For many of us the conversation of mental health is a relatively knew one, especially when it comes to the church. With these conversations has come the birth of initiatives, organisations and laws to help aid us and understand our struggles as humans, however that same picture is not replicated when coming from the church. Because of this, many of us have been left with the belief that God has nothing but condemnation to say when it comes to our mental health, but that couldn't be further from the truth. So today, in the spirit of Mental Health Awareness month, let's really talk about it.
Unfortunately, when the topic of mental health has been discussed before, it was (and sometimes still is) usually met with responses about prayer and fasting or a simple "get over it", leaving many people to give up on Christianity altogether. But may I pose to you this, the response we've received to mental health isn't a Jesus issue, it's an interpretation and culture issue? I say that to say, although many have used the Bible to condemn and ignore mental health issues in the past, the problem isn't with God because He actually cares about you and your mental health.
I wholeheartedly believe that we can be healed from all kinds of infirmities, including mental health (Matthew 4:23) and it's not the will of the Lord for us to remain in depression, anxiety etc., I also believe that to ignore these issues or condemn them as "the devil" or lack of faith to those currently going through them is not the way forward. Upon review, you can actually find that the Bible tells us multiple times that God cares about our mental health because the wholeness and wellness of God's children always matters to Him
The Bible mentions the word "mind" 95 times, with various themes attached to it: peace, being sober-minded, protecting it, being mindful of others, worry, fear etc. So, from the jump, we can see that God isn't ignorant to the mind and the issues it may face, He made it! He understands that while beautiful things come from it (e.g. creativity, ideas and inventions), so do issues of worry, fear and anxiety and He doesn't ignore that, He gives us comfort, peace and a manual to overcome.
So, what does the bible actually say about mental health?
We can be assured that our mental and emotional wellbeing matters to God because He assures us that no matter where we are or what we experience, He is with us to help us through and be loved during our process. Only a God who understands how life can affect us would do that! The Lord reassures us that He is with us in the storm, bouts of fear, hurt, anxiety and everything else that causes our mental health to go array. When our minds are in turmoil, He is our comforter.
Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.
Our God not only understands the issues that we face, He has experienced them. The Bible says that God delights in us (Psalm 149:4), He was well-pleased in Jesus (Matthew 3:17), He was angry at the sins of His people etc. He is not an emotionless God and He doesn't expect us to be an emotionless people! Jesus lived every emotional experience that we could ever have, whether through himself or others who accompanied Him in life and died for every affliction we could ever experience, physical and mental. If that doesn't show you that He cares, I don't know what will! He died that we may be whole and remains with us via His Holy Spirit, so that we may be comforted when we do experience difficult mental health periods.
As well as being with us, God brings perfect peace in Him. In offering us his peace, He shows us His will to put our minds at ease by virtue of His presence and He encourages us that when we trust in Him, what we experience and see isn't the end of our story.
Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
God seeks for us to be at peace, He only asks that we have to focus on Him because the peace that we need cannot be found in the world. This reminder isn't just a blanket statement of "just pray and you'll be okay", it is a call for us to be mindful of our mind and protect our peace by being mindful about what we are consuming.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Last but not least, God shows us that He cares about our mental health because He gives us the manual to overcome our mental health battles. I am a strong advocate for the #Jesusandtherapy movement (shout out to the amazing Preston and Jackie Hill Perry) and I am also a strong believer in the power of prayer, He is Jehovah Rapha (The God who Heals) too guys!
The Bible gives us two instructions in overcoming our struggles and I truly believe that counselling is one of them.
1. Understand that He has already overcome them.
We are not our mental health struggles, although the enemy will tell us that we are. Jesus gave you a new identity when He died on the cross for you. (2 Corinthians 5:17) You do not have to strive to win your freedom, but you do have to be practical to live in the truth. Through consuming the word, having a relationship with God through prayer and affirming yourself in what He says about you!
2. Good counsel(lors)
Much to our surprise, the Bible explicitly tells us that having great guidance, teachers, friends and counsel is imperative to our spiritual, emotional and mental wellbeing. Having people around us who know more than us and are able to guide and aid us through our struggles is necessary for our overcoming, hence I would say counselling is a go guys.
Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 20:5 The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
God is for your mental health because you matter to Him. In full wholeness and health, you are your best self and God delights in you, so know that your mental health is important to Him despite what culture may have taught us.
I hope that this post brings some freedom to those of you who may be struggling with any mental health battles, know that you are loved and that God isn't disappointed in you for going through it, but rather He is with you and seeks to help you overcome it.
For those who feel like the battle is never-ending, know that while you may not feel it, the battle is already won and I pray that He would bring that into fruition here for you now.
And finally, for those who couldn't understand mental health battles before, we forgive you, you were only doing what you knew and I hope that you too would know that God cares about your mental health and wellbeing and that seeking counsel isn't a sign of a lack of faith, but proof of faith for change, an avenue for God to work and healing to manifest.
God cares about your mental health, always.