How do we find hope when the dark cloud of depression overshadows our lives? Where is God when our thoughts become scattered and fuzzy, our energy plummets, and unhealthy coping habits replace self-care? When this downward mental spiral threatens to overwhelm us, God’s love is the lifeline that can bring us back into the sunshine again.
We’re well-acquainted with medication and therapy, both of which can help to heal and maintain our mental health. However, when we’re consumed by depression, we often overlook the only source of hope that can heal our spirit. Recognizing God’s tangible love for us is the foundation that helps us to climb back into the light.
My own mental health journey began with bouts of recurring depression. I’d seek help and find myself feeling better after a few months of care, only to return to a counselor’s office in a couple of months. Eventually, we discovered that my diagnosis was bipolar disorder. While this information helped me to manage my mental health, the highs and lows were still extremely difficult to endure. Then I realized that I wasn’t alone.
God’s love is more than divine feelings of affection. His compassion is real and transformative: it reaches out through the beauty of a sunrise or the calm of waves on a shore. He provides for needs, sometimes through the kindness of others and other times miraculously. His presence can soothe anxiety, and He reassures us that we’re never abandoned. All of this affects our health. In fact, it is the basis of every part of our wellness.
As we know, our healthy lifestyle involves caring for our whole selves. The love of God establishes solid ground upon which we can build practices that nourish mind, body, and soul. Attention to diet, exercise, interpersonal relationships, and other aspects of life can be challenging. How do we keep up with it all? The good news is that we aren’t completely in charge. Yes, we have an active role in self-care, but we can also rest in knowing that not everything depends on us. God heals us, nurtures us, and handles things that are out of our control. Because of His great love for us, we can trust Him to take care of us. Even in times of sickness, He sustains us. We are never out of His hand or far from His heart.
Mental and Emotional Health
Understanding God’s love gives us security. With reduced fear, we can have confidence to step out of our comfort zone. We can take risks that lead to growth as we learn to handle future triggers or stressors. Seeking God’s guidance provides wisdom beyond anything we could figure out on our own. Meanwhile, He offers us lasting peace that surpasses our understanding. Prayer, meditating on scripture, and worship music can boost our mental health. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has an article discussing this, and there’s a wealth of research on spirituality and mental health.
Being anchored in the love of God helps us to understand our identity and worth, giving us a healthy self-image. Knowing our value motivates us to care for our bodies, minds, and spirits. Scripture encourages us by reminding us that we are created in the image of God and that we are loved by Him. We are worth great care! Additionally, the joy of this God-given, abundant life gives us gifts like nutritious food and a great outdoors to explore. Our physical health affects our mental health, so treating our bodies well helps our minds, too.
One of the greatest demonstrations of God’s compassion is our giving and receiving it in community. Our support system is vital to our mental health as well. God’s love for us helps us to love others, strengthening our relationships. We know that healthy friendships are important to healthy living, and the best way to be a friend is loving someone the way that God loves them.
How do we experience God’s love?
Merely knowing “God loves me” is just the beginning to understanding God’s overwhelming love for us. If we accept this fact and go on with our lives without connecting with Him, we miss His gifts. This can negatively impact our mental health as well! Here’s how I’ve experienced God through the years of living with bipolar disorder.
Spend time with Him
The presence of God is encouraging and healing. We must be near Him to truly know Him. Prayer, reading scripture, quiet walks without distraction, or taking time to serve Him by helping others are all ways to spend time with God.
Look for God
God is always with us, but we aren’t always paying attention. Intentionally looking for God will open our eyes to the many ways He is active in our lives. It’s uplifting to see what He’s doing, which continues to strengthen our mental health as well.
Find an encouraging spiritual community
Being with others who are also seeking God’s love multiplies joy. We experience Him in His community.
Learn more about God
As we increase our knowledge of God, we understand Him better. Reading, attending a worship service, or listening to an informative podcast are ways to become more familiar with God’s character and His love.
Our wellness is incomplete when we ignore spirituality. God’s love is empowering and life-giving! He equips us to handle challenges, then helps us grow stronger as we go through trials together. God’s love establishes an incredible foundation on which our healthy choices can be built. He nurtures our bodies, minds, and souls as we continue to care for ourselves.
Malinda Fugate explores more of God’s love in “The Other Three Sixteens,” published by Ambassador International. She also serves full time as the Children’s Education Director at a church in Southern California. Malinda enjoys her home by the beach, and she lives with her pup, Yoshi. She enjoys crafting art, reading, and exploring. Connect at malindafugate.com, on Twitter (@malthestar), Facebook (/malthewriter), or Instagram (@malthewriter).