Mental Health – What does The Bible Say?

In this series on mental health we will unpack some of what mental health is and what it means to us today. If you have any questions on this topic then please comment below or email us!

I’ve spent the last half an hour trawling through websites, books, countless translations of the Bible, and a lot of other blog posts, trying to find an answer to the question that I myself am asking. (Oh the irony!)

The truth is the Bible doesn’t say anything about mental health. Not specifically anyway. At no point did Jesus teach a parable on depression, Paul write a letter about OCD or Solomon give us advice on how to help somebody with an eating disorder.

But this doesn’t mean the Bible doesn’t have anything to say. Throughout Scripture we can read about subjects including suffering, despair, sickness, healing, supporting one another….  If this doesn’t tell us what the Bible says about mental health, I don’t know what does.

I could write A LOT on this topic, but for the sake of my fingers and the keys of my laptop, I want to think about just three Bible verses (after all, three is the magic number.)

1. ‘Why is my heart so sad?’

Anyone who has read the Psalms will know that their author, King David was no stranger to feelings of overwhelming sadness and despair. Granted, some of these emotions were of his own doing, (having Uriah murdered so he could steal his missus for example) but many of David’s periods of despair were not attributed to an event.

David asks ‘Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?’

In [biblegateway passage=”Psalm 42:5″ display=”Psalm 42 verse 5″] David asks ‘Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?’ David doesn’t know why he feels the way he does. Skip forwards to the end of the chapter and David asks his question once more in [biblegateway passage=”Psalm 42:11″ display=”verse 11″]. He doesn’t have a lightning bolt moment. God doesn’t answer his question. He still feels sad.

Some theologians have put forward the theory that David may have suffered from moments of depression. I don’t know; I wasn’t there, but I can see why they suggest this. Psalms in which David pours out his heart and writes of his sadness certainly support their argument. All I know is that despite these feelings, God used David to do some really great things; he was a good leader (Bathsheba-gate aside) and was an acclaimed warrior, musician and poet.

2. ‘Who can bear a crushed spirit?’

If you know somebody with a mental health problem, don’t talk. Just listen.
If you don’t know much about a mental health problem, learn…

The book of Proverbs is full of words of wisdom and good advice for Christian living. In [biblegateway passage=”Proverbs 18″ display=”chapter 18″], Solomon (the author) writes about the best way for followers of God to live; not being unfriendly, spreading rumours and acting proudly. In [biblegateway passage=”Proverbs 18:13-15″ display=”Proverbs 18 verses 13 – 15″], Solomon gives some excellent advice that can be applied to any situation, particularly issues like mental health. He writes “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish. The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit? Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge.” As somebody who has experienced depression for many years, this is certainly advice that I wish Christians would heed to. I cannot tell you how many times I have been advised by well-meaning, but unaware Christians, who have tried to help me. Perhaps I should pray more? Have I ever considered not taking medication, but trusting in God for healing instead? I know that these sentences are said with love. But let’s return to Solomon’s words in which he advises us to listen and to learn.

If you know somebody with a mental health problem, don’t talk. Just listen.
If you don’t know much about a mental health problem, learn. The internet is full of information to help you understand. (More on this coming up in Blog Post #3.)

3. ‘You did it for me.’

Many of us are familiar with the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, as told in the book of Matthew. (It’s the one where God separates those who are blessed from those who are cursed.) In the parable, the King (Jesus) says ‘When I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

In [biblegateway passage=”Matthew 25:40″ display=”Matthew 25 verse 40″], we read one of the most famous verses written in the Bible; “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it for one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it for me!’

When I read these verses, something always jumps out at me, and that is the simplicity of the words: ‘I was sick and you cared for me.’  So often when it comes to mental health, we as Christians get it wrong. We try so hard, but we get it so wrong. The Bible doesn’t distinguish from physical or mental illness in this parable; it simply talks about someone who is sick. They don’t dismiss their feelings, they don’t trivialise them, or tell them just to ‘get over it.’  They care for the sick. End of.

We know this is a pretty heavy topic, which is why we’ve split it into 3 blog posts. The next post in the series is Mental Health – The Next Steps. If you have been troubled by anything related to this post then please contact one of the tbcYouth team by emailing them or finding us on Facebook.

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