Christian, Mental Health Matters
Christian, Mental Health Matters. That statement ought to provoke a response from you, whether in agreement or disagreement, for it confronts us with one of the most taboo subjects within the Church today; mental health.
Mental health is not a modern phenomenon, but it is fair to say that the increases in cases, across the mental health spectrum, seen in the 21st century is frightening. The question has to be asked of the Church body, are we equipped to deal with the epidemic that is upon us? Not just a problem that lies without, but one that already lies within; as many Christians struggle with mental health issues; from laity to leadership, it is clear that mental health is no respecter of persons.
There is certainly a problem, the question is are we accepting that there is a problem? Are we acknowledging that Christian mental health matters? And if so, what are we doing to address the issue? The mental health battle is very real and to ignore it, to pretend that there isn't a problem, or that there is a simple "one fix for all" scripture verse that can be applied to pull ourselves together to defeat this unseen enemy within, can be the very thing that gives that enemy more ammunition to fire at the battling believer.
The very real problem of mental health is also a very complex one, and there are often many layers to that complexity within an individual’s situation. The point being, if we are to fight this battle effectively, we have to know our enemy. We have to accept that Christian mental health matters, and we have to begin discussing those matters from a Biblical perspective. In this series of articles, we want to jump right into this debate over Christian mental health and why it matters.
Fallen People in a Fallen World Facts
Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned”.
When beginning our discussions around mental health, we must start with the Bible as our foundation, and when we do that, we quickly establish some base facts to build on.
Fact 1 – This World is Broken.
Fact 2 – We are Broken.
Fact 3 – The World will be one day be fully restored, but not yet.
Fact 4 – We will one day be fully restored, but not yet.
The brokenness of the world is a simple one to comprehend, the original creation of God was good (Gen 1:31) but our rebellion has brought corruption and the world we inhabit groans as it waits the removal of that corruption (Rom 8:22). Our brokenness however is much more complex. You see it’s not just a spiritual brokenness we entered into this world with, but the whole person is broken. The Bible points us to the reality that man was created a trinity of spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess 5:23) with neither the body in itself, nor the soul in itself, nor the spirit in itself making up the whole person; we are “spirit and soul and body”.
Our brokenness then, involves the whole person, which means all of the conditions referred to as “mental health issues” impact the entire person, even when the principal cause of the condition has a biological basis, such as a chemical imbalance in the brain.
As we look at brokenness all around us, we come to the sobering conclusion that we live between the what is and what will be. Yes, we have been redeemed but we are not as we will be; for now, we are all fallen people in a fallen world.
Fallen People in a Fallen World Fall
Romans 7:18 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.”
The biblical truth is that we are fallen people in a fallen world. We are broken, and that brokenness means that we struggle at times. Now, it seems that we accept that truth in certain areas of our Christian life, being more open to sharing with others our difficulties when they are classed as acceptable difficulties. By the term “acceptable difficulties” I mean things that don’t have as much stigma or taboo attached to them within a Church context, such as things like temper, spending habits or sinful thoughts. However, when it comes to mental health challenges in the lives of believers, there is sadly a reluctance to share, to open up and talk to somebody because of the stigma that is often attached. The Church stigma towards mental health that can make you think that it’s simply a lack of faith which is cause of your mental health issues, that it’s because you aren’t reading your Bible enough or praying hard enough that you are suffering as you do. These thoughts leave the individual isolated and fighting the battle outside the of the body of Christ, which is exactly where the enemy wants them to be (2 Cor 2:11, 1 Pet 5:8).
A well-known Christian psychiatrist once said to his students, “The only person to ever have perfect mental health was Jesus Christ. The rest of us are crazy; it’s just a matter of degree.” And there is definitely truth to that. All of us at times suffer mentally, in one way or another. Charles H Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, the quote machine that fills many a Sunday Sermon said this, in reference to his own mental health battles ““I suppose that some brethren neither have much elevation or depression. I could almost wish to share their peaceful life. For I am much tossed up and down, and although my joy is greater than the most of men, my depression of spirit is such as few can have an idea of.” Spurgeon was no stranger to mental health battles, because just like the rest of us, he was a fallen person in a fallen world.
Christian, mental health matters. It matters that we acknowledge it. It matters that we acknowledge that we are broken people in a broken world, and the consequences of that fall are with us until our Redeemer comes. It matters that we understand that fallen people in a fallen world fall, and that we are not alone in the battle with mental health, despite feeling that way at times. It matters that we seek to foster an environment within the Church that will encourage and provide confidence for people to open about their mental health battles. It matters that we are equipped in our understanding of mental health issues so the body of Christ can do what it is called to do (Gal 6:2). Christian, mental health matters.
In the next article in this series we will examine some of the facts and figures around the scale and scope of mental health issues within the Church. The statistics that will be shared may come as a shock to you, but its only by exposing the reality of the problem, that we can begin arm ourselves with the tools battle this deadly enemy.
Click here for part 2.
Kevin Cowdrey is the Senior Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church Spalding. Kevin grew up in Northern Ireland, where as a young man he was caught up with loyalist paramilitaries. The turning point in Kevin’s life came when he met Jesus and was saved in 2007. He went on to study at the Theological College of North Staffordshire. Kevin was ordained in 2016 and the same year took up the Pastorate of Calvary Baptist Church. Kevin’s passion is expounding the word of God clearly and carefully, to reach all ages. Kevin is married to Clare and they have two young children together.