Going to college is an exciting step in life. Young adults look forward to the new phase in their lives of becoming independent. That is how Caitlin Borunda pictured her new life. As a pre-med student at Penn State University, her plan was to go to medical school and become a doctor.
As she made her plans, God was also at work, leading her to discover a Navigators Bible study group in college. During a Navigators spring break trip as a freshman, Caitlin felt drawn by the Holy Spirit and accepted Christ in her life and started learning how to live as a disciple. However, after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease her senior year, her plans to pursue a career in medicine were suddenly put on hold. It was at this time that she was invited to join staff with The Navigators. After college graduation, she joined staff and moved to University of Alabama in 2010.
As her love for God and compassion for helping people continued to grow, Caitlin also started struggling with anxiety and depression, primarily related to her chronic disease. She had seen other members of her family struggling with mental health as well. Sadly, in her family and the broader Christian community no one talked about the need to treat mental health issues.
After years of fruitful, full-time ministry while ignoring her own mental health, Caitlin started experiencing burnout, which in turn made her anxiety increase. One of her supporters realized Caitlin was struggling and offered to pay to send her to receive counseling to help with her mental health. This was good start, but while continuing to serve on staff at University of Alabama, Caitlin’s anxiety was so high that it resulted in panic attacks.
The Navigators campus director noticed the struggles Caitlin was having and advised her to move to Colorado Springs for a summer so she could receive counseling and care at the Navigators headquarters. She was able to meet regularly with the pastoral care team, who saw how deep the problem was. Eventually they advised her not to go back to Alabama and begin a journey of healing in Colorado Springs.
As Caitlin experienced healing she was reminded of Psalm 40:1-3: “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.”
It was in that healing season that Caitlin and her friend Matthew, who is part of Cru, created a mental health “roadmap.” The roadmap was created when Caitlin was invited to do a workshop for the Navigators 20s to help understand mental health from a Christian perspective.
The allegory in the mental health roadmap covers four common places on the journey of mental health: despair, tension, care, and hope.
- “Swamp of Despair” where she shares her personal story and symptoms of all-consuming anxiety.
- “Forests of Tension” which acknowledges the complex questions that Christians wrestle with such as, “Are mental health issues sin or are they biological?”
- “Meadows of Care” where they discuss the various kinds of spiritual and professional help that exist for those who struggle with mental health issues.
- “Mountains of Hope” where Caitlin shows how the Gospel brings “altitude” and perspective on mental health.
Using this roadmap as a guide, Caitlin has been able to encourage many who struggle with mental health. She is now on staff with her husband at Texas State University and sees firsthand the increased levels of mental health issues students are facing. Caitlin’s main ministry is serving with the pastoral care team to help staff experience Jesus amid their mental health struggles.
God has used her struggle to help others as she continues to grow in the understanding of Psalm 40:1-3 and experience freedom and peace.
Mental health is now being talked about more openly and there is hope for those who are overwhelmed and may not know where to turn. If you or a friend struggle with anxiety or depression, pray for them and share this article with them. The Navigators also has additional resources for mental health issues.
I’m so glad to see this major issue addressed by believers. For too long, it has been one of the “leprous” diseases that makes those that suffer with mental health issues untouchable. This article gives me even more confidence that my donation is going to a wonderful ministry!
I think this is badly needed by many Christians as additional stress and anxiety result from doubt about the strength of your faith. I actually had someone in ministry suggest that perhaps I wasn’t saved if I was not experiencing the fruits of salvation such as peace and joy. Imagine what that did to me. The combination of a trained counselor who can also offer Christian insight is essential. Mental health issues are just another of any number of health problems a Christian can experience and should not be seen any differently. Compassionate therapy based in science and guided by Biblical truth are needed.
Thank you so much for creating the road map! It’s so helpful! Praise God for your heart for those who struggle with anxiety and depression! Can you tell me a little more about the care you received at Colorado Springs.
When I first saw the name Borunda, I wondered if there was a relationship to Josh at Texas State. My family is in San Antonio and has dealt with mental health issues for many years such as depression, OCD, and Bi-Polar. I was very glad to see this article. We are praying for spiritual movement throughout the Hill Country and the Valley of South Texas. Deut. 11:11,12
Such a wonderful and powerful message. Thank you for sharing Cailtins story. I relate very well.
Thank you for sharing. You are making a difference.
Psalm 40: 1-3 is my life verse. I praise God for the journey that led Caitlin to serve a misunderstood part of most Christians’ lives. My own struggle with chronic physical and mental health issues continues, but God in His mercy has and always will be faithful in His provision for my needs. May God continue to bless Caitlin and her husband as they serve Him, and bring Him glory through their weakness.
I like that she was able to turn things around in her life. However, after reading this and a couple of other articles, they all fail to give glory to God. None of anything I read touched on what God did for someone, in a similar situation in the Bible, and how it would relate to someone today. I don’t think I will continue reading things here anymore and I will pray you get more centered and give God the glory He deserves for sending Jesus to save us.
“…Caitlin shows how the Gospel brings “altitude” and perspective on mental health.” I love this! The gospel is the good news of Jesus, Dave! Praise God for the ways He’s using Caitlin to apply the good news to mental health & give a glimpse of Restoration!
How can I learn more about the mental health allegory mentioned in the article?
I am really struggling in my life with anxiety and depression after taking care of my parents at the end of their lives. My dad died from cancer in 2018 after 10 months of chemo and radiation. My mom died a year-and-a-half later. She had been living with dementia for about 10 years which I took care of her part-time for five of those years and full-time for about 2 and 1/2 years before she died in the very beginning of 2020. During that time I got divorced, remarried, bought a house with the new husband and relandscaped the whole yard. Watched my son go from finishing elementary school, going through middle school and starting high school. He got his first job and his driver’s permit. During all that time our church had to close its doors and our Minister retired and we tried a few churches around our area that we live but it felt like we didn’t fit into any of those churches and no one was really welcoming I really feel lost I would love to find a church where I belong. I feel tired and wore out and sad almost all the time. I read my Dr. Charles Stanley devotional book everyday and I got a few of the Navigator books which I just started on, but I feel like I need more help than that and I don’t know where to turn.
Very clear, helpful story of your journey, my friend – well done! May God continue to use you to encourage many others to discover the freedom of God’s mountain-tops.
Dear Gayla . So sorry to hear about your struggles . It sounds like you have gone through a lot. If you happen to live in Houston , try Rice Temple Baptist Church for community support , but wherever you live you could contact a Biblical Counselor through ACBC website for help. Praying for God to direct you to the right resources and to fill your heart with trust that though there is weeping in the evening , joy comes in the morning. Life is hard but God promises we can have peace and joy, even when we have pain in our life, when we learn to walk close to Him.
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