Are you a little leery to seek out counseling for problems in your life? Perhaps you are reluctant to acknowledge that even believers are not immune to anxiety and depression. Christians tend to have a faulty assumption that they shouldn’t have any mental health symptoms because they hear messages that they should be constantly filled with joy.
I have even heard that if believers are depressed or anxious that they don’t truly love the Lord. On top of it, they are now burdened with guilt.
Worse yet, perhaps your condemnation is self-inflicted. Maybe you have diligently given your fears and anxieties over to the Lord everyday, memorized Bible verses, and still suffer.
You feel ashamed and question if you are a “good enough” Christian.
Or maybe you wonder if God really cares.
Well I have comforting news for you! The Bible mentions fear or anxiety 365 times.That’s one verse for every day of the year! If God didn’t know that his creation would be anxious or fearful then why would he provides so many verses to instruct us to “Fear not.”
In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren talks about how God uses people in addition to prayer and bible study to bring about spiritual growth. In fact, he argues that Bible study and prayer in and of themselves will not be enough to impact some of life issues.
“He usually prefers to work through people rather than perform miracles, so that we will depend on each other for fellowship. He wants us to grow together.” Rick Warren
A frequent saying heard at my church is, “You can’t do life alone.” God made us to be interdependent on one another.
From a mental health perspective that means that God will and can use Christian professional and lay counselors and psychiatrists to bring you back to wholeness. And it’s OK. It doesn’t make you weak, unfaithful, or any less of a follower of Christ.
We weren’t meant to carry our burdens alone.
Some churches and Christians have a distrust of the counseling profession. I suspect it is the erroneous belief that psychology is about self-love, self-fulfillment, self-serving. While that may be how some therapists practice it is not particularly rooted in any one psychological theory. After all the Bible commands us 8 times to love our neighbor as ourselves.
That means not only do we need to receive that love so that we may give that love to others, but also love ourselves.
We need to love what the Father loves.
When we can be compassionate with ourselves we can be compassionate to others.
Our brain is an organ. Like any other organ in our body sometimes it doesn’t work to its optimum capability. There are times when it will be necessary to treat the organ with medication. We seem to accept this concept more readily in reference to the rest of our body from the ears down.
Consider a person diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Their pancreas has ceased to produce insulin. As a result, they must take insulin to compensate for the lack of pancreatic function. However, in addition to insulin they must also make dietary changes. They cannot just take insulin and have a high sugar diet. This is the same dynamic for how counseling and medication work best together.
Similarly, with anxiety and depression symptoms can get so severe they may require medication to help balance and restore neurotransmitters, which in turn help to stabilize mood and improve quality of life. Now is medication in isolation the best protocol? Probably not, at least not initially.
Counseling from a Christian perspective will integrate biblical truths to address the psychological issues that cause debilitating mental health symptoms.
Medication can help produce the essential mood stabilizing neurotransmitters we need until our brain can do it on its own again.There is a percentage of mental illness that is genetic and organic in nature; meaning there or structural defects or physiological dysfunction of the brain” (American Family Physician, 1992)
The contention lies when we confuse spiritual issues with psychological issues.
They are not one in the same, nor is there always a cause and effect relationship between the two. Sometimes there can be. When we address our spiritual conflicts often times the subsequent psychological symptoms are alleviated.
In addition to offering support and a non judgmental space, counseling can help you make changes with ingrained patterns of thinking that affect our feelings and therefore our behavior. More to come on this in the blog section. The apostle Paul has much to say about this!
Let’s not forget that our brains are attached to the rest of our bodies! While most people do not want to live this out, we must take care of our whole bodies in order to prepare the foundation for healing of our minds. Yes, that means eating well (not perfect), moving our bodies often, and getting optimum rest! As a natural night owl, I am speaking to myself here.
When we begin to integrate the mind and the brain into a holistic treatment approach- meaning mind, body, and spirit, then we can reach our fullest potential that God intended so that we can be his servant. Use your mess to be his message!
Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. Luke 10:27.
American Family Physician. 1992 Mar;45(3):1173-80
Warren, Richard. (2002) The Purpose Driven Life. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.