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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

01 June 2007

Mental Health Help

Q: I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder 7 months ago. These months have been a living nightmare. Sometime I think about suicide. I have this scared feeling in the pit of my stomach or chest every day. I also have this feeling like Im going to die soon. When I go into the store I feel like I don’t need to buy anything for myself because Im going to die. I have also driven behind two cars that had “RIP” on their license plate. Can this be a sign from God that I will die soon or is it my anxiety? Please help. Thank you for your time.

PsychologyA: Many good Christians have bad problems with mental and emotional illness. I’m not a mental health expert, but your symptoms seem right in line with the little I know about anxiety disorders. Under otherwise “perfect” conditions, it’s often difficult to remain a firm Christian. An ailing mind makes your faith walk even more difficult.

With this in mind, I first encourage you to develop and maintain a good relationship with your pastor, that he can help you meet each trial. Often, pastors have only slight knowledge about particular mental health issues. Most of us are grateful when our suffering parishioners educate us about their specific conditions. It helps us to better understand how to apply God’s Word to each individual’s circumstances.

Of course, I think that you should continue receiving professional treatment. You don’t have to go to a “Christian” counselor or psychiatrist, to receive competent help, although that may be a benefit. However, make sure that your mental health provider isn’t hostile toward Christianity or unwilling to partner with your pastor. All of life’s problems, including yours, include spiritual dimensions that secular counselors are unable to address.

De ProfundisSimilar to people involved in Alcoholics Anonymous and related groups, you might also benefit by having a “mental health buddy.” Such a partner can pray for you, look out for you, and talk you through rough times.

Since guilt, shame, doubt, and despair often accompany afflictions of the mind, I’ve also listed some previous columns concerning related mental-health struggles. I pray that these will help you to continue looking not inward at your problems but outward and upward to the God who loves you, forgives you, and promises you grace and every blessing.

  §  Can Mentally Ill People Go to Heaven?
  §  A New Christian Is Sorely Tempted
  §  Christian Troubles
  §  Mental Health and Spiritual Well-Being

Finally, I urge you to do as Saint Peter recommended: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6)” Jesus, who knew from eternity the time and place of His own death, still went willingly that He might bring you healing and forgiveness. Death’s dark valley loses its worrisome shadow when our Savior walks with us every step of the way.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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Anonymous the albino peacock said...

Thank you Pastor... It's so important for us to remember that we Christians are not immune from the effects of sin in this world. And that includes things like depression and anxiety. The article you posted is a comfort. Thank you.

02 June, 2007 10:51  

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