Help! I’m a New Christian Living
with a Psychiatric Diagnosis

“My fiancé and I are new Christians who have struggled with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. These past four months have been very difficult, and we are having a hard time understanding how our new faith ties into these issues. How can we best support each other during these challenges? Are there biblical resources available to help us? I’m scared to approach our church for help and worry that we may find ourselves too far gone to be brought back to God.”
Reader Submitted Question
It’s understandable to feel confused during this time. Many of the questions you have asked are questions that even mature Christians ask themselves. All of us, in one way or another, are tempted to question how our faith is able to intersect with very real, very difficult life issues. I commend you for bringing this question to light, as I know it is something that many believers find themselves wrestling with. I know because I get asked this question from readers frequently. Even "seasoned" Christians who have been recently diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder often wrestle with the question: what does my faith mean for this problem?

So in that regard, let me encourage you. You are not alone in this kind of battle. You are not the only Christian learning to navigate these murky waters. These are legitimate, logical, and wise questions. You are making the right inquiries. You are looking for resources in the right places. You are demonstrating Christian maturity by being bold enough to seek the Lord’s wisdom for these kinds issues. I praise the Holy Spirit for working in you in this way. I can see God’s care and concern in your situation, because he is helping you to bring these questions to him by faith. And, I believe, you will find the hope and help that you seek. I believe this because I have received hope and help from God regarding this very topic, as have many other brothers and sisters in Christ who live with a psychiatric diagnosis.

Let me also comfort you in another way: I'm a newer Christian. I did not accept Christ as my Lord and Savior until I was 28 years old. I am only eight years into my walk with Christ. I too am learning how to walk with Christ through all kinds of challenges, not just ones related to the current psychiatric label I qualify for. My challenges are things I battled against long before I met Christ. I've had to do what you are doing now: ask questions, seek wise counsel, and rely on God for help in finding the resources necessary to untangle these complicated matters as best as I can.

Furthermore, mature Christians—who've been faithfully walking with Jesus for decades—still struggle, still have questions, still have doubts, and still continue to press on to know God and his gospel in a way that impacts the way they respond to and live with challenging problems. None of us “arrive” in our Christian walk this side of eternity. All of us are always growing and learning. And, as I have found, God is always delighted and gracious to teach us. 

Now, although it would be unwise for me to offer specific counsel pertaining to your situation, I do believe there are some fundamental helps you can consider as you navigate the road ahead. Allow me to share some ideas and resources that may be profitable for you to explore as you continue to seek the Lord and his will for your next steps.
1.) Pursue growing in knowledge of the Lord.
Sometimes we come to faith in Christ because we have a problem and we believe he offers to fix it. That isn’t a bad thing! He wants us to bring all our problems and anxieties to his feet (Psalm 55:22, 1 Peter 5:7)! Many people have found the comfort of God’s promises the main reason why they surrendered to Christ as Lord in the first place. His salvation does offer us a great many things, and we’d be fools not to eagerly put our hands out like beggars. However, we must be careful that we are not treating God as a “cosmic vending machine” (as Elyse Fitzpatrick would say). If we're to put our hands out to get something from God in this confusing time of spiritual growth and psychiatric recovery, let it be to receive more of Christ himself, and not his "goodies." In simple terms, our greatest need all of the time is Jesus, and we get him through spending time in his word.

Moving forward in this process, I would strongly encourage you to pursue an increasing knowledge of the attributes and character of God. We cannot properly understand our hearts and our bodies without first understanding who God is, how he designed us, and how our relationship to him impacts the way we live out our life's purpose.

Here are some resources that can help you explore this topic further:
30 Days of Praying the Names & Attributes of God
By Navigators
PDF download, can be used for bible study & journaling.
Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God
By Joe Thorn
Easy-to-read book that can be used for daily devotional reading.
Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions
By Timothy Keller.
Helpful book for new Christians. Can be used for discussion. 
"[God] knows your life, circumstances, fears, anxieties, doubts, and afflictions. He knows your frame and your frailty. He knows you personally...He knows what you really need, not just what you ask for. He knows what will break you and what will help you. He knows what you can handle and what is too much. So when you seek God's help, power, provision, or intervention, you do not have to worry about his response. He will not get it wrong. He knows you, and therefore he knows exactly how to answer you."
2.) Get connected at your local church.
You said you're nervous about your church’s potential response to your situation. It is normal to be apprehensive about opening up when we are struggling. I am not familiar with your church and their ability to support those who are walking through the challenges you face, but I do know you will not be able to grow spiritually (which will significantly impact the way you live with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder) without being connected in a meaningful way to the local body of Christ. You cannot disciple yourself into Christian maturity through reading books and blogs. 

If you are nervous about approaching someone for help, pray about it for a few days (or even a week). Pray and study those names & attributes of God. The more courage and comfort you receive through your time spent with God, the more emboldened you will become to take the risk of reaching out. Remind yourself that God wants you to be connected to other believers—the Scriptures tell us this is his will for you (Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25). If you remain afraid, remember that God can be trusted (Psalm 56:3). If you can trust him for your salvation, you can trust him for this lesser thing as well. You may find that this isn't the first time your church leadership has helped those struggling with psychiatric labels. 

If you aren’t already connected at your church, find out if they offer community groups, bible studies, or if there are areas of service you might volunteer in. It may be through those channels that you connect with someone you can open up to, who can guide you to the right Pastor or counselor or Elder who can support you both as you journey through this season. As a last resort, you can search for certified biblical counselors in your area by visiting

Here are some resources that speak to the importance of understanding our own neediness, and the practice of one-another care in biblical community. These should address your question about how you and your partner can best support each other during this time:
Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love
By Ed Welch
Helpful book that can offer guidance and wisdom for the way you support each other through life's challenges.
Caring for One Another: 8 Ways to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships
By Ed Welch
Designed to be studied in a group setting. May be helpful to go through with your family as a means of getting equipped to support each other through struggles.
Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change
By Paul David Tripp
This book was pivotal for me in my early walk with Christ. Helped me to understand a lot about my own heart and my desperate need for redeeming grace.
"We spend too much time concealing our neediness. We need to stop hiding. Being needy is just our basic condition. There is no shame in it—it's just the way it is. Understanding this, accepting it, and practicing it will make you a better helper." 
– Ed Welch, Side by Side
3.) Don’t look for medical labels in the Scriptures.
You won’t find the term bipolar disorder in the Bible. But what are some of the feelings experienced during the mood swings? Anger? Sorrow? Selfish Ambitions? Isolation? Restlessness? Foolishness? Confusion? Anxiety? Fear? Hopelessness? Rebellion? Pridefulness? Boil your experiences down to terms such as these, and you will find the Scriptures speak richly and directly to these concerns.

Make a list of the experienced or observed emotional states. A google search such as "bible verses about <insert emotion>" will likely offer you a flood of Scriptures to explore. Learn what the Bible has to say about these topics, and how God either comforts us, instructs us, or warns us as a result. If you find a verse that speaks to you during your search, consider using it as a jumping off point for further exploration. Read the entire chapter to get a better idea of the context of the verse. Maybe even read the whole book it's in. You can also lean onto biblical commentaries that can help you to understand what the verses mean and how they apply to your life.

If you haven't spent much time in the Bible yet, ask a family member or close friend to help you. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Understanding spiritual things does not come naturally to any of us. Only by the help of the Holy Spirit do we begin to have the ability to comprehend them. It takes time, practice, and the kind help of someone willing to be patient and teach us. This is also something a biblical counselor or mentor would be able to help with.

My caution with this suggestion is that sometimes we become tempted to use Scripture as a self-help tool. Do not approach this kind of exercise with the notion that a few verses will solve your problems. They won’t. But they can offer you a deeper understanding of the struggles you are having and how your faith really, truly does impact they way you walk forward. Will your faith cure all your troubles and ailments? No. Christ suffered and says that those who follow him will suffer also (Romans 8:12). But, faith in Christ gives us the power and ability to experience heart change, and the Holy Spirit will teach us how to respond to broken life in a broken world in a way that gives God glory and us hope. As we walk and grow in righteousness, we will learn to respond biblically to whatever temptations or trials we face. We will experience transformation as we continue to abide in Christ (John 15:4).

Here are some helpful tools I use to look up bible verses and available commentaries for deeper study: 
Bible Hub
My most frequently used web tool for Scripture study. To view commentaries, find the verse of interest and then scroll all the way to the bottom of the verse's page. 
Bible Study Tools
Similar to Bible Hub. I don't use it frequently, but it's another option for you to check out. They offer a variety of media, as well as Bible reading plans.

Look at the Book
Video labs taught by John Piper on a wealth of Scriptures and topics. This is a great way to learn how to study the Bible, while also answering questions about topics/verses you are curious about.
"We need the words of God (Scripture) to make sense out of life. We need to listen for the one reliable voice of the Creator. His Word alone can cut through the confusion of the world's philosophy and our own foolishness to make us truly wise. Real knowledge begins with knowing him." 
4.) Begin to develop a biblical perspective about your struggles.
A holistic approach to recovery includes care for the body and the soul—the way God designed us. There may or may not be a physical issue to contend with, but there is always a spiritual one. This is why connecting with a qualified biblical counselor or mentor (whether through your church or through a separate organization) is such an important part of recovery. Equally important is ensuring that you are receiving care and/or being monitored by a licensed physician, especially if on-going symptom management includes the use of medication. Not everyone experiencing depression or anxiety needs to be treated by a doctor, but in cases where it has been deemed necessary or is already established, the relationship should be maintained until both parties agree treatment is no longer required.

It is also beneficial to recognize the aim of pursuing recovery. I know from first-hand experience that healing can quickly turn into something that we desire so badly, we are willing to worship it in order to "get it." This is what it means to set up an idol in your heart: something you want so desperately, that if you do not get it, your life would not be worth living. Beware of making recovery the ultimate goal. The concept of "health" in this life is temporal—there will always be a part of us breaking down in one way or another (2 Corinthians 4:16). But when Christ offers us eternal life, he offers us true, lasting health—a wellness that exceeds and outlasts what we can experience here on Earth. So, while it is good to learn and grow and to desire to handle our problems in God-honoring ways, we must remember that a Christian's faith doesn't guarantee the world's standard of "health," which is typically defined by emotional happiness and physical stability. In God's economy, physical health does not correspond to spiritual health. It is the eternal state of our souls that God cares most about (Matthew 10:28)! He offers salvation to our souls, and then redemption to our bodies...not the other way around (Romans 8:23).

Keeping an eternal perspective on our health is a wise way to keep it from becoming our main motivation for living. So what is a good target instead? Aim at achieving God's goals for your life by believing in him and doing what he says (John 6:28-29, Luke 11:28). This is the task of every Christian, and it's impossible to do without the power of the Holy Spirit. Even still, it's a goal with eternal rewards—a treasure in heaven that cannot be destroyed (Matthew 6:19-21).

Here are links to articles I've written where I have shared some of my personal experiences, as well as books I'd recommend based on your question:
My Name is Beloved: Finding Identity in Mental Illness
In the eyes of my fellow man, I may be categorized as “bipolar.” But in the eyes of my loving Father, my status is simply “Beloved.”
Pursuing Humility in Mental Health Recovery
Searching for relief at all cost–to the point where life is not worth living unless it comes quickly–is quite possibly the most life-threatening posture someone struggling with severe depression can take.
Into the Fire: Fear & Doubt in Mental Health Recovery
Many of us grow fearful when our symptoms relapse, or when we find ourselves revisiting the same crippling brokenness after experiencing a period of relief. Frightened, we ask ourselves: “Will I ever get better?”
Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness
by Ed Welch
The most comprehensive book available approaching the topic of depression from a biblical perspective. Thorough, yet highly readable.
Spurgeon's Sorrows: Realistic Hope for Those Who Suffer from Depression
by Zack Eswine
My absolute favorite book on the topic of depression. Very encouraging. I also featured an interview with Pastor Zack on The Mental Hope Project.
Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest
by Ed Welch
30 topical meditations that encourage readers to discover for themselves that the Bible is full of beautiful words of comfort for fearful people.
"Sorrow teaches us to resist trite views of what maturity in Jesus looks like: faith is not frownless. Maturity is not painless...It is the presence of Jesus and not the absence of glee that designates the situation and provides our hope."
– Zack Eswine, Spurgeon's Sorrows
At the end of the day, salvation in Christ renders you a child of God (1 John 3:1). Your most significant identity—your highest and best label—is not given to you by a medical doctor. It has been granted to you free of cost by God Almighty, who has redeemed you and placed you into his divine family forever (Romans 6:23). This means, no matter what challenges you may face, you cannot be "too far gone." If you are both truly born again in Christ, God will keep you until the day he calls you home (Romans 8:38-39). 

You and your fiancé, in Christ, are now believers with a holy calling (1 Peter 2:9). Make this your highest and best badge of honor. No matter the type of brokenness — physical or spiritual — Christian identity is found not in a diagnosis, but instead in your position as redeemed co-heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:16–17). A psychiatric label doesn’t void the new creation God has made you to be in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). As a result, your life will not remain the same. Change is now in your DNA, as Tim Chester would say. God is set on growing you and conforming you into the image of his beautiful Son (Romans 8:29), and he will use these particular struggles as the training ground for growing in Christian character (Romans 5:3-4). It will take time, and probably many tears, but it is a promise he guarantees to keep to all of those who call upon his name (Philippians 1:6, 1 Corinthians 1:8, Psalm 138:8).

Dear one, these trials and transformations are preparing you for an eternal weight of glory. This is only the beginning (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)! So take courage, and press on. Busy yourself with knowing God. Challenge yourself to be vulnerable in church community. Use trusted resources to develop a biblical understanding of your struggles. Don’t let psychiatric labels intimidate you from seeking help and hope in God’s Word. And pray that God would reveal himself to your heart in mighty, life-giving ways.
*Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a small commission. Keep in mind that I link to these resources because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. This does not affect the cost of the resource, and the decision is yours whether you choose to purchase them from my link or not. Thanks for your support!
Christine M. Chappell
Christine Chappell is the author of Clean Home, Messy Heart, the host of The Mental Hope Project podcast, and is a guest contributor at Desiring God. She writes frequently about mental health topics at her blog, has completed biblical counseling certificates with the Institute for Biblical Counseling & Discipleship, and is currently pursuing certification with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.
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