The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD! Hail to the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said: “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look, your King is coming, riding on a donkeys colt” (John 12:12-15)
The Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday. They call it Palm Sunday because, as Scripture states, when Jesus rode in on the young donkey to Jerusalem the crowd laid down their robes and palm branches on the rode before Him during His Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19). In the Bible, palms are known to represent victory. While the crowds were joyous and full of hope because Jesus had come to Jerusalem, they did not understand the true victory that would happen in just seven days when God would raise Jesus from the dead. The Crucifixion was a time of hopelessness for Christ’s followers. When Jesus was buried it seemed as if that was the end of Him. But God had a bigger plan. Before there could be victory in the resurrection, Jesus had endure suffering and He had to die. Palm Sunday marked the beginning of the end of Jesus’ life here on earth, and symbolizes the hope that He gave us through His loving sacrifice on the cross.
As Christians, we are supposed to put our hope in the Lord, but if we’re honest with ourselves, there are days when we struggle to grasp onto the hope of the cross. We lose sight of the source of our joy. We tend to let our feelings jump to the conclusion that there is no hope. Sometimes, even though we can see the cross and we understand amazing power that it represents, we still can’t shake feelings of anxiety and depression. For many, chronic mental illness is a very real, day-to-day struggle.
Depression and anxiety can be debilitating. I’ve been battling both my whole life. Sometimes it just feels normal to me. It feels awful, but normal. It’s paralyzing. Some days you can’t get out of bed, and you’re struggling to do even the simplest of tasks, like taking a shower, eating, or even being around people. I’ve had days where I just lay in bed, wishing I would waste away into nothing. Perhaps if I just stop moving, it could all be over and I wouldn’t have to face anyone or anything. Other times, I use gaming to escape and neglect my responsibilities. I escape into another world and delve head-first into whatever I am playing, where I can focus on anything other than my depression.
I say all this to stress that I understand depression and anxiety. I know what its like to feel hopeless. Depression is different for everyone, but for me its being so overwhelmed that I can’t even comprehend doing anything about anything; I might as well just take a nap and wait for time to pass.
My life doesn’t always consist of this feeling; I have many wonderful days where I am not plagued with bouts of anxiety and depression and I have a healthy balance between my responsibilities and gaming, but depression and anxiety always rear their ugly heads again. I understand thinking I “should” be happy, but I’m not (even though I tell myself I should be). I don’t have all the “answers” to the questions about medication and brain chemistry. I’m just a Christian who struggles with chronic mental illness telling you that it’s okay that times get hard, because no matter how hard things get, you are not alone and there is hope. But before we can claim victory over our struggles, we have to prepare for the battle ahead. Without a battle, there is nothing to be victorious over. Every morning we must put on the full armor of God, some days more than once.
Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12)
The battle isn’t even ours to fight! Yet we try to do everything to control how we feel and what we think. There is a spiritual war going on, but we are called to be still and let God fight these battles for us. If we rely on Him for guidance, He will show us what to do. In he Bible we see God delivering, God saving, God calling, God overcoming, time and again. Nothing has been done or will be done unless God allows it. He is sovereign. Let us continue to trust in that.
In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:11-12)
Mental illness isn’t in our control; we can’t just pray it away. Should you always be praying over it? Yes, absolutely. We are called to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6). Pray that it gets easier, pray that you can focus on the promises of God. Pray knowing that there isn’t anything that we (in our own strength) can do to remove our “thorns in the flesh.” Even Paul had a thorn in his flesh that God did not take away (2 Corinthians 12:7).
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)
We get to rejoice in our struggles because God’s grace is sufficient for us. It is going to be hard, but God uses our trials to shape us for his glory! I know that no matter how hard things get, God is going to use my struggles with depression and anxiety for the ultimate purposes of His kingdom. Since I will endure hardship, I am thankful and encouraged by this knowledge. I can to relate to others who face the same debilitating conditions, build them up in Christ, and share the Gospel with them. I can say, “This is what my life has been, but look at what God did with it.” His hand is over my life. What could be a greater comfort than that? I am never alone. Mental illness breeds in isolation, but God never leaves me (Hebrews 13:5). I cannot forget that. The enemy wants me to feel alone in my struggles, but he is a liar. When I fix my eyes on Jesus, I am reminded that I never have to face depression or anxiety alone.
“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; he who keeps you will not slumber.” (Psalm 121:1-3)
For those of us who struggle with mental illness: our days of depression and anxiety are not the end. They are a part of our life, but they are not who we are. We are children of the Living God. Life is a continuous series of ups and downs, and at times they may be extreme. We need to come to expect those lows. It’s easy to ride high on the Holy Spirit and feel great, but we cannot solely rely on that feeling to get us through when we feel trapped in depression and anxiety. It will pass; it always does. We need to be prepared by staying in Gods Word and continuously praying. Stand strong in your faith and God will aid you. If we stay in The Word and in prayer, we won’t be caught off guard and we will have better endurance when faced with depression and anxiety. I know that depression is hard, but it’s only temporary, and there are better days ahead.
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Being a Christian doesn’t mean God is going to deliver you from mental illness. I believe that He could take it away, but we don’t know the plans He has for us. We all have a testimony to share, each one unique (on purpose) for God’s Kingdom and glory. We must always remember where to place our hope. We cannot place hope in ourselves, but don’t have to. Living a life with depression and anxiety can feel impossible. It feels like we are fighting a losing battle. It looks like Jesus’ tomb from the outside: hopeless, with no way out. But Jesus didn’t stay dead, the stone was rolled away and He lives! God the Father resurrected Jesus and restored our relationship with Him. He saved us, not because we deserved it, but because He loves us. He is our Father and now we never have to face the troubles of this world on our own.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by Gods power are being guarded through faith for a salvation to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)