As the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott had a lot going for him heading into the 2020 season. For starters, he signed a contract that would pay him $31.4 million for a single year. In addition, Prescott’s team had a good chance of competing for the playoffs in the NFC East division, and possibly contending for the Super Bowl.
That’s why it came as a surprise when Prescott revealed before the first game of the year that he had received treatment in the off-season for anxiety and depression.
The primary cause of Prescott’s illness was the recent death of his older brother, Jace, who committed suicide. “Tears and tears and tears,” Prescott said of the moment he received the news. “I mean, I sat there and tried to gather what had happened and wanted to ask why for so many reasons.”
Another contributor to his depression was the isolation Prescott experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m somebody that likes to be around people. I like to inspire. I like to put a smile on people’s faces, day in and day out, and I like to lead. When that’s taken away from you simply because you’re forced to quarantine and not be around people and get around people as much as you would like to, yeah, it’s tough.”
Many people view anxiety and depression as a stigma—as something to keep private because it makes you look incapable or weak. This is especially true within the church. Followers of Christ often have a difficult time admitting they need help with anxiety or other mental disorders because they fear such incidents will make them seem spiritually deficient. They worry that others will view them as lacking in faith or failing to have a deep connection with God.
Given these realities, Prescott’s bravery in speaking publicly about his experiences should be commended. “I don’t want to sit here and dwell on the things that were a struggle for me when I know I’m very fortunate and blessed and other people have it much worse,” he told the interviewer. “But [it’s important] just to be transparent about it—that even in my situation, emotions and those type of things can overcome you if you don’t do something about it.”1
“Emotions and those type of things can overcome you if you don’t do something about it.”
Prescott was right to draw attention to anxiety and depression, because the numbers surrounding those issues are astounding. Studies show that nearly 20 percent of adult Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder in a given year—which is about forty-one million people. That number jumps to almost three hundred million people worldwide.2 Perhaps most alarming is that incidents of anxiety among younger people have been rising for years.
Interestingly, if you think anxiety and depression are modern phenomena that have only begun affecting people in recent decades, you’re mistaken. We know those issues have plagued people for centuries because of what we read in the pages of Scripture.
ANXIETY IN SCRIPTURE
There are many mistaken beliefs regarding scriptural content. One misconception is that God’s Word is a collection of historical stories and other writings designed to communicate doctrine. In other words, many people see the Bible primarily as a source of information.
In reality, the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself. It is a source of inspiration, not just information. Through it God demonstrates not only His character but who He is and what He values. It goes well beyond transmitting information—it illustrates the highs and lows we experience on this earthly journey as well as God’s never-ending love for us.
The book of Psalms is considered the emotional heart of God’s Word. In its collection of 150 songs and poems, the authors poured out their thoughts, tapping into deep mines of joy, sorrow, thankfulness, anger, praise, doubt, worship, disgust, love, misery, pride, loneliness, and yes, anxiety.
For example, look at David’s eye-opening appeal to God at the beginning of Psalm 69:
Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
Where there is no standing;
I have come into deep waters,
Where the floods overflow me.
I am weary with my crying;
My throat is dry;
My eyes fail while I wait for my God. (vv. 1–3)
David Jeremiah, God Has Not Forgotten You: He Is with You, Even in Uncertain Times (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2021).
We have just released a new Bible Study on the book, God Has Not Forgotten You.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and David Jeremiah.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.