Embracing Mental Health Challenges in Christian Life
A Guide to Addressing Mental Health in Christian Circles – Part 1
We named this section “A Guide to Addressing Mental Health in Christian Circles” after receiving feedback from our virtual group. It is this idea that we will use to open this next section on “Next Level Mental Fitness.” Here’s the question asked of the group. “What are your thoughts on the stigma (disgrace) mental health plays in the Christian community?” I would rather not use the term Christian as this would imply a larger community than what we’re trying to cover. We are speaking about people who are regularly involved in and influential in the church. It is this group that has created a portrait of disgrace for those who suffer with mental health challenges as have been described previously.
I must be mindful to always provide my disclaimer. At times, I often will go to the extreme right (positive) and to the extreme left (negative). In this installment, we are going to expose some of the extreme thinking in how our Christian-community even addresses mental health issues. Please proceed with caution.
Mental health issues in the church bring with it bad connotations. It is a topic that the church-world does not have a lot to say on the matter. In fact, it is the negative extremes that echo the loudest when it comes to what the church-community has to say. One might be classified as demon-possessed or under attack of the enemy. Regardless, whether the latter is the case or not, who would be okay being labeled this way and even worse not offered any help to remove such labeling? I can only imagine what this would be like for someone new to the faith.
Watch this, it is possible that while one could be labeled as having the devil attack them in this way, the truth could be as simple as the person is only tired. Or maybe the person has had very little sleep and isn’t thinking properly. Here it is something simple, but when taken to the faith-community it becomes as large as the Scarlet Letter, bringing shame and disgrace.
To combat this and to bring next level responses to the topic, we must take a look at what the Bible has to say. In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about mental health challenges. The problem is, it doesn’t use the language we use. Our words are saying one thing and God’s word is saying another. A person can not look for the word, “depression” in the Bible and find it. Depression in this regard is a relatively more modern word. In my research I found that one source only dates this word back to 1905. Therefore, one must translate this word into the term the Bible uses to identify its meaning, like brokenhearted.
If extreme tiredness is a mental health challenge, then we must in turn identify what the Bible has to say about it. For example, it says that “God gives rest to those He loves.”  Note what it is not saying. It is not saying He gives sleep to those He loves. Maybe people who are experiencing extreme tiredness haven’t put themselves in a position to receive the rest God has to offer. He gives rest which is an answer to one’s extreme tiredness.
Two Stances Observed from the Church-Community
- You are not really a Christian if you are dealing with mental health challenges.
People might say if you battle with mental issues you are not a real Christian. Some might say you have lost your faith. Church-people can oftentimes be unintentionally harmful. We might say how in the world can you call yourself a Christian and dealing with a mental health challenge like stress? Here it is: you have the power of Heaven and Earth available to you and you can’t overcome “stress?” The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in you  and you don’t know how to overcome depression? Unfortunately church-people will hit us with ideas like this. When we do this we are tearing the church down and not building it up.
- You have lost your faith.
You have lost your way. Many of us would rather not mention to our church community that we have issues. For if we do, especially mental health issues, they will make us feel bad that we are dealing with such issues. They might say, where’s your faith? You should be ashamed of yourself.
How would you feel if you went to someone for help and this is what you got?
Let’s change that today. Any issue we have is not an individual issue, it is a family issue. The leaders of the early church lived by this motto, “don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others.”  What if this was our mantra today? You know what this statement says to me? It says, we have an obligation to not only get ourselves to the next level, but in doing so we help others get to the next level. If you are mentally well, help someone else to get mentally fit.
Reliance on worldly solutions to our problems.
I need to end by bringing some balance. Let’s look at what was said above as the grace portion, but now we need a little truth.  Most (51% or more) rely first and foremost on world solutions to their problems which can only be addressed via spiritual answers. Here’s what I mean. How long are we going to continue doing it the world’s way and get worldly results before we try God’s way? We have spiritual answers available to us for things the world can’t solve anyway.
We need to quit relying on the medical profession to do our jobs. We are guilty of relying on the world to bring us answers that can only medicate us, when God has an answer that can heal us. Medication doesn’t heal, it gives us the ability to live with a problem that we have no business trying to live with in the first place.
If we are going to take our mental health to the next level, agree with me that what we have been doing is not working. So now it is time to add a spiritual component to it. Let’s agree that we are not going to stop at medications, but along with the medications we will apply our spiritual tools like prayer to take our health to the next level. Next level mental health means we will impact our mind using mental tools as opposed to using a physical tool to compensate for our mental needs.
Question: what comments have you heard in the church-community that seemed inappropriate when it comes to mental health?
 Psalms 127:2 NLT, Bible.com, accessed August 28, 2023, https://www.bible.com/bible/116/PSA.127.2.NLT
 Romans 8:11 NLT, Bible.com, accessed August 28, 2023, https://www.bible.com/bible/116/ROM.8.11.NLT
 Philippians 2:4 NLT, Bible.com, accessed August 28, 2023, https://www.bible.com/bible/116/PHP.2.4.NLT
 John 1:14 NIV, Bible.com, accessed August 28, 2023, https://www.bible.com/bible/111/JHN.1.14.NIV
All Scripture references used by permission, see our Scripture copyrights.