Is Mental health / Illness Biblical? or is it just a Secular Concept?
What does the Church say about Mental Health, What does the Bible say?? This question has been in my head many times over the years, I know it’s also been asked so much by others. It seems quite a divisive topic with Christian circles, some denominations seem to outwardly appear to have a firm stance, yet in practice it may differ.
We are hearing more and more now in the media that we need to talk about our struggles. Lots of celebrities are talking about it recently, Prince Harry being one of those very publicly stating our need to be open with people.
Why the have I always felt most reluctant to share my struggles with the church and other Christians. One reason for me was a very negative experience, there was a church that I once joined and was studying with, I had an opportunity to talk with the Pastor who was also my unit lecturer. After shelving my fear to discuss it I opened up and asked what is the “church’s view on mental health”? The answer was one that actually made my mental health worse. I was told that “mental health is not in the bible, it a secular concept. If you’ve prayed and you’re still struggling then there’s a problem somewhere with your connection to God".
Paul wrote Ephesians after he had been to Ephesus which was an epicentre of worship to Greek and Roman Gods, and home to many non Christian Jews, the people believed that their actions put them in good favour with the Gods they believed in. In the beginning of Ephesians Paul is outlining the gospel, in Ephesians 2:8-10 Paul speaks about God's grace. Paul tells us that Salvation is God's gift through His grace. This gift allows us to connect with Jesus. Humans did nothing to deserve His Grace, I know that nothing I do will make God love me any more than He does, if I have an illness am I to believe some action of mine has caused Him to suddenly love me less. When I'm healthy, I do not believe this is due to the number of times I prayed that week.
In the beginning of God's plan we know there was the garden of Eden, a place where there was no death, this of course means no illness. In Gen 3:15-17 God tells Adam and Eve that the consequences of them sinning will be death. Paul also wrote about this in Romans 5:12. Unfortunately for us we know how the next part of that story went, as a result death and dying was passed onto humanity to follow. We were to be living in fallen bodies, we are experiencing the world Adam and Eve were warned about when they were told death would be the result. Many seem to believe that we live in fallen bodies, they explain illnesses this way, yet it seems in some peoples view the brain is excluded from this equation. If I'm living in a fallen body, susceptible to sickness, disease and illness then surely my brain has to be included in this. If someone has a mental health condition that has neurological causes (eg. lack of chemicals, a change in chemical levels etc. a congenital or acquired difference in the amygdala) then surely this is included in the explanation of a fallen body.
The way we live our lives now differs greatly from during the time of the bible, we have introduced new influences into our lives and our environment that were not part of God's plan for Eden. We have man made chemicals widely used in the food we consume, the products we use, the water we drink. None of us really know how this impacts on the human body on a genetic level, and how this impacts on the development of congenital diseases. There are laws laid out in Leviticus (eg Lev 13:9-11) that clearly affected people's health at the time, we know Jesus came to ensure these laws weren't necessary for salvation. We don't know if there were physical reasons for these laws to be laid out.
Several times in the bible we read the satan and demons stated as the cause of some illnesses. In Luke 13:11-16 Jesus heals a woman and clearly states the satan had bound her for 18 years. Mark 5:1-20 talks of a demon possessed man.
It's clear that the bible doesn't discount mental illness, it is also clear that there is no one definitive answer but several. To conclude, there is no verse where Jesus says, "Sorry you haven't prayed today, we'll leave the healing until another day" nor have I found any verse where it discounts any other cause above or says it's all false. For me, these reasons above are enough for me to conclude that there are both physical and spiritual causes of illness and mental illness included. You cannot simply ignore these points, it's clear that the answer is no mental health is not simply a secular concept. It's very real. We also read loud and clear in the bible to love each other, this is a choice, so instead of putting someone in a worse position by invalidating there experiences, be kind and think WWJD, how can you help. If I live in a fallen body (including my brain) then all God's Children do, so let's fall on each other and help each other up.
Thanks for reading you lovely lot. Speak soon!