A couple of days ago, Christian rapper Lecrae tweeted:
Anxiety is the belief that God is not as good as He says, and has run out of Grace. Be anxious for nothing.
— Lecrae (@lecrae) November 13, 2013
This tweet has been favorited and retweeted thousands of times. So people really like it.
And I understand why. It sounds good, right?
The only problem is, it’s not true.
The definition Lecrae gives for anxiety is actually the definition of distrust.
And distrust and anxiety are not the same thing.
Distrust often causes anxiety. But not all anxiety is the result of distrust.
Just like a broken leg can cause pain, but not all pain is the result of a broken leg.
I have anxiety, but not because I lack trust. And not because I don’t believe God is good, and not because I think God’s grace has run out.
Trusting God is good isn’t what gets me out of anxiety. It’s what helps me through it.
For me, trusting God is good means that I trust he is making me new, healing and redeeming the broken parts of me. It means I trust that his grace extends to me even when I am wracked with anxiety. It means I believe he will take care of me even when I don’t know how he’s going to do it.
Trusting that God is good is what keeps me going. Believing in God’s limitless grace is what gives me hope. But neither of them make my anxiety go away.
Trust and grace are not magical talismans that bring you out of whatever trouble you are in. You can’t collect trust and grace and then once you get enough, then (then!) your problems will go away.
Trust and grace, in whatever amount you have, are not what get you out. They are what get you through.
In Christianity, mental illness is often treated like a lack of faith, or like it’s the person’s fault for having a mental illness.
Just trust God and your anxiety will go away.
Just get your joy from Christ and you won’t be depressed.
Just hope in God and you won’t feel suicidal.
Don’t you know God loves you and wants to take care of you?
Mental illness is treated like something the person who suffers from it can control. Which is a ridiculous notion.
Insinuating that mental illness is the sufferer’s fault is a surefire way to destroy the person’s sense of worth, crush the person’s hope, and ruin the person’s view of God.
Mental illness is frustrating. Believe me, if I could make it go away, I would. In fact, I am trying to make it go away. But it’s frustrating when I can’t make it go away at the snap of a finger. It’s frustrating when praying doesn’t help. It’s frustrating when I have anxiety even though I know I shouldn’t.
I don’t have anxiety by choice. I don’t have it because I don’t think God is good. I don’t have it because I think God’s grace has run out.
Mental illness is because of chemical imbalances. It’s because of trauma. It’s because the world is broken. It’s because of a whole host of things.
But a choice is not one of those things. Being a bad Christian is not one of those things.
So, if you’d like to give a hopeful message to people who suffer from anxiety, don’t tell them to get more trust. Don’t tell them to get their beliefs about God’s grace and goodness straightened out. Don’t tell them to just stop worrying.
Instead, tell them anxiety sucks. Tell them God likes them. Tell them you like them. Tell them how you are also broken. Tell them there’s hope.
Or tell them nothing and just listen to them. Everyone’s experience with anxiety is unique, and fighting a mental illness can be isolating, so listening and trying to understand is often the most helpful thing you can do.