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Hope for the weary soul

Hope for the weary soul
Posted on May 23, 2019  - By Dr. Steve Hunter

I will never forget the global effort to rescue 12 members of a junior soccer team and their coach from a cave in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand, last year. The rescue involved more than 10,000 volunteers, 100 divers, 100 governmental agencies, 900 police officers and 2,000 soldiers to bring the team to safety.

It reminds me of another ‘cave rescue’ in God’s Word in 1 Kings 18-19. God had just given Elijah a huge victory over 450 false prophets of Baal and 400 false prophets of Asherah. But when Elijah received a message that Queen Jezebel was going to kill him for it, he ran as fast and as far away as he could, eventually hiding out in the dark recesses of a cave. Trapped in his own feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, he cried out, “I have had enough, LORD. Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died” (1 Kings 19:4). Have you ever prayed that kind of prayer? Have you ever felt so desperate you wanted to die? You are not alone.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 300 million people around the world suffer from depression today. Last year alone, over 800,000 people died from suicide, with over 16 million suicide attempts. More people have died from suicide than from wars and natural disasters combined. What can we do about this global epidemic? What if, like Elijah, we feel as if our own lives are caving in all around us? Using the acronym R.E.S.C.U.E, I would like to offer several suggestions that I have found invaluable to help Christians in battling depression, anxiety and self-harm.


Take time to care for your personal health and well-being. It is interesting to me that the first thing God did to minister to Elijah, at his point of complete exhaustion and despair, was to offer him food and allow him time to rest (1 Kings 19:5). There is no way to overestimate the importance of the following ‘anti-depressants’: getting eight hours of sleep every night, eating healthier, drinking plenty of water, and exercising every day. It can be tempting to write these off as ‘not the answer you’re looking for’ — but they are crucial to your well-being as we are not just spiritual persons but spiritual-physical persons. Our physical wellbeing does affect our moods and thoughts.

And how about unplugging from technology from time to time? Just like with Elijah, God doesn’t speak to us in an earthquake, a mighty rushing wind, a blazing fire, and definitely not in the unending chaos of our overly busy lives. At times, we must be still to hear His still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13). In addition to diet, exercise and sleep, I have found that meditation — or stillness — has been nothing less than transformational (Romans 12:2). Take time to rest in God’s truth.

God doesn’t speak to us in the unending chaos of our overly busy lives. At times, we must be still to hear His still small voice

Enlist the help of others to walk with you

It may be difficult for many of us to reach out for help when we need it most. We fear being judged, or we may feel ashamed. However, it is critical to talk to someone if you are struggling. Scripture points to this truth in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, when it says two are better than one. An excellent suggestion for cultivating friendships and accountability relationships is to join a faith-based, 12-step, support group like Celebrate Recovery. I have been attending one called Regen (short for Regeneration) that has personally been a life-changing experience for me.

But if you don’t have access to such a group, do you have a mature Christian friend you can talk to, a trusted elder, a youth minister, or a Sunday school teacher? When you’re stranded, out in the middle of nowhere, and a storm is raging in your head, is there someone in your life who would drop everything, leave immediately, and meet you where you are? Work to cultivate same-sex, Biblical friendships. What is a Biblical friend? He or she is someone who knows you best and loves you most (Proverbs 18:24).

Seek out professional help

If you are seriously struggling with depression, anxiety and/or other mental health challenges, contact your medical doctor or a professional counsellor. Get a physical from head-to-toe to rule out any medical contributors to your mental health issues. Consider the possibility of medication, which can be very helpful, even necessary, for other counselling-related interventions to have maximum benefit.

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude

Scripture tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When you’re depressed, the last thing you feel like doing is praising God. But you’ll find your mind has less time to dwell on your problems, when your heart is full of praise.

When you’re depressed, the last thing you feel like doing is praising God. But you’ll find your mind has less time to dwell on your problems, when your heart is full of praise

Secular studies have come to the same conclusion too. Leading scientific expert Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. Count the things you’re grateful for at all times — but especially when you feel least able to praise Him.

Understand the nature of mental health issues

I believe teaching yourself and others about mental health issues is one of the most important keys to ending the prevailing stigma surrounding mental health today. Be proactive. Read some books. Enrol in a class. Read more blogs like this one. Check out some outstanding websites like www.hopefortheheart.org. In addition, educate yourself about the mental health services available in your area. Make a list of emergency contact numbers like the national hotlines for mental health, suicide prevention and emergencies. Include your most trusted, mature Christian friends and/or family members on that list and have that list readily available.

Empty out the negative

My last suggestion is to forgive. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to hang onto resentment, bitterness, and the unwillingness to forgive — yourself and others. It takes faith to forgive. Embrace God’s forgiveness as a gift, and then graciously give that gift to others.  Ephesians 4:31-32 states, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” This is one of the most important things you can do for your mental health and well-being.

Finally, always remember that even great men and women of God can feel all alone and at the point of despair — like Elijah did. If you find yourself in need of R.E.S.C.U.E., I hope and pray these suggestions will be a blessing.

Dr. Steve Hunter

About Dr. Steve Hunter

Dr. Steve Hunter is currently serving as Professor of Psychology and Counseling and the Hope for the Heart Chair of Biblical Counseling at Criswell College. He also works part-time as a Counselor at Christian Counseling Associates at the Hope Center in Plano, Texas. He has had a vast array of experience serving as pastor in Northeast Texas, missionary to the former Soviet Union with the International Mission Board, and Dean of Students at Criswell College. He lives in what he calls “organised chaos” with his wife of 28 years and seven kids (five girls and two boys, ages 22 down to 10).



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