Growing up in the 90’s, issues surrounding mental health were not often discussed. Today, although there are still stigmas surrounding it, it’s much more a normal part of our vocabulary. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 Americans have a mental health condition; that’s over 40 million Americans.
Although we have much more work to do in this area, it’s wonderful that the stigmatization of mental health issues are lessening.
However, as this occurs, I fear we’re also just beginning to accept the fact that being depressed and anxious is the new normal. Something is very wrong with this. God has called us to so much more than just surviving and making it through the day.
Isaiah 58:10-11 seems to have one possible antidote. “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.”
Maybe this ever-increasing depression epidemic has something to do with the overt message society is so quick to instill in us from early on. This message is that a full life and our happiness is found in finding ourselves and in knowing and living for our passions and our heart’s desires and pursuits.
God directs us to a very different remedy and purpose for our lives. Jesus says that if we try to find our lives we will lose them, but if we lose our lives for His sake, we will find our lives. (Matthew 10:39) Oh, how so many of us have been searching so desperately for this very thing our entire lives!
Christ modeled this death for us on Calvary. He faced the physical death from horrific bodily torture and He faced the spiritual death of separation from His heavenly Father. This He despised, but endured for us, whom He referred to as “the joy which is set before Him.” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus chose death in His earthly life because of His perfect love for mankind. And through it we now have the gift of eternal life and living in communion with God.
Jesus didn’t pay such an enormous price or give the sacrifice of His life so that we can live victory-less lives; Christian Eeyore’s, never recognizing His amazing power to heal, restore, and bring hope to and through us.
I had no idea that the city I just moved to was the buckle of the Bible Belt, named the most churched state in the US. Chattanooga, TN boasts of about 59% of its population to be church-goers. I was also surprised to hear that Chattanooga has one of the highest crime rates in the nation and that out of the 170K population, there’s an estimated 600-700 homeless people that sleep outside or in shelters daily, with nearly 200 of them in families.
This begged to question, are the 59% of church-goers, including myself, asleep in our pews? Are we numb to the hurting, the lost, the poor in our own communities? Do we return to our full refrigerators and warm homes without a second thought, sitting in comfort that our work is done with our 10 percent?
It’s no wonder so many of us are depressed and struggle with the day to day monotony and drudgery of purposelessness. Because we’ve neglected our identity as people who are to give up our lives for our brothers, we’ve neglected our calling to serve, to give, to bless, and to share the hope that we have. We’ve neglected our true calling in Christ.
Isaiah continues on, sharing God’s heart for our own:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”
Is it possible that herein lies part of an *answer to our depression and the healing in our broken lives? Genesis 12:2 says, “I will bless you… and you will be a blessing.” The abundance we have, the gifts we enjoy, we’re not meant to keep all to ourselves. Jesus broke bread and He gave it away. When we take our gifts, the little or the plenty that we have, and give back, we experience a communion and a union with God and others that fills our heart and our souls as nothing else will.
We may not be able to save the world individually, but we can all do something. God has purposed each of us to do something. And if we were all to step into our somethings, we would see God move and multiply, we would see Him take the five loaves and two fish, and break it and feed not only the multitudes, but also our own hungry souls as well.
“Spend the whole of your one wild and beautiful life investing in many lives and God simply will not be outdone.” – Ann Voskamp
If you’ve been inspired and are looking for more ways to give back, I’ve listed 10 ways below.
10 Ideas to Give Back to Your Community
- Find a ministry at your church where help is needed
- Create a new ministry that you see a need for at your church
- Donate to a charity
- Serve and donate food at your local homeless shelter
- Visit a nursing home and encourage the elderly
- Volunteer at the pound or an animal rescue shelter
- Go on a missions trip
- Buy groceries for a needy family
- Start a bible-study in your home
- What are you good at? Give your skills away as gifts to your community – bake, write, babysit, create art, build, budget, cook, share your resources, knowledge, time and money with the friends and family God has placed in your lives.
*Depression is not just a spiritual issue, it affects the entirety of a person, physically and spiritually. If you are experiencing serious, ongoing depression, seek medical treatment as that is why God gave us doctors. My hope is that by taking advantage of the tools and resources we have in this world along with looking at one aspect of what God’s Word says in regards to healing and depression, we will work toward discovering the answers that may be unique to each of us on our road to leading full and healthy lives.