When beginning this study, I soon realized that there were a million and one directions I could go with this. So, even though this may not be the most exhaustive study on mental health from a scriptural perspective – hopefully, it is a good starting point. This blog is written in regards to the Christian who is having mental health issues and teaches Believers how to overcome. Unfortunately, sinners and unbelievers are not privy to the promises of God due to their rebellion. Pastor Carter Conlon, of Times Square Church in New York, puts it like this: “Stop trying to make evil good. You can’t do it and have the promises of God at the same time.” To clarify once again, this particular blog entry is written to the Christian.
Experts say that depressive disorders affect approximately 19 million American adults. Likewise, the experts are predicting that depression will be the second largest killer after heart disease by the year 2020. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death among college students. Even pre-schoolers are now experiencing symptoms of depression. There are also millions of people around the world who experience debilitating forms of anxiety and other mental health issues.
I do not condemn anybody who is depressed, anxious, or mentally-ill; but I wish to give you hope. I, too, have suffered with anxiety issues for a large portion of my life. In fact, I used to have such bad panic attacks that I would actually have to go to the hospital emergency room. I tried to remedy these hellish panic attacks on my own. It wasn’t until I introduced my panic attacks to God that they lessened and later subsided. That is not to say that the enemy still doesn’t try to get me in a state of panic, on occasion – but God has taught me how to recognize the source and how to fight. If you know someone who is too mentally ill to fight for themselves, then intercede for them. The Bible says in James 5:15, “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up…” However, if we are in our right mind and able we must be willing to:
A.) Recognize the source. You will not know who to fight until you recognize that it is the enemy who causes such torment. If you excuse this torment as something strictly medical, hereditary, a chemical imbalance, or a personality type then you are, in essence, defending this tormenting mental malady sent by Satan. Even if it is a chemical imbalance, isn’t the result of it torment? Isn’t it the enemy who loves to cause torment? He schemes and plots against us to discourage us and to keep us down. James 1:13ESV says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.” Acts 10:38 further solidifies the source of oppression. It says, “…Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
B.) Get closer to God and guard your mind. After recognizing the enemy as our source of torment, we must fight him. But, it is very difficult to fight with no ammunition or strength. Our strength is flighty and wimpy – but God gives us strength to overcome and the armor to fight. Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Also, we must be disciplined to filter what we allow into our lives (which is within our control). Screen the types of music, movies, books, and friends you allow into your life. Guard your mind, pray, and praise. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Furthermore, Proverbs 25:28 says, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.”
C.) Fight back! Satan is the type who will kick you when you are down, in hopes that you won’t fight back. If you have no strength to fight, ask others to help pray for you. If all you have the strength to say is, “Jesus, help me,” then that will be sufficient. But, we MUST fight back! Speak, aloud, scriptures against Satan and resist him. If it helps you to be alone in your prayer closet, find someplace to shut yourself away and fight. If it helps you to join together with others in prayer, then do that. But the bottom line is – we need to fight this attack! James 4:7 states: “Submit yourselves, therefore, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
D.) Get you off your mind. I know this advice sounds rather insensitive; but all too often, we get so self-absorbed that we only think about how pitiful we are. In fact, we become an idol to ourselves by thinking of ourselves more than we do God. There is a time and place to make time for ourselves – but not a lifetime! Show the love and selflessness of Jesus. Isolate from others and associate with others in a balanced way. If you are constantly surrounded by people, that can be very taxing on you and will leave you with no time to be alone with God. Even Jesus pulled away from others, at times, to be alone with His Father God in prayer. However, He didn’t constantly isolate Himself either. We are designed as the body of Christ and we need each other for prayer, encouragement, and many other reasons. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” So, think about yourself sparingly so that you can think about God and others abundantly.
E.) Remember your God-given identity. All too often, we subconsciously label ourselves by our mental ailments. A person may say, “I am a schizophrenic” or “I am depressed,” and this tormenting malady becomes their new identity. Even though a person may struggle with mental issues, it is not who God says they are. It is amazingly heart-warming to see how God thinks of us, in scripture. We are God’s and the devil will not prohibit us from doing God’s Will.
F.) Keep calm and carry on. You may have heard this popular catch-phrase which was coined many years ago, but it carries a lot of truth for the Christian. Calmness is peace in action. Only God can give us peace that bypasses our human understanding. Also, by allowing yourself to “carry on,” it will help you to discourage idleness. Just like the old H.G. Bohn quote so accurately says, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” This is not to say that our mind must always be cluttered and busy – but as we keep our mind on Christ, we will find rest.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
“For God gave us a spirit, not of fear, but of power and love and self-control [a sound mind].” 2nd Timothy 1:7
“You, Lord, give perfect peace even in turmoil to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
“When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” Psalm 94:19
The additional scriptures listed below show a heart-mind-body-spirit connection. It is safe to say that one part of our being can have profound effects on the other parts. We are made in God’s image. He is three-in-one; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Likewise, we are three-in-one; mind, body, and spirit. Pay close attention to the “heart” reference in the scriptures below:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23
“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:13
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
“Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.” Proverbs 12:25
“Peace I [Jesus] leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John14:27
It seems that one underlying thread which runs through all mental ailments is a sense of hopelessness and a feeling of being rendered inoperative. However, when Jesus healed various diseases and maladies in scripture, He healed them:
1.) Out of His infinite love and mercy.
2.) So that His Father God might be glorified.
3.) So that the people would be physically/mentally able to share the Gospel.
I once did a study on Jesus’ healing powers. In the New Testament, I looked up the original Greek text and found the definitions and specifics of Jesus’ healing touch. Our Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and still heals us. I found that He healed those who were:
~Faint, sick, wearied (as referenced in James 5:15).
~Having a persisting illness – literally, one “that will not leave”; chronic ill-health. Not strong, i.e. feeble, sickly (as referenced in Mark 6:5).
~Weak (physically: then morally); diseased, impotent, sick, weak. To be feeble in any sense (as referenced in Philippians 2:27).
~Overpowered; I [the devil] overpower, quell, treat harshly. Properly, powerfully bringing someone down (denying them the higher position or blessing they should enjoy). To dominate someone (as referenced in Acts 10:38).
~Wanting of strength. Weakness, illness, suffering, calamity, frailty; refers to an ailment that deprives someone of enjoying or accomplishing what they would like to do. This focuses on the handicaps that go with the weakness; expresses the weakening influences of the illness or a particular problem, especially as someone becomes wrongly (overly) dependent. It is feebleness (of mind or body); by implication, malady; morally, frailty — disease, infirmity, sickness, weakness (as referenced in John 11:4).
By the aforementioned scriptural examples, we can be assured that God want our minds to be healed and free!
The pastor mentioned earlier in this blog, Carter Conlon, said this:“No matter what comes against us and how powerful it seems, when we speak the Word of God to it, it will flee before us. No matter how long it’s been there; no matter how strong it is – and I know this personally. You know my story: Nine years of panic attacks – panic attacks so severe they put me in the hospital more than one time. And yet, I came to Christ and I had one promise from the Word of God. I was reading where Paul said, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us.’ And on the strength of that word, I came down into my living room one evening when this kind of fear tried to come on my life again. And, I stood and I said, ‘Satan, you throw everything you’ve got at me; and all you can do is kill me, and you can only do it if God allows you to do it – and if He does, I’m going to Heaven. So, I win either way. You throw at me everything you’ve got, but I throw back at you what I now have. In the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, I resist you!’ A white fire, it seemed, hit my feet, went through my calves, my thighs, through the middle part of my body and right up to the top of my head. I was set free in 30 seconds from nine years of hell in my life.”
The Origins of Self-Harm:
I would be remiss in my duties if I left out a major problem of our day – the outbreak of self-harm. In recent years, we find an escalation in people resorting to various forms of self-harm, including (but not limited to): Cutting themselves, overdosing on drugs, sniffing or ingesting toxic chemicals or alcohol, causing themselves bruises or physical pain, etc. We find the evil origins of self-harm, described in scripture, as a practice of the ungodly. In the Old Testament, shaving the head, tattooing, and cutting the skin were pagan mourning practices. Since those were part of pagan religion and since they didn’t show respect for God’s creation, God wanted Israel (a.k.a. His people – which is now all Christians since we’ve been engrafted in) to stay away from them. In the Old Testament, one of Israel’s major problems was that they picked up the religious habits and practices of other nations. Think of it like ancient peer pressure; instead of getting drunk or doing drugs, they worshipped other nations’ gods. The One True God wanted and deserved loyalty, just as he does today.
In his commentary, Gordon J. Wenham says, “The underlying principles of the law [found in the Old Testament], not specific application, should bind the Christian.” Let’s keep that in mind. Deuteronomy 14:1-2says, “You are the children of the Lord your God. Do not cut yourselves or shave the front of your heads for the dead, for you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” Another example of self-harm is found in 1st Kings 18:28 when the Prophets of Baal (a false god) are desperately trying to get their deity to listen to them. (Note: despite all the prophets’ efforts, Baal never responds.) The scripture says, “So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until the blood flowed.” Notice that this scripture notates “as was THEIR custom”… whose custom? The custom of the false god worshipers; it was their custom to self-harm. However, the Christian is to honor God with the body. 1st Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Our bodies are, likewise, Temples of the Holy Spirit. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
We also find an incident of self-harm in Mark 5:2-5: “When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.” Jesus cast the demon out of the man and healed him. Men couldn’t restrain him or help him in their own power, only Jesus could heal him. When therapy, medication, and institutions cannot help – remember, Jesus can. As we pray in faith, the tormenting grip of the enemy is bound and we are set free!
If you want to know where cutting and self-harm began – look no further than scripture. Yes, it is spiritual in nature caused by evil, deceptive spirits. It all began as: 1.) A rebellious act against God which he forbade. 2.) A pagan mourning ritual. As we know, a pagan is not a Christian; therefore, self-harm is anti-Christian and shows disregard and rebellion toward God when we deface ourselves. 3.) A practice the false god worshippers used. 4.) A tormenting action inspired by evil spirits.
God likens His people to a “treasured possession”. Think of something you deeply treasure. Would you show disregard for it by marking it up, tearing it, or cutting it? Never! If for no other reason, ask God to help you to abstain from self-harm for His sake; because when you self-harm, you are defacing His treasured possession. Some may argue, “I don’t feel like a treasure.” But just as Gospel recording artist, Mark Lowry, says it, “The pot doesn’t get to tell the Potter (God) what the pot is worth.” Romans 9:20-21 says, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” You were wonderfully made and it matters not whether you agree – the fact still stands. As His chosen people, He calls us “wonderfully made”, “treasured”, “apple of My eye“.
Because He loves us so deeply, it is a sorrowful thing when He sees us doing wrong. Ephesians 4:21-23 says, “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” So yes, He loves us; but it is profoundly insensitive and hurtful to Him when we do what is wrong. You see, He gave His blood so you don’t have to give yours. Purposely injuring oneself is prohibited for Christians because it violates Biblical principles; the Lord’s holy people are not allowed to deface God’s image in themselves. If a person cannot control themselves, they do not have the Spirit of God; for self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Perhaps some deep soul-searching and self-examination needs to take place to be free from the enemy’s bondage.
“Our lives are full of supposes. Suppose this should happen, or suppose that should happen; what could we do; how could we bear it? But, if we are living in the high tower of the dwelling place of God, all these supposes will drop out of our lives. We shall be quiet from the fear of evil, for no threatenings of evil can penetrate into the high tower of God. Even when walking through the valley of the shadow of death, the psalmist could say, will fear no evil; and, if we are dwelling in God, we can say so too.” ~Hannah Whitall Smith
“The beginning of faith is the end of fear. The beginning of fear is the end of faith.” ~Author Unknown
“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” ~Rev. Fred Babiczuk
“I was regretting the past and fearing the future. Suddenly God was speaking: “My name is I am.” I waited and God continued: “When you live in the past, with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I was. When you live in the future, with its problems and fears, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I will be. When you live in this moment, it is not hard. I am here. My name is I AM.” ~Helen Mellincost
“It has been well said that no man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear. Never load yourselves so, my friends. If you find yourselves so loaded, at least remember this: it is your own doing, not God’s. He begs you to leave the future to Him, and mind the present.” ~ George Macdonald
“The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts.” ~George Müller
I recommend watching the following clip to help you understand why Christians may become discouraged. It is a very helpful sermon by Pastor Tim Conway: