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5 Things Every Christian Should Know About Mental Health
Okay here it goes – “Hello, my name is TC and I’m a Christian.” Whew, there I said it. Yes, I’m one of those people. Yes, I believe there truly was a carpenter’s son named Isho (Aramaic for Jesus/Joshua) who was brought before the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judea [the governor of Jerusalem], Pontius Pilate ca. 30 AD where he was sentenced to death by crucifixion to appease the crowd. I believe the man, Isho, is the Son of God Almighty. I believe that on the third day following his brutal execution, the crucified body of Isho was absent from the tomb where he was left. That Sunday he was seen alive by his closest friends and then by hundreds more before he, in flesh and blood, ascended into heaven to rejoin God the Father. I’m not alone in this belief. I’m simply one of 2.2 billion in this world who believe.
My blessing, as a Christian, is to meet people where they are in life and to point out how much God truly does love them. Sadly, sometimes those suffering from mental health ailments are not afforded such kindness and love from my “brothers and sisters” professing to be Christians. Working as a chaplain and pastoral counselor at a state mental hospital has given me a tremendous perspective that I’d like to share. Here are five things every Christian should know about mental health.
- PRAYER AND THERAPY ARE COMPLEMENTARY, NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE
Prayer is by far one of the most powerful means by which a person can express their feelings, needs, hopes, and dreams with God. It is important to understand that prayer is a two-way communication with the Divine. It is not a supernatural drive-thru window where we can place our orders and expect God to respond accordingly. Søren Kierkegaard (1847), a 19th century Danish theologian, said it best; “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” Prayer itself does not hold any healing power, God does. Without the healing hand of our creator, even the best surgeon cannot make a difference. Still, God did give us provision. Our healer gave us provision. That provision is in mental health treatment.
- CLINICAL DEPRESSION IS NOT A LACK OF FAITH
Okay, most pastors and believers I know would not go as far as to tell a person with Diabetes to stop taking their insulin and simply have more faith that God will heal them. I hope you would agree. Diabetes is a medical condition that requires a chemical (medicine) intervention to restore the body to a healthy balance. Clinical depression is no different. I’ve sat with brokenhearted believers that battled depression with all their strength and fought a losing battle. They were told by a pastor they didn’t need antidepressants they needed more faith. That pastor was wrong. As believers, we must have faith that God can use therapy, God can use medication, and God can use ANYTHING He wants to use to heal a person. Don’t limit God by reducing mental health to a lack of faith. That cannot be farther from the truth.
- THOSE SUFFERING FROM MENTAL ILLNESS ARE NOT POSSESSED. PEOPLE, WHO ARE POSSESSED, ARE POSSESSED.
This is a hot topic among many on both sides of this debate. As Dr. Matthew Stanford of Baylor puts it, “Is it a demon or a disorder?” Our brain is a bona-fide organ in our physical body. It can become damaged or dysfunctional the same as any other organ in our body. Unlike the other organs, the brain processes our interactions with the outside world. It is in the brain that we translate experience into thoughts, which then enter into the world of behavior. Our behaviors are based on thoughts, which are based on a response to external stimuli. These stimuli can be physical or spiritual.
Our soul is where we interact with the “heavenly realms” which in-turn is processed by the mind and onto the brain to engage our physical world. Essentially, we are a “mind sandwich” with our soul on one side and our body on the other. Our behaviors are determined by our thoughts, which could be influenced from either the physical side or spiritual side. It is just as likely that there is a physical cause to an atypical behavior as there would be a spiritual cause. Treatment must come from both sides.
- GOD USES MEDICATIONS IN THE BIBLE
King Hezekiah son of Ahaz was the 13th King of Juda around the late 600′s to early 700′s BC. In 2 Kings 20, Hezekiah becomes gravely ill and pleads with God to grant him longer life. This story is commonly used to show the power of petition toward God in prayer, and justly so. An interesting side-note to this story is that God does grant Hezekiah a longer life through a supernatural healing of his “illness” through a common everyday medication. The prophet Isaiah was commanded by God to make a “cake of figs” which was a topical ointment. The prophet placed it upon the infected area on the King’s skin and he was healed. God used a medication to heal.
- WE ARE ONE BEING: MIND, BODY, AND SOUL
As I expressed earlier. We have a body, we have a mind, and we have a soul. The New Testament is full of distinctions between the three parts of our person. Just as a pastor is much better at providing spiritual care to his flock, a psychologist is better at providing behavioral guidance for healing mental wounds. Nobody would expect a pastor to conduct open heart surgery, why would we expect a pastor to perform extensive behavioral therapy? Just because it’s not expected does not give permission to ignore the issue. I love my pastors very much. Last year when I broke my leg I did not run to them for surgery (actually I couldn’t run anywhere, ha!). I sought a good osteopathic surgeon to put me right. Did my pastors visit me? You bet, and we petitioned God through prayer for healing. Not once did we consider that one would replace the other. The same principle applies to mental health care.
“And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’ 1 Corinthians 12:21 (NKJV)
My prayer is that the body of Christ world-wide would team up with mental health providers to become fully engaged and committed to finding a mind, body, and soul solution.
Copyright © 2014 Thomas C. Houston. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Submitted from www.apcchaplains.org (The Association of Professional Conservative Chaplains, Inc.)