Mental Health, Youth Ministry

3 Situations, 3 Observations, 3 Questions, 3 Ideas

Three Situations:

  1. When I asked my high school students recently to list the top three emotions most teenagers probably feel, happy/joyful made that list, but “anxious” took the number one spot.
  2. Our church hosts a weekly conversation cafe focusing on a variety of topics. Normally, a handful of people show up each Monday. Last week, the topic was anxiety and the room was packed.
  3. On this little blog where I post about random life and books I’m reading and what God’s been showing me, most posts get read by a few friends and family members. I posted the other day about mental health and mental illness and there were over 450 views and dozens of shares.

Three Observations:

  1. These issues are real and relevant in our lives.
  2. People are longing to talk about these issues that impact them and those they love.
  3. While a stigma unfortunately remains, people are more open to sharing mental health challenges than perhaps ever before.

Three Questions:

  1. What does it look like to seek, and help others find, peace in very anxious times?
  2. How can this be obviously such a huge topic in people’s lives and there still be crazy stigma about it all?
  3. How do we keep the conversations going?

Three Ideas:

  1. Give each other grace.
    In addition to learning more about mental health recently, I’ve also discovered a lot about the fact that people are around us are dealing with things we can’t see. After sharing an update from a recent doctor’s visit, a coworker (who I see basically every day) texted to basically say “I had no clue you were still dealing with the impacts of your surgery or that this would be such a long ordeal.” A friend who actually had the same surgery as I did and is keenly aware of the challenges it can bring stopped me on one of the hardest days to say “You’re looking great! Your thyroid must be kicking in just fine.” It wasn’t.
    All that to say, what we see is not always what’s really going on. Whether it is an illness, stress at work, a sick family member, parents going through a divorce, or one of a million other things, we each have stuff we’re dealing with. And while we can’t miraculously know someone’s struggling if they act like life is fine, maybe the better assumption is that everyone is dealing with some kind of struggle in a given day. Let’s lead with grace instead of assuming the worst.
  2. Speak only words that make souls stronger.
    If it’s true that we’re all dealing with hard things mixed among the good things, let’s speak life and hope into people around us. Call out the good you see them doing. Thank them for being brave enough to face this crazy world. Speak well of them in front of them and behind their backs.
    Kid President has a lot to say about this like. My two favorite quotes of his are,
    “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, you’re not thinking hard enough.” and
    “Give people high-fives just for getting out of bed. Being a person is hard sometimes.”
    Sometimes hard or challenging words are needed especially with those closest to us, but this lens from Ephesians 4:29 is a good one as we sort through what is appropriate… will these words tear others down or make their souls stronger?
  3. Take care of yourself.
    Our world of anxiety and fear, depression and suicide, is also a world that pushes us to go farther, do more, work harder, be perfect. I’m sure there’s a correlation in there somewhere. It’s hard work to stand up against those pressures, but it is necessary. We must care for ourselves if we’re going to be able to care for others and do all the crazy awesome things God has called us to do in this world. I am so thankful for the many people speaking this truth into my life right now. The specifics of this look different for each person and each season of life, but do something today to take care of yourself. Your future self, along with all those around you, will thank you.



No words of my own right now, but a few from others I’d like to share.



First, this paraphrase of Matthew 5:3-5:

You’re blessed when you are out of options, and all you can do is lean on God.  Because when you realize your need for God, it is only then that you tap into His immeasurable greatness and goodness.  You’re blessed when you’ve been stripped of that which is most precious to you.  Because only then can you be tenderly embraced by the One most precious to you.


Also, this passage from a devotional book quoted in a blog post I read this morning. 

“Be willing to follow wherever I lead. Follow Me wholeheartedly, with glad anticipation quickening your pace. Though you don’t know what lies ahead, I know; and that is enough! Some of My richest blessings are just around the bend: out of sight, but nonetheless very real. To receive these gifts, you must walk by faith–not by sight. This doesn’t mean closing your eyes to what is all around you. It means subordinating the visible world to the invisible Shepherd of your soul.”


And lastly, this beautiful prayer that was used in the traditional worship service at First Trinity last night and this morning:

"O most loving Father, You want us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing except losing You, to follow You faithfully, and to lay all our cares on You.  Protect us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and give us confidence in Your merciful love given to us in our Savior Jesus, in whose Name we pray. Amen.”


One Thing

You probably know the story pretty well.  Jesus shows up to his friends’ house for a visit.  Martha runs off and begins preparing the meal in the kitchen.  Mary goes and listens to Jesus.  Martha gets mad, and starts complaining to Jesus.  Instead of agreeing, Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better…” 



I think I’ve probably heard this story over a hundred times.  That’s not to mention times it’s come up in conversations such as, “Well, there goes ‘Martha’ again.”  Or, “I sure do wish I could be like Mary more and just sit at Jesus’ feet.”



So when I began to read this story this morning I almost just skimmed right though it thinking, “Been there, read that, keep on going.”  But something caught my attention.  A four word phrase:

one thing is needed”



“What is that one thing?” I wondered.

Well, Jesus of course. 



And I, again, went back to thinking about the many lessons/sermons I’ve heard, and books I’ve read talking about how we just need to sit at Jesus’ feet.



But today, I had a different train of thought with this story.  Go with me here for a minute.  So, it’s kind of obvious that the “one thing” is Jesus right.  So he’s saying, “I am the only thing you need.” 



I thought about it maybe as an invitation to Mary almost of saying, “Okay Mary, I’m all that’s needed to get everything done.  So, right come sit with me in the living room for a while so we can attend to what needs to happen here.  Then, when we’re done here, I’ll still the be the “One Thing” needed to help get everything done in the kitchen.  And then, when we finish there, the beds need to be made up, right.  Yes, even in making the beds, I’ll be the “One Thing” needed there as well.  Just follow me.  I’m all that’s needed and I’ll show you how you can help me accomplish the tasks before us.”



Yes, it seems that there are definitely good lessons to be learned about simply sitting at Jesus’ feet instead of being “worried” and “upset” about the many things to be done.  But maybe, just maybe, if we just realized that in the midst of those “many things,”  Jesus was more than enough, we wouldn’t be so worried and upset anyway. 



So as we head towards Christmas next week and the “many things” start to become “TOO many things” remember to pause and turn to the “One” who is more than enough for all our “things.”  Ask him what the next step is in today… and then the next… and then the next … and then the next.  And soon, we realize that the many things have been accomplished as we just focused on the One Thing most needed.



Only One thing is needed. 

Choose what is better. 

It will not be taken from you.



(I sure hope you were able to follow my thought process there.)

31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 12} – Hope and Contentment… the Best of Friends

Tonight at the wonderful Philippians Short Course Bible Study at First Trinity we were studying chapter 4.  It’s a wonderful chapter which I strongly suggest everyone read.  (You could even do so right now by clicking here.)  Anyway, in summary here are a few things covered in that chapter:

  • vs 4 – Finding JOY in the Lord
  • vs. 5-7 – Finding PEACE to replace anxiety through prayer
  • vs. 8-9 – Finding TRUTH to fight the lies Satan gets us to believe.
  • vs. 10-20 – Finding CONTENTMENT in Jesus rather than our circumstances.

You may be starting to wonder what all of that has to do with a blog post that is supposed to be about HOPE. 


However, as I was driving home just now, I began to realize that “CONTENTMENT” and “HOPE” are very much alike.  Maybe hope grows out of contentment or contentment comes from hope or maybe neither, but in any case, many similarities appear.


Take a look at what Paul says here in Philippians 4 about being content:

… I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know that it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength. 

Just like contentment, we learn to find HOPE no matter what the circumstance.  Hope doesn’t come FROM the circumstance.  Most of the time, if we look at our situation, we’d probably find more despair than hope. So while hope doesn’t come from the situation, we can find hope IN the situation. 


Paul states here that he found “the secret” to contentment, and it comes in looking to Christ for strength.  The same is true of HOPE… we have to look to something, or rather Someone, outside of our situation in order to find hope. 


Verse 19 tells who that Someone is:

And my God will meet ALL your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Despair, the opposite of hope, comes when we start to think that there’s no way out… our situation is too big… to hard… too much… my needs are too many or too great.  In reality, when we can’t find contentment or we can’t find hope… it’s because somehow our circumstances have blinded from seeing God’s provision.  We start to let our minds wander and think, “Well, maybe God isn’t enough for me.” Our situation can, at times, keep us from realizing that our God is MORE than enough for us.  He provides ABUNDANTLY.


When fear and anxiety attempt to rob us of contentment or hope… we can focus on “whatever is true.” (vs. 8 ) And this my friends is true:










Gracious God,

We thank you for the promise that you will provide for ALL our needs.  We thank you that you’re not giving us just enough to survive, but that you provide abundantly, that You are MORE than enough for us.  When the situations and circumstances of our lives blind us and fill us with anxiety, give us strength and bring us back to truth.  We know from Your Word that in that place of truth… in being honest with you in prayer, your peace will guard our hearts and our minds.  That is our prayer tonight, Lord… that you would protect our hearts and minds from despair as you point us to Hope Himself, Jesus Christ.

It’s in His name we pray,