25 Mar Jesus and His Word: The Best Mental Health Professional you could Find!
This topic has been making the rounds on social media and newspapers lately. Its importance has largely increased in India after the actor Sushant Singh Rajput was alleged to have died by suicide. People are now waking up to the realization that mental health is a serious issue and are slowly beginning to explore what it means. As a postgraduate having specialized in mental health, and a believer of the Lord Jesus Christ, I am convinced that our relationship with our maker is directly proportional to our mental health. The closer our walk with our Saviour, the more we are mentally and emotionally grounded. I would like to share a few thoughts that the Lord has helped me realize about mental health and what our response should be as followers of Christ.
Mental health – like physical health – can get damaged if we do not take care of it. When Jesus said that we cannot live by bread alone; that signifies not only physical consumption of food but also mental and spiritual consumption of bread that is his word-The Bible. This concept only emerged through psychology in the past 150 years but has always been there according to scriptures when God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah in 17:9-10. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. With increased research on human behavior, the world was looking into human emotions and how they play a major role in our daily interactions with one another. Though the theories did not make it to the implementation stage for the longest time, the findings still help us to understand different mental health conditions to this day.
Mental health according to the WHO “is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.’’ While this definition is inclined more towards a self-centered healing approach, we as believers can turn to Christ who has promised us his spirit, which will guide us in all our decisions and circumstances. We need not rely on our strength or be burdened by our own decisions but depend on God’s promises and the plans he has for us.
Mental health then is not about how mentally strong we are, but about how firm our trust in God is. Sadly, this lack of sympathy is reflected in the way our society talks about mental health. Someone with a fragile temperament is merely dismissed as “unstable” or “crazy”. That is why we as believers must make it a point to go the extra mile and provide sound Christian counseling and loving companionship. After all, who could show unconditional love, apart from those who have experienced Christ’s love themselves?
When our minds are stressed, our physical health is affected. In his presentation on the relationship between mental health and physical health, Javier I. Rosado, said that Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity are major illnesses because of poor mental health. Gastrointestinal problems, headaches and nausea are also a result of stress. We don’t acknowledge this, because we would rather give ten reasons for something, than address the root cause. Therefore, to maintain our mental health (and eventually our physical health as well), we must have our “self-care” time with God every day. We need to take time to de-stress with God because he is our wonderful counselor and the one who bears our yoke. King David in the bible is an excellent example of how as human beings we will go through struggles, trials, temptations, irritation, anger, and many more disturbing circumstances but we don’t have to go through it alone. The Psalms show us how king David vents out before his perfect counselor -his triune god, whether he was in the heights of happiness or the depths of despair.
The bible is full of God’s promises and guidance for us in our time of need. So, to have good mental health, we must continue to spend time with God and ask him to increase our faith. Jesus tells us to cast our anxieties on him (1 Peter 5:7). Often, we stress out because we don’t want to upset our loved ones or because we cannot say no, out of fear of failing in the eyes of our employers or peers. But for all of this God has given us His Word to strengthen, renew, and correct. The psalmist very beautifully puts it in chapter 56:11 – “In God I trust, I shall not be afraid, what can man do to me.” He is God our creator who made us in his image who knit us in our mother’s womb. He cares for us more than we care for ourselves. We can hold on to these promises as we cruise through life’s ups and downs.
As we grow closer to God, let’s also ask him to show us our weaknesses. Many times, we forget that we have our weaknesses too and we need to work on them before we find fault in others or blame our situations for it. As Jesus said “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your eye? (Matt 7:3). I would like to encourage my senior and junior brothers and sisters in Christ to take the opportunity to examine yourselves this year. Only when we are more aware of who we are, can we correct others. I highly recommend the book – ‘Spirit-Controlled Temperament’ by Tim LaHaye, if you want to better understand yourself or your personality. (Available on Amazon.in). In it, LaHaye provides answers patterned after ancient models of human behavior, taken from the Bible.
We are all born with distinct strengths, but also weaknesses that can hold us back. God wants to transform our natural weaknesses to make us dynamic, effective Christians who live above anger, fear, depression, and selfishness. According to LaHaye, humans have four kinds of temperaments:
“The 4 temperaments: Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy and Phlegmatic, were first identified in Proverbs 30:11-14 when the wise man saw four kinds of people. About five hundred years later, the four were given names by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. Temperament is the combination of inborn traits that subconsciously affects all our behavior. It is a person’s temperament that makes that person outgoing and extrovertish or shy and introverted. Character is the real you. The Bible refers to it as “the hidden person of the heart” 1 Pet. 3:4. It is the result of your natural temperament modified by childhood training, education, and basic attitudes, beliefs, principles, and motivations. It is sometimes referred to as “the soul” which is your mind, emotions and will.” (Lahaye, Spirit-controlled temperament)
All this will help us improve our understanding of ourselves and the surroundings we live in. we will be able to empathize with people in a better way. This will also help us to listen to people and the challenging situations they are facing. As we worship a God who listens when we humble ourselves in repentance and confession, let us also ask the Holy Spirit to help us live in that manner. The God who made our bodies made our minds too. And so, he wants us to grow as a community together. He came down to earth to show us what perfect love looks like. He taught us how to forgive and how to share all our goods with each other. Along with sharing our materialistic goods, we need to have open hearts just like our Father in heaven so that we create a safe space for the other person to share their concerns with us. In ways like these, we can understand the importance of mental health better. We need not shun away from these things or feel like they are not meant for us. God commands us to love one another and therefore looking out for one another is a part of it. Let’s not mistake it for interfering in another’s life but let us look at it as being kind to one another just as Christ does for us.
I want to leave you with this: But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 9:12)
When Jesus gave us the great commission, asking us to “make disciples”, I believe that process included watching out for each other’s mental health as well. He wants us to be people who reach out to sinners, people dealing with their pain and guilt, who can receive salvation through Jesus alone.
World Health Organization. “Mental Health: strengthening our response.” World Health Organization, 30 March 2018, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response. Accessed 28 December 2020.
Rosado, Javier I. “The relationship between Mental health and Physical health.” Florida state university college of medicine, https://www.migrantclinician.org/files/staff/MCNFSU%20-%20%20Physical%20and%20Mental%20Health%20%28Converted%20PPT%20Slides%29.pdf. Accessed 29 December 2020.
LaHaye, Tim. “The 4 Spirit-Controlled Temperaments.” The 4 Spirit–Controlled Temperaments, 2014, https://www.joydigitalmag.com/everyday-life/the-4-spirit-controlled-temperaments/. Accessed 28 December 2020.
Doris Kurapaty has been associated with Vasai EU and EGF and now with Nashik EU and EGF since past one year. After her MA in social work (Mental Health) from TISS-BALM, Chennai, is pursuing for higher studies. Ever since her childhood she has been interested to work among people with special needs.