Normally, Wednesdays are reserved for shorter posts, but this one just couldn’t be much shorter. Nonetheless, this felt too important to hold off on sharing it. So, I apologize for this breech of ediquette, but I hope this post blesses you and draws your closer to Jesus, all the same!
Mental health is a topic that has touched my family in many ways over the last decade, but definitely in the last few years, as it has most people. Even so, much of the information and discussions that have happened often miss a crucial aspect of mental health, largely because we have been conditioned (and condition ourselves) to disregard it, to completely ignore this facet of mental health. We ignore our spiritual health!
If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you should know that I’m not into “religion” as people often define it. I’m not about the do’s and don’t’s of life, a set of arbitrary rules, nor the writings and enlightenments of mankind. While some of those things can be useful, and sometimes necessary, I’m about a relationship with the Almighty, who created us to have a relationship with Him and made that possible through His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.
So, when I say “spiritual health,” I am not speaking to whatever religion you may have or the obscure “spirituality” some refer to. And that’s not intended to insult anyone, but I believe there is sufficient (and overwhelming) evidence to suggest that being “spiritual” or religious does not sufficiently contribute to spiritual health. It’d be like saying you try to eat right but just can’t resist that quart of Chunky Monkey every Friday. You may not have a large gut or be significantly overweight, but I doubt your doctor would call you the picture of health.
So, what does spiritual health have to do with mental health? It’s pretty simple. Like this week’s post, if you don’t have a proper perspective, you can’t properly respond. And if you’re not spiritually healthy, you can’t be completely mentally healthy. It may be a body-image issue, or maybe anger; perhaps you’re a control-freak, or maybe you struggle with depression. Nonetheless, if you aren’t spiritually healthy, it is more difficult to be mentally healthy.
Well, then, what is spiritually healthy? To swipe a phrase from the world, “It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon.” But a marathon has a starting line, too. So, the starting point of spiritual health is that point when you decide to leave your sinful ways and follow Jesus, trusting in His sacrifice to pay for your sins (past, present, and future). That’s where you start.
Where you go from there is to be in the Bible, daily. You could start at the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and start reading one of those, as you’ll get to know Jesus really well there. But maybe you are so grieved that the Gospels are just too story-like. Well, maybe start with the Psalms. You can pray through the Psalms, giving a voice to your pains, and God will still teach and minister to you there. This can also help you learn some ways to pray, things you wouldn’t have thought of because they just didn’t have the voice the Psalms now gives. Or maybe you’re like me, and you struggle to remember where you left off; aside from buying a bookmark, you could start with Proverbs and read the chapter of the day (example: for today, August 3, you could go read Proverbs’ chapter 3).
And spend time in prayer. A simple structure, if you want it, is to start by praising God for who He is (at least, what you know), then spend some time thanking Him for what He’s done in your life and given you. After that, confess any sins that you’ve done since the last time you talked to Him (this may be the time when you were saved), ask Him to forgive them (knowing He will) and acknowledge any temptations that are present. Then, make your needs know by requesting what you think you need. And then take a moment to leave those things with Him, to provide or say “that’s not really what you need”. Listen for His response; just take some time to be quiet and see if the Lord puts something on your heart to confess, to ask for, or just to think on.
Lastly, continue to listen for the Lord to speak, whether from the Scriptures, in prayer, or from that random person who just happens to give you an answer to a prayer you just prayed that day! Of course, if someone or something gives you an answer that contradicts the Bible, that’s not to be followed (example: you may be tempted to smoke marijuana, but someone offering you a hit is not God answering your prayer; you may be in need of money, and someone remembers that they owed you money and repays you, this is God providing for you.)
Oh! I almost forgot to mention that you need to find a church to be a part of (if you need help with this, you can email me or post a comment, and I’ll happily help you look). But find a local church that teaches from the Bible, verse by verse and chapter by chapter, as you need that community to help you grow and mature in Christ. Plus, isolation is antithetical (the opposite of; contrary) to good mental healthy.
To put a bow on this, the bottom-line is that until people choose to follow Jesus and pursue that relationship, mental health will continue to be a struggle, for that person and for our society.
And one final point, medication and counseling are totally appropriate to help with mental health. I will not contradict the work of Jesus in your life, but I will also not ignore or diminish the fact that God uses various means to help us, including doctors prescribing medication and counselors/therapists helping us work through and give voice to our challenges. So, don’t ignore those aspects of mental health, as well!
Godspeed – 1 Corinthians 15:10