10 'Harmless' Pieces of Advice Anxious Christians Are Tired of Hearing
When I was in college, I opened up to a girl from my Bible study about my struggle with depression and was immediately met with, “Depression is a sin.” This comment sent me into a tailspin of questioning my faith.
Unfortunately, when it comes to mental illness, Christians are often given an invalidating message like the one I heard.
Have you prayed about it?
Give it to God.
God only gives you what you can handle.
Though many of these “harmless” comments are made with good intentions, the reality is when your faith — something that for many folks is the most important part about them — is questioned or invalidated, it leaves a mark.
When someone with anxiety opens up about their struggles, most of the time they aren’t looking for your “solution,” “advice,” religious platitudes, etc. — they are often just looking for someone to listen and be there.
We wanted to know what “harmless” comments anxious Christians have heard that actually hurt them, so we asked our mental health community to share one with us and explain what it feels like to hear it.
It’s important to remember what may seem “harmless” to one person may actually be hurtful to another. No matter what anyone says, your feelings are valid, and you deserve support. Christians, let’s come together and do a better job of responding to our brothers and sisters who are struggling with anxiety.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
1. “Anxiety is a sin.”
“[I’ve been told] my anxiety is sinful or an act of conscious disobedience that I can just ‘turn off.’ Thankfully, I know my Jesus understands.” — Julia C.
“‘Worrying is sin.’ You think I’m choosing to be afraid? I’m not purposefully sinning. It’s mental illness… I recognize I’m supposed to cast my anxieties on Him, but sometimes it’s just not that easy.” — Deserae M.
2. “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
“‘The Bible says that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. So you should be able to handle this. You’re probably just not praying hard enough, or you’ve let other things come between you and God. Or, you don’t trust God enough. Once you put those things aside you’ll be fine. Medication just shows you don’t trust God enough.’ God also made doctors and people who created medications to help cancer patients, infections, viruses and mental illness. You don’t tell someone with a broken leg to just trust and walk it off, you take them to a doctor. So why should my ailment be any different?” — Rebecca H.
3. “Give it to God.”
“‘Give your worries to God.’ I sure try. But they just keep coming. I recently asked my doctor for something to fight the anxiety [and it] is working wonderfully.” — Trisha S.
4. “Have you prayed about it?”
“‘You should pray about it.’ I do all the time, [and it] doesn’t change a thing… People seem to automatically think because I have mental health, I am turning away from God in some way.” — Stephanie R.
5. “You’re being punished for the sin of worrying.”
“While I’m extremely lucky to have supportive Christian friends when it comes to mental health, one quote I heard from an a acquaintance really concerned me. It was the belief that those afflicted with anxiety were being punished for the sin of worrying. I don’t believe for a second that could be true. It is taught we are beautifully and wonderfully made… God doesn’t intend to use our anxiety against us ever.” — Kierstyn P.
6. “Your anxiety is spiritual warfare.”
“I had a Christian therapist who told me it was just ‘spiritual warfare’ and I would never feel better until I was right with God. It was discouraging to hear and pushed me further from God and made me not want to go to church. I started going to a non-Christian therapist who helped me find a diagnosis and helped me see a psychiatrist who helped me get medication that helped me clear out some of my anxiety and ultimately helped me in my spiritual walk.” — Charity B.
“While having a panic attack, saying I was having a panic attack was letting Satan win.” — Sarah W.
7. “If Christ was really in your heart, you wouldn’t have anxiety.”
“‘If you really have Christ in your heart, why do you still have anxiety?’ They will never understand our struggles.” — Cyrine P.
“‘God doesn’t give you a heart of worry.’ It’s not in my heart, it’s a mental (in the brain) health issue.” — Hayley H.
8. “You wouldn’t need a therapist/medication if you really trusted in God.”
“‘You don’t need a therapist if you just trust in God.’ This one upsets me most because I felt as if He has sent me on my way to therapy so I could become closer to Him. I was down a dark path before I started therapy and I’m now seeing clearer and loving God as I should have before.” — Barbara L.
“‘You don’t need medicine, you need to pray more.’” — Matthew M.
9. “Anxiety is selfish.”
“‘Anxiety is one of the most selfish things we can do. God told us we don’t have to worry and we still do it.’ Seriously? It’s a mental illness and it’s not something I choose. I want to stop my anxiety, I ask God for help a lot. I do. I’m not selfish.” — Stefani D.
“The most common thing I hear in the Christian community is silence. It’s never addressed, and those who suffer must do so in silence. Any physical ailment is prayed over and cared for, but as soon as you mention something being wrong with your mind, the help evaporates. It needs to be addressed. Pastors and church leaders need to understand how to care for those in their congregation that suffer from mental illness, and how they can be of help. Jesus loves those with mental illness, and the greatest comfort can come from Christ. But if no one knows how to find it, that comfort never comes.” — Sarah G.
If you are struggling with anxiety and your faith, you’re not alone. In her piece, “My Anxiety Doesn’t Make Me Less of a Christian,” Mighty contributor Gretchen Gales has some wise words you may find encouraging:
My faith is not ‘contaminated’ by my anxiety disorder, nor is it a sin to have a mental disorder. To say so implies I haven’t tried being completely faithful to God or that me praying to God every time to release me from a bad streak of anxiety is just me begging to be released from a grave sin. It is also not a ‘persistent little habit’ but an illness that should be treated as such.
Unsplash photo via Ben White