I began sharing my journey with mental illness in 2009. When I was twelve or thirteen years old, anxiety held me in a vice-grip until a psychiatrist diagnosed me in my thirties. Because I talk about it on the radio, I often get emails like this:
I have heard you, many times, reference your struggle with depression and anxiety and thought I would ask you if you are aware of a Bible study book on the subject. I have been in a small group for about 15 years, and we were brainstorming what we might study beginning in the Fall. Two ladies asked to study something on depression since it seems in many churches to be unaddressed.
These women aren’t alone. In fact, I wrote and taught a Bible study ten years ago called From Worrier to Warrior: Conquering Your Thoughts Once and For All.
I don’t recommend it.
When we read the Bible for self-improvement, we miss the “why” of the Bible. The Bible contains the words of God, who reveals himself because he wants a relationship with us. Relief from anxiety and depression evades us because we want a quick verse or story to make us feel better. But the psalmist wrote, “In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Ps 16:11). Elsewhere we read, “Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God” (Ps 146:5).
We cannot hope in whom we do not know. Shawn Lovejoy says, “Peace and joy are fruits of the Spirit, not our circumstances.” I wrote FWTW out of the overflow that came from spending time with God in his word. But pulling verses from various books of the Bible and meditating on them is not a long-term fix for unhealthy thought patterns.
So, if what you are seeking is relief from anxiety or depression, I don’t recommend “a” Bible study. I invite you to consider a lifestyle of Bible study in community for the sole purpose of knowing the Lord and walking with him daily.
Grab a group of friends and tackle a book of the Bible. Dr. Sandra Glahn of Dallas Theological Seminary offers an array of theologically rich studies. If you want something with teaching, anything by Jen Wilkin is outstanding. Meet together once a week to discuss what you’ve read and to wrestle with the text. Share your prayer needs. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). Our culture elevates independence, but God created us for interdependent connection—to Christ and to each other. And Christ—the source of our joy and peace—promises that when we bring him our burdens, we will find rest for our souls (Mt 11:30).
Have I experienced relief from anxiety and depression? Yes, and part of it comes from medical care. But most of it comes through a daily walk with God.