Mental health is an important topic for God's people and is especially timely as we consider all that has happened in the last few years.
Widespread fear crept forward in December 2019 with the first reports of an outbreak in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, of a new virus called COVID-19. By January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization designated COVID-19 a health emergency; just five weeks later, the WHO relabeled the emergency a global pandemic. As of early April, 2022, more than 6 million people have died of causes attributed to COVID-19; more than half a billion people have experienced illness.
During this same time, a changing job market (for some, unemployment), social and political unrest, and inflation have become our daily companions. Stories of war in Ukraine, migration of war refugees, trouble at the border, and natural disasters, dominate the headlines. Every day—indeed, every minute, on our digital devices—we hear of more trials, tribulations, and tragedies.
Is it any wonder fear and anxiety are on the rise? According to a study recently released by Mental Health America, numbers of people “seeking help for anxiety has skyrocketed.” The percentage of those presenting with moderate to severe symptoms has increased steadily the past two and a half years and remains higher than rates prior to 2020.” A Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) study found that as many as 40 million adults (18.1% of the population) report experiencing the most common mental health challenge in our society—anxiety.
The Bible has a lot to say about how we think and the impact our thoughts have on our emotions. LWF’s founder, Pastor Adrian Rogers, addressed mental health topics frequently in his sermons, providing a biblical response. The excerpts included below are in no way intended to discourage those who are struggling with fear and anxiety from seeking professional Christian counseling or medical help. But these timely words might just bring you or those you love needed encouragement during this season of uncertainty.
Pastor Rogers said our first response to fear should always be to turn to Scripture: “If you’re a fearful saint in these desperate days in which we live, get a bulldog grip on the Word of God because you’re going to need it.”—Pastor Adrian Rogers
We’ll start with the elephant in the room—fear of death. Here’s what the Bible says:
"Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Hebrews 2:14-15)
“The fear of death keeps people in bondage. Jesus came to this Earth for one purpose and that is to destroy the works of the devil. He came to deliver those who, through fear of death, all of their lifetimes were in bondage. May I tell you something? You are not ready to live until you are no longer afraid to die. …In Exodus 33:14 God said, ‘My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.’ He’s talking about…rest from fear and doubt and anxiety. As Jesus said, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28). His presence will see you through. God is not some impersonal force. He is real. He’s never too busy to listen to you.”—Pastor Adrian Rogers
When fear and worry become chronic and interfere with everyday life, we are in a state of anxiety. Christians are not immune. Here’s what Paul said to Timothy when the younger preacher’s work was impacted by anxiety:
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).
"When the Bible says here in this passage that God has not given us the spirit of fear, He’s not talking about normal fear. He’s not talking about the fear of Hell. He’s not talking about reverence before Him. He’s talking about phobias. Numbing fears. Senseless fears. People are afraid they’re going to be afraid. …Fear can take all of the blue out of your sky and lick all the red off your candy. When you focus on fear, you focus on little else and you forget all of the things that God has given you; you’re blind to blessings when you’re afraid. Not only does fear cause forgetfulness, and you have to be put in remembrance of what God has done for you, but fear causes failure. Job said, ‘The thing I feared has come upon me.’ (See Job 3:25.) Fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fear will literally make you sick.
“If you have a spirit of fear, say, ‘Come, Holy Spirit of God, fill me until I am conscious of the presence of God,’ much in the same way a little boy would be walking home from school with his dad and have the confidence to face a bully on the street corner. God gives us power to face every foe, meet every demand, and endure every trial.”—Pastor Adrian Rogers
The Bible says God’s children are never alone:
"Behold the Eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy" (Psalm 33:18).
"…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).
“Did you know that psychologists tell us that 70 percent of today’s population suffers from chronic loneliness? Seven out of every 10 people that you see, according to some statistics, are suffering from loneliness, chronic loneliness. Now may I tell you that God sees you right now? God knows your very thoughts. God knows your heartache. God knows your imaginations right now. God is there and Jesus is our El Roi (“the God who sees”). He knows. He cares.”—Pastor Adrian Rogers
The Bible teaches us to actively “practice” God’s presence when we’re lonely:
"You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).
“I’m speaking to some lonely people. Some of you have been deserted by your spouse. Others have been separated by death. Some of you have been forgotten by your children. Some of you are living in old age, and all of those most intimate to you have gone over to the other side. Some of you have been so successful that you’re all by yourself at the top. You can be lonely in a crowd. …You need to practice the presence of God. Do you know I take a walk with Jesus? I take a drive with Jesus. I’m in the car by myself and I’ll roll up the windows and sing to Jesus, and He likes it. It sounds good to Him. …When I’m worried, His presence calms me down. My enemies are His enemies. Just like God said to Moses, ‘My Presence will go with you’ (Exodus 33:14).”—Pastor Adrian Rogers
Whether we have fleeting fears or battle fear daily, here’s what the Bible says about fear for those who know the Lord:
We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us (1 John 4:18, TLB).
“Don’t use The Living Bible as a proof text because it’s a paraphrase, but you can get a lot of insight from it. The King James, which I preach from and love, says ‘Perfect love casteth out fear.’ I used to read that and say, ‘Well, that’s fine, but I’ve never done anything perfectly but sin. So if I have to love God perfectly, no wonder I’m afraid.’ But I’ve checked it out and this is really what it means, ‘We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us.’ I want you, the next time you’re afraid, to say to yourself, and not just say it as a little slogan but say it and mean it: ‘God loves me perfectly.’”—Pastor Adrian Rogers
The Bible says we need to suit up and do battle against the author of our fear:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
“Tomorrow has two handles: one called faith and one called fear. And you’re going to take hold tomorrow of one of those two handles. And I want you to know that God has not given you the spirit of fear. If you have a spirit of fear, it is a phobia from Satan, the sinister minister of fear. And you need to get on your face before you walk out of the house tomorrow, on your knees somewhere, and say, ‘O God, endue me with power, enrich me with love, enlighten me with a sound mind,’ and then go out and face the day. Pray when you’re afraid because you are coming against the very one who authored your fear in the first place. The devil mocks at our schemes, laughs at our organizations, ridicules our talents, but he fears our prayers.”—Pastor Adrian Rogers
God wants us to take care of our bodies. Good self-care is especially important during times of stress. Uncontrolled fear changes our chemical make-up and can make us literally, physically sick. Reading scripture and praying help us transplant healthy thoughts where fearful thoughts once held sway; this creates positive physical changes in our bodies as we are “transformed by the renewing” of our minds. (See Romans 12:2.) In addition to Scripture reading and prayer, there are other practical steps we can take to diminish fear and anxiety:
Finally, if your fear and anxiety (or that of someone you love), are out of control and you are experiencing debilitating physical symptoms of anxiety, contact your doctor. If you have (or if a loved one has) serious thoughts of self-harm, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (English) or 1-888-628-9454 (Spanish).
"The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Numbers 6:26).