“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
My pregnancy with Blaire was hard. Almost from the moment I knew I was pregnant, I experienced every negative pregnancy symptom in the book, one after the one, sometimes all at once. With the exception of about 2 weeks of that pregnancy, I felt miserable. Add to that the truth that many of my friends were struggling to even become pregnant. So I didn’t feel like sharing my struggle was okay. That led to feeling guilty about feeling horrible. Month after month as I slowly waded through the pregnancy, I was so fatigued- body, mind, and spirit.
To my surprise, this feeling continued—actually increased in intensity—after Blaire’s birth, and I spent the first several months not myself, like really not okay. I was supposed to be thrilled with this new baby (and on some level I was!) but I was also really struggling in a way only those closest to me could see—but couldn’t understand. Blaire turns three this year, I can finally admit that I was experiencing some combination of post-partum anxiety and depression. I just remember feeling stuck….and this feeling often left me unable to see a way forward.
This is what depression and anxiety steal from us. Hope and a sense of self-determination.
These mental illnesses, among others, occur when we feel the worries in our life are outside our control. And to be sure, many of them are. So it’d be unfair to say there’s a few simple steps to follow and then poof…anxiety disappears or depression clears. The human mind is more complex than this. It’d be equally unfair, however, to suggest that we can do nothing about anxiety and depression. Especially when we have help along the way. Last week I offered a therapy model called Family systems, and this week I’d like to mention two more. The first is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT (for short) rests on the idea that thoughts and perceptions influence behavior. The aim is to identify harmful thoughts associated with feelings, assess whether they are an accurate depiction of reality, and if not, employ strategies to challenge and overcome them. Essentially this model emboldens people with mood disorders to more skillfully cope with misaligned feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.
A second therapy that offers a similar approach is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. Its a practical, goal-driven model, which emphasizes clear, concise, and realistic goal negotiations. This concept assumes that all clients have some knowledge of what would make their life better, AND that everyone who seeks help already possesses at least the minimal skills necessary to create solutions.
I like both of these models, in part because they involve an intentional shift in the messaging we immerse ourselves in. Maybe even the messages we create within. Play with me for a moment: What would a Christ-centered CBT or Solution-Focused Brief Therapy sound like based on this Matthew text? Maybe when we get caught up in the things of this earth, our misaligned feelings and perceptions become straight again when we hear this: “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
One simple yet effective coping skill to counter anxiety and depression is exactly that: Take each day as it comes. Even as the world sends us a barrage of reasons to be anxious (some rooted in our own brain chemistry), Jesus gives us a different way forward. “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Jesus isn’t minimizing the real anxieties life brings our way. No, he’s acknowledging they exist AND telling us his love is strong enough to handle them. Jesus is offering us a place to dump all our anxieties and fears: right in his lap. Freeing our spirits for the sake of love.
As I think back to my post-partum anxiety and depression, I recognize the most helpful friends simply listened to my pain, and said, “I hear you, I love you, and you’re an awesome momma.” I needed that affirmation because I sure wasn’t feeling it for myself. So if you’re looking for a place to start dealing with your own anxieties or depression, maybe start here: God hears you, God loves you, and you’re an awesome human created in divine image.
I think visual reminders of this can often help. I brought with me today a little thing I’ve used a lot as I cope with the mood shifts motherhood brought my way. It’s this little hedgehog. I remember feeling silly buying it- but oh I needed the truth it had to offer me. It says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Knowing this helps me believe in the hope Jesus shares in John 16:33, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution (like mental illness). But take courage; I have conquered the world!” This is the messaging we all need to sink deeply into our souls. Amen.