You cannot overstate the importance of possessing a true and rational worldview for the development and durability of mental health. A proper appreciation for life as it really is must be a prerequisite for right thinking, feeling, and acting. Illusions and deceptions make for bad counselors.
While the subject of mental health is vast—involving phobias, neuroses, complexes, personality types and disorders, medication, and more—we should put first things first. The key to mental health is truthful thoughts about objective reality. The Christian worldview (or philosophy of life) offers us the truth about God, humanity, salvation, ethics, wisdom, and the afterlife. It calls us to walk in the light instead of stumbling in the darkness. As the apostle John writes:
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:5–7 ESV).
By “light,” John means the divine truth and goodness about Jesus that leads us out of the darkness of deception and into godly fellowship and a clear conscience. When we are mired in the darkness of mental distress, we need the light of truth to help us find our way. How might this principle apply to the chronic and perennial human problem of worry and anxiety in general?
Although I cannot make the case here, there is ample reason to believe that the God described in the Bible exists. Nature, conscience, and history all bear witness to the compelling reality of the triune God of the Christian tradition.1 That means that what the Bible reveals about God and us and everything else is true and reliable (2 Timothy 3:15–17). The Bible is not silent on matters of mental health, particularly about anxiety and worry. We will consider a few vital truths to lessen our worries in life.
First, since many of our worries relate to our worth as human beings, it is paramount for the Christian to know that he or she is accepted and beloved by God himself because of the saving work of Jesus Christ. The gospel gives us the twin truths of our depravity and our redemption, so we need not lie to ourselves about either one. This is summed up by Paul, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Yes, we are sinners alienated from a holy God. But that unpleasant truth is the bad news that leads to the truth of the good news of the gospel. Those who admit their sin before God and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior are reconciled to God and receive eternal life.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:12–13).
No matter how our parents may have treated us, no matter what we may have done, no matter what struggles we face, we can become children of God by believing in and receiving Jesus Christ. For God’s redeemed children, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” we can find confidence in our standing with God Almighty:
Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38–39).
Because of these splendid truths, no Christian need worry about whether he or she is good enough before God or whether God loves and accepts them. No one is good enough, but God’s love rests on the perfect work of Jesus on our behalf, not on our performance. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). Because of the truth of the gospel, one persistent and sometimes crippling kind of worry can be eliminated—worry over one’s moral and spiritual standing before God.2
But what about everyday worries about picking the right school to attend, finding a spouse, money concerns, health matters, and other challenges assaulting us in our lives?
Just as Jesus delivers us from worries about our salvation, he can also deliver us from worries about the vagaries and vicissitudes of life. If we “walk in the light” of Jesus’ teaching, we need not worry. Consider Jesus’ teachings on worry from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25–34). Before this famous section, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (6:24). This is significant since the next verse begins with “therefore,” which calls attention backward. If Jesus is our master (and not money), then: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (6:25). This is because there is more to life than food and clothing, and if God takes care of the birds, he will surely take care of us, since we have more value (6:26). Worrying cannot “add a single hour” to our life. It does no good.
Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money
But Jesus has more to offer: If God clothes “the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” (6:31). There is no need to worry over anything. “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (6:32). The pagans do not have the confidence that Jesus offers us. Our heavenly Father knows what we need and knows how to provide for us, no matter what happens. Jesus then offers a contrast: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (6:33).
The followers of Jesus should seek to do his will in godly ways rather than worrying about what will happen to them. Our job is to seek the Kingdom. If we do, God will provide for us.
Jesus concludes his exhortation with more wisdom. “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (6:34).
Jesus, as God Incarnate, speaks with the highest authority and greatest wisdom. Since he is “the truth” (John 14:6), he speaks nothing but truth. The two truths we have discussed—the truth of salvation and the truth of provision—can fortify us and guard our hearts from much worry in this worrisome world.
Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., is Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary, where he has served since 1993. He is the author or co-author of fourteen books, including the best-selling, Unmasking the New Age, the much-used apologetics textbook, Christian Apologetics, and introduction to philosophy, Philosophy in Seven Sentences, a memoir, Walking through Twilight, and a children’s book, I Love You to The Stars (with Crystal Bowman).