Pursuing Mental Health with God - Laura Smith

This month is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States, and this is our second episode in a special series on mental wellness. Our guest on the Making It Work podcast today is Laura Smith. Laura is a best-selling author and speaker who speaks around the country sharing the love of Christ. In her latest book, Holy Care for the Whole Self, Laura Smith debunks the stigma around mental health and shows how caring for our own well-being is biblical and can help us better live the lives Christ calls us to.

We'd like to thank the HE Butt Foundation for supporting this series. You can find out more about their work by visiting

Scripture References

  • Luke 19:1-10
  • Galatians 5:1
  • John 10:10
  • Mark 6:30-34
  • 1 Kings 19:1-8

Additional Resources

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Transcript - Pursuing Mental Health with God - Laura Smith

Leah Archibald: Making It Work is brought to you by The Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary and the Theology of Work Project.

Mark Roberts: Welcome to Making it Work.

LA: Through conversation, scripture and stories, we invite God into work’s biggest challenges... so that you can live out your purpose in the workplace.

MR: I’m Mark Roberts.

LA: And I’m Leah Archibald. And this is Making It Work.

This month is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States, and this is our second episode in a special series on mental wellness. We'd like to thank the HE Butt Foundation for supporting this series. You can find out more about their work by visiting Our guest on the Making It Work podcast today is Laura Smith. Laura is a best-selling author and speaker who speaks around the country sharing the love of Christ. In her latest book, Holy Care for the Whole Self, Laura Smith debunks the stigma around mental health and shows how caring for our own well-being is biblical and can help us better live the lives Christ calls us to. Laura Smith, welcome to Making It Work.

Laura Smith: Thank you so much for having me on today. What an honor. What a blessing.

LA: Well, thank you. I'm really grateful for the way you frame mental health, both as something that's important to the individual and also something that's important to the community. And part of the challenge of pursuing our own mental wellness is some of the stigma that comes up within community around starting the conversation. So I kind of want to start by asking you, how would you start this conversation? I wanna ask, get a little into our personal stories around mental wellness. I wanna talk about the stigma that's facing us. But where do you start this conversation?

LS: Do you mean if I'm speaking with a friend and I'm concerned about their mental health, or if mental health in general comes up and I want to talk about how much Jesus cares about it?

LA: The latter. I think there's such a sticking point especially for... It can be true in the Christian community. There's a sticking point that comes up before we talk about mental health that it's even difficult for us to start a conversation. So if you were going to a friend and saying, are you having a challenge? Or if you are having a challenge, how do you even start that conversation?

LS: I think as Christians we should always start with Jesus and his intent for our life. And John 10:10 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible, and it says that the enemy has come to steal, kill, and destroy. But Jesus goes on to tell us, but I have come so that you can have life and have it to the full. Well, guess what? Jesus didn't want us to have a life full of anxiety and depression and worry and stress, he wanted it full of the fruit of the spirit, like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control. And when our mental health is off, we are not living in that fullness that he offers. When our mental health is off, the enemy is stealing and killing and destroying our ability to thrive the way Jesus always wanted, longed for, intended us to thrive.

LA: I absolutely agree. And I also have felt that there's a part of putting mental health into spiritual language that can almost make it more challenging to pursue professional help for mental wellness. Because when it goes into the spiritual, then it's like, "Well, shouldn't I be able to pray it away?"

LS: And I do believe that is unfortunately a problem that the Church, capital C, the Christian church at large has encountered. I don't know exactly where it all stemmed from, but I feel like there's such a cultural swing right now to self-care, and that starts sounding selfish, like, "I need to go to the spa." And, "I need to get a manicure and pedicure." And all those things are lovely, don't get me wrong. But when they start to sound selfish, "I need a ton of me time. I need a girl's trip." Those things can start to sound selfish and not biblical. I think that's one of the problems. I think the other problem is, obviously, the Bible invites us into, and Jesus invites us into every day to turn to him, to cast our cares on him, to pray to him, to come to him, to trust him, to get our strength from him, and so many Christians are saying, so we do that and we're good.

LS: But the truth is, if one of us was having a physical medical scare... I'm gonna give the example, my youngest son was in the hospital for a week in December, and he had had a very bizarre pain in his back for a lot of time that was just debilitating. He's 17, he's a runner, he's super healthy. He couldn't tie his shoes, he couldn't function. And we prayed a ton, invited all kinds of people in our faith community, friends and family to pray with us. We prayed over him, my husband and I, every night, touching him, praying for him. And we started going to see doctors. We went to our primary care, and when they give us a prescription for muscle relaxants, we did that. And when they sent us to a PT, we did that. And when that wasn't working, we went to the orthopedic. When the orthopedic said we should see an infectious disease doctor, we did that.

And when the infectious disease doctor said, we are checking you into the hospital right this second, we did that. And when they prescribed medicine for him there at the hospital that he had to be on intravenously for five days, we did that. And all the meanwhile, prayers were coming in from texts and visitors, and we were playing worship music in his hospital room. We didn't hesitate to take the gifts Jesus has given us of well-trained medical professionals, people that he is using to heal and help. We didn't hesitate to use medications that God has gifted scientists to create that can help us to help heal our son. And I believe the same is true for our mental health, why would we not hesitate if we broke our arm, if we had cancer to go to a doctor and go do prayer, why with our mental health would we be like, "Well, prayer's enough."?

LA: That's a great... So you just gave a very concrete example of what it looks like to pursue well-rounded healthcare program for a physical ailment. What does it look like when you go to pursue help for mental health? Just cast that a little bit. How does it look different?

LS: Sure. So I think there can be similarities and differences. I think, again, we should always pray. Jesus is there for us, he wants to hear about all of it. And sometimes a stress of a day or something we're anxious about, praying to him, talking to him, he can help us sort through it, he'll point us to scripture that directs us to truth that reminds us of what's actually going on instead of how our brain might be spiraling, and that's wonderful. Inviting community in, so important. We need people who will guide us back to truth, point us back to truth. Mental health professionals will tell you community is one of the very best things you can do for your mental health, and guess what? The Bible says the same thing, God knew all along. Back in Genesis, he said, it's not good for a man to be alone. So God was looking out for our mental health from the very beginning of creation.

Those are two awesome things we can do, but should you still be struggling? Should you have been praying and seeking community and reading your Bible and still caught in ruts or in a situation where you can't function or you know you're not living that full abundant life Jesus came for? If it's hard to get out of bed, if you feel anxious all the time, if your relationships you know they're struggling, if you know you have fears, why not look into seeing a Christian counselor? They are a community of the faith, someone in the faith who will be aligned with Jesus, who has also trained and devoted their life to helping people find wellness.

LA: Yeah. I wanna go back to that, the personal experience that you just shared of going through this illness with your son and really leaning on all the resources available to you and your community coming standing behind you and praying for you in that circumstance. I wonder if you could contrast that with a different circumstance in your life around mental health. Did pursuing your own mental health look differently than that scenario initially?

LS: So I would say yes for me. For years, I tried to pursue my mental health journey on my own, not solely on my own, but with the Lord. I experienced trauma as a child, I didn't realize I had really experienced trauma until I was somewhere in my 20s because as you grow up, what you're experiencing is what you're experiencing, you don't have another lens to see things through. I knew things were wrong, but I wouldn't have known it was trauma. And by the time I was in my 20s and removed from that, I could tell some damage had been done, that the way I saw things weren't really the way other people saw things, that I had some defense mechanisms built up to protect myself that probably weren't necessary or healthy. And I really just dug in with Jesus, spent a lot of time with the Lord, praying, reading my Bible, had a really good Christian community.

My husband is amazing, and honestly, was just the best friend to talk through and sort through so much of that. And I feel like I got a lot of healing that way. But then several years ago, I was on a walk with a friend who was seeing a Christian counselor, and she literally... We were on a walk in the woods. She spread out her arms and spun around and said, "I feel so free." And I was like, "I want that." It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, and I wasn't walking fully in freedom. And I was like, "I want that." And my husband over the years had suggested, "Do you wanna see a counselor?" I'm like, "No, I think I'm good." And it wasn't really that the church was discouraging me, it was more that I was being prideful and saying, I got this and not leaning into everything that God had for me.

So seeing a Christian counselor was, I went from a very slow, gradual healing trajectory, I feel like I took giant leaps just because she had language to give me that I didn't have. She diagnosed me with PTSD, I didn't know I had that. And when I knew I had that, it's like, "Oh, some of these things I do are very normal for people with PTSD. I'm not crazy. I'm not strange." These things are normal. And here are some things I can do to help cope with that, to help heal from that that I would have never known because it was a prescription for something I didn't know I had.

LA: Laura, earlier in the conversation, you mentioned John 10:10 as an inspiration for you, when Jesus says, "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." I loved your characterization of mental freedom as part of fullness of life. I think sometimes a false dichotomy that I can get stuck in is that life is what I do, and what I think or feel in my head is a means to an end. A means to how I accomplish what I do and is part of this accomplishment mindset. Life to the fullest means I have success in my work and I have success in my personal life, but you've really come up with a definition of fullness of life that includes enjoyment of that freedom, which I think is very biblical. Could you talk a little bit more about that?

LS: Sure. It's very Biblical. Jesus wants us to have joy. Joy is one of the fruit of the spirit. God mandated celebrations. In the Old Testament, he said, the law is we have to celebrate so many times a year. Jesus's first miracle was at a wedding feast, pulling out the finest wine, a God who wants us to just accomplish and check things off the list does not act like that. God loves celebration and he loves joy, and I just even think looking at creation is such a testament of that. Right now in Ohio, the colors are gorgeous, like the bright yellow daffodils and the bright red tulips and the bright purple, whatever those are, irises blooming. And it's like God created all that color, if he wanted us to just check things off and do the things, he wouldn't have made colors that vibrant, he wouldn't have made rain in the springtime smell that good, or the easter lily that's sitting on my counter smell that good. He wants all that goodness for us, he didn't have to create things like that, but he went all out for us.

LA: So there's joy. Joy is part of mental wellness is what you're saying.

LS: Absolutely. Well, I think it's part of living to the full. I agree that culture puts on us a, "Are you checking all the boxes?" Whether that's, "Are you drinking your greens?" Or "Are you doing cold plunges?" Or "Are you reading a chapter of the Bible every day and praying for this long. Are you volunteering? Are you making sure your kids this and that, and eating these foods?" And all the things. There's a long checklist from the world. But Jesus was never in a hurry, he took his time to notice people, he took his time to eat with people, he sat down to have meals, he took time, all the time to be off by himself with the Lord and just talked to him. God invented rest, he invented Sabbath, not for him, he wasn't tired after creating the world, he's God. But on the seventh day, he created rest because he knew it would be good for us. God just wants goodness all over the place for us. And I think when we're just checking boxes, we're missing out on all this abundance he has for us.

MR: I love that. So Laura, I’m glad you pointed back to creation and what God intended in the beginning. You know, I think I read and studied the creation account in scripture probably dozens of times in my life. Before I one day saw something I’d never seen before. It’s in the second chapter where it talks about God creating the trees and it says that out of the ground the lord God made grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. And I swear I’d read that really so many and it never occurred to me, wait a minute, first thing that scripture says about trees is that they’re pleasant to the sight. That we can delight in them. So as you’re talking about nature, I mean absolutely that is that God has given God that to us for our enjoyment. But it also doesn’t it it tells us something about God’s own enjoyment and delight, God’s pleasure in beauty. And you know it’s there in scripture but for some reason many of us have just sort of overlooked it for a long time.

LS: And let's be honest, when we're struggling with our mental health, we're not able to fully live in that joy and that pleasure and that delight, because if our mind is racing, we're not gonna notice how beautiful the trees are. If we are so stressed, worried, preoccupied, if our depression is so heavy, if our OCD is hitting in, if we have some sort of addiction, all those things are distracting us from the goodness God has for us. And until we can address those things and start caring for ourselves, then we're gonna continue to miss out on what he has for us.

MR: Hey can I ask you about something that’s in your book that I was fascinated by. Can you tell us a little bit about your reflections on Zaccheus? Again, I’ve known that story forever, you know, love it. You know I was probably a four year old in Sunday school making little Zacheus’s up in the tree, right?

LS: (Singing)

MR: Yes, exactly, but what you talk about as you talk about Zacheus I thought wow that’s really something.

LA: Well, it's funny because there's this... As Laura's talking about the... There's this tree motif that's going through this conversation.

LS: Oh, that's so cool.

LA: So Laura brought up this forest walk with her friend enjoying the nature, and Mark, you just mentioned this, and now we're gonna go talk about Zacchaeus hanging out up in that tree waiting for Jesus. But I'm just thinking like I hear more and more advice from mental health experts like, "Go for a walk outside in nature. Clear your head." And I can't count the number of times that I've been doing my little nature lap with the dogs being like, just all in my head, "How am I gonna solve my problem? How am I gonna solve my problem? I am stressed about this thing, How am I gonna... " Even just our conversation now is refocusing me on, "Oh yeah, Mark, you mentioned Genesis chapter 2, the Lord created trees that are beautiful to look at, maybe just let's start there. Let's look at the tree as we're walking through on our little nature walk."

MR: Well, and Zacchaeus would point out they were good for climbing too. Yes, the thing that was the main thing and you mentioned was that Jesus saw Zacchaeus not just with his eyes, he really saw him and cared for him. And that gives us a way of thinking about how Jesus responds to us and thinks about us. So that’s what I was asking about.

LS: Yeah. And I think so Zacchaeus is hiding in that tree and we know he was a tax collector, which we know everyone hated, the Jewish culture did not like them 'cause they were really bad people, they had chosen this profession that went against their faith in God, and that was literally exploiting their fellow Jews. So Zacchaeus knows Jesus is coming and he's... I know we know he's small and that he's probably trying to get a good view up there, but he's also filled with shame, he is embarrassed, he doesn't want anyone to see him. I don't know if either of you watch The Chosen or anyone who's listening watches The Chosen but I love how they've depicted Mathew in there, how the other Jewish people really don't like him, and even when he is taken in as one of Christ's disciples the other disciples resent him for quite some time because he was a tax collector.

So Zacchaeus is feeling all those feels up in the tree, but he is Christ’s beloved just like we all are. And so Jesus is walking by and... He's Jesus, so of course he knows Zacchaeus is up there, whether he notices him with his eyes or not, he just knows because he's the Lord God Almighty. And he has so many choices there, he could be like, "Zacchaeus is ashamed, and he's hiding up there, and I should just let him see me and experience that." But he loves each of us so personally, he calls Zacchaeus down and he's like, "I'm eating at your house today." Which when all of society has shunned him and said, "Stay away from him. Don't eat with him. Don't be seen talking to him." Jesus says, I love you. I love you in the midst of everything that's going on that might be bringing you shame, and I wanna be with you in that, and I feel like that is what Jesus is doing with us.

If we have any shame about our mental health, he's saying, "I see you, like I know you're dealing with this, I know it's hard, and I love you. I wanna hang out with you. Let's spend some time together." Jesus doesn't want us to hide it from him or keep it a secret from him, or try to do it on our own, as I said, I was even doing for years, he wants to walk in it with us. And it's not until after Jesus has invited Zacchaeus to dinner, then later Zacchaeus is like, "And I'm giving away so much of my money and paying people back and everything." But Jesus didn't ask him to have dinner or call him down or say I wanna spend time with you after Zacchaeus had changed, he did it before. He's like, "I love you as you are who you are. I created you in my image. You are my beloved, you are my masterpiece, you are my prized possession. Let's spend some time together and it will make you more whole." And Jesus is inviting all of us to do the same no matter what tree we're hiding in.

LA: I think there's such a perfect image for my own relationship to my mental health in that story. In the way that Zacchaeus is hiding from the rest of society who might be judging him, that's so many of our stories, when we struggle with mental health and don't wanna bring that into community. But Jesus really takes him out of that hiding, and puts him in the middle of community by saying, we're having a dinner, and it's in your house. In the state of shame and community challenges that you're in right now, I'm gonna be with you in that. And I think there's a beautiful image that the first thing, it's not that I have to change first, and then I can get right with God, it's that I can join God for this coming together experience, and whatever change needs to happen later, can happen in the fullness of time.

LS: Amen.

LA: Thank you for bringing that up Mark.

MR: Well I just you know, partly just loved that story throughout my whole life because I also loved climbing trees. Now I love looking at them, I don’t really climb trees. But what you said I mean it’s so true Laura. Jesus did not say, hey you up there, if you get your life together, maybe we can hang out. That would be a fairly typical way for many of us to respond, to act toward people. It was exactly what you said, hey Zacchaeus, let’s hang out. And then it was out of that relationship with Jesus that Zacchaeus freely chose to put right many of the things that were wrong in his life.

LS: Yeah. No, Jesus is so sweet and so loving, he's so good.

LA: And I also wanna be clear that when we're bringing up that story in relationship to mental health, it's not that like, "Oh, I'm doing something wrong and that has a negative impact on my mental health." In the way that Zacchaeus is perhaps defrauding people, and that has a negative impact on his relationships with other people, it's not that necessarily we're doing something wrong, and that leads us to being anxious or depressed. It's that we can, with Jesus's help and with the help of whatever medical professionals and community support that we need, replace old habits and ways of thinking with new habits and ways of thinking. And Laura that's actually something you talk about quite a bit in your book, that the replacing of old habits with new habits is something that's not only recommended by mental health professionals, it's also scriptural.

LS: Absolutely. Romans 12:2 talks about the renewing of our minds, to not be conformed by the patterns of the world, but renew our minds so we can understand God's perfect will. Well, the renewing of our minds, I think it would be hard to say that can't relate to our mental health. And we are in this world, so we're in the patterns of the world, the things that the world says we need to do and the stress of the world, and as we even talked about a few moments ago the to-do list and the expectations of the world. And we live in a broken world, so things like mental health they're not ever the person's fault ever, ever, ever. But we do live in a broken world where even our mental health can be challenged and damaged sometimes. So yes, the renewing of that is so important and Jesus invites us into that just like he invited Zacchaeus into having a meal.

LS: And there are so many things we can do that are biblical, that just start to help. So we talked earlier about counseling, how that's an option, but we also I talked about going on walks outside and having community, but rest is such a critical one, we briefly talked about Sabbath for a second. But I love the story of Elijah, that Elijah was suffering from chronic depression, he was suicidal, and if we want to pretend that the Bible doesn't talk about mental health, then I guess we should take Kings out of the Bible, because Elijah is clearly suffering from mental health struggles, and he asks the Lord to take his life. And God makes him lie down for a nap, and when he wakes up, there is bread and there is water, and then he has Elijah take another nap, and then there is more bread and water. So the thing Elijah needed most was not what his prayer was for, which was death.

What he needed most was some rest and some nutrients for his body. And sometimes that is the very best thing for mental health, is actually getting enough sleep for our bodies. I don't know about you guys, if I don't get enough sleep, I am kind of snippy, I am kind of grumpy, I'm definitely not functioning fully, and if you have any mental health issues, then those are gonna be triggered when you're not rested. Same if you're not eating enough or eating healthy, if you're not hydrated, those same things. So part of this renewing of our minds and kind of stepping into renewal can simply be, are we taking care of our bodies?

And I love that Jesus actually created us body, mind, and spirit, when God was creating humans, he did all of that for us.

So it's so important that we pay attention to those bodies. God intentionally put us in them for a reason, so we need to be stewarding those well, too, and that certainly is one of the things we can do to start trading out old maybe toxic or just not habits that serve us well, for habits that do help renew our mind, do help us walk into the fullness Christ has for us.

MR: I love that you know you remind me of an experience I had many years back. I was at a retreat with Dallas Willard who’s a wonderful writer on spirituality and very very wise Christian man. He was talking about spiritual disciplines. Then there was a Q&A time. And I remember one of the people in the room said, you know I get up every morning for my quiet time at 5:30 in the morning and I read my Bible and I pray, but I always fall asleep, and I’m really unhappy about that. I’m wondering if you have some suggestions for me, like what I should do about always falling asleep. And Dallas’ answer was you know maybe God is wanting to give you the give of rest. Blew us all away. Like here’s this amazingly brilliant holy man suggesting that you know maybe for this particular individual getting up super early for his quiet time actually wasn’t what God had for him. Not that it wouldn’t be important to pray and read your Bible later but maybe he needed rest then. I just thought oh that’s so amazing. And that it’s but it reminds me of what you’re talking about here in terms of paying attention to the bodies God gave us and taking them seriously and helping them also to be healthy and rest is a huge part of that.

LS: Absolutely.

LA: I love that you bring up the story of Elijah, because here is a prophet in the Bible who did participate in some several superhuman-type events, saw some big deal miracles and got to help set those up, set the stage for God to do some big deal miracles, and saw some water parting and some fire and rain, and a whole bunch of cool stuff.

And even he had to lie down and take a nap, and he had to get some food and water into his body, had to deal with his nutrition. What it tells me is that none of us is exempt, no matter what the calling on our life is, no matter how important our work is, no matter how much God has called us to devote ourselves to a particular cause or topic or job, we're still at the base of it human beings that need a balance of work and rest, and also human beings that God cares for. And in the same way that God cared for Elijah to give Elijah what needed, God cares for us to give us enough time and nourishment and space for what we need.

LS: Yeah. I love... Mark 6 has the most beautiful example of this. Jesus has sent the disciples out two by two, and he's telling them, "Preach the good news, heal the crowds, let people know the kingdom has come." And when they come back to him, they'd be like, "We did all these things." And he's like, "Everyone has been coming and going so much, you haven't even had time to eat. Come away with me on the boat and rest." Now, Jesus had sent them to do the good work, it was work he sent them to do, work that mattered to him, he was all for the work, and then he said, "Okay, time out, that's enough. We're not even sitting down to have a meal, you're all exhausted, and the way you're gonna get the best rest is to come away with me."

And wouldn't we have loved to see what happened on that boat. I picture them all kinda talking at once and asking Jesus questions and listening to him and sharing things with each other, 'cause we need time in community. And I also picture some of the disciples just nodding off as the waves were lapping and the sun was on them, and leaning against Jesus, and chowing down 'cause they hadn't had time to eat. All these things that are so good for us spending time with the Lord, spending time in community, resting, eating, these are all things that are good for our mental and spiritual health. And then they get to the other side, and a huge crowd has gathered because people have seen Jesus do miracles and they want the miracles.

And the next thing that happens is for that huge crowd is when Jesus feeds the 5000 men, which we think was probably about 20,000 people, 'cause there were obviously women and children there as well, and invites the disciples into that work. So he has them do work, do good work, work so hard they're exhausted, come away with him, eat, rest, restore, and then go on to a full-blown giant hard work in miracle again. It's these rhythms, work, rest, work, rest, where we actually thrive instead of just hamster wheel 24/7.

LA: Do you have an example from your own life of how you put this into practice? 'Cause I kinda wanna turn our conversation to practicals. Okay, I feel like, all right, I've got it. You sold me, my mental wellness is important, what can I do to, on a daily basis, give myself the resources that I need to be able to experience fullness of life?

LS: Right. Right. Absolutely. I think a lot of it is setting some boundaries for ourself. And for me, Sabbath is one of those huge boundaries, I take a day off every week where I am not on social media, I do not check my phone, I actually turn it off the night before, I'm blessed that my husband can leave his on, we can alternate with that, that I live with someone who I don't need it on. It is a day where I don't do any work. And we all have to define what our work is. To me, that is my actual vocational work. If I wanna cook a meal, that sounds life-giving to me, I will, but if it feels like work to me on Sabbath, we'll get carry out. Everyone has to determine what their work is. But I fully Sabbath one day a week, and that is so good for my mental health.

But other boundaries are - do you need a boundary that you're gonna turn off your work, or your email at eight every night, at six every night? Our phones are available 24/7, our email is there, we can work, people, all through the night, and we can and we might get more done, but we can also trust God that he'll help us get done what needs to get done.

I think boundaries around if there are people that are toxic for us, if there are practices that are toxic for us, if certain places are unhealthy for us, like we know we will fall into bad tendencies if we are with a certain group of people or in a certain setting, we can set the boundary and say, "I'm out. That doesn't work for me." So I think setting boundaries is a really healthy way to avoid some of the things that can be triggering for us, some of the things that are toxic for us.

And what's toxic for me might not be toxic for you at all, and vice versa. If you have a fear of elevators and they actually make you anxious, take the stairs. That's cool. People who love you and respect you will be fine with that, they might join you on the stairs. We need to do the things that help us, again, live this full life Jesus has for us, and part of that is praying with him and talking to him and actually asking him what those things are and, "Hey, I got this invitation to this thing, and something in me, my body feels tense, something feels off. Why is that Lord? Am I supposed to go and it's gonna be hard, or am I not supposed to go?" And he'll let you know, 'cause he directs our steps and he wants goodness for us. So I think getting rest, implementing that in my life, implementing boundaries, those things have been super healing for me.

And some of those boundaries are like, I am gonna get outside every day, that's something that I have to do for my mental health, going on runs and walks is so good for my mental health, blaring worship music in my ear on a run in the woods is like the best thing I can do. So I will do that and I will make time for that, and I will schedule that in my day, it won't be, "If I have time or I hope to do that sometime next week." It's gonna be, "I know that's personally good for me. I worship the Lord, I hear him talk to me. It unwinds my anxious thoughts, it's chemically good with endorphins, and it's good for my physical body, So I'm going to make that a priority."

Find the things that are life-giving for you and do more of those. And the things that are life draining from you, do less of them.

LA: Amen to that. Yeah. What I'm hearing from this conversation is that so many different ways that we can connect with God are also practices that are, generally speaking, good for mental health. We talked about resting, and relaxing, and being out in nature, and taking moments of quiet. These are things that even non-spiritual mental health professionals will recommend, but we also know them from our spiritual walks as important tools. And there's one more that I wanna add. So, these are all tools that have to do with our personal relationship with God. The other thing that we've talked about in this conversation is our relationship with our community. And we wanna have communities of supports that are supportive to our mental health and not shaming towards mental health challenges. And that's brought out through the story that you mentioned of Zacchaeus of Jesus bringing him into community.

And as part of our focus, this Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanna bring it back to mental health is a personal journey, but it's also a community journey. And I wanna think about how we can support each other in our mental health community. And that's part of participating in broader conversations around this, also smaller conversations. I had a... I find it's so helpful for my mental health to talk to a friend about something that I'm going through, even if I'm not soliciting advice, just like, "This is what's going on for me." I was having a particularly stressful morning, this morning, actually. It was just like, you know you get like 10,000 emails at the same time and they're all a different problem, and you can't solve 10 different problems at once. And I called a friend and I said, "Can you just listen to everything that's going on with me this morning?"

And I said, "This person is asking for something. I don't know how to put together the spreadsheet. Also, I woke up and there's water all over my refrigerator, because I think the refrigerator is broken. Et cetera, et cetera. I just poured it all out there in 15 minutes of free therapy, and at the end, I didn't need any takeaways, I had actually kind of processed through all the challenges in my morning by talking about it out loud. And there's something so beautiful that my friend did just by holding this space. And there's a very important role of mental health professionals doing that on a regular basis. I also think by not stigmatizing mental health, we can allow more space for doing this in community, and that will benefit all of us, even if the issue is only that the refrigerator is not working.

LS: Amen. Well, whenever we're vulnerable and share that we actually have struggles, it opens the door for other people to be vulnerable. So, maybe if your friend thought, "Oh, Leah has it all together. She has her podcast, and she's gorgeous, and she's so important, and blah, blah, blah."

LA: Oh stop it.

LS: To hear that you have struggles, made her be like, "Oh, okay. So, because I have struggles, there's not something wrong with me. And Leah felt safe enough to talk to me about her struggles, I can actually share what's going on with me too." When we share like we feel like we're being so vulnerable, but it's actually a gift to those around us because it allows them to be vulnerable as well.

LA: That's something I really appreciate about your book as well, Laura. You're putting it out there that our vulnerability makes us more human, it reveals our humanity, and it reveals the space that we have to connect with Jesus, which is really the most beautiful thing we can do.

LA: Laura Smith, this is a great conversation. Thank you for your work. And I'm excited about all of us in the Christian community continuing this conversation together.

LS: Thank you so much for having me on.

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