What I Hear When You Tell Me to 'Pray More'
I am a devout Christian. I love God and believe in the power of faith to give us the courage to keep going in the hardest of trials, give us hope in a better future and build us up when we are down. But there is something I have found incredibly hard and painful over the past year as I started to admit behind my cheerful, “put-together” facade — I struggle with serious anxiety and depression.
Remember to pray!
You need to have faith!
Don’t forget to pray!
Rely on God and he will sustain you!
These are all things that have been said to me with the best of intentions, but have hurt me and my faith so deeply.
Because when you tell someone to just keep praying and relying on God to help them with their depression, anxiety, PTSD or any other number of mental health issues, you are basically telling them if they had enough faith, they would be better. It’s like saying if they don’t heal, they are unworthy of the help they are praying for. These words can make you feel as if you’re doing something wrong, you are inadequate and useless. I know it is not intended in this way, but when the only support they offer to someone struggling is to quote a verse and then leave them alone, it certainly can feel very painful.
I have found admitting my struggles with mental health has often left me on my own to deal with this deadly illness. I think it’s because it lacks the physical signs or test results someone with a different health condition might have .
There are no phone calls to ask if you need help getting to your doctor appointments or offers to watch your children for the day while you attend therapy. There are no meals dropped off for your family for the nights you are too sick to cook and there are no visitors to see you in hospital. There is even a lack of people asking how you are. Maybe for fear you might tell them and go on for hours listing the many issues you face. Maybe for fear they will upset you by mentioning it or maybe because they simply feel uncomfortable with a condition they don’t understand.
The result is to feel more isolated than ever, rejected from those in your congregation who you turned to for help. Alone with the fear that because you can’t think positively and face the fact others maybe have it worse, you are unworthy to live and incapable of being loved. To feel this simply because God has not sent you some kind of superhuman strength to deal with your “downs,” nightmares, memories, sadness, panic and fears. It can feel like you are not worth His love or care and that He does not want you. You feel alone, isolated and more and more you find yourself wondering why you keep holding on to life, battling the suicidal thoughts and feelings.
So please, next time you consider telling someone to think positively or keep praying, please don’t. Just sit with them and listen to what they have to say, offer to make them a meal or ask them if you can help them get to appointments. Support and encourage them to keep holding on because you care they are alive. By all means, gently assure them their prayers are heard and remind them of the power of prayer and offer to say a prayer for them.
Don’t ever assume someone is where they are in their mental illness because they don’t have faith or because they don’t think positively. You do not know what has happened in their life, you do not know how they got to where they are. Maybe their faith is all that is keeping them going, be careful you don’t ever suggest they do not have enough!
Follow this journey on The Art of Broken.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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