Better Days Ahead—Part 4
November 9, 2021
by Peter Amsterdam
Better Days Ahead—Part 4
—Nurturing Mental and Emotional Well-being
It is wonderful to know that no matter what is going on in our lives, we can trust Jesus and look to Him to establish our thoughts and guide our steps. The Bible says that God will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in Him. (See Isaiah 26:3.) “The steps of a [good and righteous] man are directed and established by the Lord, and He delights in his way [and blesses his path]” (Psalm 37:23 AMP).
The second part of this series covered some of the emotional challenges of loneliness, isolation, and despair, and the impact these have on our lives. Some of you have battled depression and a sense of hopelessness, and when you’re in the middle of it, you may be tempted to wonder if you’ll ever pull out of it. Maybe you feel like you’re just going through the motions. And eventually, everyday life can start to feel like a grind, lacking in joy and a sense of purpose and new possibilities.
Sometimes this can take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being and can affect how you cope with everyday life. Many times, this is not due to weakness or spiritual apathy or because you’ve done something wrong. These types of mental and emotional struggles are the result of living in a fallen world and facing the many difficulties that bring about stress, sadness, and a loss of hope.
Jesus explained it this way:
Sometimes, life is just tough, and sometimes it stays that way for a while. There’s always a way through a difficulty when you look to Me for guidance and help, but it may take time for Me to bring the greatest good. Even when problems drag on and you feel exhausted or emotionally drained, I am by your side, ready to renew your spirit and give you the patience and perseverance to hang on as we work through the problems together.
I don’t promise a trouble-free life. I won’t wave a magic wand and remove your problems and struggles, but I can give you superhuman resources to enable you to withstand adversity, to hold your head high through the storm, and in time, to come out stronger and better equipped to face the next challenge.
Before getting into practical strategies, it’s important to remember that the best starting point when battling emotional or mental issues of any kind is to seek the Lord for His guidance and comfort, and stay close to Him on a daily basis. One of my favorite Bible passages about God’s peace in our hearts and minds is Philippians 4:4, 6–7:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (NIV).
When any of us are battling, it’s time to draw close to the Lord. He is our Answer Man no matter what challenges we encounter. He knows every detail about our lives, thoughts, needs, and struggles, and drawing close to Him allows the healing power of the Holy Spirit to transform our mood and emotions, and for the fruits of the Spirit to flourish in our lives. We need to actively draw near to God, and He will draw near to us. (See James 4:8.)
We can strengthen our walk with the Lord in a variety of ways. Let’s take a brief look at some positive steps that will help us draw closer to Him.
Read the Bible and other uplifting devotional articles or books daily. You may have previously honed the practice of reading God’s Word every day, but with the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy for that habit to slip to where it’s no longer happening every day, and pretty soon it may not be happening much at all. It is important to make it a priority to take time with the Lord every day, if possible, reading the Bible and other devotional publications and spending time communing with Him in prayer. This is a good starting place for maintaining an overall sense of well-being—emotional, spiritual, and mental.
My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.—Proverbs 4:20–22 NIV
Pray and commit your burdens and cares to the Lord. When we notice that we’re carrying the weights of fear, worry, condemnation, anxiety, etc., it’s important to stop and take a little time to give those cares to the Lord very specifically. Then leave them with Him and trust that He does all things well.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.—1 Peter 5:7
Ask the Holy Spirit to work in and through you. We know that the infilling of the Holy Spirit gives us power to witness! (Acts 1:8) But there are also other personal benefits and blessings that come with being filled with the Spirit and allowing the Lord to transform our lives. Then we are blessed with the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control! (Galatians 5:22–23)
Remind yourself that God’s grace is sufficient. There will be many tests and trials in life that we don’t have the strength, wisdom, or energy to deal with. We are weak and flawed human beings, but God is all-powerful. He is sovereign, and His grace is sufficient! As the apostle Paul said:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.—2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
Walking in God’s will. We can most clearly ascertain the big picture of the Lord’s will for our lives through reading His Word. It can be encouraging to watch for the Lord’s affirmations and signs for you personally as you go about your daily activities. If you keep a lookout for God’s little touches of love, open doors, and confirmations of His presence and working in your life, you may find that it boosts your spirit and gives you hope.
Remember that you are not alone!Hone your sense of the Lord’s constant presence with you. Remind yourself that Jesus is always with you. Being alone over long periods of time can affect your feeling of self-worth. You might begin to feel forgotten and that no one cares or loves you. You may not be able to change much in your immediate relationships—whether with family or friends—but you can focus on Jesus’ immense and never-changing love for you. He can fill all the empties and brighten your outlook.
I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion], even to the end of the age.—Matthew 28:20 AMP
Maintain a grateful attitude.Sometimes, it takes practice and perseverance to learn to be consistently grateful. Gratitude is powerful and has been shown to improve physical, psychological, and mental health, our sleep, self-esteem, and more. Verbally articulating your blessings and expressing thanks to the Lord can help to remind you of the good things in your life, and it is also a good example to others.
There are also practical steps that help nurture mental and emotional well-being, such as:
Keep a journal in which you write your thoughts, prayers, and the guidance or instruction you receive from the Lord and promises that strengthen you. Some people find journaling helps them keep their mind focused, and it’s inspiring and rewarding to review your journey with Jesus.
Ask for advice and counsel from other trusted Christians. Sometimes we all need someone to pray with, one who can offer us godly counsel.
Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.—Proverbs 11:14 NKJV
Collect inspirational and/or motivational quotes that speak to you. You can put these up on your wall or keep them on your phone or somewhere you will see them frequently. We almost always have time to read a short quote or paragraph, and these can be powerful and help to “reset” our attitude, reminding us that there is hope, that God is good, that life will improve, and that we enjoy many blessings, despite the challenges we are presently facing.
Stay connected with people. Loneliness is a major factor that impacts mental and emotional well-being. One article explained it as follows:
When it comes to mental health, loneliness feeds symptoms. Loneliness exacerbates the symptoms of illnesses like depression, social anxiety and alcoholism. As difficult as it is to do, try to take the initiative to reach out to others. If you’re feeling down, you really need to push yourself even when it’s hard. The best way to meet other people is by getting involved with something you like. ... Over time, the loneliness will fade.1
While face-to-face time is preferred, if that’s not possible, seeing someone’s face and hearing their voice on the phone or over Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom is a wonderful alternative. You can still keep each other updated, pray together, encourage one another, and share one another’s burdens.
If you can’t find the support you need in the networks you currently have, then it would be beneficial to seek out new sources of friendship and Christian fellowship. You might want to join a church or find another group of people who share your interests, or volunteer a few times a week and build relationships that way.
It is helpful to spend time with those who have a positive impact on you, those who appreciate and value you, and are concerned for your well-being. Continue to build bonds with those who leave you feeling positive, enriched, and challenged.
Speak encouraging words to each other. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, with no one left out, and no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it!—1 Thessalonians 5:11 MSG
Take care of your health. Self-care is not selfish. Jesus wants us to stay healthy in order to be good ambassadors for Him. We can increase our sense of well-being when we take the steps necessary to stay healthy, which include eating nutritious food (limiting sugar and processed foods), drinking enough water, getting sufficient exercise, and having a regular schedule that allows for sufficient sleep (ideally eight hours each night).
On the topic of sleep, I found the following information to be of interest:
Sleep is one of the most important elements of self-care. It affects neurotransmitters, stress hormones, thought processes and emotional regulation. Too little can make it difficult to make decisions, solve problems and control your emotions and behavior. Simply put, everything seems worse when you don’t get enough sleep. You may feel more anxious, agitated, depressed. Whatever symptoms you typically experience are amplified. Additionally, even though you may feel like you are functioning fine with little sleep, you aren’t. Studies have found that drowsy driving can impair your functioning behind the wheel as much as, if not more than, drunk driving.2
Stay active. Exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Being in nature, breathing fresh air, keeping fit, having a change of scenery, and benefiting from movement and exercise have a positive impact on your emotional health.
Walking, running, cycling, swimming, dancing and even gardening can all help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Try not to think about it as exercise and think about moving instead. ... The combination of fresh air and movement will help your mind and body.3
Volunteer, give to others. Acts of kindness and generosity do wonders for your overall well-being. Volunteering can build friendship bonds with others as you gather together around a shared cause.
The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.—Proverbs 11:25 NLT
Participation in social and community life has attracted a lot of attention in the field of well-being research. Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy.4
Focus on the moment. Staying present in the moment, being conscious of others around you and your immediate circumstances, helps to avoid your thoughts drifting to dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. We can’t change the past, and we can’t control tomorrow (James 4:13–15). Today is what we have to work with and what the Lord gives us faith for (Matthew 6:34), so let’s make the most of it by giving the demands of today and the good things around us our full attention.
Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances your well-being and savoring “the moment” can help to reaffirm your life priorities.5
What an excellent ground of hope and confidence we have when we reflect upon these three things in prayer—the Father’s love, the Son’s [sacrifice], and the Spirit’s power.—Thomas Manton (1620–1677)
Let’s make an effort toremember that our greatest avenue for spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being is reading and living according to God’s Word, seeking His presence in prayer and meditation, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. As we do so, we can trust that He will fulfill His promises to care for us and bring us through the valleys to the light of brighter days.