It's okay to NOT be okay
Superficial conversations - How are you? Fine! Good. Okay.
I try to answer honestly. But sometimes it feels easier to tell a simple lie. There are some moments, some days, some seasons where when someone asks me how I’m doing I should say, I’m Not okay.
I may look fine, talk/act normal. But if I’m honest I’m not always okay. I’m struggling. You know what, I’m not alone.
I know that I’m not the only one who is NOT OKAY.
back to Not Okay image
Today and the next few opportunities I have to preach, I want us to look at our emotional health. This is a deeply personal topic. I want to do my best to address this carefully. We’ll be wading into mental health issues a bit too.
I want to start off by saying I hope my sermons don’t come across as a shallow call to try harder or pray more. That’s not what I’m trying to say today.
I deeply believe that it’s really dangerous for us to avoid talking about this subject. I hope that if you are in the middle of a struggle with some of these issues, that today will be the start of releasing your pressure valve. That something I say is helpful for you.
I also want to say that I’m going to be sharing somethings today that I have noticed from many different people. So don’t sit there thinking I’m spilling the beans on your secret. If that’s you thinking I’m telling everyone about YOUR life, I want you to hear that this is the story of many of us in here today.
As your youth minister let me tell you something. Many of our young people are hurting. There are many students (not just here, but at school, in our community) who wrestle with anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideations. This is troubling! Students I’m here for you, this church is here for you. This series, I hope, will be helpful for you.
You know what I’ve found. Adults wrestle with the same problems teenagers do. The difference is as adults it seems to be harder for us to confess our problems. We don’t want to admit it when we struggle.
Check out these GIFs that describe what this is like for us:
briefly show both the Office GIF and the Thumbs UP GIF.
As human beings, we struggle with our emotions. We struggle to remain/become healthy. In every aspect of the word.
Truth bomb: No one has it together, completely.
I struggle with anxiety. That was probably less confessional than I was hoping for, because you probably already know that about me.
Although there is a wide range of what each of us struggle with. There’s a side of this battle that is emotional in nature. There is a side of this that is brain chemistry.
To be clear - depression is not feeling sad, and clinical anxiety is not just being worried about something. If I say those words, I don’t use them lightly.
I’m not a therapist, I’m not here to give anyone therapy today. Here’s what I’m trying to do today: I want you to know: I see you in your struggle. I don’t have all the answers. I love you. Today I want to help us become more aware of the burdens each of has, I want us to develop empathy for each other. I want to give you hope in your journey, and I want you to see the support you have during the struggle.
So sometimes we are unhealthy mentally or emotionally. What do you think is the relationship between mental health and spiritual health?
Here’s what I know:
You can be spiritual healthy and struggling mentally.
You can be poor in both, you can be healthy in both.
You can be spiritually struggling and mentally healthy.
I do think it's possible that a spiritual struggle can lead to mental illness.
Not every mental illness has a spiritual component.
Don’t hear me say/oversimplify - If you’re depressed you’re a bad Christian.
Our spiritual health provides another facet of the health of our whole self. Healthy spirituality contributes to wholeness.
Just like trainers and psychologists tell you your physical health has a bearing on your mental health. Complex issues!
I’m not a therapist, I’m a bible student, I’m a preacher. I want to try and address what could be the spiritual elements within these emotional and mental health issues.
If we’re going to talk about the spiritual side of emotional health, let’s go to God’s word. Just like our lives are often raw, we’re gonna see some pretty raw emotions here.
I want to show you a glimpse into how common the darker, honest, raw range of human emotions are common in the Bible.
Note: While Jesus is our counselor, he’s not our therapist. The same clinical terms that we have today are not going to appear in the Bible. Medicine/Psychology have changed a lot since then!
We have to do some digging, some empathizing sometimes to fill-in-the-blanks.
So many in the Bible: Saul, Jeremiah, Elijah, Moses, David, Jonah Judas, Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, etc. All show us conflicted emotions!
Do you resonate with any of these?
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. 17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. 18 Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.
1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” 4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation 6 and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. 8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. 9 I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” 10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
7 Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
Can you believe David, KING DAVID wrestled with emotions like this? This was a man after God’s own heart!
David wasn’t perfect. Many of his laments and psalms of despair appear as a result of his own mistakes. David is a good example of when spiritual illness can lead to emotional/mental illness.
Maybe David’s words catch your attention. A habit I’m developing is “praying the scripture” using a portion of scripture, usually a psalm, and reading it as a source material for your prayers. You make the Bible’s words your own. Recently, I’ve found praying David’s words to be especially helpful.
Next, let me show you what is perhaps the darkest psalm/song/prayer in the Bible. This is EXTREMELY raw. I share this with you to show you that if you are in this struggle with your emotions/life, the Bible speaks your language.
Note, I don’t think this Psalm has good theology. I don’t think his view of God is correct. However, it’s in our Bible because it shows that we demonstrate FAITH in God even when we direct our rawest, most honest prayers at God, trusting that he hears them.
A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite. 1 O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. 2 Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! 3 For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, 5 like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. 6 You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. 7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah 8 You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape; 9 my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you. 10 Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah 11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? 12 Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? 13 But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? 15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. 16 Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. 17 They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. 18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.
I hope you see that the Bible speaks your language. Use its words and cry out to God.
Despite some unbelievable despite found in the Bible, let me show you some of the incredible hope that can be found.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
A Psalm of David. 1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Powerful Psalm with both despair and hope. I want you to hear today that it is not a sin to STRUGGLE. It’s not a sin to feel overwhelmed, abandoned, disappointed, depressed, exhausted, surrounded. It’s OKAY to NOT be OKAY.
As you walk down this road searching for emotional/mental health have hope. As you walk alongside those on that road, offer hope.
Don’t forget Jesus’ words. He came to teach, to die for us, but he also healed people everywhere he went. His priority for healing was always on the spiritual, but time and time again he demonstrated he has the power to heal any illness/ailment even death itself. Don’t forget his words, while he was speaking about tax collectors and their spiritual health, he says:
31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
Jesus sees you. Jesus hears you.
I may skip this next section!
Consider this parable and the lesson it teaches:
1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Jesus hears you!
I want everyone in here to know that it is OKAY to NOT be OKAY. will you turn to the person next to you and tell them “IT is OKAY to NOT be OKAY!”
When you are struggling with your emotional/mental health, take God with you. He loves you. He offers healing, purpose, grace, mercy. I want you to see how much the Bible empathizes with your experience. While the terms/diagnosis have changes, many of these issues are timeless.
When you are feeling lonely, isolated, desperate, hopeless. Please reach out to us.
We may not always know what to say, what to do, or how to help. But I know we love you, God loves you, and we want to support each other here.
As a church, we need to change the way we talk about emotional/mental health. For one, we need to start talking about it more. It’s starts with you admitting when you’re not okay. The more we do that, the more the walls come down, and we support/begin to heal one another.
I’ve really wrestled with if this message was even worth sharing. When I’m hurting and in a time of distress, the last thing I want is for someone to preach at me. That’s literally what I’ve spent 20 minutes doing.
One of the most powerful things any of us can do to help those who are hurting is to listen. Just slow down. Notice, see, hear, and listen. I always love when you guys encourage me after I preach. You guys are great. One of the greatest ways you can encourage me is by sharing, listening, and asking.
It’s okay to not be okay.