It’s mental health awareness week and, up and down the country, initiatives are launching to encourage people to access the help they need when life is hard. There is plenty of help out there – in the world and in God’s word – but so often people struggle to ask.
Why is that?
Here are 7 reasons why many people find it hard to seek support, and some reflections on what the Bible says in response:
I’m not worth it
Often, when anxious or depressed, we conclude that we are not important enough to be given help. In our eyes, we simply don’t matter at all. And yet the Bible says we are all made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27); we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). And, as Christians, we are God’s “handiwork” (Ephesians 2:10) – people who are God’s children and deeply loved (1 John 3:1). We have value because God made us to have value – and he didn’t leave us out.
I’m not sure how
If we have grown up in an environment where expressing need has been actively discouraged – even punished – then we can sometimes find ourselves not really having the words. How do I show I’m hurting? How do I ask the people around to step in? God invites us to ask him the big questions of “Why?” and “How long?” (Habakkuk 1:1-4). He encourages us to pour out our hearts to him in lament (Psalm 43). And he gives us multiple examples of how to do those things in his word. We can read those examples, model our words on them, and turn to the Lord for help. And, as we get more confident at talking to him, and see that the church is a safe place to share need, we can ask similar things of those around us.
I’m too tired
Some of us can relate to Elijah – sitting down, just wishing life would go away (1 Kings 19:4) or the Israelites wandering in the desert, hungry and exhausted (Exodus 16). It all feels too hard – we have no energy left. Sometimes it is right and proper to have a time of rest. But, as we do, we can be sure that God is nurturing us. He is also equipping us to turn to him. It doesn’t need to be eloquent or complex, a simple “help” will do. As he gave manna to the Israelites, so he gives strength to us to reach out a hand to him and those around.
I’m not sick enough
There can be a myth that we need to be really struggling before we ask for help. Or at least struggling more than most of the people around us. But we are all people who need help. Even before the fall, God designed us to need help from one another (Genesis 2:18). As a church, we are designed to speak into each other’s lives at all times (Ephesians 4:15). Needing help is our nature – offering help (in accordance with our gifts) is our call – asking for help isn’t meant to be the exception, it’s designed to be the norm of the Christian life.
Maybe we are scared of how people will react when we tell them we’re not ok? Maybe we’re scared of what getting help might involve – talking about things that are hard, working on things that are embedded in our lives? Maybe we’ve been hurt before? It’s not strange to feel uncertain about what might lie ahead. It’s absolutely OK to be wise about who we turn to so we can be safe. But, in his word, God reminds us of his presence – we will never face these new things alone (Psalm 139:7) – his Spirit is with us, given as a gift to indwell (John 14:17). And we have the church – fallible but beautiful – and the people there to encourage us along the way. Moving towards help is always more constructive than moving away.
But shouldn’t we be able to cope? As Christians, isn’t the blessing of the Lord enough to ensure we’re fine? Not in this broken world! Since the fall (Genesis 3), tough things have been coming at us, decay has been in our bodies, wayward desires have been coming out of us and those things combine to make life desperately hard. It’s not weird or shameful to find life difficult – it’s more unusual not to. This world, our bodies, are groaning (Romans 8:22). We should expect trouble (John 16:33). It’s normal not shameful to struggle in our lives.
I’m not convinced there is hope
If we have been struggling for a while, any sense of hope may have disappeared. It can feel like we are trapped in our pain with no sight of escape. And, of course, perfection and healing are not promised this side of the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21). But change is always possible. He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). The Lord, his people, and his world have so much to offer those in need. In every situation there can be hope.
So, with those things in mind, why not considering asking for help this week? Or encouraging a friend to do the same. Whether it’s a text to a friend, an appointment with a GP, a meeting with a pastor, a consultation session with a biblical counsellor, or something else besides, taking that step can be honouring to the Lord, in accord with our call as Christians and could be the start of discovering real hope and help in this fallen world.