As a Christian apologist, I’m grateful that people ask me questions. On occasion, someone will contact me to ask for advice as they face various types of suffering. Some time ago a person shared his heartfelt struggle with me by asking the following question (paraphrased):
Ken, I’m a Christian but I suffer daily from a basically debilitating depression and anxiety. I’m constantly battling doubt and occasionally thoughts of suicide. Why do I have a condition that causes me to doubt God’s existence and consider suicide?
Here was my response (paraphrased):
Greetings, my friend.
I’m so sorry you struggle with depression and anxiety. My heart goes out to you because I have family members who have similar struggles. Therefore, I know something about what you are experiencing.
Let me offer you three points that I hope will be helpful to you.
First, while I am not a mental health professional, I do want to strongly encourage you to seek professional medical and psychological help if you haven’t already—especially since you have suicidal thoughts. In fact, someone at the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is available to chat right now (24/7).
Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can help ease the inner pain and help remove the suicidal ideation. Thus depression and anxiety can be treated and there is genuine hope for you to return to a more stable place of mental health.
Second, there are many Christian mental health professionals who share your worldview and can provide guidance to help both body and soul. You have options for managing and resolving your chronic challenges.
Third, you are not alone in your struggles. Many people battle depression and anxiety. And that includes Christians and non-Christians.
The short answer to your bigger question is that we suffer psychologically and existentially because we live in a fallen world. Original sin has cut us off from God and has led to alienation with others and deep angst within ourselves. Our spiritual condition affects our physical and psychological states, and that is true even of those who have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. So experiencing depression and anxiety can indeed contribute to doubt and worry about our spiritual condition.
Our Hope in Christ
Yet the ultimate cure for our fallen state is found in the gracious gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8–10). Along with seeking professional psychological help, I encourage you to pray and meditate on Jesus’s words—especially in Matthew 11:28:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
The triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) created you and knows everything about you. He loves you and understands your situation.
Two voices, one from the present and one from the past, may encourage you. Anglican theologian Stephen Neill said the central emphasis of Jesus’s teaching is: “God can be depended upon in every circumstance of life.”1 Therefore you can rely on the Lord to help you with your suffering.
Also, consider reading St. Augustine’s Confessions as a source of spiritual reflection and support. Augustine writes about his own difficulties in life and how God’s grace met him in his intense existential challenges.
May our Lord grant you in body and soul what St. Augustine called rest and peace.
If you also battle mental health issues then I hope you will consider the points above. Or if you know a person who does, please take the time to offer them encouragement and direction. When you undergo suffering, remember the God of historic Christianity is a “God with wounds,” for Jesus Christ as the God-man has suffered with us in life and for us on the cross.
Reflections: Your Turn
How have you worked through times of anxiety, doubt, and depression?
- For twelve points and practices for personal spiritual growth and renewal and examples of how to extend hope for the hurting, see Kenneth Richard Samples, Christianity Cross-Examined (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2021), 217, 236.
- For more about Christianity and mental health, I recommend Mark P. Cosgrove and James D. Mallory Jr.’s book Mental Health: A Christian Approach.
- Although there are many translations of Confessions available, I recommend these: Confessions, trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin (New York: Penguin, 1961); The Confessions: Saint Augustine of Hippo, ed. David Vincent Meconi, trans. Maria Boulding (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2012); Confessions, 2nd ed., ed. Michael P. Foley, trans. F. J. Sheed (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2006).
- Stephen Neill, The Supremacy of Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1983), 63.