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How Christians Should Handle Mental Health

Mental Health Awareness Month is upon us. However, it has long been a taboo within the church. Many evangelists believe that the driving force of mental illness is one’s own sin or lack of faith, and they just need to pray more. This can be shown by analogy in John 9 when even the disciples believe the blind man’s troubles are his or his parents’ fault. As any psychologist will tell you, mental health is much more complex than that. The real treatment for mental illness is one’s faith, professional help, and fellowship.

Depression is overwhelming and has often been described as feeling like one is drowning. These extreme feelings are heightened when people don’t get the help they need from loved ones and professionals. Photo courtesy of Stormseeker

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John 9 starts with the disciples asking Jesus a very logical question, telling of a longtime stigma within the Christian community. 

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” says John 9:2.

Most people who believe in this stigma – that our problems are caused by our sins or lack of faith – would expect Jesus to explain who of them had sinned and what sins they had committed. 

But is it really that simple?

For centuries, evangelical Christians have blamed mental health issues, such as depression, on sin or unbelief.

An article in the peer-reviewed journal, Frontiers in Psychology, titled, “‘His Main Problem Was Not Being in a Relationship With God’: Perceptions of Depression, Help-Seeking, and Treatment in Evangelical Christianity” delineates evangelicals’ views on mental health. 

The journal article explains, “Indeed, there is some indication that for Evangelical Christians, discourse surrounding mental health may situate distress as emblematic of sin, demonic activity, or personal sinful behavior.”

Mental health concerns, therefore, are attributed to the defect of that person, as if that person sins any more than the rest of us. 

By crediting illnesses such as depression to one’s lack of faith, evangelicals are implying that they are able to “get better” if they just “work harder” at knowing Christ.

Do not get me wrong, the closer I have gotten to Christ, the more peace and mental stability I have known. 

However, I believe in real therapy as well because counselors can truly work people through their problems with a trained and knowledgeable eye.

The article continues, “Encouraging evangelical Christians with mental health concerns to engage in frequent prayer as a form of treatment has the potential to prolong their distress if evidence-based interventions are not pursued in a timely manner.”

How many times has help from professionals and true transformation led to natural born sinners becoming renowned public speakers, helping others with their same problem from the past, all for the glory of God?

For example, Scottish speaker and author Sheila Walsh is one of many who had a rough life from very early on, but did not find freedom until she truly addressed it. 

After her father’s abuse and eventual suicide, Welsh found herself asking what her father saw in her that he disliked so much, leading her to hide these so-called flaws from the rest of the world. 

It was not until she truly faced this trauma with help that she was not only able to conquer these struggles, but she became strong in her faith, starting to speak publicly about her past.

Sheila Walsh shares her life story, detailing her experience with depression. Video courtesy of The 700 Club

John chapter 9 continues with verse 3, in which Jesus explains that no one is to blame for their “inner demons.”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him,” Jesus said in response to his disciples’ question. 

His disciples only knew the way of their current culture, so of course they would believe this stigma; it was all they were taught.

However, Jesus came as sovereign ruler and debunked this, explaining why burdens are given — not as a result of sin but as an opportunity for God’s work.

Another solvent of mental health, which people often take to an extreme but is still important nonetheless, is church attendance. 

Church is a place where you can not only learn about your creator and savior, but it is also extremely important for fellowship with others. 

Loneliness is a big factor when it comes to depression, so meeting like-minded people with whom you can find lasting, meaningful relationships is important.

These relationships can be utilized not only in the good times when you are having fun but also in the more melancholy seasons for encouragement or accountability.

Another part of the story of the blind man was having friends.

When Christians come together and rally around those who are having those intolerable emotions or doubts, we are able to comfort them and let them know they are not alone. Photo courtesy of Priscilla du Preez

This theme was presented by our Oct. 6 Chapel speaker, Dr. Mark Turman, whose sermon was on the phrase, “Here’s mud in your eye.”

Turman, executive director of Denison Forum, asked rhetorically how the man got to the Pool of Siloam where he washed his eyes in order to see.

Turman then went on to suggest that he couldn’t have done it without friends because – being blind – he couldn’t have gotten to the pool by himself.

So, he suggests that, while Jesus was, of course, the healer, he couldn’t have been completely healed without his friends.

Mental health, faith in Jesus, and aid from humanity all go hand-in-hand. 

If one of these factors falters, they all do, and while God is in control and will guide your repair, we are still somewhat responsible for the upkeep of our own selves.

We need to read the Bible and pray for God to put the mud on our eyes, but we also need therapy and fellowship to help us wash it off and see.

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If you are experiencing depression or any other mental illness, visit Missouri Baptist University’s website for on-campus counseling services or call the 24/7 national hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

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Morgan Kromer

Morgan Kromer

Morgan Kromer is a staff journalist and associate editor for MBU Timeline. She is majoring in journalism with a minor in political science. Kromer also works in the Student Success Center tutoring English, communications and Biblical studies. Kromer also writes her own blog, Morgan’s Migraines, which you can check out at: https://morgansmigraines.wordpress.com/

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