By LIBBO CROSSWHITE
As mental health is finally being brought to the table and real conversations are starting to be had in living rooms, classrooms and counselors’ offices, it’s been incredibly encouraging to have real dialogue with teenagers as they navigate what it means to be mentally well. It’s challenged me to consider my own wellness (motherhood is perhaps the greatest test of mental stability out there), and to develop a conversation starter and resource for students, which I’d like to share with you below. My hope is that it’s a conversation starter for you personally, or as a family, as you start to have conversations in your own home.
Oftentimes our mental health seems like it is unraveling before our eyes without any ability to control it, because we aren’t anchored to a calming, steady source. We can feel as if we are a passenger on a boat headed straight for a capsizing wave.
For Christians, we have the unshakable, rock-solid belief that God has created us for a purpose on purpose, and this becomes our anchor in the heaviest of “storms” we may find ourselves in. This doesn’t “fix” our problems immediately, but it does center us back to the truth of who we were created to be.
Let’s first look at what type of life we are living. Are we living a life marked by faith, or a life plagued with constant fear?
Ultimately, by living in fear, we can find ourselves anxious, overwhelmed, sad, and/or doubtful. Because fear teaches us to think and believe the worst, we can find ourselves living our lives through the lens of fear without even realizing it.
Think about it: What are you afraid of?
What is your deepest fear? Take it ALLLL the way to the worst-case scenario.
The Bible tells us 365 times in one way or another, “Do not be afraid.”
There are 365 days in a year. Coincidence? Nope.
We are the product of our thoughts! What do you think about on a daily basis? How often do you intentionally think about your daily thought pattern? This will help us truly take every thought captive as God’s Word calls us to do in 2 Corinthians 10:5. It’s one of many times we see God calling us to something so God can help us navigate this difficult world.
Remember, God doesn’t just make us better. God makes us NEW! Each and every day.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
Living in fear and living in faith have one thing in common: our belief in a future that hasn’t happened yet. So which one is it? It can’t be both! If we are living in fear, we are putting our faith in ourselves or something of this world.
Ask yourself: Where are places on Earth that we put our faith in? Have you found complete satisfaction in these things?
By living in faith, we are acknowledging our own inability to control the future. But how in the world do we do that? God’s Word shows us ways in which we can fully rely on God and see results/make decisions. If we believe the Word of God, we believe:
• God created us.
• God knows us.
• God is with us.
Psalm 91:9-16 says that if we know God, He will rescue us, protect us, answer us, be with us in trouble, honor us and deliver us, and show us salvation if we love Him. Those are some pretty big promises. Why does He say this? Because he KNOWS we will need to be protected, answered and rescued in times of trouble; He knows we will need reassurance when our flesh inevitably fails.
What does it look like to live through the lens of faith?
• Faith tells us that all things are working together for our good. (Romans 8:28)
• Faith tells us that in this world we WILL have trouble. (John 16:33)
• Faith tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:38-39)
• Faith tells us that “He is still good” even if He doesn’t “fix” our circumstances. (Daniel 3:18)
• Faith tells us that our ultimate source of comfort is the great Sufferer Himself. (2 Corinthians 1:4)
Low self-worth? Low understanding of faith? High anxiety? Where and how are you coping? Because you are in some way. What is it that you are running to when the fear strikes? Who are you relying on?
We have to acknowledge the running tape in our brains that plays out the same scenario over and over. “Afraid, consumed, over-whelmed, so I will run, I will numb, I will distract.” Is this you? Ask yourself, “Am I going to the ultimate Source of comfort?”
Stop. Ask. Seek. Learn. Listen. With trusted friends or adults. With a licensed counselor. Remind yourself what God’s Word says over and over: You are not alone.
Being emotionally healthy and connected to the world around you looks like bringing all that is in the dark into the light. Isaiah 9 reminds us that Jesus’ character is that of a Wonderful Counselor, and our best life can be marked by stepping out of the darkness into the light and freedom of being fully known and fully loved by Him.
A life marked by joy is not without trouble; it’s a life with Jesus in our boat. What storms does Jesus need to take control of for you today?
Libbo Haskins Crosswhite and her husband, Clay, live in Madison and attend Pinelake. They have one daughter, Mary Thomas, who is 7 years old, and a son, Russell, who is 5 years old. She is the high school guidance counselor at Madison-Ridgeland Academy and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.