What does the Bible say about mental health?
Whenever I talk about mental health, I do think I need to start by saying I am not offering medical advice. This article’s content should not replace the advice of mental health professionals or doctors and I encourage you to talk to someone who is properly qualified in the mental health field for specific medical questions.
My training, however, is in studying and applying the Scriptures to the issues we face in our lives. And mental health is certainly a big issue for many of us in our lives. Christians often struggle with how to rightly approach modern mental health advice, medication, and practices in a biblical way.
So here are 5 possible signs God is telling you to focus more on your mental health.
1. If God Is Helping You Realize Seeking Practical Assistance with Your Mental Health Would Be a Step of Faith in Him Rather Than a Lack of Faith in Him, This Could Be a Sign the Lord Is Leading You to Explore This Option
Perhaps one of the biggest barriers many Christians face when thinking about modern mental health assistance is the idea that depending on something like this for help is a lack of faith in God. If we really trust God, wouldn’t it be a lack of faith to take a pill in hopes of finding relief? Shouldn’t my pastor be able to give me the advice I need rather than a mental health professional?
In my opinion I do think modern society is too quick to prescribed medication, but with that said I think it is a mistake to combat this error with the idea that using medication is never the right choice for a Christian. Additionally, just as a heart surgeon has a different set of skills than your pastor, so too does the mental health professional.
We should never follow any advice that contradicts Scripture regardless if a doctor or “professional” is the one saying it. But if we view a mental heal issue as an issue with the physical brain in our body rather the spiritual mind and heart connected to our soul, we should not over press the training of our pastors and undervalue the training of the mental health professional. Again, don’t go to a counselor to get your theology. But if you have a non-theological issue that is affecting you mentally, God can certainly work through the mental health professional to help your brain function better just as God can work through a cardiologist to help your physical heart function better.
In fact, reaching out for help from someone in the mental health field can actually be a sign of faith in God rather than a lack of faith in God. To say it is a lack of faith in God to use mental health strategies would also mean things like sleep, diet, and exercise are also a lack of faith because these things also help us feel differently physically and mentally. As John Piper talks about in his article/video titled, Anti-Depressants, Sleep, Diet, and Exercise:
How do you take a natural thing that the world enjoys as well as we do and turn it into something spiritual or holy? And here are my five steps for doing that. This is my best shot at trying to help a person practically to think about sleep, or antidepressants, or the whole range of everything else in between that affects our moods and our spiritual condition.
1. Acknowledge the gift.
Acknowledge this physical benefit that we are now getting — whether sleep or food or exercise or medication — is a gift of God, not just nature. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive?”
2. Admit your dependence.
Admit you are utterly and totally dependent on God. Whether God uses created help or supernatural help, this is going to make a difference. God could step in supernaturally and cause a difference, or he could use the natural means we are using — “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). And so we are utterly dependent on him.
3. Pray for God’s help.
Pray for God’s intervention through this physical means or, if he pleases, supernatural: “Let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God . . . will guard your hearts and your minds” (Philippians 4:6–7). So pray.
4. Trust God.
Trust him to fulfill the promise of his help. This is where the rubber meets the road: “I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). So trust me, God says, trust me that this is going to make a difference and that I will help you through this physical means.
5. Thank God.
And finally, thank him for what he does. “Give thanks in all of those circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Whether it is sleep, or coffee, or exercise, or antidepressants, this is how we take the gifts of God in the physical world and sanctify them for the sake of our souls.”
2. If a Modern Mental Health Intervention Would Help You Obey God’s Word More and Not Less, This Could Be a Sign the Lord Is Leading You to Explore This Option
One flawed argument against the use of mental health medication is that people claim it is the same thing as using other illegal drugs or getting drunk on alcohol because it alters your mood through a chemical substance.
Here we have to come back to the goal the Bible says all Christians must seek to achieve. Or goal on earth is not to just feel a certain way or to enjoy a certain experience. Our goal is to obey God and accomplish his will for our lives. Using something like cocaine or getting drunk on alcohol leads to all kinds of problems that cause someone to disobey the Bible even more than they were doing before they started using those substances. For example, in Ephesians 5:15-18 it states:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit . . . .”
If using a substance would lead you into “debauchery” then that would be sinful regardless if a doctor prescribed it or not. However, when used properly, a mental health intervention should aid the individual in being able to obey God’s word more, to gain more self-control, and to become less controlled by the desires of the body that are running rampant. When used properly by a Christian, the result of mental health interventions will be more self-control in someone’s life rather than more wild living.
So if you are seeking mental health medication to run from your problems, to escape your issues, or to deaden your feelings, this is not what God wants. This is the same thing as you using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol to just run from your problems and mask your pain.
But if you are using mental health medications and best practices to deal with your issues, to get your feelings working properly, and to solve actual problems you are facing, this could be a sign God does want you to use modern mental health assistance.
3. If Your Mental Health Issues Are Not Because of a Past Event, Experience, or Improper Thinking Practices, This Could Be a Sign God Is Leading You to Explore Mental Health Medication
Talk therapy can be very helpful when you are trying to work through something traumatic in your past. Many pastors are very good at this type of counseling. A good Christian counselor can also be very helpful in assisting you in dealing with something painful that happened in your past or help you overcome self-defeating thought processes.
But sometimes the issues that you are facing are not because of something that happened but rather because of the way your brain and body are managing your physical emotions and feelings. Our biology is certainly connected to the way that we feel. Some forms of depression and anxiety, for example, will not be solved no matter how much you talk about your childhood because some depression and anxiety is linked not to an event in your past but to a chemical imbalance in your brain.
If you are having a biological issue in your brain, you will benefit from a biological solution. I don’t believe in prescribing medication to solve spiritual issues. But if your issue is linked to your biology, then it just makes sense to address that actual issue.
In Ephesians 5:18, we already read how Paul said not to get drunk on wine. But notice what he said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:23, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” Apparently Timothy was having a physical issue with his stomach. Paul didn’t tell him to just pray for help or talk to someone about this issue. He told Timothy to use a natural remedy to help with this issue he was experiencing in the natural.
When used improperly, Paul said not to use wine because it can cause you to get drunk. But when used properly Paul said wine can be helpful to solve certain issues. I believe these same principles can be applied to the use of mental health interventions.
4. If It Seems Like You’ve Tried Everything Else and Nothing Seems to Help Your Mental Health, This Could Be a Sign the Lord Is Leading You to Explore Medical Mental Health Assistance
Again, I think modern man is too quick to run to the physiatrist and to slow to turn to the Bible. I don’t believe medication is the savior the world needs. Jesus is the ultimate answer to every problem. But one sign that God may be leading you to explore the use of modern mental health assistance is if nothing else you have tried is helping you with the issues you are experiencing.
Start with prayer, start with applying biblical truth, start with meditating on godly things, start with talking to a mature brother or sister in Christ – if the anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, or other mental ailment is not improving with these solutions, God could be telling you to try something you haven’t tried before.
Remember, God is still the one who will give you the freedom you seek, but God often uses modern things to answer these prayers. God could remove a blockage in your heart supernaturally or he can use a cardiologist to help you with that issue. And God can just remove your anxiety or depression supernaturally or he may use a mental health professional to assist you. As James 1:16-17 states:
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
5. If You Sense the Holy Spirit Leading You to Explore the Option of Mental Health, This Is a Sign You Should Do This
Ultimately, I believe each person wrestling with a mental health issue needs to submit to what the Spirit is convicting them to do. As Romans 8:6 states, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
If you sense the Spirit leading you to explore more about mental health, do it. Perhaps you will talk to someone and you will discover you don’t need a modern mental health intervention. Or perhaps you will discover you do need one. Either way, let the Holy Spirit lead you. Obey the word of God and the Lord will show you what to do.