re going to do when we drink the rest of the glass.
I’ve noticed I tend to focus on the negatives in the past. When I recall seasons in my life, the bad parts often come to my mind first and crowd out the good memories. And that penchant carries over to worry about the future, like overwhelming anxiety about another ice storm. Even when I’ve prepared as much as I can for an upcoming event, like said ice storm, I struggle to let the worry go.
While getting worked up by a couple of days of icy weather may sound funny, the anxiety that I live with is not. In fact, my anxiety and depression can become overwhelming at times. And I know I’m not alone. Many of us have a tough time dealing with worry that consumes us and sadness that can overwhelm us.
In “The Message” translation of the Bible, Jesus’ famous words about not worrying read like this: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matt. 6:34 MSG). Jesus said God would help us handle hard things, which sounds good in theory. But Jesus didn’t specify exactly how God would help us. On the surface that may seem frustrating because of the lack of details. I think we can look at Jesus’ promise as freeing though when we realize that God’s help is open-ended and unlimited.
God can help us in many ways: a deep conversation with a friend, a long nap, a walk in nature, a tough workout, journaling, meditation, or a good meal. But God’s help also comes in the form of professional mental health care. Medication and therapy, especially talk therapy, can be invaluable, perhaps even crucial to our well-being. God has provided these medical professionals with intelligence, education, training, advances in science, insights, and caring hearts. They can work as God’s servants to guide and support us as we travel the sometimes-rocky road of mental health.
Personally, I’ve benefited from both medication and therapy, and I am grateful to God for these sources of help. As Christians, we can work to destigmatize the need for mental health care. We should not feel ashamed when we seek mental health care but can claim this as God’s provision and help. We can discuss mental health in our church communities so that others know they are not alone and need not hide their struggles or isolate with their pain.