An Article collaboration with our friends over at Anxious Faith. Check out their bio at the end of this article for more details.


Would it surprise you to know that men and women of faith—the ones you read about in Bible stories—sometimes struggled with their mental health, too?

Our language around mental health and diagnoses might be modern, but the struggle itself is timeless. In fact, the Bible is filled with people who knew and loved God and still wrestled with things like anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Each of these people in the Bible is a reminder that those of us who struggle with our mental health are not alone. But beyond that, we can also learn valuable lessons from those who’ve gone before us in how they dealt with and responded to their struggles. Let’s take a look.


1. Hannah, Who Longed for a Baby (1 Samuel 1:1-20)

Hannah is a woman who knows grief. She longs for a baby, but her womb is painfully empty. She is continually mocked and taunted by her husband’s second wife who has children, and weeps to the point where she can’t eat. 

Each year, Hannah and her husband visit a place called Shiloh to worship and make sacrifices to God. One particular year, Hannah is praying outside the temple. “In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly,” says verse 10. 

Hannah’s pleas to the Lord for a child are so raw and desperate that the priest who sees her praying outside the temple thinks she’s drunk (v. 13). She’s been praying for a baby for years, and yet her prayers have gone unanswered. We can only imagine how she must feel; confused, ashamed, disappointed, or worn out.

Yet in her sorrow and desperation, Hannah doesn’t give upshe keeps seeking the Lord and worshiping him. When we’re facing pain, grief, or any mental illness, may we be like Hannah and keep turning to God. 


2. Elijah, Who Reached Burn-Out (1 Kings 19)

Elijah is a prophet, an incredible man of God, and yet at the height of one of his biggest triumphs, he feels hopeless and terrified. God has just used Elijah to defeat 450 prophets of baal in an epic display of power and glory (if you aren’t familiar with the story, check it out). On top of that, God has brought rain to the land after three years of drought. 

But now Jezebelthe wife of Ahab, King of Israelis determined to kill Elijah, and hearing this, he runs for his life. He’s afraid and exhausted and prays that he will die. What happens next? 

God doesn’t tell Elijah off for feeling that way, but he also doesn’t pluck Elijah out of the tricky situation; instead, he gives Elijah what he needs in that moment: food, and rest. Elijah falls asleep, and is later woken by an angel who tells him, “Get up and eat” (v. 5). “He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again” (v. 6)

This happens twice, until Elijah regains his strength and, we can imagine, a better outlook on life. He travels to Horeb, “the mountain of God” and waits for the Lord to pass by. What’s interesting here is that God doesn’t tell Elijah the full plan when he’s feeling scared and overwhelmed in the desert. Instead, God waits until he’s ready to take the next step. 

How often are we terrified and overwhelmed about what might come next? What do we do when we’ve reached a breaking point, and things seem hopeless?

Elijah’s story shows us that God is our comforter and provider, even in the darkest places. He knows what we need (sometimes a literal snack and a nap!), and we can trust that he also sees the bigger picture and has a plan for us. Though we might feel lost or unsure of what to do next, God reveals his plans to us when we need to know; not always when we think we should know. 


3. Job, Who Lost Everything (Job 1-42)

Anyone familiar with the Bible probably knows Job had a pretty rough time of it. Once referred to as “the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:3), Job is stripped of all his material possessions and family. 

He’s served God faithfully all his life, and yet in one awful day he loses everything; 11,000 animals, all of his servants, and, worst of all, his seven sons and three daughters. Can you imagine his deep sorrow and confusion? 

As if losing every material thing wasn’t enough, Job also contends with painful sores that cover his body, from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head (Job 2:7). His wife and three closest friends, who are meant to be comforting him, instead suggest that Job has done something to earn God’s wrath. Imagine that; you’ve lived a “blameless and upright” life, and now, the people closest to you have the gall to suggest that you must deserve what you’re going through.

Sadly, the sentiment of Job’s friends is something that many of us who struggle with mental illness face today; the idea from others that we must have done something to cause our condition or that God has given it to us as a test.

After everything Job has lost and endured, it’s no wonder that he begins to feel hopeless. His words reach new levels of desperation: “I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning” (Job 7:16)

Have you ever felt alone in your pain, or like your suffering goes unnoticed by God? Job felt that way. In chapter 30 verse 20, he says these poignant words: “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me.” 

But God does answer Job. After Job has said his piece, it’s God’s turn. And he doesn’t hold back. “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me,” God says to Job. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand…” (Job 38:3-4). God proceeds to put Job in his place and remind him who he is; powerful, loving, and triumphant over death. God isn’t just boasting about all he’s done—he’s encouraging Job that although evil has a place in the world now, it won’t last forever; ultimately, God will have the victory.  

We aren’t promised a good or an easy life. The Bible doesn’t say that by following Christ we’ll be free from troubles, pain, or mental health challenges. But it does say that God will be with us in those challenges, and that we have victory over death through Jesus. 

There is hope in knowing that one day we’ll live free from pain and suffering (see Revelation 21:4). In the meantime, let’s remember that in the midst of life’s messiness, God is still good and in control, and he is with us. Hold onto him. 


4. David, Who Felt All the Feels (Psalm 6, 13)

Reading the book of Psalms sometimes feels like taking a deep dive into someone’s very raw, private diary. David is well known for his psalms, many of them written from a place of deep vulnerability and full of unfiltered sorrow and angst. 

While we don’t know whether David was facing what today we might diagnose as some form of depression, we do know the dark places his mind took him and what brought him hope in the midst of that. 

Throughout David’s journey, we get glimpses into his mental state, and many of his psalms paint the picture of a man struggling with feelings of depression and hopelessness. “I am worn out from my groaning,” he says in Psalm 6:6. “All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” 

Many of his psalms follow a similar pattern: an opening section where he expresses his raw emotion, a complaint, a request, and then an expression of praise or trust in God. It’s David’s way of pouring out his real self before God in all of its confusion and pain, but choosing to keep trusting God and praising him, even when he doesn’t feel it. 

We see this in Psalm 13, for example, which begins with David saying, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart” (vv. 1-2). After pouring out his feelings and making a request to God, David ends with these lines: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me” (vv. 5-6).

David’s mental health seemed to go up and down, but one thing that remained the same was his reliance on God to help him in times of need. And we know from other books of the Bible (Samuel 1 and 2, Kings 1 and 2, and Chronicles 1 and 2) that God did help David. Again and again. As a shepherd boy, as an anointed king on the run from an army, as the crowned King of Israel who made some serious mistakes, and as a man who, even at the peak of his power and leadership, needed God’s help. 

When we’re struggling with our mental health, may we be like David and choose to keep crying out to God. 


5. Jonah, Who Wanted His Life to End (Jonah 4)

Having just spent three days in the belly of a “huge fish” after an attempt to run away from God’s call, Jonah was a man on a mission: to tell the people of Nineveh that destruction was coming because of their sin. 

But when the Ninevites listen to Jonah and repent, God calls off the destruction that was planned. And Jonah isn’t a fan of this. In fact, he’s angry that God has chosen to show compassion to the people. And this anger leads him to wanting to give up on life. 

Twice he asks God to end his life, saying, “It would be better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:3). When God asks him if it’s right to be so angry, he responds: “It is. And I’m so angry I wish I were dead” (v. 9)

Maybe you haven’t felt quite so angry as Jonah. But we’ve likely all reached a point in our lives where giving up felt easier than facing challenges. Especially when we felt as though God was being unfair. 

We don’t hear what happens to Jonah after his conversation with God. Maybe he repents of his anger and is able to celebrate that God is a God of second chances. Or maybe, he chooses to stay bitter and wrapped up in his own self-righteousness. We hope it’s the former. 

When we face disappointment or we struggle with feeling like things aren’t fair, how do we respond? Do we ask God to give us his heart; to help us see things through his eyes?


6. Jesus, Whose Sweat Was Like Blood (Luke 22:41-44)

Fear and anxiety are two emotions we’ve all felt. But have you ever been so worried and anxious that your sweat becomes like blood on your skin? That’s what Jesus experienced as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion.  

Jesus has always known he’s going to die a painful death. But the reality of that fate seems to come to a head for him in the hours before his arrest. The gospel writers describe Jesus as “deeply distressed and troubled”, and Matthew writes that Jesus tells Peter, James, and John—who were with him in the garden—that he is “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). Luke even describes Jesus’ sweat “like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

So what can we learn from Jesus’ final hours in the garden? 

We learn that fear, anxiety, and other difficult emotions are a normal part of the human experience—even for Jesus. That having hope for our future won’t take away the pain and sorrow of today, and that’s okay. Despite knowing he would have victory over death and would be raised to life on the third day after his crucifixion, Jesus still experienced anxiety about the death he was facing. 

But what did he do in those lowest moments? 

He found a quiet place, and sought his Heavenly Father in prayer. He also asked for his friends’ support; to be with him and pray with him. And that’s one of the things we need to do when we’re facing something or wrestling with our mental health; take it to God, and share it with our closest friends so they can help support us, too.


We Aren’t Alone in Our Struggle

We hope that by taking a look at some of these Bible characters who struggled with their mental health, we can all be encouraged to know that we’re not alone. Countless men and women of faith who have gone before us have wrestled with the same things we do today. 

Let’s ask God to show us what he wants us to learn from each of them, and, as these people in the Bible did, choose to keep trusting God and coming to him in the midst of our struggles.

What about you? Do you have a favorite person or passage from the Bible that helps you when you’re facing mental health challenges?


Note: We’re not mental health experts. If this is a struggle you have, or if life just feels a bit out of control, consider seeking the help of a therapist or medical professional, or calling the Suicide Prevention Line at 988.