Mental illness is an uncomfortable topic among Christians, who often misunderstand it or ascribe its cause to demonic influence. In fact, a study by LifeWay Research shows that almost half of evangelical Christians believe mental illness can be “cured” through prayer and Bible study. But what does the Bible itself say about mental illness?
The Bible, which takes an unfiltered approach to real life , is not silent on mental illness. Nebuchadnezzar and Saul both suffered from mental illness ((Dan 4:30-37; 1 Sam 7:1-31:13), and it can be argued that David, Jacob and Elijah himself had bouts of depression.
Matthew 4:24 depicts one account of Jesus healing someone of mental illness.
And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought to him all sick people that were taken with diverse diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. (AKJV)
Physical illness sometimes has a spiritual component (1 Cor 11:30; John 11:4), so it’s not unreasonable to say mental illness sometimes can as well. But the key word here is “illness.” Throughout Scripture, we see various medical treatments prescribed for illnesses. For instance, Isaiah prescribed a poultice of figs for King Hezekiah’s boil (2 Kings 20:7), and Paul advised Timothy to drink wine to relieve his upset stomach (1 Timothy 5:23). God can and does use medicine to relieve illness, even mental illness.
It is interesting to note that God may hold people accountable for their actions despite mental illness. Though insane, Saul lost the kingdom to David because of his reckless disregard for God’s law (1 Samuel 15).
A grace-filled approach to mental illness:
Don’t be ashamed about needing help. The stigma associated with mental illness is an enemy of recovery.
Recognize mental illness, like physiological illnesses, can be treated.
Allow regular counseling sessions to be part of your treatment plan. Seek the help of a Christian psychiatrist or counselor if possible.
Surround yourself with a solid Christian support system, and ask those in your circle to share honest observations about how you’re doing.
Be patient with yourself. Just because you’re medicated or getting counseling doesn’t guarantee an immediate turnaround.
Recognize your medication may need to be adjusted in the course of your treatment. Just like with physical illness, you may experience setbacks in your progress.
Maintaining healthy routines often is helpful in combatting mental illness. Daily Bible reading and prayer should be part of your routine.
Encourage your loved ones to seek support from fellow Christians who have walked their path.
Most important, commit your struggles to the Lord, who will not forsake or abandon you in your greatest time of need.
Here are some Scriptures that may offer comfort to people suffering from mental illness and the people who care for them.
Scriptures for those suffering:
Philippians 4:6-7 – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Proverbs 15:13 – A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.
Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Scriptures for those who care for them:
Proverbs 17:17 – A friend loves at all times.
Romans 12:15 – Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Galatians 6:2 – Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Matthew 9:13 – But go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
Cheri Henderson is a Christ-follower and freelance writer with a passion for helping other believers embrace the full and abundant, victorious, joy-filled life God intends them to have. The product of a broken and dysfunctional home life, Cheri lost her mother and sister to suicide six months to the day of each other nearly 30 years ago. Using the Bible and the Holy Spirit as her guides, she emerged from her experiences as a wife and mother committed to breaking the chains of sin and addiction in her family tree.A passionate evangelist, discipler and teacher, Cheri has done short-term missions in the United States as well as internationally. Through her blog, http://www.halffullandoverflowing.com, she shares her passion for living sold-out, surrendered lives in Christ. One of Cheri’s favorite verses is Hebrews 7:25, which reads, “Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” In her free time, Cheri remains in perpetual motion as a musician, crafter, grandmother, exercise enthusiast and serious home cook.