It's an age-old debate. Faith or Science? Jesus or Therapy?
This is not a new conversation, but it is a necessary one. I just wonder if we've been asking the right question all this time...
As Christians, we know that we serve an omnipotent God. The only one with all power, all knowledge and all understanding and part of His power (and His character) is His ability to heal. Whether it be physical ailments or mental afflictions, we know that God is a healer. As such, the topic of mental health for many people has been met with sticky situations and curt responses.
For some believers, the desire to go to mental health practitioners signifies a lack of faith. Being that God is the omnipotent healer, opting for things like therapy or counselling suggests unbelief in God's power to heal. Hence, many would respond to conversations of mental health with statements such as, "just pray" or "you are not feeling [x] in Jesus name" etc. And although, I understand why and can agree with this approach to a degree, I also believe that to deny an issue when it's expressed to us and/or condemn people for a lack of faith, rarely, if ever fixes the issue at hand nor is it the way that God wills for us to handle conversations.
Jesus and therapy can co-exist.
So, what does the bible actually say about therapy?
While the word 'therapy' isn't explicitly used in the Bible, we do see reference to a specific word throughout it. Counsel.
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14 (ESV)
Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But a man of understanding will draw it out. Proverbs 20:5 (NKJV)
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15 (ESV)
Okay, so what is counsel?
Counsel is described as 'advice, opinion or instruction, given upon request' and a counsellor is described as a 'confidential advisor'. This idea of counsel is not only mentioned in the bible, it is repeatedly advised throughout it, so why wouldn't therapy be applicable to that?
God speaks repeatedly about our need for community, wisdom and guidance and therapy can act as one avenue to receive this. I have gone to therapy myself and I can testify that it can be a great tool to use. While I understand the fear that may arise of leaning on it more than on God, I've found that therapy cannot replace the power of God, it can only supplement it (i.e. add to it).
I read a post recently, which I think sums it up perfectly, it said that:
"if you break your arm and go to a doctor, they’ll give you x-rays, a cast and send you on your merry way. Now, you may be tempted to assume that the doctor just fixed your arm. However, as you walk out of that doctor’s office, your arm is still as broken as when you went in. The only difference is that now, your arm is in a much more favourable posture for fusing back together—which is where God comes in. Inside your arm, an imperceptibly small yet miraculous event is occurring - the bones in your arm are producing new cells which fuse your arm back together." (Relevant Magazine)
Therapy does not oppose the power of God, it simply gives it another avenue to work through.
God can use therapy to help you, to believe anything else would limit Him. Right?
So, just like we seek counsel from a friend or pastor, we can also seek the same thorugh therapists and counsellors. This does not replace the power nor necessity for prayer or faith, but gives us tools to work out our faith. Therapy gives us access to professionals who have been trained to listen and see patterns in our past or mindsets that we may not be able to see, so we know what to bring before the Father to even pray about.
In my experience, I've found that I can't have therapy without Jesus. But having Jesus, didn't mean that I couldn't have therapy too. Therapy gave me the practical tools to apply to issues when they arose and Jesus gave me the truth, grace and power to counter the belief systems that caused the issues to arise in the first place for me.
With that said, should Christians go to therapy? Yes, if they so desire. If you are considering going to the therapy or counselling, I say go for it.
Going to counselling does not negate your faith.
Going to counselling does not, nor cannot, replace God.
Going to counselling simply provides another avenue for God to work through.