When Nothing Feels Safe

Amber Ginter

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Updated May 15, 2024
When Nothing Feels Safe

Others can be touched by Jesus because of how you face what you're facing.

May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, and every year, I'm surprised how we're here yet again. My story of origin hasn't changed, but it continues to grow and evolve. Everyone needs to tell their mental health story. This is mine.

I think what a lot of people are unaware of is not that mental health exists but how to deal with it properly. Growing up in the late 90s, anxiety was common but heavily dismissed. According to a 2023 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy, people born in the 1990s have the worst mental health of any generation before them.

At first, my anxiety seemed "normal". I was anxious about going to school, forgetting my locker combination, and taking tests. When it started interfering with my sleep and overall stability, however, I should've suspected something was wrong.

Pretty much everyone in my family is on medication for anxiety and depression. They've been that way since before I was born, and there's no shame in seeking medical help for mental health problems. While my anxiety could be genetic, much of it is also attributed to my upbringing. 

When Your Home Isn't a Safe Space

To this day, I love and respect my parents dearly. I grew up in a Christian home and always knew they loved me. But my half-brother's affairs in substance abuse made my haven a dangerous place. I spent most hours after school at my Grandma Memo's house to get away from the noise of my own.

When my siblings weren't causing chaos, similar symptoms struck those closest to me. You don't need drugs and alcohol to hurt people; you need an addiction. As my relationships started to change, those I loved verbally assaulted me. I needed a way out; a way to cope.

As a Christian, I was told to pray and read my Bible more. When the voices only grew louder, I turned to a dangerous addiction to exercise. Restricting my food and getting my workout in gave me a false sense of control. All that got me was medical issues and health scares.

By the time I was 20, I'd lived through countless rounds of verbal aggression. My anxiety was climbing, and when I started to feel depressed, I wasn't surprised. It ran in the family. These were the cards dealt to me. God had freed me from anorexia and orthorexia, but new mental and physical health struggles were merely beginning.

At 22, I graduated college and was seen as a superwoman. I'd constantly worked three jobs, graduated with honors, successfully student taught, and been offered numerous teaching jobs. But my health was crumbling. The more I prayed, read Scripture, and sought the Lord, the more I felt like these sicknesses were my fault. The church didn't tell me much different. 

When It Rains It Pours

It wasn't until I started going to counseling that I began to receive proper diagnoses and help for my struggles. And even after I started therapy, I was diagnosed with 10+ mental and physical health conditions. Sometimes, when it rains it pours.

Despite the rain, I learned that mental and physical health struggles impact even the best Christians and that there are practical ways I could care for myself in addition to spiritual practices. Not because the spirit doesn't matter, but because our spirit is part of a dynamic process within our hearts, minds, and souls.

Since 2019, I've wrestled deeply with what it means to be a young adult Christian struggling with my mental health. I've received both good and bad advice from those around me. One thing I've learned is this: Though my struggles have multiplied, I'm not alone, and God is not ashamed of me for struggling with them. He's in the business of using the things that make us feel weak. Not because we're weak, but because we're strong in Him. 

There's Hope on Earth

Today, I'm proud to say I've been in counseling for nearly five years. It hasn't fixed everything. Only God can do that. But it has taught me tools and resources for tending to my physical and mental needs while here on this Earth.

It's also taught me that the things we're often most ashamed of God can and will use to tell His story. I've always known God called me to write full-time. I never would've imagined writing books for those who are suffering mentally and physically. Yet, here I am.

He's still writing my story, and my story is far from over. Every year, my understanding and compassion for mental and physical health grows—some from experience, some from knowledge. I've tasted the bitter tears of panic attack after panic attack when the anxiety wouldn't cease. I've felt the deep sorrow of depression that lasts into the night. I've known the pain of physical affliction that pales in comparison to my Savior's death. I know my battles with these things ebb and flow. 

Don't Be Ashamed of Your Story

But if I could encourage you of one thing this month, it would be this: Don't be ashamed of your story. God gave it specifically to you for a reason. It's going to have parts that suck. It's going to have parts that hurt and you don't want to share.

Yet in that breaking, in that exposure, in that wrestling, that's where healing is found. Others can be touched by Jesus because of how you face what you're facing.

As a Christian, standing up for mental health isn't easy. You will face backlash and ridicule a lot. But Jesus never called us to stand up for easy things. If that were the case, everyone would do it. He called us to stand up for what matters. Mental and physical health matter because you matter. And you matter to God.

I haven't quite figured out the purpose behind every pain I've experienced in this life. I probably never will. But I'm learning if my struggles can be used to help others, then it's worth it in the end.

As an author, I want you to be my priority. As a lover of Jesus, I want you to know that you can love Him and still desperately struggle with mental and physical health problems. That's not a knock on your identity or worth. It's a measure of your humanity.

We weren't created for this place many of us call home. But where we are created for isn't quite here yet. And until it is, we will face hardships here on earth. Here's to standing despite the hardships until they pass.

As Jesus did for us then, as we will now.

Agape, Amber 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/mixedreality

amber ginter headshotAmber Ginter is a teacher-turned-author who loves Jesus, her husband Ben, and granola. Growing up Amber looked for faith and mental health resources and found none. Today, she offers hope for young Christians struggling with mental illness that goes beyond simply reading your Bible and praying more. Because you can love Jesus and still suffer from anxiety. You can download her top faith and mental health resources for free to help navigate books, podcasts, videos, and influencers from a faith lens perspective. Visit her website at amberginter.com.