For years, I watched my older sister battle mental health challenges. My mother battled some of the same struggles. As a Christian, I have also battled seasons of depression due to prolonged sorrow and grief. I know many of you have a spouse who has struggled with his mental health. Maybe you’ve wondered, Why is my husband so withdrawn these days? My husband has seemed depressed lately, and I don’t know how to help him. Why does my husband cry all the time? It is painful to watch your spouse struggle with his mental health and feel lost in how to help.
Mental Health Issues and Who They Affect
Mental health challenges can happen as a result of many factors, such as prolonged periods of depression, severe anxiety, hatred, unconfessed sin, anger, infertility, grief, psychological and biological reasons, and trauma. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness.1 One in twenty U.S. adults suffers with a serious mental illness each year.2 Over forty million U.S. adults experience anxiety disorders.3 Sadly, only forty-six percent of adults with a mental illness or health issue will get treatment or seek help.5
The Stigma of Mental Health in the Church
Although the topic of mental health has been brought to the forefront of personal health conversations in recent years, it can still be taboo to talk about in the church. However, the trend is changing, and it is becoming an issue many people want to discuss. Christians should be able to turn to the church for help, but unfortunately, the church is not equipped to address the enormity of the need and demand. According to Lifeway Research, the primary reason why churches don’t talk about mental health is “there’s often been a stigma attached to it—as if having faith in Jesus makes you immune from suffering from mental illness. The truth is, Christians get depressed, too. And thankfully, more of us are willing to talk about it and support each other.”3
God’s Word Speaks to Mental Health Issues
God’s Word has a lot to say about the topic of mental health. God’s responses to those who cried out to Him for help are seen throughout Scripture. He knows and understands human psychology better than any expert. Although Scripture does not offer one simple solution to the problem, it does offer help and hope for those facing it.
Many biblical characters like David, Hannah, Elijah, Jonah, Martha, Job, Naomi, and Jeremiah faced challenges related to mental health, such as depression and feeling downcast, brokenhearted, troubled, hopeless, miserable, and in despair. They faced battles and struggles of the mind like anxiety, fear, worry, grief, and more. Read some of the vivid language used in Scripture to put words to complicated feelings: “Why, my soul, are you so dejected?
Why are you in such turmoil?” (Ps. 42:5); “anxiety in a person’s heart weighs it down” (Prov. 12:25); “you turned my lament into dancing” (Ps. 30:11); “deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the LORD and wept with many tears” (1 Sam. 1:10); and “I have had enough! LORD, take my life” (1 Kings 19:4).
So often when we read Scripture, we don’t think of these men and women in this way. Just because they are in the Bible doesn’t mean they didn’t struggle with their mental health too. God placed their stories in Scripture so that we could be encouraged by the examples of real people who walked through very real struggles and remember we are not alone.
There Is Hope and Help for Your Spouse
But what can you do, today, to support your husband in getting the help he needs?
Steps to Lovingly Support Your Husband
- Prayer. I know this sounds like a given, but prayer invites God into the situation your spouse is facing and opens the door for His help for your husband. Cry out to Him! Enlist the support of trusted family and friends who can join you in praying for your spouse. Keep a journal and record the ways God is working and answering your prayers.
- Seek Scripture. Read it, memorize it, and pray it often! God’s Word is living and active and speaks directly to the mental health issues your spouse is facing. (See Pss. 23:4; 30:10-12; 34:17-18; 147:3.)
- Seek Professional Help. Don’t ignore the signs! There is no shame in seeking help. Every spouse is different, and sometimes seeking the guidance of a physician or psychologist is an important step in getting answers for him.
- Seek Pastoral/Ministerial Help. Reach out to your pastor or ministerial staff for prayer, counseling, and Christian resources. (See Jas. 5:14-15.)
- Make Lifestyle Changes. Evaluate if lifestyle changes would help alleviate some of the anxiety or stress that may be triggering your husband’s struggles. This might include things like overworking, lack of exercise, sleep difficulties, and absence of spiritual disciplines. Encourage your spouse to do the basics: hydrate, eat nutritious meals, get sunlight, exercise, aim for more of a work-life balance, and prioritize daily time spent with the Lord.
- Resolve Conflicts. Address unresolved issues like anger, bitterness, and resentment in your spouse’s current or past relationships. (See Rom. 12:18.).
- Trust God. He loves your spouse more than you ever can. God is faithful, so depend on Him to help you care for your spouse during this season.
You are not alone! God loves you both. I believe the Lord will use this season in your spouse’s life and bring good out of it. Why? because God is good, and He is the best Physician I know!
Adrianna Anderson is a Bible teacher, speaker, writer, contributing author of Because of Hope: Reflections of Faith, Lifeway Women trainer, and Lifeway Women events specialist. She is a graduate of New Orleans Theological Seminary and a former women’s ministry director who has also served on multiple advisory committees and the board of directors for Christian organizations. She has led and discipled women from multigenerational backgrounds in various capacities of women’s ministry for many years. Adrianna is passionate about seeing women be biblically literate, able to defend the reason for their faith, and focused on the Great Commission. God has used Adrianna’s unique life experiences to develop in her a deep heart for ministry to women. Widowed at the age of twenty-four, the Lord sent her to live as a missionary in Mexico to teach English in a Christian school and ESL classes to the local youth. Adrianna remarried in 2006. Adrianna and her husband Gregory are an interracial couple who teach on the subject of race to churches from a biblical perspective while simultaneously promoting the biblical principles of love, forgiveness, unity, and reconciliation.
1. “Mental Illness,” National Alliance on Mental Health, June 2022, accessed December 15, 2022, https://www.nami.org/mhstats.
5. “Mental Health and the Church,” Facts & Trends, Lifeway Research, Dec./Jan./Feb. 2015, chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://research.lifeway.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/FTWinter2015-smaller.pdf.